Are the new Amex Platinum Hilton, Melia and Shangri-La benefits worth much?

As I announced on HFP last week, and subsequently confirmed to cardholders in writing, American Express has added three new hotel benefits to the Platinum charge card package:

Hilton HHonors Gold status

Melia Rewards Gold status

Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade status

However, it is also removing Le Club AccorHotels Platinum status as a benefit from the end of April.

It is worth looking more closely at each of these statuses to see if they are actually worth anything or not.

Here is the ground rule for this article.  Because I am old and cynical, I do not trust anything unless it has the word ‘guaranteed’ in front of it.

There are no circumstances under which I will move my business to a hotel because I may or may not receive a status benefit ‘subject to availability’, which can mean anything.  The one thing you can be sure that ‘subject to availability’ does NOT mean is ‘as long as we can physically manage your request, you can definitely have it’.  That isn’t how it works.

The end game here is when you pull out your mobile phone in a hotel lobby, after being refused a non-guaranteed upgrade because ‘the hotel is full’, to show the check-in clerk exactly how many rooms mysteriously seem to be available for that night – for cash.  If you’ve never done this, I promise you, the day will come.

First up is Hilton HHonors Gold.

This is the mid tier Hilton status.  Hilton is generally known for having the best mid-tier benefits package in the hotel industry, which is good news for you.  Gold does not carry a lot of weight in North America, where hotels are overrun with Gold members, but it does often carry some respect in Europe and Asia.

The key benefit here is free continental breakfast.

With the exception of Waldorf-Astoria hotels, you will receive a free breakfast of some sort at all Hilton, Conrad, Curio and DoubleTree hotels.  This is not necessarily full breakfast – at the Conrad New York, for example, I was given a special Gold breakfast menu which allowed me to pick a couple of items from a short list.

(At a Waldorf-Astoria you will get 1,000 bonus points instead, worth £3, or a free in-room movie.  You will also get a handful of points at other brands not listed above.)

You should also receive some sort of upgrade – this is a guaranteed benefit although it is not clearly defined.  You shouldn’t expect too much, often just the best room in the category you booked, but you should get something.  You will also receive two free bottle of water per stay.

Hilton Gold used to bring free internet but that is now available to everyone.  It does not get you free hi-speed internet access, where a paid premium service exists.  This is restricted to top tier Diamond members.

The other benefits of Hilton Gold, which I do not hugely value, are:

  • 25% bonus points
  • late check-out (not guaranteed)
  • 2nd guest stays free (only useful in countries which tend to charge more for two people, eg Germany)

You will also qualify for the ‘book 5 nights and pay for 4’ Hilton HHonors redemption benefit which is offered to all status members.

Overall, because of the sheer size of the Hilton chain and the guaranteed breakfast, and to a lesser extent the guaranteed upgrade, this is by far the best of the new benefits.

You can see the official list of Gold benefits here.

Innside exterior

Melia Rewards Gold

Melia is a Spanish-based hotel group.  The key brands are Sol, Tryp, Melia, Gran Melia, Paradisius, ME and INNSIDE.  Their London team has always been very proactive towards Head for Points, sponsoring a competition a couple of years ago for example, but their scale outside Iberia is not huge.

In the UK, they have a number of impressive but not very well known hotels which you may want to try with your new Gold status:

ME London, the Norman Foster designed hotel on the Strand which has a good reputation.  Think of a hotel like The Trafalgar nearby or a more sophisticated W.

Melia White House, a surprisingly pleasant art deco era hotel near Regents Park

INNSIDE Manchester, the first UK outpost for Melia’s four-star business brand.  The image above is of the hotel.  I reviewed INNSIDE Manchester last year and was very impressed.  Glasgow and Birmingham properties will follow over the next couple of years.

Melia Rewards Gold offers the following benefits:

  • 30% bonus points
  • free breakfast for a companion (so 2-4-1)
  • free wi-fi
  • 3 x 20% off vouchers for room bookings
  • 4pm late check-out at city hotels, 2pm at resorts

Late check-out IS guaranteed but only as long as the hotel is not 100% full.  You will also receive free wi-fi.  There is no upgrade benefit.

Overall, there isn’t much here to persuade me to move a stay to Melia EXCEPT for the ‘almost guaranteed’ 4pm check-out.  That could be important on a short break if you have a late flight back.

