Stupid Mistake – I Never Used A Free Night Certificate

by joeheg

I’ve finally come to admit the inevitable. One of my free night certificates from having the IHG credit card is going to expire before I get to use it. The rules of using the IHG free night is that it “must be redeemed, and stay must be completed, within 12 months from date of issue.” We have no more trips planned before then so it’s just going to disappear and be replaced by a new one that’ll be good for another year.

And if you’re wondering what this has to do with the cute puppies in the picture above, I decided that I needed to brighten the mood instead of using another photo of a person holding their hands against their head or lighting money on fire.

I’m keeping the card because I think getting a free night for the $89 annual fee is a good deal. In my case, I’ve done well with my free night certificate from IHG over the years and I miss that it’s no longer good at all of their hotels. Those were the days.

Looking back, I can see places where I could have used the free night but decided not to because there would always be a better use (or not). Here’s where I went wrong and how I’m going to change that in the future.

I thought I couldn’t use the free night in New York City.

IHG does provide a website that lists the properties having a base price of over 40,000 points. Those hotels are where you aren’t able to use a free night certificate. Now that IHG can change points based on season and demand, one of these hotels might be bookable, but I wouldn’t count on it.

There are thirteen hotels in New York City on the list. We’re not talking about just the Kimpton and Intercontinental hotels either. Crowne Plaza, EVEN Hotels, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and even a Candlewood Suites make the excluded list. I had given up, but upon closer inspection, it’s only the hotels in Midtown Manhattan/Times Square area that are priced excessively high.

In 2019, we stayed at the AC Hotel Downtown and I was thrilled to use an AMEX offer, so the room cost was $185 a night. I should have been looking at a way to use my IHG free night.

There are three properties downtown available for 40,000 points.

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I could have used one (or both) of our free nights for that stay and saved $370. Next time we’re going to New York and don’t prefer to stay near Midtown, I’m going to look at IHG hotel availability first.

I held on to the free nights, waiting for a better redemption

We stayed at our standby Candlewood Suites in Texas twice last year. On one stay I used the fourth-night free benefit from the Citi Prestige but for the other stay, I paid with points. The hotel costs 20,000 points a night, which I value at $100 (0.5 cents per IHG point). I couldn’t bring myself to redeem a free night for a 20,000 point room when I could use it at a hotel costing up to 40,000 points.

So now I’m ending up not using it at all when I could have saved the equivalent of $100. If it’s coming time to make our Texas reservations this year and I can’t see a place where we’ll able to use them in the future, I might just as well use them for that trip.

I need to plan more in advance

Now that we’re receiving free night certificates from co-brand credit cards from Marriott, Hyatt and IHG, I need to plan out our stays not so that we’ll maximize value but moreso that we’ll be able to use all of these free nights. If I keep having to change our travel preferences just so we can use up a free night, I was right thinking we have too many credit cards with a free night benefit and it’s time to thin the herd.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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