Any Platinum or Centurion Members use Virtuoso instead?

Discussion in 'American Express | Membership Rewards' started by Steven Schwartz, Sep 19, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    I received a recommendation from someone on FT to use his Virtuoso agent and have had a preliminary discussion with her. First of all, she wants my business. Second of all, I got the sense she knew at least as much about my potential destinations as I did, something I have rarely found with Centurion agents I have dealt with.

    Curious is anyone here keeps the card but uses Virtuoso for a more personalized level of service and, if so, do you find the "perks" to be similar? Many thanks.
     
  2. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Great question. I've used Virtuoso or FSPP agents in lieu of Amex a few times, though Amex is my main agent for hotel bookings. Which is best depends on a few factors: if you know where you're going, and if you're going at absolute high season (when the property is likely to be fully booked).

    Amex's FHR program offers guaranteed 4pm late check out. Fspp and Virtuoso are almost always "if available," versus amex's guarantee. While I suspect the vast majority of times, Virtuoso/FSPP customers get the late check out, if you're in a choice suite over the Festive season, knowing your room is guaranteed till 4pm may be valuable...versus having to negotiate.

    In general, however, I find if you need destination assistance, you're probably better off with Virtuoso or FSPP - assuming you have an agent who knows where you're going. Very few pts/cts agents get out in the field much - so if you're looking for bona fide first hand recommendations, you might go away from Amex. A few people I know have multiple agents, one that knows east Asia, one that knows Europe, and one for the US. That may be overkill, but if you travel a lot, not crazy.

    If the Virtuoso or FSPP agent is decent, theyll know someone at the hotel you're going to ... And can probably get you better treatment (or at least no less than) what you'd get with Amex. It's just the 4pm guarantee that is the big difference to me.

    Finally, you should also assess the accessibility of the agent. Amex is open 24/7...while they might not always be super experienced, you can always get someone if you need to. Many virtuoso types are independent contactors. At a minimum, before you work with an agent, get an understanding of emergency backup services. Some have a backup call center...just in case. But if you get off the plane in HKG and there is a problem with your room and you can't get your agent...you won't be happy.

    It's good to have as many tools in your arsenal as possible, so keeping relationships with one or two specialists outside of Amex is probably a good idea. It costs nothing (except a little time) to get the dialogue going with independents.
     
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  3. TAHKUCT
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    TAHKUCT Gold Member

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    I completely agree with NYBanker. I have myself used a Virtuoso/FSPP agent to book some of my hotel reservations. I have found that when booking through Virtuoso/FSPP agent I would receive a more personalized service at a property and even frequently with a confirmed upgrade. However, i do continue to use Amex Plat FHR webiste for several reasons: 1. Able to book online and compare different properties. 2. As mentioned above, guaranteed 4pm check-out and 3. Sometimes a special amenity is better with FHR :)
    When booking via a travel agent, sometimes it takes long time. Once I was booking via FSPP agent and by the time he booked few days after I emailed him, the rate for that property went up by $75 per day.

    So there are pluses and minus to each of the above mentioned program. You just have to be an educated consumer and use the service that is best for your current circumstances.
     
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  4. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    You must be talking about Linda :)
     
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  5. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Actually, she's Laura but you're close!
     
  6. TRAVELSIG
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    TRAVELSIG Gold Member

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    I am a very happy Virtuoso customer.

    Amex PLT card but am cancelling it as there aren't any real benefits to justify the 400 EUR fee.
     
  7. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Well goes to show you, I've only dealt with Linda and she's fantastic. I guess everybody at Virtuoso is excellent. :)
     
  8. flyer_o

    flyer_o Gold Member

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    I've started using Virtuoso in many cases as well. The occasional difference in special amenities plus personalized service has earned a bit of my business, including a recent book at Hotel das Cataratas.
     
  9. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Here's an update. Once got an upgrade at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome to an Executive Suite - WOW! Overlooked the Rue de la Paix and was a magnificent suite in a magnificent hotel. As a Hyatt Diamond, I get 4 guaranteed suite upgrades a year but they only upgrade to a Junior Suite. Asked the Virtuoso agent what she could do.

    Unlike AMEX, she called the hotel and negotiated for me. In the end, they lowered the price by 200 Euro per night and gave me a pay three stay four night promotion. In the end, we are getting the Executive Suite for an extra $100 per night (not Euro) plus the Virtuoso benefits (altho most clone my Hyatt Diamond bennies).

    Switched the reservation to her and we're now in the middle of switching a Silversea cruise for two couples. I have had the Black card for 7 years and have NEVER had a similar experience with their Travel department.
     
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  10. dkelly1110
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    dkelly1110 Silver Member

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    First used Virtuoso agent for our honeymoon because he was also a FSPP. We are using him again for a trip next year because explora on Easter Island is a Virtuoso property but not in the FHR program.
     
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