Earn IHG Bonus Points Without Staying At A Hotel!

IHG has just opened registration for their Priceless Surprises promotion, which is being offered in conjunction with MasterCard.


To be eligible for the promotion you have to:

  • Register and stay between November 15, 2015, and February 15, 2016
  • Use your MasterCard for the stay (it can be any MasterCard, and doesn’t have to be the IHG co-branded one)
  • You’ll receive 1,000 bonus points after your first stay
  • You’ll receive a chance at a “Priceless Surprise” for every subsequent stay
  • This promotion can be combined with IHG’s Accelerate promotion, which runs through December 31, 2015


What are the prizes, and what are your chances of winning?

Okay, so you earn 1,000 bonus points after your first stay, but what are your odds of winning another prize for a subsequent stay? Fortunately IHG publishes all the details in the terms. Here are the “big” prizes available (see the full terms for a detailed description of what each prize entails):

  • 2016 Paris Tennis Tournament Package / ARV: $23,407.22 / Quantity: 3
  • Winter in New York City Priceless Surprise / ARV: $22,016.50 / Quantity: 2
  • Priceless New York / ARV: $19,300 / Quantity: 2
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard Honorary Observer Priceless Surprise / ARV: $19,826 / Quantity: 3
  • Gilt gift card / ARV: $2,500 / Quantity: 10
  • 1 Million IHG Rewards Club Points / ARV: $5,000 / Quantity: 2
  • BoseSound Touch120 home theater system / ARV: $1,099 / Quantity: 3
  • Adventure Package / ARV: $1,050 / Quantity: 2
  • Sony Package / ARV: $799 / Quantity: 3
  • BoseWave SoundTouch music system IV / ARV: $600 / Quantity: 4
  • Free Night Stay at IHG Property / ARV: $125 / Quantity: 525
  • A $50 MasterCard Prepaid Card / ARV: $50 / Quantity: 1,050

Beyond the above larger prizes, you can also win smaller quantities of IHG Rewards Club points. Rather than there being a set number of grand prizes (whereby your chances of winning vary based on how many total entries there are), there are published odds for winning points, as follows:

  • 5,000 IHG points / Odds: 1:42.86
  • 2,000 IHG points / Odds: 1:28.57
  • 1,000 IHG points / Odds: 1:14.29
  • 500 IHG points / Odds: 1:1.18

Don’t quote me on this as I’m writing this in a very jetlagged state, but if my math is correct, the above odds should almost guarantee that you’ll win some quantity of points with each entry.

You don’t have to stay at hotels to enter

Deals We Like wrote about this yesterday, and it’s interesting, if nothing else. If you look at the terms of the promotion, you don’t actually have to stay at IHG properties to participate in the promotion. Instead there’s a mail in alternative:

From November 15, 2015 to February 15, 2016: You can enter the Instant Win Game without completing a Qualifying Stay. However to be eligible for the chance to win prizes in section 9 below you are required to have an IHG Rewards Club account. If you do not have one, you can sign up for free by visiting http://www.ihg.com/rewardsclub/us/en/home and following the instructions. To enter without completing the minimum two Qualifying Stays, hand print your full name, complete mailing address, day and evening phone numbers, valid email address, member number, the first six (6) digits of your MasterCard and date of birth on a 3″ x 5″ piece of paper and mail it in an envelope with proper postage to “IHG and MasterCard® Priceless Surprises® Promotion,” c/o HelloWorld, Inc., P.O. Box 5996, Kalamazoo, MI 49003-5996. Once your mail-in request is received, you will receive an email within five (5) business days from the Administrator inviting you to play the Game and you will receive one (1) Game play for each mail-in request. Limit: One (1) request per envelope. Once you receive an email inviting you to participate in the Game, click on the link found within the email and follow the links and instructions to play the Game. The Game results will be instantly displayed. Potential winners of the Game will be provided directions for validation. All potential winners are subject to verification before any prize will be awarded. Administrator is responsible for the functionality of the Instant Win Game.

Limit: Each entrant is eligible to receive up to ninety-four (94) Game plays during the Promotion Period, regardless of method of entry.

So if you have a lot of time, love IHG Rewards Club points, and in general like playing “games” like this, you could in theory write out 94 entry cards and mail them in to IHG. You’ll pay ~$47 in postage, plus however much the paper costs, plus the time investment, but in theory you could win a decent number of points.

Bottom line

Ultimately this promotion isn’t a reason to switch any business to IHG, though it is a nice add-on to the Accelerate promotion, which runs through the end of the year. If you have upcoming stays at IHG properties there’s no reason not to register.

