After a Fantastic One-Night Stay at the Loews Chicago Downtown, I’m Sold On American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
I recently flew up to Chicago to hang out with a close friend who’s currently away at college. Since I knew I was going to be spending quite a bit of money over spring break that week, I was looking to make this quick visit as inexpensive as possible. However, I also wanted to treat my friend to a nice dinner in the Chicago Loop.
Luckily, I’d be needing a room in Chicago during a time in which nightly rates were unbelievably low. For example, a room at the Aloft Downtown Chicago was under $120 a night. The Aloft Downtown Chicago can often go for $250+ a night. Additionally, most other Starwood properties were similarly priced with the exception of the sinfully overpriced W Downtown.
Having stayed at nearly every Starwood Hotel in Chicago and not once having truly been blown away by a stay at one of these hotels, I decided to try something new. I visited the American Express website and decided to look at available Fine Hotels and Resorts in Chicago. To my surprise, I found a competitively priced hotel offering jaw-dropping benefits.
Background: American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, What Is It?
I’ve said it dozens of times, and I’m going to say it again: I absolutely love my American Express Platinum Card. The American Express Platinum Card is by far my favorite travel credit card. Albeit, I’ve never had the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but the thing is, I don’t need another premium credit card.
The Platinum Card has managed to fulfill all of my wants and needs in a credit card. Of course, most would argue that the Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers a much more attractive points program. That may be true but, at the moment, I get most of my frequent flyer points from the airlines and hotels themselves, not credit cards. That’s why the American Express Platinum Card is my ideal premium credit card.
At $550 a year, the annual fee is steep. However, if used correctly, you can easily have the card pay for itself twice over by maximizing the suite of benefits that come with the card. I’m not going to go in-depth into the benefits since the benefits are already well known among most travelers. Benefits include lounge access, travel credits, free Global Entry or TSAPreCheck, SPG Gold status (Marriott Silver status), monthly Uber credits, Hilton Gold Status, and 24/7 access to the amazing American Express Platinum Concierge team.
Additionally, Platinum cardholders also have access to American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, Amex’s premium hotel collection.
American Express Fine Hotels and Rewards, An Underrated Benefit
After booking my one-night stay in Chicago through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, I’m beginning to think this benefit is somewhat underrated. I haven’t seen many reviews covering the Fine Hotels and Resorts program which leads me to believe not only is it an underrated benefit but, it’s also underutilized.
American Express Platinum cardholders can make reservations through the Fine Hotels and Rewards program using the travel portal on the American Express website. Interestingly, Gold cardholders can see Fine Hotels and Resorts but cannot take advantage of the American Express Travel rate or the benefits that come with booking through FH+R.
Rates through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts are hit and miss. Sometimes the rates are unbelievable, and other times they are ungodly overpriced. I’ve seen some properties go for $119 a night while others are priced at $799 a night. It’s all about timing and availability which can be said about the hotel industry in general. For example, Phoenix in the dead of the summer is a great time to score some amazing FH+R rates while Phoenix during the winter is an awful time to score rates at FH+R properties.
It’s still pretty chilly in Chicago plus I was traveling over a weekend during which not much was going on in Downtown Chicago. That said, my rate was just $150 a night at a four-star hotel in the heart of the Chicago Loop. With taxes and fees, the rate was around $175 but still, a very good rate given the location.
My Experience Using American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
I was a little unsure what to expect going into my stay. As I alluded to earlier, I haven’t heard much about this benefit. Additionally, 95% of my stays are at Starwood properties, and I’ve become accustomed to my Platinum status. It took a lot to get myself to sacrifice another elite night, my elite benefits, and earning Starpoints with SPG.
Benefit #1: Noon Check-In, Where Available
My flight into Chicago O’Hare arrived around 4 in the afternoon so, I was unable to test out this benefit. The wording of this benefit creates a lot of uncertainty. Where available is basically saying when the property feels like it. I have a feeling most properties would honor this benefit to stay in good standing with the Fine Hotels and Resorts program.
Upon check-in, I was quick to mention that I had booked through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts. I didn’t want any benefits going to waste. The agent at check-in quickly responded, “Yes sir, I see that on the reservation and I have a packet detailing the benefits.” The agent, as well as the entire hotel staff, was extremely polite and professional. Rather than just handing me a packet full of papers and coupons, the check-in agent went through the benefits of booking through Fine Hotels and Resorts and explained the most efficient ways of using them at the property.
Benefit #2: Room Upgrade, When Available
It was also at this time that I was informed that I had been upgraded to a deluxe room. I had booked a standard room with one king bed. I wasn’t expecting an upgrade as I pretty much assumed most upgraded rooms would be claimed by paying guests or elite members. To my surprise, my upgrade cleared. Again, this is another benefit that isn’t set in stone. Not having to confirm upgrades in advance means hotels could potentially lie about the availability of suites or preferred rooms. The Loews Chicago was not one of these hotels and the agent seemed pretty excited to share the news about my upgrade with me.
