Category

Fairmont

Fairmont Card $95 Fee Waived & 2 Free Nights In A Suite

Fairmont Credit Card

While on a point to point basis I value airline miles much higher than hotel points, with the recent United & Delta devaluations, I think it is important to take another look at hotel credit cards.

While everyone and their mother are aware of the Hyatt card & the Citi Hilton Reserve cards, which both are great and come with 2 free nights each as a sign up bonus, one of the most underrated and overlooked hotel credit cards is from Fairmont. 

I got the Fairmont card last year and redeemed the 2 free nights at the Fairmont Mission Inn in Napa (my review can be found here).

Although the Fairmont card has an annual fee of $95 (currently waived for the first year!) and a minimum spend requirement of $1,000, both are extremely reasonable for the perks that this card provides.

Link To Fairmont Card

By signing up for the Fairmont card and spending $1,000 in 3 months, you will receive the following:

  • 2 Free Night Certificates for any Fairmont worldwide
  • 4 $25 Breakfast Vouchers
  • Premier Status

Overlooked Premier Status Benefits

When I first signed up for the Fairmont card last year, to be honest, I was really only concerned about the 2 free nights and free breakfast that came with the card.

Since Fairmont properties are on the pricer side, I didn’t think I’d ever stay with Fairmont for a paid stay so the card’s additional benefits like Premier Status didn’t really resonate with me.

Many of the other credit cards like Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, etc also give you “Elite Status” with their loyalty program BUT it is typically the lowest rung and doesn’t have any real benefits. So I was conditioned to be skeptical of Fairmont’s Premier Status and believed it to be like all the other credit card statuses out there. Little did I know…

By sheer coincidence, before my trip last year, an FFU reader named James tipped me off about his experience at Fairmont and said that he was able to get an upgrade on an award stay using his Fairmont Premier Status.

Following his instructions, I logged into my Fairmont account and clicked on “My Certificates” and noticed that not only were my 2 free night certificates and 4 $25 breakfast vouchers from the Fairmont credit card in there, but also as a Premier Member in Fairmont’s President’s Club, there was also a $50 dining certificate, 3rd night free voucher, complimentary room upgrade, and complimentary suite upgrade!

"Fairmont Account"

“Awesome Surprise”

Unbeknownst to me, Fairmont Premier Status (which comes with the Fairmont credit card), has a whole host of extremely valuable benefits!

And It Gets Better…

Although I was happy to get $50 in additional dining credit, I didn’t think much of the upgrade certificates.

Perhaps I am just a bit jaded by hotel loyalty programs over the years but I just naturally assumed that the complimentary room upgrade and suite upgrade could not be used on award stays.

However to my surprise, James said it could be used on awards…

Although I hoped he was right, I was still a bit skeptical, so I ended up calling Fairmont and asked to redeem my suite upgrade for my award stay at Fairmont Mission Inn. To my shock, they said that wasn’t a problem!

We ended up getting upgraded to a Wine Country Junior Suite!!!

"Sweet Upgrade"

“Sweet Upgrade”

Unfortunately you are not allowed to stack your suite upgrade certificate with the room upgrade certificate. However if you would like a bigger suite, you can pay a small upgrade fee (we were quoted $50 – $100 extra per a night depending on the suite).

Other Examples Of Fairmont Suites

While the Fairmont Mission Inn was on the “cheaper side” of redemption value, there are many other properties where getting the Fairmont card would save you some serious cash!

A full list of Fairmont Hotels worldwide can be found here.

From what I am told, there are capacity controls on using the free night awards earned from the Fairmont credit card.

Unfortunately, you can’t search for award inventory online, so the only way to check to see if you can use your free nights is to call into Fairmont. This is not a huge deal but I just wish you could search online!

The Plaza Hotel – New York City

With your 2 free nights, you could redeem them for 2 nights at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.

A normal room at The Plaza is $625 a night, while a suite is $1,455 a night!

"$625 a night!"

“$625 a Night!”

"$1,455 a night!"

“$1,455 a Night!”

The Savoy – London

If The Plaza doesn’t impress you, perhaps 2 nights at The Savoy in London might.

Basic rooms there start at the cheap rate of 606 GBP ($995 USD) a night, while Junior Suites start at 996 GBP ($1,636 USD) a night.

"995 USD a Night!"

“$995 USD a Night!”

"$1636 USD a Night!"

“$1,636 USD a Night!”

If you redeemed your 2 free nights here in a Suite, you would be getting a return of $3,272!

