Here’s something I learned the hard way.
The Amex FHR Reservation
Participating hotels generally are higher-end properties. FHR bookings give cardholders these benefits:
- $100 resort credit per stay to be used on select food, beverage, and spa purchases
- Breakfast for two ($60 total per room) each day.
- Suite upgrade, when available
- Early check-in
- Free Wi-Fi
- Guaranteed 4 PM check-out
My wife and I are attending a wedding and found a great FHR property near the venue. So we booked a four-night FHR stay. (FHR offered better rates than Chase Luxury Hotels & Resorts for this particular hotel and long weekend.)
We made the reservation this past spring and prepaid with Membership Rewards points. Yes, it was a one-cent-per-point redemption. But that worked for our budget. (You can also pay onsite when you check-in. You don’t have to apply any points.)
Both our personal and professional schedules recently changed. And our daughter would no longer accompany us on the trip.
So we shortened our trip to three nights.
I logged on to Amex Travel. But there was no “change-a-hotel-reservation” option. So I called American Express Travel.
The first rep with whom I spoke was utterly incompetent. I asked her to cancel the first night of our stay. Then I asked if our points would be refunded to my Membership Rewards account or as a statement credit to my Platinum Card. (It’s usually the latter but I figured I’d ask.)
“Oh, did you pay with points?”
For someone who allegedly had my reservation in front of her, she sure didn’t know much. She also didn’t have the answer to my question.
She said she had to call the hotel to make the change. Mmmkay. Like, how silly of me to assume that a travel agency could change its own reservation!
She put me on hold several times, returning every few minutes to say that the hotel wasn’t answering the call.
So I called the hotel myself. A gentleman answered after the first ring and kindly asked me to hold. (I simply hung up after he put me on hold.)
When the Amex Travel rep came back on the line, I informed her I contacted the hotel — and would be happy to give her the phone number.
She said was put on hold each time she called.
“Then why do you keep telling me you can’t get them to answer your call?”
“Because they put me on hold each time,” she said.
“But you said they weren’t answering your call.”
“I’d like to speak to a supervisor, please.”
“It’ll take me twenty minutes to call a supervisor, Mr. Carley.”
So I hung up and called back.
The next rep, thankfully, had all her marbles.
She said that Fine Hotels & Resorts reservations cannot be changed. The only option is to cancel the entire reservation. You can then book a brand new reservation.
However, the current nightly rate applies.
In our case, the rates went up. And a three-night stay would’ve cost 40% more than our original four-night stay. So I canceled the original reservation and decided to find a reservation somewhere else.
(On the flip side, it makes sense to occasionally check the rates for your FHR property — you might be able to cancel and rebook for cheaper if the prices drop.)
It ended up working out fine. We used an IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card anniversary night certificate and some points to book a couple of nights at an InterContinental Hotel. Then we reserved a Marriott Bonvoy property for the final night.
I received a statement credit for my FHR cancellation. And the Amex Travel rep said I could call back in three days and ask for that to be converted back to points.
I’m bewildered Amex doesn’t allow people to change FHR reservations. (Chase LHR apparently permits reservation modifications, BTW.)
It seems like a lose-lose-lose situation for three parties: Amex, the hotels, and Amex cardmembers:
- American Express Travel lost a commission for a three-night stay at a hotel that was not exactly a budget property.
- The hotel lost my business through no fault of their own.
- The whole process also irritated me. I spent about two hours dealing with the problem and finding new places to stay. It’s disappointing — especially because I paid a $550 annual fee for The Platinum Card® from American Express. And that increases to $695 if I renew next year. (See rates and fees.) And I genuinely looked forward to staying at this hotel and enjoying the FHR benefits. (Even if I wouldn’t have received breakfast on the day of arrival. 😉 )
American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts reservations cannot be changed. The only option is to cancel the entire reservation — and then rebook if you’re so inclined.
It’s odd this rule is in place — and sort of a bad business practice all around.
So make sure you know this before booking your FHR stay.
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