Dear Cashing In,
Deep down in the list of benefits of one of my credit cards, I saw that it says one of the features of the card is some "luxury hotel and resort collection." What is this exactly? Is it a good benefit? -- Dennis
Like rental car insurance and warranty benefits, luxury hotel perks probably are not a reason to choose a credit card. The kinds of benefits we're talking about here are typically included only on top-of-the-line rewards cards, and they apply to fancy hotels that usually cost upward of $400 a night.
If that's how you roll, you might squeeze some value from these perks, which often include early check-in, late checkout, free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast for two -- and maybe even a $50 spa credit or a lovely fruit basket. Then again, if you're accustomed to staying at five-star hotels, the prospect of getting those small perks for free might not be a deciding factor in where to stay, and you might get them anyway from a hotel chain loyalty program.
These luxury hotel perks probably make the most sense for people who are planning a splurge, know where they want to stay and like the idea of receiving benefits they would not have had otherwise.
I know of four programs like this, each of which works across multiple credit cards: Visa Signature, MasterCard World Elite, American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts and the Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. They all work essentially the same way: Go to an online portal to search for hotels, reserve a room using your card that has the benefit and when you arrive at the hotel, you get the perks. The room prices tend to be about the same as if you booked on the hotel's website.
Say you're sick of cold weather and want to head to Miami for two nights over Valentine's Day weekend. Visa Signature lists eight hotels with rooms available those dates. The least expensive is the Conrad Miami, a financial-district Hilton property with rooftop pool, at $379 a night for a "Deluxe City View King" room. Hilton's website lists the same rate: $379 a night. But if you book through Visa Signature, you also get a room upgrade (if available), free continental breakfast, 3 p.m. checkout, free in-room Internet (normally $14.95) and a $25 food or beverage credit.
Chase's program shows two hotels with availability, the least expensive of which is the downtown EPIC Miami, at $451 a night for a "Cityview Double Premier" room. The same room booked on the hotel's website is $399 -- about $50 less. But booking through Chase's Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, you get full breakfast for two, a $100 resort credit, a "welcome amenity" and, if available, early check-in, late checkout and a room upgrade.
The bottom line: There is some value in these programs, especially if you are planning a trip and would ordinarily book through the hotel's website. If you have a card that qualifies for luxury hotel benefits, it could be worth checking out what's available for your destination before you book.
Also note that you actually have to pay for the rooms -- you can't use hotel points for a free night and receive these perks, although you can in most cases receive hotel points for your stay if the hotel has your membership information. In addition, some reviews of the programs online suggest you confirm the benefits you're receiving when you check in, as some hotels seem to need reminding.