Fairmont Singapore

My Parents got the Fairmont Card last year and redeemed their 2 free nights at the Fairmont Singapore this past November.

Thanks to the free suite upgrade voucher, they were upgraded to the $1,800 USD a night Penthouse Suite!

"$1,800 USD a Night!"

“$1,800 USD a Night!”

Put This Offer In Perspective

If you still aren‘t impressed at the potential “value” of these 2 free Fairmont nights, let me try to put it in perspective.

In my case, in addition to the 2 free Fairmont nights, I also had 2 free Hyatt nights in a suite that I received from the Hyatt credit card.

By paying $999 to go on the SMD4 in 2012, Hyatt gave all participants Diamond Status for 4 months. Because I had Diamond Status when I applied for the Hyatt card, I received 2 free nights in a suite, as opposed to the normal offer of 2 free nights in a basic room.

While Hyatt is similar to Fairmont in that if you sign up for their credit card, they will give you Elite Status. Even at Hyatt’s top Elite tier (Diamond) where they give you 4 free suite upgrades annually, those upgrades CAN ONLY BE USED ON PAID STAYS!

So not only is Fairmont giving anyone who applies for their card 2 free nights but because you also receive Fairmont’s Premier Elite Status with the card, those 2 free nights basically turn into 2 FREE NIGHTS IN A SUITE!

The ability to redeem a suite upgrade on an award stay is something that Hyatt doesn’t even provide to their top tier Diamond Elites who have to stay 50 nights a year but Fairmont is willing to give that benefit to ANYONE who applies for their credit card!

There really isn’t anything more you could ask for from a hotel credit card since you are getting the following:

  • $95 Annual Fee Waived For First Year
  • 2 Free Nights
  • A Suite Upgrade
  • $100 in Breakfast Credits
  • $50 in Dining / Spa Credits

Recap

While the Fairmont Card was a good card to begin with due to the 2 free nights, I think the revelation that the 2 FREE NIGHTS CAN ACTUALLY BE USED IN A SUITE is a real game changer!

There is no other hotel card out there that offers this large of a benefit to ANYONE that signs up!

HUGE thanks again to FFU reader James for pointing this out!

Not only are the 2 free nights in a suite fairly amazing but I think the $100 in free breakfast and $50 in dining / spa credits is a nice touch. Not to mention that all members enrolled in Fairmont’s loyalty program automatically get free internet!

That being said, there isn’t an affiliate link for this card so it is hard to say if it gets promoted as much as the other hotel cards.

As I have said in earlier posts about the Fairmont Card and perhaps the reason why many people overlook Fairmont to begin with, is that while Fairmont doesn’t have the large international presence as Hyatt, Marriott, or Starwood, what they lack in quantity, they certainly make up in quality properties like The Savoy, The Plaza Hotel, etc.

As usual, if you and your travel partner were to both sign up for the Fairmont Card, depending on where you redeem your 4 free nights, you could easily get $3,500 value or more from this credit card!

-Parag


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Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn Review

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn Review

Last week, I had the pleasure of staying at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, which is located about 1 hour from San Francisco in the heart of wine country.

Cost: A+

As I had posted earlier in the month, both nights at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn were FREE because I signed up for the Fairmont Credit Card from Chase.

By signing up for the card, you get 2 free nights and 4x $25 breakfast vouchers!

In addition, as a cardholder, you get an automatic upgrade to Premier Status in Fairmont’s loyalty program. As a Premier Member, you are given a Suite Upgrade, Room Upgrade, and $50 food / spa credit annually.

The Suite and Room upgrade can be used on the 2 free nights that you earn with the Fairmont Card, so we were able to upgrade ourselves to a Wine Country Junior Suite for free!

Had we paid for this stay out of pocket, it would have been around $519 a night or over $1,040 for 2 nights.

In addition, the rack rate (or the most the hotel can charge for this room), was listed in the room as $1,500 a night!

Grounds: A-

While I had expected the property to be secluded and surrounded by vineyards, it is actually just located off the main street going into the Sonoma town square.

Since you do have to drive to this property, thankfully there is free self-parking.

I am not sure what the property used to be before it was a Hotel, but for some reason the huge water tower reminds me of Warner Brothers Studios or Alcatraz.

In addition to the Hotel, there is also a golf course and separate spa on the grounds.

Room: B+

The guest rooms are spread out across the property in clusters, with the hallways being outdoors.

Depending on what Room or Suite you receive, you might have an entire patio or balcony to yourself.

We unfortunately did not have either : (

As for the Junior Suite, it was fairly large but as you can see from the images below, the furniture definitely seemed a bit dated.