Deluxe King at The Loews Chicago Downtown
The Loews Chicago Downtown is a fairly new property, so the room was in perfect condition. The room was clean, modern, airy yet warm, and of significant size for a room in a city like Chicago. I like modern hotel rooms but I think some hotels tend to overdo the modern part. The Loews managed to strike an ideal balance between modern and traditional.
The room features a massive king bed that allowed me to enjoy one of the best night’s sleep I’d gotten in awhile. There was a generously sized desk, sitting area, oversized TV, Keurig maker, and mini-bar. Most importantly, apart from the bed, there were plenty of outlets located throughout the room.
The bathroom was also quite impressive boasting marble floors and a tile shower with premium amenities.
Overall, I really enjoyed the room. I would have been more than happy with a standard room. The upgrade was just an added bonus.
Benefit #3: Fine Hotels and Resorts Special Amenity, $100 Food and Beverage Credit
The best part of booking a stay through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts is the special amenity that comes with each stay. Each property features its own unique amenity. Amenities could include, spa treatments, food and beverage credit confirmed upgrades or on-property activities like a round of golf or free ski rentals.
The Loews Chicago offers $100 towards food and beverage purchases throughout the property. This credit was applicable at the ETA Restaurant & Bar, Streeterville Social, for in-room dining, and at the in-room minibar.
I had planned on treating my friend to a nice dinner so the $100 food and beverage credit meant I could do that and not break the bank.
For dinner, we headed down to the ETA Restaurant & Bar. I ordered the prime rib served with mashed potatoes and carrots. My friend ordered a salad and an order of the baked four cheese mac n’ cheese. Everything was phenomenal. I think I enjoyed my meal a little more than she did as I would go as far to say it was the best dish I’ve had in months. I honestly can’t say enough about how amazing the prime rib was. My friend also said that mac n’ cheese was to die for and the salad tasted fresh and was quite filling.
Since we weren’t on a budget (thanks, Amex Fine Hotels, and Resorts), we ended up ordering bottled water over tap water. That’s not very noteworthy in and of itself. What was noteworthy was how it was served. The restaurant staff ended up bringing a champagne bucket over to our table to present our bottled water. As a major bottled water snob, I just ate that up.
Throughout the night, we managed to go just a little over the $100 mark thanks to additional food and drinks. It was actually somewhat difficult at first to hit $100. However, once we got the ball rolling, we quickly hit the amount.
Benefit #4: Daily Breakfast For Two People, 2 $30 Vouchers
My friend was traveling to Cancun the next morning so she ended up heading back to her dorm. With that said, that meant I had to spend $60 on breakfast all by myself. I decided to order room service.
I ordered two entrees, a pot of coffee, and some fresh squeezed orange juice. If I hadn’t ordered room service and had dined in the hotel restaurant, I don’t think I could have hit $60. Since I ordered room service, the bill ended up around $62.
Breakfast was very tasty and very filling, to say the least. After downing most of my breakfast in bed, nearly finishing off a pot of coffee, and chugging OJ, I rolled over and went back to sleep. That was the perfect way to start off spring break!
Benefit #5: In-Room Premium Wi-Fi
I’m spoiled when it comes to free wi-fi at hotels. I’m elite at Hilton, Starwood Hotels, and Marriott so I haven’t had to pay for wi-fi in years. If I hadn’t booked through Fine Hotels and Resorts I would have had to pay for wi-fi at the Lowes Chicago. However, one benefit was free premium wi-fi.
I laid in bed most of the day streaming my favorite shows so the premium wi-fi definitely came in handy. I ran a speed test, and as hotel wi-fi goes, I found the wi-fi to be impressive though not close to the fastest wi-fi I’ve encountered in my travels.
Benefit #6: Guaranteed 4:00 PM Late Check-Out
My keys were pre-programmed to deactivate at 4 PM regardless if I planned to stay until then. This was the benefit that impressed me the most. Many hotels are starting to offer late check-out a la carte for anywhere from $15 to $50. Not even some elite members at the leading hotel chains get guaranteed late check-out.
Booking through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts guaranteed me the ability to sleep in until 12:30 in the afternoon. I really enjoyed this benefit as it meant not having to rush in the morning to get to the airport where I would just end up waiting for hours.
Overall: My First Time Booking Through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
My stay at the Loews Chicago Downtown was fantastic thanks to the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program. Though I did sacrifice an elite night at Starwood Hotels, I was able to enjoy a memorable dinner, tasty breakfast, upgraded room, convenient check-out time, and the ability to earn up to 5-times the number of American Express Membership Rewards Points. My experience booking through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts will definitely have me considering using Fine Hotels and Resorts again in the future.
Have you ever booked a stay through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts? What has been your favorite Fine Hotels and Resorts special amenity?