How to get free hotel upgrades, food & drink credits and more….

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If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I have mentioned Virtuoso travel agents before. This article explains not only about Virtuoso, but also about other hotel programs that give you similar additional benefits. We have a partnership with Debonair who can provide all these services. You can find our booking page here. 

 

Virtuoso

You may not of heard of Virtuoso travel agents, but for those that have an American Express Platinum card, the benefits are similar to Amex’s Fine Hotels program. If you book your hotel through a Virtuoso agent, you will probably not pay the cheapest advance rate around. However, you will get a number of added perks which normally add up to a considerable saving.

The benefits usually include a free upgrade subject to availability, free breakfast for 2 and a spa, dining or shopping credit of around $100-150 per stay. The hotels featured are all high-end 5* hotels such as Ritz Carlton, Shangri La, Four Seasons etc. In America, breakfast in these type of hotels is not often included in the price and can easily be between $30-40pp a day. However, the featured hotels are not all ridiculously expensive. For example, in Las Vegas they feature the Signature MGM which is often only around $150 a night. You also still get all your usual hotel loyalty benefits and points.

It is not particularly easy to find a Virtuoso agent in the UK. Until recently I had been using a US based one. I am now using Debonair which you can access using the online booking form. 

Las Vegas Four Seasons Pool

Four Seasons Pool, Las Vegas

Here is an example of what you can get in Vegas. Las Vegas hotels are a bit of a law unto themselves and as usual I had to pay a 1 night deposit for the room. However, in most cases you would not have to pay anything up front. You would simply pay at the hotel. The rates for Virtuoso are generally fully flexible and cancellable, which is really useful.

Here is a summary of one of the hotels I booked with a Virtuoso agent:

Four Seasons Las Vegas

Benefits:

  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets)
  • Spa credit of $100 once during stay
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in

Cost for 1 night with Virtuoso agent = $279

Cost on Four Seasons website = $279

Cost on Expedia = $279 (obviously I could have got some cashback on this rate)

The room was cancellable until 2 days before. I also booked a Hawaii hotel via Virtuoso. On my trips I had a 100% success rates of upgrades to the next category. In Hawaii the benefits of the free breakfast was particularly useful as the average price was around $35-45 per person.

 

Preferred Hotel programs and Amex Fine Hotels

Mandarin Oriental Marrakesh

As well as Virtuoso, many premium hotel companies have their own similar schemes. These are only available to book via a travel agent such as Debonair.  Benefits vary from hotel to hotel but can include room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, early check in and late check out, resort and spa credit among others. Most of them are combinable with your loyalty benefits for the hotel and available on all rates such as advance purchase and packages. The programs include:

  • Four Seasons Preferred program
  • Starwood Luxury Privileges program
  • Mandarin Oriental FAN program
  • Dorchester Collection Diamond Club
  • Pen club with the Peninsula hotels
  • Ritz Carlton STARS
  • Bellini club membership with the Belmond hotel group

Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts

The other program which covers many of these is the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) program, which is available to Amex Platinum card holders. Again, this offers additional benefits similar to Virtuoso.

Out of the two programs Virtuoso and FHR, Amex FHR is usually the better as the late check out is guaranteed. Virtuoso only offer early and late check out and certain hotels and it is not guaranteed.

  • Noon check-in when available
  • Room upgrade on arrival when available
  • Free breakfast for two people
  • Guaranteed 4pm check-out
  • Free in-room wi-fi
  • An additional benefit, usually $100 of food and beverage or spa credit per stay

To book Amex FHR hotels simply log into your Amex Platinum account, go to the Amex Travel tab and then search for hotels as usual. It will show both the usual and FHR hotels with the FHR ones clearly marked. Amex regular hotels are often on great value rates too which you can access without a platinum card.

 

Small Luxury Hotels of the World Club

The Sanchaya, Bintan

SLH “Invited” Club is completely free to join. So it is pretty much a no-brainer to join before you book if you are staying at one of their hotels. It is also worth joining if you think you may stay at one in the future so that you get access to any special offers.  I have stayed at many SLH hotels which include some of my all time favourite hotels – The Sanchaya (above), the Naman Retreat in Vietnam, and Blanket Bay. You can read all the reviews here. 

Blanket Bay near Queenstown, New Zealand

When you first join you get a range of benefits as follows:

 

You can join SLH Club here.

 

Conclusion

Many hotels are members of more than one of the programs or even all of them. With benefits and prices varying between the programs it is worth doing a comparison based on costs, benefits and whether you would actually get the full value out of the perks offered.

Ask our specialist luxury agents, Debonair, what benefits you could get on your next hotel booking here. 

4 Comments on "How to get free hotel upgrades, food & drink credits and more…."

  1. You can book Virtuoso rates online via ClassicTravel too. But as it returns GDS results you do need to read the rates carefully…

    https://www.classictravel.com

    • Thanks Billy. Sorry for the slow reply. It marked your comment as spam and deleted it as there si a link! I have used Classic Travel a few times and it is good if you like to book things on line. As you said it does bring back GDS results which sometimes are pretty confusing and meant i had to contact them before booking. I got to the point where it was just easier to do it vai email with an agent. I tend to look at Classic first and then book with Propelor once I know what I want.

  2. Michele would you recommend getting an Amex platinum card rather tha for example my BA black Amex or Virgin Amex?

    • Hi Shaneen. The platinum Amex is not cheap but you can cancel for a pro rats refund. The benefits are good though particularly the gold status in Hilton for example which gets you breakfast and upgrades. You also get a PriorityPass which gives unlimited free lounge visits for you and a guest. The points are more flexible as you can transfer into lots of airline and hotel schemes. The earning rate is lower for Avios than the premium BA card as it is only 1 per £1 spent. It’s best to work out which perks you would use and whether the price paid would offset the cost. There is a good sign up bonus usually too of about 30,000 Points. Let me know if you decide to get one and I can refer you.

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