Yesterday I got a letter from Chase that I was unexpected but that didn’t surprise me either. It was to notify me that the annual free night benefit of my Chase IHG Rewards Club card will no longer be valid at any IHG property worldwide. Beginning May 1st it will only be valid at hotels where the basic room cost is 40,000 points or less. This is a huge blow to this card and the end of an era for hotel cards in general.
What does this mean?
This means that some of IHG’s best properties are now off the table when planning to use the annual free night benefit. Chase’s IHG Rewards Club credit card has a $49 annual fee and comes with an free night certificate every year on your card membership anniversary. Until this change, the certificate could be used at any IHG hotel in the world. As you can imagine, the opportunity for extreme value was incredible!
Award nights in a standard room cost between 10,000 and 70,000 points at IHG hotels. Many of the top tier properties start at 50,000 points, eliminating them from the pool of available hotels for the free night benefit. For example, last April for Nicoleen’s surprise birthday get-away, we stayed at the Z Ocean Hotel in Miami Beach for 2 nights; one paid with points and one by redeeming my IHG anniversary free night.
Who is affected?
Any IHG anniversary free night credited to your account before May 1st still has the old terms attached and can be used anywhere. Starting May 1st, the 40,000 point limit will be applied to newly credited certificates.
As you can see, I personally have an anniversary free night that was credited before the deadline. I’ll have to use it wisely! This isn’t the most popular hotel card around, but this change has personally affected me because it completely destroys one of the more ambitious vacation ideas on my bucket list. I was working on a plan to spend 2+ free nights at the only resort in the world whose standard room is a $1000+ per night over-water bungalow.
The end of an era
The IHG Rewards Club Premium World Mastercard is a unique hotel card. For years, several hotel cards from different issuers offered a sign-up bonus of free nights redeemable at any hotel in the portfolio of brands associated with the card. I call these kind of free nights (without hotel level or point value limitations) “unlimited free nights.”
In the last year or so, free nights as a sign-up bonus have been largely replaced with straight up bonus points. Several cards still offer a free night as an anniversary benefit after paying the annual fee. However, these anniversary nights are all “limited.” For example, on our Costa Rica trip last month we used a Marriott anniversary free night and 2 Hyatt anniversary free nights. The Marriott certificate was limited to category 1-5 hotels and the Hyatt certificate was limited to category 1-4 hotels.
As far as I know (please correct me if I’m wrong!), with the IHG anniversary free night downgrade, there are no more “unlimited” free nights out there, either as a sign-up bonus or as an card member anniversary benefit.
Does the IHG card suck now?
No. For the $49 annual fee, it’s still extremely easy to get your money’s worth on a free anniversary night redemption. My last certificate was used on a $109.48 redemption in Minneapolis. Not as impressive as our Z Ocean nights last April, but still well worth the annual fee. As of this writing the card also comes with a 60,000 point sign-up bonus, but this routinely jumps up to 80k, so I would wait if you’re thinking about applying.
If you’ve used these IHG anniversary free nights for killer redemptions in the past, count yourself lucky and wise. If this is yet another devaluation/downgrade/nerf that you’re reading about without having taken advantage of the lost opportunity, chalk it up to another reason to GET OFF THE SIDELINES AND GET INTO THIS GAME ASAP! Deals disappear and opportunities morph and change. This is an incredible hobby. Get in when the gettin’s good!