And the concept of mailing in entry cards sure is intriguing. I’d be curious if any of the math whizzes around here can crunch the numbers as to the average number of points you’d win mailing in 94 cards, based on the above publishedodds.

So, who is intrigued at the thought of spending their weekend writing out 94 letter to IHG to see how many points it nets them? 😉



  1. Interesting idea, thanks for bringing this up.

    Using weighted averages for each probability and completely excluding the Grand Prizes from which the actual probability of winning is not yet known, I find an expected points haul of 680 per entry. If you take full advantage of the mail-ins, you’ll have an expected haul of 63,954.

    Further extrapolating on the value of IHG points, if you value them at 0.4-0.7 cents/point, this would be worth about $255.82-447.68.

    I’m in for all 94 paper-entries!

  2. Odds of 1:1.18 = 45.87% Probability

    If you add up the Probability of each award, it adds up to ~58% of winning something each time + Group A awards.

  3. I always find it a bummer when contest rules state “… HAND PRINT … on a 3×5” (emphasis added). The “time investment” to do that 94 times is more than I am willing to commit to.

  4. Many people are confusing “odds” for “probability.” The T&C state the “odds” which is:
    (Number of winning entries):(Number of losing entries) whereas “probability” is (Number of winning entries):(Total number of possible entries).

    Two very different things.

  5. Of course there is also the secret weapon, IHG changing the terms of the promo halfway through just because they didn’t like where it’s leading. That’s the only thing holding me back.
    And don’t spend 3 hours writing up entry cards. Find a kid who can use $30 and make his day!

  6. This reminds me of the days we used to do self addressed stamped envelopes for the McDonald’s Monopoly promotion.

  7. Interesting promotion. I’m going to use both the hotel stay (for an existing planned trip) and a token run at the 3×5 card route: to wit, I hand-wrote four entries just to see what that felt like and will mail them in and see what happens. Worst case 2,000 points for that 10 minutes of hand-cramping work.

    If my children were younger or my grandchildren older I would employ child labor to get the full 94 entries.

  8. Most contests require a method of free entry (even Facebook contests, but then Facebook is free to join). The handwriting is meant to discourage the free entry while also reducing fraud.

    94 cards allow for 94 entries. Since not all entries will win, it can still make sense to max this out despite a limit of 6 prizes. (That’s assuming it’s worth entering at all given the difference between odds and probability.)

  9. @Stvr: Terms limit you to 1 prize in Group A, 5 prices in Group B, and there is no limit on Group C.

  10. Stvr terms limit 1 from group A (all the major prizes), 5 from group B (free nights, 1000 – 5000 pts). Does not state a limit on group C which is the 500 points. So I assume those are unlimited then

  11. Assuming you didn’t win any of the big awards and with the correct interpretation of odds, if you did 94 entries, you could expect 21,560 points from C awards and between 5,000 and 25,000 points from B awards depending on which ones you hit. The expected (average) total win based on the odds for each B award would be 31,682 points. It still may be worth it if you have nothing better to do than hand write 94 entries for 3 hours, but it is not even enough to get one night at a nicer hotel. The saving grace is that you do get a chance (94 of them actually) at one of the bigger prizes.

  12. Wasn’t there a promo maybe two or three promos ago, where IHG totally #*(%*(#% it up and people were not getting their points? Pretty brave of them to have two going at one time. I guess they hired another computer programmer. We will see how it goes…I’m always in for surprises.

  13. @Stvr
    No, terms limit you to 1 prize from category A, 5 from B, and no limit from C (which is the 500 points prize).

    Also, lucky made a mistake. You are far from guaranteed a prize with every entry. See UtahShane’s comment.

  14. Wow there are some terrible math people on here. Lucky is correct, you have a close to guaranteed chance at winning a prize. 1 in 1.18 is an 84.74% likelihood that you’ll win the 500 point prize. Combine that with the rest and it’s pretty much guaranteed they’re giving everyone who enters a prize.

  15. @garkman You are referring to “Probability.” That is very different than “odds.” See my comment earlier.
    Odds = (# of winning entries) : (# of losing entries)
    Probability = (# of winning entries) : (# of total entries)

    Therefore the 1:1.18 “odds” is only a 45.87% Probability of winning (1 / (1+1.18)).

    When you have a 50% probability of winning something, the odds are 1:1 (one winner: one loser).

