Why Did I Turn Down *Really* Cheap Points?

Last November I first wrote about IHG’s Priceless Surprises promotion, which is a promotion IHG is offering in conjunction with Mastercard. This isn’t their “main” promotion, but rather is in addition to the IHG Accelerate promotion, which offers different members different offers.


The IHG Priceless Surprises promotion basically offers 1,000 points after your first stay, plus a “surprise” for subsequent stays, ranging from 500 to a million bonus points (of course a vast majority of entries will win the former rather than latter).

But there was one thing which made this promotion especially unique, in that you don’t have to stay at an IHG property to take part in the promotion. Instead you could mail in your entries by hand printing your full name, complete mailing address, day and evening phone numbers, valid email address, member number, first six digits of your Mastercard, and date of birth, using a 3″ x 5″ piece of paper.

You can submit up to 94 entries per account, and at a minimum you’re earning 500 bonus points per entry. In other words, that’s an opportunity to earn at least 47,000 IHG Rewards Club bonus points.

Travis shared his experience taking advantage of the promotion, and even paid a visit to Hello World headquarters, which is the company which fulfills this promotion.

The promotion ends this coming Monday, February 15, 2016. And I haven’t taken advantage of it. On one hand I feel like an idiot, and like something is wrong with me. I’m the guy who always talks about never turning down “free” points. But for some reason I didn’t take advantage of this promotion.

Realistically, what are the “costs” of participating in the IHG Priceless Surprises promotion?

  • ~$47 in postage
  • The cost of 94 envelopes and 94 note cards or pieces of paper (maybe ~$5?)
  • The time it takes to fill out 94 envelopes, 94 postcards, and later go through all the “entries” you get by email to get the points to post
  • Any potential frustration/time it takes to monitor as you wait for missing emails, missing points, choose to engage in comment wars on blogs and forums, etc. 😉

IHG Priceless Surprises notification email

How much are IHG Rewards Club points worth? I value IHG points at ~0.5 cents each, give or take. You can certainly get more value out of them, but I think that’s a pretty fair number, especially in light of the upcoming devaluation.

That means 47,000 points are worth $235. Assuming the materials are costing ~$55, you’re basically trading the labor of writing out the envelopes, tracking them, and entering the costs at ~$180. Realistically I’d guess it maybe takes a total of 2-3 hours, so for the most part that seems totally worthwhile, and like really good money for most.

At the same time, I’m not really loyal to IHG, and I’m not sure at what point I’d actually get around to redeeming the points. For example, I have a free night certificate with the IHG Rewards Club credit card which I still haven’t redeemed, even though it can be redeemed at any IHG property in the world.

I pay a $49 annual fee on that card, so does that make the value of a free night closer to $49 rather than valuing points at ~0.5 cents each? Of course there’s a difference between the flexibility of points and a free night certificate, but the general point still holds, in my opinion.

I could have almost had enough points for a free night here!

Bottom line

It’s funny how our minds work sometimes. On one hand I feel silly turning down points for so cheap, but at the same time I already borderline have carpal tunnel syndrome, and I feel like this “exercise” will only further contribute to that. Perhaps it’s work I should have outsourced.

So I guess to sum it up, I’m kicking myself for not taking advantage of the promotion since it seems like an “obvious” decision to do so, but at the same time I’m not too bummed, since I don’t love IHG points that much.

Am I the only one who was aware of the IHG Priceless Surprises promotion but didn’t take advantage of it?


  1. I had a fairly generous Accelerate offer. 90,000 points for three stays. I combined that with this promotion where I came out with 55,500 points. Sure IHG isn’t the best but 150,000 points will pay for all 8 nights (I really have ~165,000 now) on my vacation in August, so no complaining from me.

  2. It’s not silly turning down “free” points if you won’t use them. It’s common sense. If it’s so tough to find on IHG property you are willing to stay at why even have the IHG credit card? It would bother me wasting the certificate. How many hotel nights a year do you stay at places other than SPG, Hyatt, and your parents?

  3. Don’t feel badly. I skipped out on it as well. It feels like a $200 deal to me that would take more effort than I usually commit. I don’t apply for credit cards that have $200 in value and this will likely take quite a bit more energy. I haven’t been able to use my IHG points for high value stays, so this isn’t enticing. If I had a trip to Bora Bora planned, I would have done this deal in a second. Good luck to everyone that entered. I hope you win something big.

