A second look at Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts at Delano Las Vegas

It took a couple of weeks, but the rsts11travel review of Aria Las Vegas’s Aria Sky Suites property finally came out this week. One of the prods to stop editing and just post it was that we were booking another stay for this summer that was somewhat related. Not everyone will celebrate a birthday and aim for MLife Gold in one weekend, but about anyone with the right charge card can take advantage of these benefits.

Delano’s all-suite plan makes it a very comfortable place for longer-term stays on the Las Vegas strip

We’ve written briefly about Delano Las Vegas in our Hidden Gems piece earlier this year. It’s one of our favorite properties on the strip, especially when attending an event being held in Mandalay Bay Convention Center. With its small lounge and bar, coffee shop with pastries and snacks, and Della’s Kitchen breakfast/lunch venue, you can get a lot done without passing Michael Jackson, and with Delano itself being a non-smoking, non-casino hotel with a separate entrance, those with sensitivity to noise or smoke can escape those discomforts in their “home” hotel. But you’re a few hundred feet from Cirque du Soleil, the Mandalay Bay casino, their dining options from fast counter service to posh sit-down service, and of course the rest of the strip.

Looking at Fine Hotels and Resorts

As you may recall, American Express offers its Platinum charge card members the Fine Hotels and Resorts program (FHR), in addition to the Hotel Collection program that some other charge cards from Amex also offer. When you book a FHR stay with American Express Travel, and pay for your entire stay with an American Express card (not necessarily your Platinum card), you get certain benefits.


Note that cards like the Delta American Express Platinum Card (a credit card) do not count for this benefit. If you have both that card and a Platinum charge card, though, you’re ready to go.

Also note that with these bookings, you’re eligible for MLife rewards points as well as World of Hyatt points; the former may appear before you check out and the latter may take 30+ calendar days to post to your Hyatt account. Be sure to join both programs and provide both member numbers when you check in (or at the MLife desk or front desk during your stay) to get these points in addition to your American Express Membership Rewards points.

Your author will be in Las Vegas this summer for Cisco’s annual user convention, Cisco Live US. For the days I’m there to speak and participate, I have to book through corporate travel. It is American Express Global Business Travel, but I don’t get the option to take advantage of booking options linked to my personal cards with Amex.

However, for the obligatory getaway with my partner before the event begins, I had the choice of booking the extra days through work and simply paying for them myself, which I did last year for this event, or booking separately. This year I had reserved the days before the event but then thought to check FHR.

Sure enough, Delano Las Vegas, a part of the Mandalay Bay complex, was available for the days we would be on our own in the city. We chose a Deluxe Queen Suite, with a total estimated cost of $497. That’s $166/night, actually MUCH less than the corporate rate I get for the following week, before adding the $35ish mandatory MGM resort fee. Not too bad, right? Makes me wish I could book the whole stay like that.

But what’s the real value here?

Early check-in and late check-out don’t have a substantial cash value to us on this trip. The Wifi benefit comes in the form of a $5 (plus tax) credit against the resort fee, so that’s $16.80 for the stay. Room upgrade could have a hypothetical value of $100/night but it could also not happen at all, so we won’t count that. But there are two more details left where the real value comes in.

Breakfast, which we’d probably eat (eventually), comes to $60/day or $180 for the stay. Admittedly at Delano that’s a more limited benefit, as it only applies to room service or Della’s Kitchen. At Aria we were able to use room service, the Buffet at Aria, or one of the table service restaurants there. Still, I’ve had some hearty and tasty breakfasts at Della’s before, and $30 is quite reasonable.

The “property amenity” tends to be a $100 credit, and most of the FHR listings I’ve seen limit the credit to the property’s spa. In this case it is a $100 credit toward one of a long list of Delano or Mandalay Bay owned and operated venues. This means that, in addition to the option to use this credit at the Bathhouse Spa at Delano (which may well be worth it–the spa is very enjoyable even if they don’t particularly cater to couples), there are over 30 dining options from Starbucks to Fleur that apparently count. So if you want that Fleurburger 5000, you’ll only have to pay $4,900 for it with this credit.

For both the breakfast credit and the property amenity, you charge the expense to your room account, and you will see the non-tip amount (up to $60 for daily breakfast and up to $100 per stay amenity) disappear from the charges. For example, if your breakfast with tax is $59 and you tip $10, you should see a $10 charge on your folio. If your breakfast was $89 and you tip $15, you’ll see $44 charged.

So with $180 in breakfast, $100 in property amenity, and $16.80 in wifi credits, that’s $296.80 in total credits against $497 in charges. The room itself is down to $200.20 for three nights, or just under $67/night.

It’s true that if you don’t eat on property at all or use the spa, it’s not as great a deal. Getting just $100 of spa services may be a challenge, so you might even “suffer” a bit by going over that amount. But even if you ignore the credits altogether, the $167 rate for a fairly busy weekend (think 30,000 people coming into town for the conference) is still a great deal.

So where do we go from here?

There’s one inconvenience of taking the FHR offer in lieu of an extended company-booked stay, namely that I’ll probably have to check out and check back in. On the upside, with the 4pm checkout, I can check in at the beginning of my work stay and then check out and move to the new room, in theory. And if we don’t get an upgrade, there’s also a chance they could connect the reservations and leave me in the same room.