  16. @UtahShane …I’m embarrassed to have been calculating contests incorrectly for so long. I wonder if they actually are 1:1.18 odds or if they meant probability and used the wrong word. Guess we’ll find out in a few weeks!

  17. Ok, you’ve awoken the nerd in me (but I am a statistician in real life :)). Just involving the fixed odds prizes, the expected value (E(X)) is 476 points per entry (summation of probabilities*points for each prize level). So, for 94 entries E(X)=44781 points. If you say each entry costs 70 cents (stamp + env. + card), then total cost is about $66 (excluding time), for a cpp of 0.15 cents. Someone please verify all this!

    You could go a step further and calculate, what is the probability that I net at least 20k points, or over 60k points, but I’m too tired for that. The actual expected value is higher considering the other “high value” prizes. Hmm, I’m starting to find myself wanting to do this.

  18. Eh, didn’t see the limit on the B prizes. Given the number of entries you’re pretty likely to get at least one of each of the 1k, 2k, 5k prizes, but if we be conservative and assume you get 5 of the 1k prizes and are shooting for 500 points the rest of the way (89 entries), E(X) is about 25,400 points.

  19. @kenny – you’re not taking the limit of 5 prizes > 500 points into account in your EV. After 5 wins of 1000, 2000, or 5000, those probabilities drop to zero and you’re left with only the 46% chance for 500. Since you’re a statistician, you might want to see if you can find fault with my analysis in the Deals We Like blog’s comments, but just for fun I modeled the contest and ran a few million iterations and got an average result of 31,600 points for 94 entries (with a SD = 4100), or E(X) = 336 points per turn.

    At $66, that’s still only 0.21 CPP, but the time is not insignificant. To write legibly (so that the entry isn’t discarded), address envelopes, get stamps, etc., I’d guess nearly 3 minutes per entry or about 5 hours if your hand holds out. Then there’s playing the on-line game 94 times – who knows how long that will take?

    30K points will typically get you one night at a mid-category hotel, so I’d have to spend more time entering the contest than I would spend sleeping at the property. Seems like a LOT of work for not a whole lot of reward.

  20. Gene – Regarding “Seems pretty easy using a printer/copier for the 3×5 cards and mailing labels for the envelopes”. Copies may not make it through. They do say handwritten and also state no “automated” means in the full T&C.

  21. @JEM,
    I think you’re probably spot on with those numbers considering the conservative numbers I came to just above your post.

  22. What about the email addresses? Do I need to set up 94 different email addresses?

    “Limit: Each entrant is eligible to receive up to ninety-four (94) Game plays during the Promotion
    Period, regardless of method of entry. Multiple entrants are not permitted to share the same
    email address. Any attempt by any entrant to obtain more than the stated number of plays by
    using multiple/different email addresses, identities, registrations and logins, or any other
    methods will void that entrant’s plays and that entrant may be disqualified….”

  23. gc – One email for 94 entries is fine. Two people trying to enter using the same email address is not.

  24. I spent some time and came up with an expectation of 31700 points with 94 entries, plus some chances of non-point presents, somewhat $220 in value. It will cost $70 for supplies and three hours of human work, not bad for $220 nontaxable income. But for me, I already have 110000 points, more than what I know to do with. This game is not so attractive to me, unless those points are elite-qualifying. I will act promptly if somebody confirms those points are good for some Elite status 2017.

  25. I tend to disagree with UtahShane in that, if you sum up all of the “odds” of the low level prizes, you get 0.97577. The way Shane is doing it, it would imply that over 40% of the entries are duds and the “priceless surprise” is absolutely nothing.

  26. I plan on registering for this. Am I correct in thinking I should use a MasterCard rather than my ihg chase visa? I already am working on the Accelerate offer.

  27. Back in the day I filled out a few hundred entries for the McDonald’s Monopoly promotion. I hand wrote them, but someone else printed everything on his computer. McD’s invalidated all his entries. But the guy was disabled, and he sued McD’s for not adhering to ADA requirements. He signed a NDA, but he said he won a boat load of cash, enough to pay off his mortgage if he wanted to do so.

    So if you’re disabled and cannot hand write the entries they have to accommodate you or else you can take them to court. You know, because ‘Murica…

  28. What hasn’t been mentioned here or anywhere else is how awful this game is for people who actually stay at IHG hotels during the promo. Assume the calculation of roughly 58% win rate across all categories is true. That means on approximately 2 of 5 stays after the 1st the member gets screw all. zero. nothing. I wonder whether the group that comes up with these games is just making it complicated to justify its own existence.