  4. I think it is a great deal for some. I would do it but I have a great dislike for IHG and its past handling of their promotions. I don’t care to do business with them personally.

  5. I had the flu in December. I did it in a few afternoons between naps. If I hadn’t been stuck in bed, I probably wouldn’t have done it at all.

  6. Well, 10000 IHG Points = 2000 FF Miles to almost any airline (including SQ). Duh.

    I could go on, but I’m saving the points for business use which includes, “I could have almost had enough points for a free night [not there, but somewhere else]”. 😉

  7. I ended up with 59,500 points. I sent all 95 entries 3 weeks ago, and I got 69 game replies within a week. The last 25 game replies came today. It took about 3 hours to fill out the entries, and prepare the envelopes. Happy with the result.

  8. I went all in on this promo and ended up with 49,000 extra points which I’m sure I’ll use. However, that wasn’t solely the point. For me, part of it was getting 94 entries into a contest with prizes like 1 million points. It was fun going through all the emails taking a shot at a jackpot of points!

  9. I want to go to Bora Bora down the road (like 2-3 years down), but I haven’t participated either. I can’t fathom spending all that time writing out the cards. Never tried IHG, either (Hyatt Diamond)

  10. @ Ben — Surely you have better things to do with your time. I know that I do. FCQ carried around 200 blank index cards for me for a whole month. Needless to say, they are still blank. I guess that is the point of your post… 🙂

  11. Ill tell you something…it was a lot of fun opening the emails and playing the game…i got many that were 5000 points, 2000, etc…and a shot for a big prize.
    It took time, but I got almost 60000 points for each of 2 adults.

  12. Everyone should have their own valuation of their time. The greatest cost to this hobby is time (in my experience). Given the way 2015 went for me, I’ve come to my own conclusion that I am not going to invest as much time in all of this anymore. It’s hard, but I’m going to give up my Delta Platinum, Hyatt Diamond, SPG Platinum, etc… for what is easiest for me. I’m not flying from Los Angeles to Chicago through ATL/MSP/DTW anymore. If there’s a direct flight to where I’m going, and if it’s affordable in a premium cabin, I’ll pay for it. I will use the time I’ve spared to work harder so that one day (hopefully), when I want to fly to Paris in La Premiere, I will simply hop online and pay for the ticket. This decision has brought more peace and relaxation to my daily life, which is far more valuable to me. My thing these days–what I wish for everyone–is that they get what they need…whatever that might be. Have a good weekend!

  13. As some others have said, it’s not crazy to pass this up if you aren’t going to use the points. But you specifically stayed in Holiday Inn Helsinki for the promotional points a few weeks ago, no? If you don’t see a use for IHG points, why did you ‘waste’ a night at HI instead of staying someplace else? If you stayed at HI for points, and given how many hours you spend sitting in an airplane seat, you should’ve filled out the index cards instead of watching bad sitcom episodes.

  14. I did the mailing thing, and wouldn’t do it again. Just took way too long, and with all the reading up, clicking on emails etc, not worth the effort IMHO. So don’t feel bad. I’m sure your time was better spent.

  15. What you aren’t calculating is that it’s 47000 points minimum. I’ve gotten two 5000 point rewards, five 2000 point rewards plus three 1000 point rewards on top of all of the 500 point rewards. Who cares if you aren’t loyal to a brand. They have some really nice hotels in some really nice locations.

  16. I did 5-10 index cards every night in front of the TV and won 53,000 points. I did start to get hand cramps and thought of stopping, but ended up doing another 94 cards for my dad. He’s won 43,000 with another 20 plays left when those remaining emails arrive.

  17. I mailed in 94 entries in December. Got emails on 34. No points posted from those 34 “winners” and no further emails on the remaining sixty.

    Several emails and calls to IHG all for naught. They kept saying that they didn’t see any recent stays. My repeated explanations and e-mails got me nowhere.

    This promotion was a rip off for me. I’m glad other people did better.

    IHG has lost any future business with me.

  18. Since I am retired this was a method to boost my income without setting the alarm clock or leaving the house . I made up all 94 entries in two days and mailed them today . It wasn’t enough of a challenge so I smashed a knuckle before I started ( pick axe , tree stump ) .
    It’s an okay deal , not a great deal ( unless we win the big prize ) , that will help our budget for up coming travel .
    When I was working I didn’t have extra time for anything . Now it’s okay .

