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So I found myself at 7pm on 12-31-22, once again trying to figure out a way to use the American Express Personal Platinum card Fine Hotel and Resorts $200 annual credit. For those living under a rock, this benefit is supposed to be a way to claw back some of the overpriced annual fee. It is basically as useful as most hotel discount rates. I’d compare it to the IHG Ambassador free weekend night benefit but less useful due to the limited locations for the average person.
So I sound really negative but here is why. If you look at the entire list of FHR or Hotel Collection locations there are entire states and major cities without a single location. The Proud Money blog has a nice list for example. Sure California, New York, and Florida all do pretty well but 1 location in Indiana and none in Kansas are just a few examples of holes in this program. This doesn’t even mention locations all over the world that either lack any locations or only have a few (which are all super expensive of course).
Ok so I’m mad I couldn’t figure out how to use this again for the 2nd year in a row and 2023 isn’t looking promising. Maybe I’m just bitter so I’ll give you an example of why this program isn’t worth anything to me.
This is a summary from the Amex website that makes this sound awesome. I’ll overlook the fact that it’s now 2023 and Wi-Fi, like Color TV, should be included at all hotels for free anyway. In some odd way, Amex is promising “strong coffee” but I assume that comes at a price.
Amex promises extra benefits on FHR 1-night prepaid stays or Hotel Collection 2-night stays in addition to the $200 rebate. You can book it far in advance and get the benefit once per calendar year so you could book your 2022 benefit into 2023 and then use the 2023 credit as well. This all sounds good but unless you are already planning to pay for a stay at one of these higher-end properties it might not be your best rate, by far.
So one potential location that would have worked for me is an upcoming trip to Israel that I’m considering so I checked Israel. I was in luck as there are several properties there that could work. Let’s compare the rate for one.
A web search finds the IHG Intercontinental Tel Aviv for $314 per night on Google Maps. Now, this isn’t 100% fair since the $314 is a prepaid 3rd party OTA site and doesn’t include taxes most likely but even the IHG website has it for less than about $350 a night for most nights. But let’s look at the Amex website. Keep in mind that as an IHG member with just about any status at all you will earn bonus IHG points., late check-out, etc. so this offsets any Amex 5x benefits except for the food credit which is usually around $100 if you want to eat at the hotel while in Tel Aviv.
$415 seems high compared to the $314 on Google? Weird that this is around a $100 difference, huh… Now I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that not all FHR properties are like this. I have found a few that are about the same but at the end of the day, you still aren’t getting the best rate. No such thing as a free lunch as they say.
For this hotel, I could also use around 60,000 IHG points for a free night which I could likely buy at around .5 cents per point or less so about $300. Since I’m an IHG Ambassador status person I’ll likely skip the Amex benefit but this is just one example of many that I’ve found.
I’ve been able to use the $200 airline credit at less than $200 in value for misc junk like miles and such. I’ve also made good use of the Saks $50 credit but I bought stuff I really didn’t need at a store I don’t love, at prices that are much too high so I don’t value that at $100 per year. I think I’m going to have to downgrade my Platinum card for 2023 back to Gold so I at least get 4x at restaurants.
Bottom line: Are there some deals and value to be found with this benefit? Sure, but not for most people, and certainly not for me. When combined with the higher fees and the new 2023 limits on Centurion Lounge access the Amex Platinum card is no longer worth it to me.
Recently I had a business conference at Lake of the Ozarks. The group elected to have it at Lodge of the Four Seasons (yeah, not THAT Four Seasons). When having large conferences in Mid-Missouri there are only really two places at Lake of the Ozarks to choose from traditionally. You can pick Tan-Tar-A (Now Margaritaville) or Lodge of the Four Seasons. Both are historic sprawling resorts right on the water. Both are past their prime but are trying hard. Tan-Tar-A was originally a Marriott resort for many years until they ran out of nearby timeshare houses and ran it into the ground. Lodge of the Four Seasons is a bit more historic. The original family still owns it since its opening in 1955 as a Chase Park property. Many movie stars like Frank Sinatra visited at one time or another but those times are gone. It still has some of that old spark but things have become a bit worn out over the years. I have a feeling that Covid hasn’t helped. Tan-Tar-A was recently modeled a couple years ago since Margaritaville bought them out. It has the edge on shopping and entertainment facilities but both have a lot to offer and neither one is owned by the Byrd’s or any drug cartel as far as I know.
We visited this resort on a very cold week in early April so still off-season. Lake of the Ozarks is a major Summer destination for sure. It didn’t impact us much as we spent 95% of the time inside generic large meeting rooms but it was a fun visit. They seemed very understaffed for food service which would be my main complaint. The staff really made this resort shine but they need more staff for the bars and restaurants. It was difficult to impossible to get a beer at 4pm when our meetings ended. The staff at the rooftop and main restaurant bar spent much more time trying to get their computer POS to work than serving customers.
Overall I would stay here again as the rooms are dated but spotless. Next time I hope they provide bars of soap but no other complaints about the room. Think old Marriott hotel. I wish they have some affiliation with a hotel chain for points earning or elite perks but that isn’t too big of a deal in this area as most don’t.
I think a visit in the Summer would be the best idea for this property to take full use of the outdoor pools, lake, boating, and golf course but they do have a Spa and indoor pool (sorry no photos). This hotel could use some remodeling and I hope they do so long term as the buildings are starting to show some wear for sure. It might need a major influx in cash to return it to its historic glory. Here is the non-affiliate link if you want to check it out. https://4seasonsresort.com/
Just sharing a few of my favorite travel photos while I wait for covid travel stabilization. Sure I have some travel coming up. A cruise, road trip, and trying to book a new Europe trip from my AA covid miles stash but on a cold winter day, I like to look back. I’m not a professional photographer so forgive the average quality of some of my photos. Just because they are a favorite doesn’t mean they are the best quality photos in the world. I only had to go as far back as 2019 to find some of my favorites in this edition.
