I stayed at a hotel booked through AmEx's Fine Hotels and Resorts program to see if it is worth all the hype

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  • If you have the Platinum Card® from American Express, you have access to a suite of travel benefits, including access to an exclusive hotel-booking program run by AmEx: the Fine Hotels and Resorts program.
  • When you book through Fine Hotels and Resorts (or "FHR") - either through the AmEx Travel website, or by calling the number on your Platinum Card - you'll get things like free daily breakfast, room upgrades, late check-out, and more.
  • As part of a press trip with AmEx, I recently stayed in a hotel in Paris booked through FHR, and participated in activities and meals arranged by AmEx Travel counsellors and specialists.
  • Although I've had the Platinum Card for more than a year and a half, and travel often, I had never booked a hotel through the Fine Hotels and Resorts program before.
  • Here's what it was like.

If you hold one of American Express' premium products - the Platinum Card or the invite-only Centurion "Black" card - you have access to a few specialty services above what's available for other cardholders.

In particular, the Fine Hotels and Resorts program (or "FHR") offers exclusive perks at a curated list of hotels and resorts around the world whenever an eligible card member books through the program. There are currently about 1,000 properties on the list, although it changes each year as new properties are added and dropped from the program.

The list of properties is meticulously curated, and every property is throughly vetted; AmEx even sends undercover employees and carries out surprise inspections to make sure they're up to par.

Perks include room upgrades, complimentary breakfasts, late check-outs, and more - you can learn more about the program's perks here.

Aside from the published perks, AmEx Platinum cardholders can expect the absolute best service the hotel can offer when they book through the program; being placed on the FHR list can be extremely lucrative for hotels, so naturally the property and its employees are eager to go the extra mile.

Learn more: The AmEx Platinum is available to active duty servicemembers at no annual fee - but even with the fee, the credit card is a great value

Complementing the FHR program, AmEx offers cardholders assistance with every aspect of planning a trip, and help should issues arise. Travel counselors can help with booking flights and hotels, lifestyle counselors can offer assistance with activities, and "Destination Managers," who are local, on-the-ground experts in certain markets, can provide detailed assistance and suggestions.

During a recent trip with American Express to the annual International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) conference in Cannes, France - where I had the chance to observe meetings between AmEx travel executives and representatives from properties that were applying to the FHR program - I had the opportunity to spend two nights in Paris at a FHR hotel, Le Bristol Paris.

This was my first time staying at a hotel as part of a reservation through FHR. Although I was traveling and meeting with AmEx Travel executives who arranged the entire trip, including the leisure activities and the meetings, I still had the opportunity to experience the hotel, the benefits of the program, and a short trip to Paris organized in conjunction with a local Destination Manager.

Here's what it was like.

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Le Bristol sits in a grand building on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, just off the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and about a block away from the Élysée Palace, the French president's official residence.

Le Bristol sits in a grand building on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, just off the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and about a block away from the Élysée Palace, the French president's official residence.

Founded in 1925, the hotel strives for "regal," and it hits the mark in every way from the moment you lay eyes on its ornate entrance.

When you walk into the hotel, you're immediately stuck by a sense of grandeur.

When you walk into the hotel, you're immediately stuck by a sense of grandeur.

The entranceway leads to the front desk and the concierge's station on your right and left, respectively, with a short staircase directly ahead that leads down to the main lobby. I wasn't able to get a photo from inside the main entranceway, but the aesthetics here — in a hallway off the lobby alongside the garden — are similar.

Throughout the hotel, the decor adds to the tasteful, extravagant-but-not-overdone elegance of the lobby, and fits well with the couture-chic that the property strives (successfully) to cultivate.

Throughout the hotel, the decor adds to the tasteful, extravagant-but-not-overdone elegance of the lobby, and fits well with the couture-chic that the property strives (successfully) to cultivate.

For example, this winding staircase in one of the hotel's western wing, which landed near the entrance to the Michelin-starred 114 Faubourg, was adorned with pleasant and warm string lighting descending from the ceiling.

Display cases throughout the lobby hold watches and other jewelry from boutiques around Paris.

Display cases throughout the lobby hold watches and other jewelry from boutiques around Paris.

The hotel also has a full-time resident: A cat named Fa-Raon (French for "Pharaoh"), who hangs out on the main floor and can be found snoozing on a desk or greeting guests.

