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I’m about to burn a ton of Amex points in a very irresponsible way.
Caruso Hotel is a bewitching five-star property located along Italy’s Amalfi Coast. It’s a Belmond hotel, which doesn’t offer a loyalty program. It’s therefore impossible to book award nights.
That’s unfortunate, because the nightly rates are the stuff of nightmares. The hotel is not intended for travelers of my middle-class ilk. But I’m going there, anyway, thanks to The Platinum Card® from American Express. By stacking three card benefits, I’ll book a weekend at this hotel for effectively zero dollars.
The method I’m using is frowned upon in the award travel community, but it’s worth it to mark off a bucket list item I’ve failed for years to achieve.
How to use the Amex Platinum’s perks and points to get a free luxury hotel stay
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- Long list of travel benefits, including airport lounge access and complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott (enrollment required)
- Annual statement credits with Saks and Uber
- Bonus categories leave something to be desired
- One of the highest annual fees among premium travel cards
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- Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
- Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
- $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
- $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
- $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
- American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
- $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
- $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
- $695 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
The Amex Platinum charges a $695 annual fee (See Rates). That’s a big investment, but well worth it if you’ll use the card’s ongoing benefits, such as:
- Up to $200 in airline fee credits each calendar year
- Up to $200 in credits per year toward prepaid hotel bookings through Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts or The Hotel Collection (with a two-night minimum)
- Up to $240 in annual credits (up to $20 per month) toward eligible digital subscriptions with Hulu, Audible, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times**
- Up to $200 in Uber Cash each calendar year**
- Airport lounge access (Priority Pass**, Centurion lounges, and more)
- $179 per year in credits for CLEAR membership**
But two extra-special card benefits will help me to stay at Caruso on the cheap:
- The Amex Platinum comes with up to $200 in statement credits annually for booking prepaid hotels through the Amex Travel Portal.
- The card also grants you access to Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts, a collection of luxury properties around the world, while offering you potentially hundreds of dollars in value (for things like free breakfast, resort credits, room upgrades, etc.).
These perks, along with Amex points, allow cardholders the ability to book super Instagrammable hotels for cheap — or even free. Here’s how I’ll do just that.
Combine the Amex Platinum’s $200 hotel credit with Fine Hotels and Resorts and Membership Rewards points for free stays
I’m looking for the cheapest rates Caruso Hotel has to offer.
The first thing I do is find the town where the hotel is located: Ravello, Italy. I then search that town on Google Hotels, find Caruso Hotel, and search the entire year for the cheapest prices. October displays plenty of sub-$800 nightly rates.
I then note these dates and head to the American Express Travel Portal. The hotel participates in Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts (one of the absolute best features of the Amex Platinum), meaning you’ll get elite-status-esque benefits like:
- Free breakfast (I believe this hotel already offers that, though)
- A room upgrade (when available)
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout
- Noon check-in (when available)
Fine Hotels and Resorts also offers a $100 food and beverage credit to use on the property. Because I’ll be eating at the hotel, this is as good as cash to me.
Booking in late October, I see that prices are $728 before taxes. I’m not trying to pay anywhere near that for a hotel night.
As long as I book a prepaid rate, my Amex Platinum’s annual $200 hotel credit will trigger. When clicking through to book the room, I’ll select “Pay Now.”
My wife and I both have an Amex Platinum, so we each have a $200 credit to burn. We’ll both book one night with our card, thereby receiving a total of $400 in hotel credits — plus, we’ll both receive a $100 food and beverage credit, giving us another $200 in value. That’s an effective $600 discount for this two-night stay.
At the payment screen, the final cost is $811.99 per night. I’ll now use Amex points to further offset my bill. Amex points are worth 1 cent each when used to book Fine Hotels and Resorts through Amex.
Because I’m getting a value of $300 per night between hotel credits and food, I’ll split my payment as follows for each night:
- $300 in cash
- 51,199 Amex points
After checkout, I’ll get an automatic $200 statement credit. That leaves me with $100 per night out-of-pocket. I don’t mind paying this, as I’ll recoup that money from the $100 on-site food and beverage credit.
This is not the best use of Amex points
By stacking these benefits with Amex points, I’ll get a luxury $1,624 weekend stay for $0 and 102,398 Amex points.
I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t the optimum use of Amex points. After all, Insider estimates that Amex Membership Rewards are worth 1.8 cents each, on average. You can get exponentially more value by using them for fancy lie-flat business class seats that sell for thousands of dollars. You can transfer them to hotel loyalty programs like Hilton for free hotel stays at 6,000+ properties around the world. Considering the amazing value you can get from your points by transferring them to airlines and hotels, redeeming them through Amex Travel for 1 cent each is actually … a bad deal.
However — my wife and I have enough points between us that we’ll not run out in the foreseeable future. And using points for a hotel we’ve been wanting to visit for years will make us happier than worrying too much about getting “maximum value” from our rewards.
Besides, Amex points are easy to earn if I find myself running low two or three years from now.
Don’t constantly stress over the “best use” of your credit card rewards. Use them in a way that fulfills you the most.
I could be using my Amex points for $15,000+ first-class flights to Japan or overwater villas at Hilton hotels in the Maldives. But I want to visit a particular expensive hotel in Italy, and I don’t want to pay for it. I’ve got enough Amex points that I don’t mind redeeming them at an inferior value to tick this bucket list item off my list. And I refuse to feel bad about it.