  29. I was going to do the full 94 entries, but the conversation has me thinking that such an approach is overkill. Since group B is limited a total of 5 prizes I’m interested in how many entries might be required to achieve this. Completion 94 entries could be expected to produce ~11.7# hits in group B. So as few as 40 entries has a reasonable chance of producing 5 group B prizes. I’m also wondering how arduous the second phase of the contest will be. I will start with a run of ten entries to test the waters and then possibly as many as 20-35 more. If I sill haven’t reached my 5 group B goal I can always submit some more entries. This won’t maximize my points but looking only at group C the expected return on 2 entries is only 459 points which, at least for me, is getting marginal.

  30. Just curious–has anyone using the “paper method” had a response from IHG? I started mailing in one entry/day on November 13 meaning they should have arrived in Kalamazoo shortly after the contest opened on November 15. The terms said they would email with instructions for entry within 5 days. Even with poor mail service, It’s been well over five days and I’ve heard nothing. Are they just overwhelmed, as often happens when info like this hits the blogs? Happy to wait, but curious 🙂

  31. I don’t usually post but I thought I would share. A lot of comments speculate about the viability of mailing in entries. To try this, I sent 2 envelopes 3 weeks ago. One envelope contained an original filled out entry, and the other contained 10 photocopies of that entry which I individually signed. Today I received 11 emails with prize ‘spins’ that you click and pick a door to get a surprise. In total I received: 1x 1,000 IHG points, and 10x 500 IHG points.

  32. Just received 2 emails from IHG, and won 500 points from each. Of course I’ve sent in quite a few more than that, but at least we now know that the contest is working. I registered prior to November 15, sent my first entries on November 13 and 16 in small letter-sized envelopes, 3×5″ paper (not index cards), handwritten with no “labels” on the data points except IHG# xxxx etc., MC# xxxxxx, DOB x-xx-xxxx.

  33. Perhaps I spoke too soon when I happily posted (12/4/15) that I had received two entries, each winning 500 points. Since then I’ve only received two more, so I’m still waiting for 90.

  34. Does anyone have an email to contact HelloWorld? My husband and I have both received a few of the emails and have won points. We each sent in 94 entries. So far, he has received 24 emails and I have received 13. His points have posted to his account but mine have not. Been over a month now since we played the game.

  35. Guys who didn’t receive the response email have you received it yet? I sent few in December but haven’t received even a single email yet. So just wanted to know of everyone has received except me. Can I complain somewhere about me not receiving it yet ?

  36. I am with you. I have sent in 60 but I was going for the full 94 but I have not received one response and that was over 4 to 5 weeks ago! Bummer!

  37. I sent about 30 entries in so far, most on Dec 8, and I only received 4 responses so far (mid Jan). Annoyed.

  38. Did anybody get the elevator and win nothing? I got 2 responses that said I was not a winner of anything. I thought the minimum was 500 points. Stupid game.

  39. I finally received my first 10 emails last night (Monday, Jan. 18) at 10:37pm. The subject line reads “You qualify for a Priceless Surprise!” I sent 5 entries each on Dec. 15 and 16, so I’m assuming these emails were for those entries. I sent the remaining to total 94 Dec. 17-19 so we’ll see when those come in. I also stayed at an IHG hotel last week, so I guess it’s possible one of the 10 was for that, but I don’t think so.

    Anyway, to the more troubling part: While the link in each email seemed to work (I saw the elevator. Clicked on play. Chose a floor and the door opened.), each one simply showed a pic of the Eiffel Tower and said “You didn’t win this time. Complete another stay before February 15 for another chance to win. Now, send a Priceless Surprise link to friends!” No 500 points!! No nothing!! Furthermore, when I clicked on a link at the bottom that said “Maybe next time,” I was taken to a page to look for a hotel. When I hit my browser’s back button, I went back to the screen where I could choose a floor, did so, lost again, in a seemingly endless loop. I tried 2 different browsers with the same result.

    Frustrated, I called IHG and asked for a supervisor familiar with this promotion. (The number at the bottom of the final screen is listed as “Priceless Surprises Support 1-888-211-9874,” but it’s just the main IHG number and the woman who answered knew nothing about this promotion.) A very nice man came on, and gave me 5000 points on the spot. The minimum, but a friendly, quick resolution. I hope this answers some questions for others.

    BTW, I hand-wrote all the cards (which were lined) as required, but printed labels for most of the envelopes.

  40. My first 5 entries have earned 3×500 + 1×1000 + 1×5000
    Today i received 2 more entries that both resulted in nothing! Thought something was up and came here.

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