Shangri La Shard

Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade

Shangri-La has only a limited presence in Europe via its luxurious properties in London (in The Shard) and Paris.  It has a large presence in Asia, however, and also operates the lower priced Traders, Hotel Jen and Kerry brands.

Your Jade status will get you:

  • 25% bonus points
  • “Priority upgrade to the next available best room category, if the reserved room type is not available at check-in” (I have no idea what this is meant to mean!)
  • 11am check-in and 4pm check-out (not guaranteed, and many hotels including London and Paris do not offer it at all)
  • choice of welcome amenity
  • free breakfast
  • partner stays free (in hotels which charge more for double occupancy)

This could work out well for anyone planning to travel in Asia.  The 4pm check-out, if ‘available’ and as long as your hotel is not on the excluded list, is handy.  All you are guaranteed is the free breakfast and a welcome amenity but overall I think you could do quite well from the benefits above if your hotel was playing ball.

Conclusion

The big question is whether these new benefits offset the loss of Accor Platinum.  That is a top tier status (all of the above are mid tier) with guaranteed lounge access at Sofitel, welcome drinks and upgrades.  Overall – and this is a personal thing – I think I will get more out of Hilton Gold than I did from Accor Platinum, simply because Hilton has a bigger footprint.

I don’t put much value on the Melia and Shangri-La cards, to be honest, and I doubt that I will even sign up for them at this stage.  I have enough plastic cards in the house as it is ….

If you are thinking of applying for the American Express Platinum charge card to take advantage of these new benefits, you can find out more in my review here.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. I start a new job in a few months and I’m trying to figure out if I should get the Amex Plat.

    I fly commercial at least 4 times per month and so even if I only use the airport lounge pass to grab a coffee and snack each time, that equates to approx 4 x £5 x 12 months = £240 saving per year compared to airport prices. I think comprehensive travel and car hire insurance is worth around £100?

    So effectively I’m “paying” £110 for Accor Plat if I sign up before April (I already have Hilton Gold).

    I will be staying between 15 and 18 nights per month in hotels with a fairly even split between IHG, Accor and Hilton.

    Anyone want to challenge my Maths and/or mention anything else that I might gain from the signing up?

    • you are forgetting the 35,000 MR points – different ways to value them but immensely worthwhile

      • Good point (no pun intended)! I guess 35K MR points converted to Avios is worth at least £175 at 0.5p per Avios. So it seems that I’m “quids in” so to speak?

        My most common airports will be:

        MAN
        LHR
        YUL
        MLA
        CDG
        NCE
        DME
        LED

        Any idea how the priority pass lounge options are in these airports? Is my £5 value-per-visit justified?

        • You can check out the PP options at your regular airports on their website I think.
          Important to think about whether the lounges are in the Terminal you need.

        • Why don’t you check their app, you don’t need a membership to install an app and check the locations for convinient for you lounges

        • Yes there is a £450 fee but that is if you keep the card for a year. If you have a trip coming up you can get the card, use it for car hire insurance, lounge passes for up to four people if you have a supplementary card holder on the card and keep the hotel status for the remainder of the year. Had a very nice upgrade at the radisson blu in Leeds this week because of Carlson gold status. You get 35000 points by spending £2000 in three months. I cancel after hitting minimum spend and reapply after six months after referring Mrs Kipto. 88000 points (2×35000+18000 points referring) and repeat. So, 88000 points, lounge access for four if not flying in business or first) hotel status for a year all for about £70 if you cancel after 2 months. No brainer.

  2. Ok I don’t have plat – but I see a few fed-up people who – IMHO – aren’t working the system.

    What if you ‘did a Gold’ ie switched cards every 12 months or so between him & her, him & him, her & her etc? More frequently even possible.

    You’d refer each other, gaining extra Avios.

    ISTR that gets you 30K + 5K referral + a bit more for being referred – sb pls correct as necessary.

    Already we are justifying most of the £450 fee, maybe £350 of it.

    So what do you get for your remaining £100?

    In our case, that would be cardholder + guest getting lounge entry x2 on 5 return flights pa, ie 20 free lounge passes.

    Those passes have now cost us £5 each for unlimited booze (me), coke (son) & a snack.

    Then all the other stuff – insurance, status etc – is a great big freebie. No need to gripe about Accor you whingers :)

    This does rely on churning the card, but that’s currently no issue with Amex.