My 2 favorite things about the Suite were that it came with a real live working fireplace with wooden logs that you could burn AND it also came with a free bottle of wine!

Nothing like relaxing by the fire after a “hard” day touring Napa…

Dining: A-

While there is a Michelin starred restaurant on the premises, you unfortunately can’t use your breakfast vouchers there so we settled for their casual restaurant on the property called The Big 3 Diner.

Typically when I hear the word diner, I tend to think of Denny’s but The Big 3 Diner was surprisingly delicious and fairly affordable even if you didn’t have $100 in vouchers.

I got the breakfast burrito and some of their famous lemon cottage cheese pancakes. Both were excellent.

Overall: A-

While the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn is definitely dated and shows its age, overall I found it to be a great property and would happily return.

Unless you are going to a Hotel only to stay in your room, in all the categories that matter, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn delivers.

The location is excellent for doing wine tastings (even if you are doing Napa), the spa amenities looked amazing, and there were both fine dining and casual dining options to suit all tastes.

If you are visiting Sonoma or Napa and are looking for a relaxing experience in wine country, then I highly suggest burning your 2 free Fairmont night certificates here. You will not regret it!

-Parag

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San Francisco Logistics – $1,500 Trip For $100

San Francisco

A few weeks ago, I decided to plan an impromptu trip to San Francisco at the beginning of August. Although I have been there a few times before, I have family and frequent flyer friends that live out there, so I figured another visit was due.

For anyone that has been to San Francisco, you know that not only are the hotels expensive but just to fly into San Francisco can be expensive depending on where you are coming from.

As I constantly try to stress, you should always be accumulating miles even if you don’t have a destination in mind and this San Francisco trip is a prime example.

When I did my last round of credit card applications back in June, I had no idea that this San Francisco trip was even on the horizon, but I went ahead and got some new cards knowing that a random trip might happen somewhere down the line. I am happy I did because as you will see, it ended up saving me quite a bit of money.

Delta Miles

Since I live in Chicago, the options to get to San Francisco are plentiful. Chicago is a hub for Southwest, United, and American. Not to mention Virgin America flies direct from ORD to SFO. 

Unfortunately in terms of award travel for the dates I was looking, Southwest was really expensive, there was no availability with United or American, and I don’t have any Virgin America points!

Normally that would be quite a conundrum since it seemed all my award options were dead ends and I might have to pay out of pocket for the ticket which was a cheap $500!

Thankfully I remembered that in June, for no real reason, I had gotten the Delta AMEX which got me 30,000 SkyMiles.

I already had 15,000 SkyMiles from previous Delta trips, so with the new card, I reached 45,000 SkyMiles.

From talking to and reading posts by Delta Elites, I have heard horror stories about Delta SkyMiles or “SkyPesos” as they are affectionately called. However since I have never redeemed SkyMiles before, I didn’t really understand the fuss.

Let me just say that Delta SkyMiles live up to their hype of being called SkyPesos.

To book a standard Chicago (ORD or MDW) – San Francisco award on Delta using SkyMiles took me over 1 hour.

Why you might ask?

1. Delta’s Award Engine times out after 10 minutes forcing you to restart your search.

2. For Multi City (in my case flying out of ORD and into MDW), it doesn’t show pricing. So while one flight might be 40,000 SkyMiles, picking another flight might be 60,000 SkyMiles. There is no way to find out what the prices are until you get to the end. So after I picked what I thought were the flights I wanted, I got to the end only to see the price was 60,000 for an Economy award when it was 40,000 earlier.

3. I tried to add a 23 hour stop over and the price magically jumped to 90,000 SkyMiles for no reason.

After spending over an hour trying to book this “simple” award, I finally booked one that connects via Detroit for 40,000 SkyMiles. I thought 40,000 SkyMiles were alot for a Domestic Economy award but in talking to Delta Flyers on Twitter, apparently that is “Low Level”.

Needless to say, SkyMiles are an absolute can of worms and I am happy that I was able to use them up and  never have to deal with them again.

Although I wasted an hour on something that would have taken 5 minutes on United, American, or Southwest, by getting the Delta AMEX in June and earning 35,000 miles, I was able to save myself around $500!

Lodging

Unlike air travel, where there are only a set number of options to get to your destination, with lodging there are hundreds of options from chain hotels, hostels, airbnb, friend’s couch, etc.

In the past, I stayed away from hotel credit cards for that exact reason. I figured that airline miles were far more valuable than hotel points, since you have so many different options for lodging.

