The Hotel Collection Mini Guide: Prepaid rates earn hotel points/perks, and more surprising finds

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Recently Amex Platinum cards added a new benefit: Earn back up to $200 per year on Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) or The Hotel Collection (THC) prepaid bookings.  We already knew that FHR prepaid bookings earn hotel points and are eligible for elite benefits, but I didn’t think the same was true of THC bookings.  I was wrong.  They do.  In this mini guide, I’ll describe that feature and other surprising findings about The Hotel Collection…

Find and Book

Start here to find all Fine Hotel & Resort (FHR) and The Hotel Collection (THC) properties in the United States.  To change to another country or continent, click “Update Filters”. If you’d prefer to search within a narrower region (such as a single state within the U.S.), start here and select the region of interest.

If you want to narrow the search to only THC properties, click the checkbox labelled “The Hotel Collection.”  You can toggle the view between “View List” and “View Map”

Benefits

Despite the image above showing five benefits, there are really only 3 worth mentioning:

  1. $100 onsite credit for qualifying dining, spa, and resort activities
  2. Room upgrade at check-in, if available
  3. Platinum card members get 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar

These benefits pale in comparison to Fine Hotels & Resorts which offers the above benefits plus daily breakfast for two; noon check-in, if available; guaranteed 4pm late checkout; and complementary wi-fi.

Even though Amex lists the ability to pay with points on prepaid bookings as a benefit, please do not do this with THC bookings.  You’ll get less than 1 cent per point value that way.

Prices often (always?) match standard rates

I comparison shopped a number of hotels to see how THC booking prices compare to booking direct with the same hotels.  In every case, The Hotel Collection rate matched the hotel’s own standard rate.

It’s important to understand though that it’s almost always possible to book a hotel for less than the standard rate when not booking through THC.  For example, most chain hotels offer discounted member rates.  Many hotels offer discounted AAA and government rates.  And you’ll frequently see promotional rates on a hotel’s website that are significantly cheaper than the standard rate.  Also, when booking directly, you may be able to earn additional points or cash back by starting your search through an online shopping portal.  You can’t do that with THC.

So, when making a THC booking, make sure that the benefits outweigh the extra cost vs booking directly.

For tips on finding the best prices when your dates are flexible, see: Find your own Fine Hotels & Resorts deals (the same techniques work for The Hotel Collection).

Must book at least 2 nights

The Hotel Collection requires booking at least two nights in order to get the advertised benefits ($100 hotel credit and room upgrade).  That I knew.  What surprised me is that you also need to book 2 nights in order to earn the Platinum $200 prepaid hotel credit.  Hat tip to reader Brennan for pointing this out.  Brennan wrote:

As a couple others have noted, I also received Hilton diamond benefits as well as points on a Hotel Collection 2 night stay that qualified for the $200 credit. One thing to note…a one night booking at a hotel included in the “Hotel Collection” coded as “Amex Travel” on my statement and did not trigger the credit. It seems you actually need a 2 night stay for the charge to code as “Hotel Collection” and get the $200 credit. You can’t book a one night stay, forgo the $100 F&B credit and still get the $200 credit.

For the record, Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings offer all benefits and credits even on 1 night bookings.

Earn hotel points and elite perks on prepaid stays

We often warn against booking chain hotels through online travel agencies like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, etc. because when booked this way you won’t earn hotel points or elite benefits on your stay.

Amex works differently though.  When booking a chain hotel through either Fine Hotels & Resorts or The Hotel Collection, you will be eligible to earn hotel points and elite credits, and you’ll be eligible for elite benefits during your stay.  This is true regardless of whether you make a prepaid booking or opt to pay at the hotel.

This is great news because it means that we can stack all of these rewards on stays:

  • Up to 5x Membership Rewards points when you pay with a consumer Platinum card.
  • Up to $200 back when you pay with a consumer Platinum card.
  • Hotel points for the stay (for example, most Marriott hotels offer members 10 points per dollar plus extra points for elite members).
  • Elite nights for the stay (for those seeking elite status with the hotel chain, the nights spent at a participating hotel will add to your qualification requirements)
  • Hotel promo benefits (hotel chains often offer promos with extra points or other perks)
  • Enjoy FHR or THC benefits during the stay
  • Enjoy hotel elite benefits during the stay (when they are different from the FHR or THC benefits)

Prepaid bookings are refundable

Another reason many people don’t like to book prepaid hotel rates is that they are usually non-refundable.  That’s not true of THC or FHR prepaid bookings.  Most search results show up front that the hotel offers “Flexible Cancellation”.  When checking out, make sure to note the exact date by which cancellation is required for a full refund.  This will often be the day before check-in.

You can’t split payments for prepaid bookings

If you have multiple consumer Platinum cards, you may be tempted to book a single prepaid stay and split the charge across your Platinum cards in order to earn the $200 prepaid hotel rebate on each one.  Unfortunately, you can’t.  There’s no option to split payment online, and I wasn’t able to get that done via the phone either.

Fine Hotels & Resorts vs. The Hotel Collection

In many ways Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) is better than The Hotel Collection (THC):

  • FHR offers benefits on 1 night stays, THC requires 2 nights.
  • FHR offers better benefits than THC.  THC offers only a property credit plus a chance of a room upgrade.  FHR offers the same plus daily breakfast for two; noon check-in, if available; guaranteed 4pm late checkout; and complementary wi-fi.
  • There are far more FHR hotels worldwide than THC.  At the time of this writing there are 1,258 FHR hotels and only 633 THC hotels.
  • When using points to pay for FHR bookings you’ll get 1 cent per point value.  When using points to pay for THC bookings (please don’t!) you’ll get less than 1 cent per point value.

There are a couple of ways in which The Hotel Collection (THC) is sometimes better than Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR):

  • THC hotels are usually more affordable than FHR hotels.
  • THC hotels may meet your destination needs better.  For example, in Michigan there are 2 THC properties but no FHR properties.  Similarly, in Asheville, North Carolina, I found 3 THC properties but no FHR properties.

 

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