The hotel also has a full-time resident: A cat named Fa-Raon (French for "Pharaoh"), who hangs out on the main floor and can be found snoozing on a desk or greeting guests.

During my December stay, holiday cheer was in full swing in the form of elaborate Christmas decorations throughout the lobby.

During my December stay, holiday cheer was in full swing in the form of elaborate Christmas decorations throughout the lobby.

When we arrived from our red-eye flight, it was mid-morning and our rooms weren't ready yet — we took the earliest-arriving flight, so that was to be expected.

When we arrived from our red-eye flight, it was mid-morning and our rooms weren't ready yet — we took the earliest-arriving flight, so that was to be expected.

Ultimately, our rooms became available before 12 p.m., the early check-in time offered by FHR. We left our bags with the front desk, and went for breakfast at one of the hotel's restaurants, Café Antonia. The coffee was tasty, but the croissants were out of this world. I felt groggy and jetlagged, so I also ordered the detox specialty from the extensive juice list. It was fantastic.

Using the on-property FHR credit, I had a 30-minute massage scheduled for that morning — I ended up going straight from breakfast to the spa.

Using the on-property FHR credit, I had a 30-minute massage scheduled for that morning — I ended up going straight from breakfast to the spa.

The spa at Le Bristol offers a range of services and treatment areas, and even has specialty services for children — if you're on a family trip and need some pampering, they can get their own attention. Someone from the front desk brought my bag down to the spa, so after the massage I took a shower in the comfortable locker room, changed, and was ready for the day.

After the massage and shower, it was time for our lunch reservation at 114 Faubourg, one of the hotel's two Michelin-starred restaurants.

After the massage and shower, it was time for our lunch reservation at 114 Faubourg, one of the hotel's two Michelin-starred restaurants.

I brought my bag back to the front desk from the spa — they brought it up to my room, which was now ready — and walked over to the restaurant. While I was tired from my flight — and not starving, thanks to the tasty breakfast croissant — the smell of lunch had my mouth watering. I enjoyed the sea scallop appetizer, which was followed by a tasty chicken entree for my main course.

I went upstairs to my room after lunch, to take a quick power nap and catch up on some work.

I went upstairs to my room after lunch, to take a quick power nap and catch up on some work.

The hotel houses 90 rooms and 100 suites. I was booked into a junior suite — which was set up like a studio apartment — and because the hotel was booked through FHR, I was upgraded to one of the preferred junior suites with a garden view. There was a long entranceway, more like a short hallway, as soon as I walked into the room, with closets to my left and right.

The hall opened into a large room — more of a studio apartment layout than a traditional "suite" with a separate bedroom and living room. It was a massive 592 square feet, according to the hotel's specs.

The hall opened into a large room — more of a studio apartment layout than a traditional "suite" with a separate bedroom and living room. It was a massive 592 square feet, according to the hotel's specs.

Le Bristol's website lists even the base-level Superior Rooms at 430 square feet, which is even more jaw-dropping considering the notorious "coziness" of Paris' compact hotel rooms.

An ornately dressed Louis XVI bed sat against the far wall, with large French casement windows overlooking the garden on one side, and mirrored doors to a closet and the bathroom on the other.

An ornately dressed Louis XVI bed sat against the far wall, with large French casement windows overlooking the garden on one side, and mirrored doors to a closet and the bathroom on the other.

The room had two desks — one on each side — which gave me plenty of room to spread out.

The room had two desks — one on each side — which gave me plenty of room to spread out.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I used a whole desk for random daily detritus — my wallet, my watch, papers and a folder, and so on — and another that I used to catch up on work.

The room also had a well apportioned bathroom, with a large soaking tub, a pleasant (and hot) rain shower, and almost any toiletry you could need.

The room also had a well apportioned bathroom, with a large soaking tub, a pleasant (and hot) rain shower, and almost any toiletry you could need.

The hotel has a fitness center that I didn't get the chance to use, but the spacious pool is in its own area.

The hotel has a fitness center that I didn't get the chance to use, but the spacious pool is in its own area.

The pool room was long, with gently sloping walls and wood paneling that all served to evoke the feeling of a luxurious ship. On clear nights, you could get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower through the windows while you swim.

At night, there's even a nightclub — Le Bristol After Dark. We planned to have cocktails here one night, but ended up canceling because we were too tired.

