AMEX Fine Hotels Delivers Again! This Time in Downtown San Diego
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Keith: I think access to AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts is often an overlooked perk for AMEX Platinum cardholders. When you book paid hotel stays, this program can get you hundreds of dollars worth of valuable benefits.
I keep The Business Platinum® Card from American Express in my wallet. And I recently used AMEX Fine Hotels to book a stay in San Diego for a weekend getaway with my wife. The room rate through AMEX was the same as booking directly through the hotel. Plus we got a $200 room upgrade, $100 credit toward dinner, and free breakfast (worth $75!)
We stayed at The US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel, which is part of the Starwood brand. It’s the only hotel in downtown San Diego that’s part of the AMEX Fine Hotel & Resorts program.
If you collect Starwood (or Marriott) points, you can book a free night at this hotel for 12,000 to 16,000 Starwood points per night. This will change August 1, 2018, when the Starwood and Marriott loyalty programs officially merge.
Benefits of a Booking Through AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts
To book a stay through the AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts program, you must have one of these cards:
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
You don’t have to pay for your reservation with your AMEX Platinum card. But you will have to use a card that’s linked to your AMEX account.
When you book through AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts, you’ll get:
- Early check-in (if available)
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- Daily resort or hotel credit (if available)
- Free daily breakfast for 2
- 4:00 pm guaranteed late check-out
- Room upgrade (if available)
Just because you get extra benefits booking through AMEX Fine Hotels doesn’t mean you have to pay a lot more. For our stay, the nightly rate direct through the Starwood website was ~$315, which includes taxes & fees.
And through AMEX Fine Hotels, the nightly rate was $299 plus taxes & fees. The AMEX website doesn’t show taxes & fees when at the time you book. But the total price for my stay was essentially the same direct or through AMEX.
Here’s my review of The US GRANT hotel!
US Grant Hotel Review
- This historical hotel opened in 1910 and was built by the son of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the US
- The hotel is within walking distance to popular destinations like the Gaslamp Quarter, USS Midway Museum, PETCO Park, and Seaport Village
- The hotel is home to The Grant Grill, an excellent fine dining (yet slightly overpriced) restaurant
- Parking at the hotel is ridiculous at $49 per night
- In 2017, there was a significant renovation at the hotel and the lobby and rooms are in great condition
- The hotel doesn’t have a pool, but guests can use the pool at The Westin Gaslamp Quarter hotel, which is within a ~5 minute walk.
Here’s a little more about our stay!
1. The US Grant Is a Historic Hotel
If you’re a history buff, you’ll really enjoy your time at this hotel! It was built by President Ulysses S. Grant’s son and opened in 1910. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you stay through the weekend, you can join in the Saturday morning guided tour.
We didn’t get a chance to do the official tour. But I picked up a self-guided tour booklet from the concierge and walked through the popular points of interest on my own.
The hotel has welcomed 15 US Presidents and 5 First Ladies. At the entrance to the hotel’s ballroom, there are official portraits of those that have visited.
The hotel was a hot spot during Prohibition with one of the dining areas transformed into a popular Speakeasy. Alcohol was smuggled in from Mexico through underground tunnels that carried saltwater from the nearby San Diego Bay.
When Prohibition ended, the Speakeasy evolved into a night club that hosted 1940s big band and jazz musicians.
2. US Grant Room
When you book through AMEX Fine Hotels, you’ll get a room upgrade based on availability. So instead of a standard room with a queen or king bed, we were upgraded to a suite that a separate living area with a sofa.
I have Starwood Platinum status, so I likely would have received a similar upgrade if I booked directly. But booking through AMEX can be great for this type of perk if you don’t have elite status or are booking a stay at an independent hotel.
Booking this same suite directly before arriving at the hotel would have increased the price of our stay by ~$200. I don’t consider this savings because we would have been comfortable in the standard room. But it’s definitely a nice upgrade!
3. US Grant Food and Drinks
This is my favorite part of the review! 🙂
Because we received a $100 food & beverage credit and free breakfast, we mostly ate (and drank) at the hotel.
There was a bar cart in the lobby during happy hour serving specialty cocktails. I went with an Old Fashioned, which has been my go-to drink as of late. I had never tried one until a few weeks ago.