We’ll post an update after the summer stay at Delano, but for now, have you used FHR in Las Vegas? Any great deals or helpful tips to share for the Amex promotions? Mention it in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.




A golden weekend at Aria Sky Suites in Las Vegas

You only turn 29 so many times, I often say. Two years ago for my birthday we went to Las Vegas for a weekend at the Mandarin Oriental. This year we went a bit upscale and spent a weekend at Aria’s Sky Suites in the City Center complex. In the process we had some great experiences and re-qualified for MLife Rewards Gold status for next year in one (pricey) stay.

This is a long read, but we try to cover a packed weekend in an unusual property, so you should find it worth the journey.

Givens and Druthers

The owner of a model train shop I used to frequent in Indianapolis started every railroad design workshop with “givens and druthers.” The givens are your limitations. For a train layout it might be a 6×8 closet/garage, or having to fold up at night so the dog doesn’t eat it. The druthers are the “I’ll settle for this, but I’druther have that” wish list items. These are good categories to take into account when planning travel excursions as well.

Given #1: I travel a fair bit for my day job, and in that role I have to choose approved hotels and lowest cost options at those hotels. So the first given on this trip was something upscale from what work would normally pay for.

Given #2: A spa visit. Last summer we visited the Bathhouse at Delano (in the Mandalay Bay complex) and we wanted to refill our spa experience on this trip.

Given #3: An affordable (for an admittedly stretched value of “affordable”) rate, taking advantage of any special rates, promos, or other considerations we could find to optimize the expenditure and the experience.

Druther #1: Having just seen a video about the Aria penthouse suites, something like that was intriguing but likely out of our price range, but it was the first druther.

Druther #2: A private spa suite; Bathhouse had couples massages, but when we weren’t waiting for or having our massage, we were in the segregated spa facilities. Not as romantic as you might think.

So with these guidelines, the American Express Platinum card, and MLife Gold, we started looking at the options. Continue reading “A golden weekend at Aria Sky Suites in Las Vegas”

Credit where credit is due – Vegas reward credit cards

In an earlier post, we talked about the Caesars Entertainment Total Rewards and MGM Resorts Mlife Rewards programs. Today we’re looking at the Total Rewards VISA and Mlife Rewards Mastercard credit card offerings, to see how they can help you increase status and/or rewards.

While each program has a branded credit card that may accelerate your benefits, you’ll definitely want to consider whether another travel or cashback card may give you better rewards. And of course, remember that carrying a balance on a rewards card can easily eradicate any net value of the rewards. Continue reading “Credit where credit is due – Vegas reward credit cards”

Taking the fast track to Las Vegas status

Welcome to rsts11 travel, my new effort to share discoveries and recommendations from my travels. This is another post on the Las Vegas topic; be sure to see the other posts regarding hotel chains and statuses as well as the strip branded credit card options (coming soon!).

What’s the deal with Total Rewards and Mlife Rewards?

Status at the two major Las Vegas strip hotel chains is easy to come by. Spend a lot of money, and you get status. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? We’re going to talk about tiers and status here; reward credits are a different beast for another post. Continue reading “Taking the fast track to Las Vegas status”

Hidden gems in Las Vegas for the non-smoking, non-gambling visitors

Welcome to rsts11 travel, my new effort to share discoveries and recommendations from my travels. Today we’re visiting the Signature at MGM Grand, Delano at Mandalay Bay, Vdara at Aria, and Mandarin Oriental in City Center, checking out coffee-friendly, non-smoking, non-casino options in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip.

Be sure to visit our welcome post, and watch for more Las Vegas-themed posts in the next week to start things with a pop. On the board to round out January 2017 are a mobile power post and a mobile caffeine post.

Also, we’re on Twitter as @rsts11travel and Facebook as facebook.com/rsts11travel – feel free to join the conversation on those forums as well.

Full of sound and fury…


When you think of Las Vegas you probably think of casinos. Noisy, smoky, smelly, crowded, unpleasant. Not most people’s idea of a great environment to enjoy a vacation in, unless you smoke, smell, make lots of noise, and, well, gamble? Continue reading “Hidden gems in Las Vegas for the non-smoking, non-gambling visitors”

Making your Las Vegas visit as rewarding as possible

Welcome to rsts11 travel, my new effort to share discoveries and recommendations from my travels.

Be sure to visit our welcome post, and watch for more Las Vegas-themed posts in the next week to start things with a pop. On the board to round out January 2017 are a mobile power post and a mobile caffeine post.

Also, we’re on Twitter as @rsts11travel and Facebook as facebook.com/rsts11travel – feel free to join the conversation on those forums as well.

Livingston went to… Vegas?

Like many of my tech industry compatriots, I make it to Las Vegas for conventions a couple of times a year. Unlike many of them, I actually enjoy visiting Las Vegas, and end up there twice a year on average for a personal getaway, as well as extending conference/convention visits. There are definitely things you can do when traveling to Sin City to make your trip more enjoyable, rewarding, and even tolerable. Continue reading “Making your Las Vegas visit as rewarding as possible”