When a “Free Night” at a Hotel is not Really a Free Night

I am often amazed by the tactics some companies will employ to try to trick you into believing they are making you a great offer. When such tactics are employed by American Express, a company that is supposed to be amongst the most trustworthy, it is extremely disappointing.

One of the great benefits of having The Platinum Card from American Express is that you get access to Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts Program. When you book a stay via FHR, you receive a number of awesome benefits, such as room upgrades (subject to availability), daily breakfast, guaranteed 4PM checkout and a unique property benefit, which is usually a free massage, dinner or a hotel credit worth around $100. Additionally, you will earn hotel points and elite credit if staying at a property that participates in a rewards program.

Perhaps the best aspect of the FHR program is that you generally get all of the aforementioned benefits for the same standard rate that is available if booking directly with the hotel. And that is precisely what alerted me to the “free night” issue.

While looking into rates at the Four Seasons Bali at Sayan with FHR, I noticed they were offering a complementary fourth night with a nightly rate of $1,000 for the most basic room (One-Bedroom Duplex Suite):

FS Bali 1

However, I had already searched rates with the hotel directly and knew that the nightly rates offered by the hotel for the same room type was $700:

FS Bali 2

At first glance, it seemed that the rate offered by FHR that supposedly included a complementary night did not really include a complementary night. Rather, FHR was simply inflating the rate so that the total cost for the entire four-night stay would more or less be the same even when providing a “credit” for the fourth night: 4 X $700 = $2,800, while 3 X $1000 = $3,000. On the other hand, this could simply be a case of Four Seasons offering a cheaper rate for this property than FHR was able to. This is not common for the FHR program, but I have seen it happen once or twice before.

In order to confirm whether FHR was inflating the rate or was simply not able to offer the same rate that Four Seasons was, I searched rates on FHR for a 3-night stay within the same dates. This was the rate offered:

FS Bali 3

Therefore, it clearly appears that FHR is inflating the rates when you look into rates for a 4-night stay as their rate is the same as the one offered by Four Seasons directly when you look into rates for a 3-night stay.

Having trusted FHR for many years, these results were extremely disappointing. I definitely expected more from an American Express-run program. I will definitely be skeptical whenever I see a complementary night offer in the future. Regardless of whether there is a special offer available or not, it is always important to at least compare rates offered by FHR with those offered by a hotel directly.

Have you had similar issues with FHR before?

Comments

  1. This reminds me of the Hilton HHonors Leisure Escape offer for a $50 per night credit, which carries a rate that, in the instance I checked, is $26 higher than the regular rate and about $43 higher than the AAA or AARP rate. So maybe they should just advertise it as a $7 per night credit!

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