At night, there's even a nightclub — Le Bristol After Dark. We planned to have cocktails here one night, but ended up canceling because we were too tired.

Another benefit offered by AmEx Travel — which can be used whether or not you book your hotel through the FHR program — is access to travel specialists and advisors.

Another benefit offered by AmEx Travel — which can be used whether or not you book your hotel through the FHR program — is access to travel specialists and advisors.

These highly informed, local experts can help you plan every aspect of your trip. The concierge service that AmEx Platinum cardholders have access to can help with restaurant recommendations and reservations, but the Destination Managers go deeper, helping customize your itinerary or find off-the-beaten-path plans. The travel and lifestyle counselors, meanwhile, can help with logistics like flights and hotels.

We worked with both the Platinum concierge and a travel advisor for this trip.

We worked with both the Platinum concierge and a travel advisor for this trip.

The concierge recommended some excellent restaurants from the American Express Dining Collection, including Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, where we enjoyed an absurdly lavish, five-hour dinner.

Dinner ended with cheese and dessert — and a glass of port.

Dinner ended with cheese and dessert — and a glass of port.

The Platinum concierge has access to exclusive reservations, special menus, and more at participating Global Dining Collection restaurants, many of which fall into the "fine dining" category. Keep in mind that when working with the concierge, things like atmosphere and price can always be taken into account.

Our Destination Manager was fantastic, and helped with a lot before and during the trip. She recommended a trendy, local brunch spot for our last day, and organized cool activities for us. During our first afternoon, she helped arrange a private tour at Piaget's flagship boutique, where we got to see (and touch) some of their most valuable pieces, and took a watch repair workshop with one of the brand's master watchmakers.

Our Destination Manager was fantastic, and helped with a lot before and during the trip. She recommended a trendy, local brunch spot for our last day, and organized cool activities for us. During our first afternoon, she helped arrange a private tour at Piaget's flagship boutique, where we got to see (and touch) some of their most valuable pieces, and took a watch repair workshop with one of the brand's master watchmakers.

We were there during the peak of the "yellow vest" protests, and both our Destination Manager and the hotel helped us rearrange travel and dining plans as needed, as select streets and businesses closed early. We were incredibly grateful for her help; thanks to her, we barely felt any impact, other than having to change dinner plans one night.

We were there during the peak of the "yellow vest" protests, and both our Destination Manager and the hotel helped us rearrange travel and dining plans as needed, as select streets and businesses closed early. We were incredibly grateful for her help; thanks to her, we barely felt any impact, other than having to change dinner plans one night.

Our Destination Manager also suggested a super-chic cocktail bar, The Little Red Door, where we enjoyed cocktails and got to chat with the owner about the cocktail scene in Paris.

Our Destination Manager also suggested a super-chic cocktail bar, The Little Red Door, where we enjoyed cocktails and got to chat with the owner about the cocktail scene in Paris.

After a busy — but luxurious — two days, we headed to Cannes for the rest of the meetings, including the pitches from hotels applying to join the Fine Hotels and Resorts program.

After a busy — but luxurious — two days, we headed to Cannes for the rest of the meetings, including the pitches from hotels applying to join the Fine Hotels and Resorts program.

Obviously, my first hotel stay through the Fine Hotels & Resorts program was colored by the fact that the trip was organized by American Express Travel executives who knew exactly how to best use the resources at their — and any Platinum card member's — disposal.

On the plus side, that left me better informed about how I could take advantage of the services offered by my own Platinum Card.

To be sure, most of the properties in the FHR program fall under the "luxury" category. These are full-service hotels and resorts that, depending on the specific property and the market, can cost anywhere from the low-to-mid hundreds to the thousands per night. You won't find spa credits and upgrades at the budget hotel through this program.

That said, it's definitely possible to get financial value, especially if you were planning to book a luxury hotel anyway. Rates through the FHR portal are usually comparable to rates through other online travel agencies, or even direct with the hotel, while the perks and benefits offset any price discrepancies I found during test searches.

Aside from that, the support of AmEx Travel's extensive suite of services, and the fact that you're likely to get the best possible service, can make the Fine Hotels and Resorts program absolutely compelling if you're planning to spend some time in a high-end hotel — and have an AmEx Platinum Card.

Click here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy
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