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Yesterday I wrote about seven credit cards on which I pay the annual fee but don’t put much spend. Reader Nevsky left the following comment, which is a question I’ve been asked many times in the past:
I keep thinking of getting the Hyatt or the IHG card, but is a free night without status for someone used to upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, etc. really that great? There might be some times that I could use it, but most of the time would rather have the benefits. As Lucky said, he gets Hyatt benefits. Because of the recent near elimination of the Hyatt program (except for those at the highest level), there is not much left in the way of benefits for those at the lower levels, even with a free night. Would be interested in the thoughts of others.
Up front I should mention that I’m a Hyatt Globalist member, so am not quite in the same position as Nevsky. as I get full Globalist benefits when using the annual free night certificate offered with The Hyatt Credit Card. However, I have no loyalty to IHG Rewards Club, aside from the annual free night certificate and Platinum status that I get for having the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card.
How much is a “free” night really worth without status?
A vast majority of people don’t have any sort of hotel status, so I think most people are happy with any sort of room at a hotel. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had a similar hesitation when I first got the IHG Card, as I also considered how much it was really worth to me without elite benefits with my preferred hotel groups.
The card has only a $49 annual fee (waived the first year), which is among the lowest annual fees of any premium hotel credit card. Am I using the free night for super special trips? No, because I’d rather spend those at a hotel where I have free breakfast, suite upgrades, etc. However, IHG has a massive global footprint, and in many cases they have hotels in places where I need to be. Furthermore:
- As an IHG Platinum member (which you get just for having the card) you should get pretty good treatment at Holiday Inns, Crowne Plazas, etc.
- I also find it useful to use these certificates for quick one night stopovers; for example, rather than staying at an airport hotel in Paris or Amsterdam, stay at the IC Le Grand or IC Amstel, which are much more luxurious — most people probably couldn’t justify that at the retail cost, but when you’re using a certificate offered by a card with a $49 annual fee, maybe it’s a different story
I just recently used my annual free night certificate issued by the IHG Card at the InterContinental Hong Kong, and the year before used it at the InterContinental London The O2, prior to an Adele concert, where it was by far the best option. Since all hotels offer free wifi, that’s not a cost consideration either.
My point is, even as someone who is almost irrationally loyal to my preferred hotel chains, I haven’t felt like I’ve been making any sort of a compromise by using these certificates.
What about Hyatt, though? Hyatt has a smaller global footprint, and the Hyatt Card also has an annual fee of $75, which is $26 more per year than the IHG Card. The card offers Hyatt Discoverist status, which comes with preferred rooms and 2PM check-out. Admittedly that’s not a hugely valuable status, but it’s better than nothing.
I don’t think that card is for absolutely everyone, but I still think most would get value out of such a stay. Even for an annual stay at a convenient US airport hotel, you’d come out ahead with this certificate and the card’s $75 annual fee, rather than paying.
Here’s the thing — hotel elite status is valuable, but I don’t think it’s that valuable on all stays. Suite upgrades and free breakfast are nice, but sometimes you have a pretty quick overnight so don’t care about the size of the room, and sometimes you’re just as happy getting Starbucks or going to a local cafe, rather than eating at a hotel’s breakfast buffet.
So I understand the general hesitancy about getting a card with your non-preferred hotel chain, but it’s very hard to go wrong with a card like the IHG Card, which has a $49 annual fee and gives you access to over 4,000 hotels around the world. Even the Hyatt Card is tough to go wrong with as a non-Globalist, in my opinion, given that there are some great properties around the world where this can be redeemed.
What do you guys think — is not having elite status a big hindrance in using these certificates, or are these cards still a great deal?