One of the best perks of the IHG Credit card is that you receive an IHG free night certificate every anniversary year. This is the case with both old IHG Select card and the new IHG Rewards Club Premier card. Unfortunately, IHG devalued the free night last year where you are capped at using it at a property that costs 40,000 points or less. This means there are over 300 properties where it can no longer be used. Even with the devaluation, it is still a great benefit and carries a ton of value!Stay right on Palm Beach at the Holiday Inn Aruba with your free night certificate (photo from Holiday Inn Resort Aruba)
In the past, you’ve always been able to redeem it for a future stay past the expiration date. Even though the terms stated “The Anniversary Free Night must be redeemed, and stay must be completed within the booking window dates shown” that is not how it actually worked in practice. As long as you booked by the expiration date, it was still valid for a future stay. I personally have always used my certificates past the expiration date on many occasions.
That is about to change…
Unfortunately though, it seems like their system has caught up with them and this is no longer the case. You actually need to book and stay by the expiration date now — exactly how the terms are stated. If you go to look for availability using your free night certificate for a date post your expiration date, you’ll now see that it states “Rooms are not available for Chase Anniversary Free Night on one or more of the selected dates” for every single hotel in your search. For all these hotels the room was available on points, just not the free night certificate.
It looks like though there are some exceptions. I oversee four family member’s IHG accounts so have been playing around with them to figure out exactly what is and is not working. It seems like IHG certificates that were recently deposited into accounts have the more strict expiration dates. While certificates that were deposited back in 2018 can still be used for travel past the expiration date. For example, one account expires in September 2019 and CAN be booked for a hotel in September 2020.
I did some further googling and found a post from the Frequent Miler. He also came across this system block and did some research. From both data points, it seems like free night certificates that were issued by sometime in late 2018 (although prior to December) can be used post the expiration date, but those issued after that date are more restricted.
It is definitely unfortunate to see the system blocking the free night certificates. Although, I am assuming that is how they were always intended to be used. IHG was well aware on how the free night certificates worked and I even received confirmation from their PR contact awhile back that they just needed to be booked by this date and not in fact stayed by this date, regardless of what the T&C stated.
Even with this additional restriction I absolutely believe that the free night certificates are still incredibly valuable. With IHG points being worth .5 cents per point, this is putting a $200 value on the certificate. With a $49 or $89 annual fee (depending on which card you have; or both!) you are coming out way ahead. And then on top of it, you receive some additional great perks from the card.
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Featured photo from Wikimedia – David Broad