While I still believe that airline miles hold the most value, in places like San Francisco, almost all lodging is expensive, so redeeming hotel points might make sense.

AirBnb

For the first night, I am staying in a place that I found off of Airbnb for $100.

The reason for doing Airbnb over a hotel is because the next morning, I am going to Sonoma early in the AM with my Cousin, so I figured there was no need to stay in a proper hotel.

Plus it doesn’t hurt that Airbnb happens to be almost 1/3rd the price of staying in a hotel!

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn

While there were options for Sonoma on Airbnb, back in June I had applied for the Fairmont Card which got me 2 free nights.

Apparently, the nights are kind of difficult to use because unlike Hyatt, Fairmont seems to cap the amount of award stays that can be used at each property.

I called Fairmont and it seemed there was availability to use my 2 free night certificates at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, so I decided to use them there.

When I originally got these 2 free night certificates in June, I figured I would use them in Whistler or some other ski destination in the Winter, but from the looks of it, that might be difficult due to the award caps.

Booking my 2 free nights at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn also showcased what I call the “Award Dilemma” that many of us Frequent Fliers face.

The issue is very simple. Since these free night certificates can be used at any number of properties worldwide, our first instinct is to save the certificates to use at the most expensive property possible!

Many times this makes sense, however when the opportunity to use the certificates for an actual stay comes up, like at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, it is difficult to justify because the property might not be the absolute “best value”. 

For myself, it took a few days of deep thought to finally pull the trigger and use the 2 free night certificates because I knew there were more expensive Fairmont properties!

In the end, I think I am going to be happy that I used the 2 free nights because it will save me $600 and get 2 nights at a great property!

Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf

For many months now I have been encouraging people to check out Club Carlson’s loyalty program.

Many people still write Club Carlson off because their properties aren’t exactly up to par with Marriott, Hyatt, or Starwood. However when you look into how flexible their award program is, it can save you some serious cash!

Way back in October 2012, Radisson was having a Stay 1 Night, Get 1 Night Free promotion which I talked about here and here, and told everyone that this was a great deal for saving money on future stays.

I personally stayed 1 night for $77 at the Radisson O’Hare during the Chicago Seminars and then another $87 stay at Radisson LAX during FTU LAX.

Those 2 stays, one which was a mattress run and the LAX one being an actual stay, earned me 2 free night certificates for Radisson.

At the time I thought I would use the free night certificates in NYC, but I ended up using one of the certificates in Austin in March 2013, which I talked about here.  That $77 free night certificate saved me from shelling out $300+ for a hotel room in Austin during SxSW.

I had actually forgot about the 2nd certificate since I have multiple accounts but thankfully remembered and decided to use it in San Francisco.

How much did my $87 free night certificate from my Radisson LAX stay save me?

The current retail rate for the Wednesday night I am staying there is a whopping $400 a night!

I couldn’t make up these prices if I wanted to!

Recap

Although San Francisco can be extremely expensive for tourists, if you are flexible and start planning a few months in advance, it is fairly easy to have an amazing 4-5 star trip for next to nothing.

As you saw from my example, using Delta SkyMiles, I was able to save around $500 in airfare! While I was happy to save some money, just imagine if you had a family of 4 and were visiting San Francisco and didn’t have any miles! It would be over $2,000 just for airfare!

For hotels, by doing some long range planning way back in October 2012, I was able to save some serious money on lodging. By having 2 cheap stays at the Radisson at ORD and LAX, for around $155 total, I was able to stay those 2 nights but ALSO get 2 free night certificates. By using one free night in Austin and another free night in San Francisco, I was able to get over $700 in value out of those 2 free nights which cost me around $155. Not a bad rate of return!

All in all, thanks to miles and points this 4 night, 5 day trip to San Francisco will cost me around $100 out of pocket for airfare and lodging!

I would obviously never pay the full retail amount for the airfare and lodging, which would be around $1,500 ($500 Delta + $600 Fairmont + $400 Radisson), but obviously some people do pay that amount or the prices wouldn’t be so high to begin with!

With the $1,400 I saved using miles and points, I can spend some of that savings on nice dinners or wine tours without having to worry about how much damage this trip is going to do to my bank account since it was almost free!

That being said, the main reason why I write up these logistics posts is to show that saving and earning frequent flyer miles can save you REAL MONEY over the long run!

I don’t have $1,500 to spend on a 4 day trip to San Francisco, but I certainly do have $100 and with a little legwork, you too can easily take one of these trips for next to nothing!

-Parag

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