The IHG Rewards Club Select credit card from Chase was one of the first hotel credit cards I applied for. The reason I got it was to get the sign up bonus, which paid for several nights in a London hotel. I’ve kept the card ever since because of the primary benefit the card offered – a free night at any IHG hotel issued on your account anniversary when you pay the $49 annual fee. It was almost impossible not to get your money’s worth with this certificate, unless you forgot to use it. Even a stay at any Holiday Inn Express will cost you more than that. (Note: This card is no longer open for applications and has been replaced by the IHG Rewards Club Premier Card)
So it was with much dread when I saw headlines come across my news feeds with rumors that a major devaluation to the IHG free night certificate was imminent.
I think everyone knew this was inevitable; it was just too good of a deal. I mean, if there was an award room available at any hotel, you could book it just for having a $49 card. It just wasn’t sustainable.
On March 30, 2018, Chase sent a letter to cardholders notifying them about the changes:
Anniversary Free Night is valid at IHG® Hotels with a current point redemption level of 40,000 points or less, and must be redeemed, and stay must be completed, within 12 months from date of issue
This change was set to take effect for any Anniversary Free Nights issued after May 1, 2018. No more using your free night to stay in an over water bungalow in Bora Bora.
This change stung just a little more because IHG made changes to the number of points required to stay at over 500 of their hotels in January of 2018. At the same time they also introduced a new 70,000 point tier for their most expensive hotels.
IHG has published a list of the hotels where you CAN’T use the certificate. The list includes many InterContinental Hotels as well as almost every Kimpton hotel (which just became part of the IHG Rewards Club program in January 2018) and most IHG properties in Manhattan.
I’ve learned that while it’s often necessary to jump on low fares, special offers and daily deals as quickly as possible, you also have to wait before jumping to conclusions about changes to offers. Some things change, others are clarified. Making rash decisions like cancelling a card or booking reservations to use up all your points are usually a very bad idea. After a few days, Chase announced (on Twitter) that those who applied for the card between January 1 and April 5 of 2018 would still be able to use the Anniversary Free Night at any hotel for the first year (when you pay your first annual fee).
I agree with Stefan that everyone should get the first year exception and I don’t understand Chase’s reasoning for limiting it to applications in 2018. I also find it odd that I can’t find this anywhere on their website, just on Twitter.
Personally, I consider myself lucky. My card renews in April so I just received my Annual Free night in my account to use this year, which is good at any IHG hotel. Sharon also applied for this card in March when I heard that it might be going away (and it has indeed gone away since then). Since her application falls in the grace period, the Annual Free Night she’ll get when her account hits one year will also be good at any IHG hotel.
That means I’ll have at least a year to figure out if I’ll still keep the card in the long run. Even limiting the Annual Free Night to hotels that are 40,000 points or less leaves you with over 4,900 hotels to choose from. If I had to be really honest, I’d say that of the expensive hotels I’ve stayed at with the free night the most special thing about them was that they were expensive. I could have stayed at a less expensive hotel (for one night) and had a similar experience. When I did some searching, I started to feel better because there are still plenty of hotels to stay at with the Annual Free Night.
There’s the Hotel Indigo Sarasota that goes for 40,000 points per night.
Or the Holiday Inn London – Kensington High St., which also costs 40,000 points.
Or the Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites Waterpark, which goes for 35,000 points
So you see, there are plenty of IHG hotels in places you’d want to stay that cost 40,000 points or less. You’re just not going to get to stay at a really fancy InterContinental hotel with an indoor pool that looks like a Greek temple anymore.
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