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New Strategy When Using IHG Free Night Certificates

by joeheg

The IHG One Rewards program (formerly known as IHG Rewards Club) recently unveiled several changes. I’m not going to go over all of the things different with IHG One Rewards, as plenty of other sites have already done a deep dive into the new program.

Instead, I will focus on one part of the program and how the new rules change how I plan to use this benefit.

While not directly a benefit of IHG One Rewards, all but the no-annual-fee IHG co-brand credit cards from Chase provide a free night at each card member’s account anniversary date. Previously, the award was capped at rooms redeemable for 40,000 points or less. Even then, just because a room was available for award nights, there possibly could be no availability for free night certificate redemptions.

As part of the changes, IHG now allows you to add points to a certificate from the IHG Premier card (personal or business versions) if a hotel charges more than 40,000 points a night. If you still have an IHG Select card, you can not top up those certificates.

This change made me reevaluate how I plan to use my free night certificates.

IHG Rewards Select Free Nights

My approach to using these free nights hasn’t changed since the redemption rules are the same as before. I learned my lesson when I almost let a free night expire (before it was extended due to COVID.) The annual fee for this card is only $49, so any time I can use the free night at a room that costs over $50, I’m getting my money’s worth. Honestly, is there any hotel room you’d want to stay in that costs less than $50?

Holiday Inn Express – Palm Desert

This doesn’t mean that I’m always using this free night at a roadside HI Express. There are still plenty of IHG properties that cost 40K points or less. It does mean that I’m not going to hold onto these certificates for the perfect redemption, which may or may not materialize.

IHG Rewards Premier Free Nights

The IHG Rewards Premier (personal and business) cards provide a free night at hotels charging up to 40,000 points with the ability to add points if a hotel is charging a higher amount.

An interesting part of IHG’s free night cert + points rules is that there’s no limit to the number of points you can add for a redemption.  In comparison, Marriott Bonvoy only lets you add up to 15,000 points to a certificate.

This means that any hotel is on the table. Do you want to stay for a weekend night in Key West during the high season?

That’s a whole lot of points (120,000 for the most expensive rooms, including Ridley House.) It’s better than if you are looking for rooms using the free night from the IHG Select. The website says there are no rooms available for the certificate and offers you to make a cash booking.

I don’t plan on using my free night from the IHG Prefered at just any hotel anymore. No more using it somewhere that charges 25K points because I might not find a 40K redemption. I’m now viewing it as a 40K point voucher which I can use at hotels charging that much or more.

This means I’ll have no problems finding a hotel in Manhattan, Key West, London or Tokyo.

Final Thoughts

Sharon and I are in a different situation than most because we each have the IHG Select and IHG Preferred cards. From them, we get two of the 40K capped free nights and two 40K point “Vouchers.” Even if you only have one IHG Preferred card, I think it’s worthwhile to save the free night for a hotel charging 40K points or more, which isn’t very difficult.

I’ll have to see how well this plan works when I put it into practice. It helps that I have plenty of Marriott Bonvoy free nights from credit cards which I’ll be able to use at those roadside hotels when I need them.

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