    • My rationalisation for the platinum is that through churning I could either:

      a) With Amex Gold, refer my wife, spend on card, then approx 6 months later she refers me for Amex Gold (and then she cancels hers) and cycle repeats netting (9k x 2)+(22k x 2) = 62k MR points pa. This costs nothing

      OR

      b) With platinum (18k x 2)+(35k x 2) = 106k MR points pa. This costs £450 give or take, so effectively get 44k more MR points for £450 (just over 1ppa and that’s before the value of the benefits.

  3. Premier01 says:

    It seems that experiences with hotel upgrades for HH Gold and IHG Platinum vary widely.

    As HH Gold (Now HH Diamond) and IHG Platinum my upgrade offer rate is over 90% for both-within UK and wider Europe hotels.

    Recent examples-

    HH Gold

    Hilton Birmingham Metropole-
    Queen Hilton Deluxe to Queen Exevutive Room

    Hilton Newcastle Gateshead-
    Double Hilton Guest Room to King Executive Plus

    Hilton Manchester Airport
    Queen Hilton Guestroom to Queen Hilton Deluxe

    Hilton Brussels City-
    Queen Hilton Guest Room to King Hilton Guestroom

    IHG Platinum

    Crowne Plaza Nottingham-
    Standard Double to King Executive with Club Lounge Access

    Crowne Plaza Liverpool John Lennon Airport-
    King Executive to Ambassador Suite

    Crowne Plaza Amsterdam-

    King Clubroom to Juniour Suite Authentic Amsterdam Style

    And even on 5K Points Break stays-

    Crowne Plaza Limassol-

    King Superior with Terrace Seaview to Corporate Suite (5 nights @ € 295 per night for 25k points!)

    Crowne Plaza Bratislava-

    Standard Double to King Juniour Suite with Club Lounge Access (4 nights @
    € 310 per night for 20k points!)

    And some folk think IHG Platinum is worthless!

    I guess it really is a case of YMMV!

    Have found Club Carlson Gold reasonable but much less generous whereas others prefer to HH Gold-which I have to agree must be the beat mid-tier programme.

    • Premier01 says:

      ^ Hilton Brussels City should have read Queen Hilton Guest Room to King Hilton Deluxe

  4. Slightly OT but I wonder what Barclays and IHG will do with the platinum card as now platinum hardly makes the £99 fee a year worth it!

    • There’s also the “free” 1 night cert after 10K and the increased platinum % on base spend – so bearing in mind the fact that you can no longer have more than 1 barclaycard probably not very much.

  5. This change is also affecting Amex Centurion holders (not always been the case in the past, for example Hilton Diamond has remained available even when Gold withdrawn from Amex Platinum). Amex Centurion get:

    Carlson Gold
    Hilton Diamond
    IC Platinum
    Jumeriah Gold
    Melia Platinum
    R&C Club 5C
    Shangri-La Diamond
    Starwood Gold

  6. As someone who has never had an Amex Plat before, this is looking quite attractive, Ie. If I apply before April I would get both HH Gold and Accor Plat for 1 year even if I cancel after getting the sign up bonus?

  7. Any idea how long the Hilton Gold will last? Am wondering if I upgrade my HHonors account via Amex now whether it would last until March *2018* or only 2017?

  8. Has anyone received official notification of this from Amex yet? Nothing so far for me.

    Definitely downgrade to lose Accor Plat – Melia and Shangi-La much smaller footprint.

    Overall still managing to get reasonable benefit out of Plat though – lots of car rentals recently all covered, treated well as Hertz 5*, got a few LCC flights coming up where I’ll use PP and just made an FHR booking in Hawaii that will save over $900+ tax (one night free plus breakfast every day). Parents have my 2nd Plat car so they get all the benefits too, make reasonable use of PP and have definitely made the most of hotel status with Carlson, Accor and through that now HH Diamond. I reassess each year but so far still worth keeping (plus it means I can keep my pluripotential MR points by keeping the account open!)

  9. Do you need to spend your MR points before you cancel the card?

  10. I have a stay booked via a travel agent at Sofitel, The Palm, Dubai
    Will my Accor Platinum card be of any use considering I haven’t booked directly ?

    • If it’s a high street travel agent (ie not a big online one like Expedia) AND it’s not on a special offer/discounted rate (this isn’t always obvious) then you should be OK- see FAQs re points earning on the Accor website that confirms this. Regardless though it’s worth giving your number to them and letting them know of your status just in case!

  11. My Accor Platinum expires in 09/2016. Is there any way of getting it extended until 04/17?