Marriott has a niche, targeted offer out where you get a $25 grocery gift card for 7+ night extended stays at “Participating” properties using corporate/coupon code ES7 in the booking details. The offers says “Hang out with us for awhile and save with extended−stay rates and a $25 grocery card on 7+ nights.” If you are targeted you may find this in a recent email with the subject line “FOR YOU: Special Offers on 2022 Travel”.
Settling in for an extended stay in the New Year? Receive a $25 grocery gift card on us when you stay for 7+ consecutive nights.
Available at participating properties in the U.S., Canada, Caribbean and Latin America.
More offer details show:
How to Book:
Be sure that the Promotional Code appears in the Corporate/Promotional code box when making your online reservation, or call 1-800-228-9290 and ask for the promotional code. For toll-free numbers outside the US please visit Global Reservation Numbers
Terms & Conditions:
Includes a $25 grocery gift card for every 7 nights consecutively stayed; grocery store location may be preselected by hotel. Minimum length of stay required (varies by participating hotels). A minimum length of stay may apply. Offers may be advance payment/non-refundable and non-changeable. Offer must fall within valid dates and is only valid through the stay window end date. Limited number of rooms are available for this promotion. Tax is additional. Offer does not apply to groups of 10 or more rooms. Offer cannot be combined with any other promotions. Blackout dates may apply. Advance reservations required. Other restrictions apply. Rates are per room, per night and based on availability at the time of reservations.
While it seems many hotels don’t allow this rate code it could be valuable. My random search for a Wednesday night in mid-February in Chicago (not tourist high season of course). Only showed two properties you could book this for at this moment in time.
Apparently cold weather and hot chocolate is involved with this marketing effort.
We recently had a short two night stay in Waikiki. Thanks to the Marriott points temporary discount I was able to use two of my 35k free night certs that are usually useless on Oahu.
Due to my low Gold status I did end up in a nice beach view room. We really enjoyed the large balcony and view of the nearby hotels.
Pros of this hotel include location at Waikiki and near the Zoo. Friendly staff and recently renovated rooms.
Cons of this hotel include $50 resort fee per night, $45 per night parking fee and location on Waikiki which is Branson Missouri west with tourists and traffic. Noisy night and day and also tons of homeless citizens all over the beach. Also the band at the hotel next door plays late into the evening which you can hear in your room. Street racing on the street below with horns, people yelling all night etc.
Overall I would stay here again and enjoyed most of it. The check in using the Hawaii covid website is a real pain as the hotel won’t take a printed QR code, they make you log in and go through 2 factor authentication to show them it on your phone while a line forms at the check-in desk.
So have fun and enjoy. Backgrounds like these aren’t hard to find of course. I felt guilty even posting this because you can just Google your favorite brand, location, etc. for meeting or zoom backgrounds and you will find a ton of all types of subjects so have a little fun.
By entering here: SALVATORFEST you can win a free trip for two to Munich in March of 2022.
The exact dates are not yet announced but drinking in Munich with free travel sounds good to me. Munich is a lovely place and fun city for a few beers. I’d rather go for Octoberfest but Munich is nice most of the year.
This prize consists of “roundtrip coach airfare for the First Prize Winner and Guest from the international airport in the continental United States that is closest to the First Prize Winner’s residence (as determined by Sponsor) to Munich Germany, and (iii) two (2) consecutive nights hotel stay in Munich, Germany at a hotel selected by Sponsor. Accommodations will include one standard room with double occupancy and a morning breakfast.” They value this at $3,500. Click Here for the official rules. This contest ends by 3-15-21 with winner announced on about 3-18-21. Good Luck.
So it’s been awhile since posting. I guess Covid and less travel will do that to you. Plus I’ve been busy getting a new job, moving and well traveling some.
Southwest currently has a new sale. Good deals starting at about $50.
So among the many changes in the past 6 months one of my sons and his family moved to Hawaii. He’s in the Army and also has a new daughter. I’ve been avoiding flying because wearing a mask with asthma isn’t my idea of fun for more than 10 minutes but I still haven’t met our new granddaughter yet. I saw this sale that Southwest has and was thinking it would be a great way, well cheap way to get from our new home airport in St. Louis to Honolulu using my wife’s companion pass. Sure it’s cattle car festival seating but I’m tough.
So I started searching and found some potentially great deals. <$500 for both of us roundtrip….or did I.
The sale goes through May and I’m trying to put this off a bit due to work and vaccine roll-outs but before another big trip in August. Found a good date on May 7th only to find no return dates… No worries I’ll look at April.
OK? How about March
How odd but I’m flexible how about next week?
Now I’m no fool. I know that Southwest isn’t the best way to get to Hawaii from most of the country but I didn’t think it would be that bad. It’s like the Hotel California. You can check-out anytime you like but you can never leave. Maybe I’ll check out my companion pass on Alaska Airlines 🙂
Recently had a chance to do an extended stay at the IHG Staybridge Suites Albuquerque North hotel. Some of the features such as full breakfast, evening reception, indoor pool and the fitness center remained closed due to the Covid19 scare. The laundry pet area and pantry was available. They also feature long term storage closets at this location as well.
The pantry was nearly empty but had a few items for purchase. The local staff as this hotel was the true bright spot. The rooms are super clean and had standard Staybridge set up with kitchen and sperated bed area. I’d say the only compliant I’d have was that many of the rooms have queen sized single beds which are a bit small in two player mode.