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In an effort to reignite travel spending from its cardmembers, American Express released a slew of new benefits to their Platinum credit card in 2021 — one of which was a $200 yearly credit for prepaid hotels through the Amex Travel portal.
Finding ourselves in Chicago for a weekend gave us the opportunity to put this credit, and a new property, to the test at the Four Seasons. Here’s how it went.
How We Booked
The Four Seasons does not have a traditional loyalty program based on earning points, so options for free or discounted stays are exceedingly rare – which is why this was the first time we have ever stayed at one of their properties.
Instead, we made our reservation through American Express Travel (which can book the Fine Hotels & Resorts collection) to take advantage of the $200 credit on my wife’s Platinum card. Because the credit is offered on a calendar-year basis, I made this prepaid booking before December 31st, 2021 even though we didn’t stay until mid-January. I could have made another booking for a consecutive night on January 1st to use up the 2022 credit as well, but our schedule (and wallet) didn’t allow for it. Though we still paid several hundred dollars out of pocket, we netted a discount of about 40% for our one-night stay after the credit was applied.
It’s no secret that prices are higher for the Fine Hotels & Resorts collection than they would be if you booked directly with the hotel, but that’s because they offer several benefits that offset the surcharge, including:
- Room upgrade upon arrival, when available (we didn’t get an upgrade)
- Experience credit, such as a spa or food and beverage credit. (varies by property and valued at a minimum of $100)
- Daily breakfast for two people (ours was limited to a $60 credit)
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out
- Noon check-in, when available
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
The experience credit, breakfast, and late checkout are highly valuable benefits to us which more than offset the increased price versus booking direct (which was about $100 cheaper). We made good use of these benefits and had a very nice stay.
Location and Arrival
The Four Seasons is located just a block off Michigan Avenue (AKA “The Magnificent Mile”) in downtown Chicago, close to many other luxurious properties and boutique shops.
We arrived on a brisk winter afternoon in January via Uber and were immediately greeted by a bellhop who took our bags and handed us a tag, saying our luggage would be delivered to the room shortly. We were directed to the 7th floor for check-in, which was smooth and efficient.
We made the reservation via Amex Travel as a Fine Hotels & Resorts booking (more on that later), which was recognized by the agent checking us in. We were handed a sheet of paper reiterating the benefits we were entitled to and then handed our room keys.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, mask and vaccination mandates were in effect throughout the city and the property. We needed to show proof of vaccination to stay at the property and utilize any of its facilities including the restaurant and gym.
We were given a standard room on the 39th floor with a nice city view (and the Waldorf Astoria staring us in the face)
Standard room at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago.
The room had everything you would expect in a luxury hotel including a comfortable king-sized bed, large TV, mini bar, Nespresso machine, closet space with safe, and a sparking clean bathroom with shower/tub combo.
Though nicely arranged and perfectly comfortable, our room was not grandiose as compared with other similarly-priced luxury hotels. With lots to offer, we eagerly explored the rest of the property.
We decided to spend our $100 credit on dinner at the on-site restaurant, Adorn. We arrived just before 7pm without reservations and were told that no tables were available, so we opted to sit at the bar.
Having just spent almost two months abroad, we were craving a steak and both ordered one along with a kale salad. Though I forgot to grab a photo of the menu, I did get one of the in-room dining options which are similar in price and variety:
Our steaks were decent, though not spectacular, and the beer and wine selection were very good.
A salad, two steaks, two drinks each, and one dessert totalled over $200 with tip, $100 of which was covered by our resort credit. We visited again in the morning for breakfast, where I had some delicious lemon ricotta pancakes and coffee.
Though the pricing at these kinds of places tends to give my frugal heart palpitations, knowing we were getting a significant discount helped soften the blow. The service and ambiance at the restaurant were exceptional – when we came for breakfast we were greeted by name and given a nice, quiet seating area with a great view which was very much appreciated.
After breakfast, we headed upstairs to check out the gym and spa.
Gym and Spa
As far as I’m concerned, the gym and spa can make or break a luxury hotel experience. While hotels generally upsell services and food, the recreational facilities are generally free of charge (except for massages and the like) and can be a loss leader from a business perspective. When done right, it can greatly enhance the guest experience and can do the opposite when ignored. I’m happy to say that the Four Seasons did right by their reputation and offer solid amenities at this property.
To begin, the locker facilities are meticulous and offer robes, sandals, towels, a bathing suit dryer, and full grooming area complete with shaving supplies and variety of other creams and tools. They also have showers, a steam room, and dry sauna which were not highly trafficked during our stay.
Exiting the locker room you can go upstairs to the gym or straight to the pool. There were lots of kids running around the pool area so we generally avoided it, though it looked nice and spacious.
I spent a bit of time in the gym, getting in two workouts during our stay. They offer a great selection of cardio equipment including treadmills, ellipticals, and several Peleton bikes.
Their freeweights were limited to a squat rack, cable crossover, dumbbell rack, and some kind of a jungle-gym contraption that I’ve never seen before. Although not super expansive, it was a nice selection and had everything needed for a good workout.
In the back corner there was also a rack with plenty of towels and water available.
After finishing up at the gym and testing out the sauna, we walked around Michigan Avenue to kill some time and grab lunch. Due to our guaranteed 4pm late checkout, there was no need to rush or store our luggage while we enjoyed our afternoon. When we got back we took our time packing up and had a smooth checkout.
We had an excellent stay at the Four Seasons Chicago. Even though we didn’t get a room upgrade and our breakfast benefit was limited to a $60 credit (which we easily exceeded), the staff and service were fantastic as were the gym and spa facilities. Given the availability of other luxury hotels in Chicago that can be booked with points I’m not sure I would stay here again unless it was offered at a steeper discount, but I’m glad we tried it out and were able to make use of the Amex Platinum credit.
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