Although the hotel appeared to have a lot of guests during the day, the lobby area wasn’t full during happy hour.
We made dinner reservations at the Grant Grill, which is a fine dining restaurant accessible from the hotel lobby. This wouldn’t be the first restaurant I’d recommend on a trip to San Diego. But if you’re staying at or near the hotel, the food and ambiance are both great!
For dinner, my wife had grilled bison and I had the ribeye.
I order dessert whenever dining out. You only live once, right?
I’ll admit we splurged a bit on the meal and went over our food & beverage credit because we were celebrating my wife’s new job offer. But if you’re smart, you can definitely use the credit to completely the cost of a meal or two.
We ate at the same restaurant for breakfast. Free breakfast for booking through AMEX was separate from the dining credit. We could order up to $75 worth of food. Between coffee, 2 egg dishes, and the tip, the bill came close to $70. So the free breakfast perk was truly a savings.
AMEX Platinum Card Offers
If you want access to AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts and other valuable credit card perks, consider these offers!
1. AMEX Platinum
Link: The Platinum Card® from American Express
You’ll also get:
- 5X AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, and on hotels booked on the AMEX Travel Portal
- $200 annual airline incidental fee credit
- $200 in Uber credit per year (but there are restrictions)
- Airport lounge access to Priority Pass, Centurion, and AirSpace Lounges
- Statement credit every 5 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85)
- Hotel elite status with Hilton, Marriott, and Starwood
- $550 annual fee (See Rates & Fees)
- Terms apply
2. AMEX Business Platinum
Link: The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
I chose the AMEX Business Platinum instead of the personal version (The Platinum Card® from American Express) because the welcome bonus is larger and the annual fee is $100 cheaper. Keep in mind, you’ll have to spend more with the business version to unlock the bonus.
When you apply for the AMEX Business Platinum card, you’ll earn:
- 50,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.
- 25,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after you spend an additional $10,000 on qualifying purchases within the same timeframe
That brings the total bonus to 75,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points vs. 60,000 points on the personal version. Although, the tiered spending requirement is quite hefty! You can check out this post for ideas on how to meet minimum spending requirements.
With the AMEX Business Platinum card, you’ll also get:
- 1.5X AMEX Membership Rewards points on single purchases of $5,000+
- 5X AMEX Membership Rewards points when you book airfare and hotels through the AMEX travel portal
- 35% of your points back for ALL First Class or Business Class flights booked through the AMEX travel portal using Pay With Points
- 35% of your points back for all flights, including coach tickets, booked with your selected airline through the AMEX travel portal using Pay With Points
- Up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for airline incidentals with your selected airline (luggage fees, in-flight food & drink, etc.)
- Ability to book hotel stays through AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts
- AMEX Premium Roadside Assistance
- Access to airport lounges (Delta, Priority Pass, Airspace, and American Express Centurion Lounges)
- Bonus points or statement credits when taking advantage of an AMEX Offer
- Elite car rental status with Avis, Executive status with National Car Rental, and Gold Plus Rewards with Hertz
- Free Hilton HHonors Gold elite status (free breakfast and upgrades when available)
- Free Starwood Gold elite status, which you can use to instantly match to Marriott Gold elite status
- 10 free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes each calendar year
- Statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
- $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees)
- Terms & limitations apply
My wife and I traveled to San Diego and used the AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts program to book a paid stay at the The US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel.
The room rate was essentially the same as booking directly through the hotel. But just by booking through AMEX, we enjoyed extra perks, including:
- Noon check-in
- $100 food & beverage credit, which came in handy at the Grant Grill
- Free breakfast for my wife and me (worth $75)
- 4:00 pm late check-out
- Room upgrade to a spacious suite
We really enjoyed the history of the hotel, which is more than 100 years old. It was neat to see the official portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies who have visited the hotel. If you’re planning a visit to downtown San Diego, the hotel is within walking distance to lots of major attractions.
You can get access to AMEX Fine Hotels by being an AMEX Platinum (personal or small business) cardholder. I keep the AMEX Business Platinum in my wallet because the annual fee is $100 cheaper than the personal version. And I think it offers more perks. Here’s our full review of the AMEX Business Platinum card.
Have you visited The US GRANT? Let me know about your experience in the comments!
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
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