  19. I’m happy to have the approx 110k points that my wife and I earned. Don’t always need something aspirational, sometimes just need a place to sleep for the night. These’ll come in handy, based on my somewhat limited experience with IHG. At 0.07 cents a point or so, I’ll take it(thanks Discover Apple pay). Doesn’t hurt to have something else to do while watching a movie.

  20. What was the purpose of this post? It’s totally worth it for some people. I actually went ahead and mailed in my 94 entries today. I’m excited for the results!

    No need to rain on anyone’s parade that submitted the entries. As mentioned in prior comments, the MINIMUM earnings = 47,000 points.

    $0.49 in a dream.

  21. have over a million IHG points-cant find use, have amazing corporate discount so usually not worthwhile
    most hotels are limited

  22. I outsourced the index card writing. Fifty bucks paid for 188 cards on Craigslist, and they supplied the index cards.

    Took maybe an hour printing envelopes and sticking stamps

  23. thankfully, i have a compliant, stay at home wife who knows how to write.
    all i had to do was write the first copies.
    so far, i got 50k out of 82 emails. that’s pretty fantastic in my book.

  24. I had over 35 entries that got zero points. I emailed customer service and support with no response. This will be the last time I ente any ihg contest.

  25. I have stayed 14 nights in Intercontinental properties so far in 2016. So I love some of the properties, but I don’t love the loyalty program. It just doesn’t let me redeem for the calibre of room I am seeking. For example, the waterfront rooms at the IC Monterey are spectacular. But I don’t want to face super congested Cannery Row. So I won’t redeem there. And so on. The points are good for weekend stays in Toronto or the IC SF when any room will do.

  26. I am glad that there were people like Lucky who were aware of this promotion but decided not to do it . . .because that meant your postcards were not slowing mine down!! 61,500 points won for me, and 55,000 for my wife. And IHG has hotels everywhere — biggest chain in the world. In the next 3 months, we will be using points at a CP in Santiago, an IC in Johannesburg, and an HIE in Durban, all for free stays. In the past, we have also taken advantage of the super Pointsbreak deal several times. IHG, I love you!! Keep the promos coming!

  27. My birthday was December 16th so I leveraged that into asking my students to help me write index cards. Two classes of twenty kids who wrote two cards each in maybe 2-3 minutes = 80 cards, and I did the rest. They thought it was a hoot, and I got 57,500 points. Great kids!

  28. The strangest thing happened to my husband… he mailed 1 entry in Dec and got 500 points. Since then he’s gotten 11 emails for the promotion. I’m wondering if the data entry clerk made a typo when entering the IHG account number or someone made a typo when writing out their cards.

  29. Ulner nerve transplantation……highly recommend the surgery…….have had both elbows done………Boarding Area medical plan pays for that right?

  30. I found that I could fill in index cards during lots of dead time. Ended up doing 4 times 94. Me, wife, dad and mother in law. I’ll leverage this into lots of candle wood suites and HIE stays when paying my own way.

  31. Since we don’t travel except for 2 trips per year, promos like Accelerate don’t work for us. Since I work out of a home office, had some slow days, so did this for myself in December and husband in January. Just got the last entries for him today. 53,500 points for me, 55,500 for him, so not bad for 6 hours of time. Very happy with the results.

  32. Don’t feel bad. As you can see from the posts many opted not to do it. I was one who opted not to do it and I stay primarily at IHG properties! The latter is due to convenience of IHG properties where I travel. Another nagging thought was that those who went through the trouble “might” have some issues with IHG in the future. I know they made rules for it with Mastercard, but if they were not expecting this onslaught of index cards….perhaps those that wrote in all those cards are now on some nefarious IHG’s 3 strikes and your out list (don’t know if that exists). We know for certain they close accounts for abuse. Call it paranoia if you wish, I just want to stay in their good graces as I use the quarterly 5,000 night Point Breaks for business and pleasure…often.

  33. So far, I have received 53,000 points with 89 entries. Still waiting on the remaining 5 entries to show up. As for the annual free night reward certificate for $49 IHG card fee, I used it for a stay at the Intercontinental in London last summer. The room rate was over $525 per night. So, $49 annual fee for a $525 room – what a great deal. I only wish the other hotel sponsored cards permitted a free night each year without limitations.

  34. So you are saying they set up a promo to identify people they want to blacklist? Lol. And I thought my elderly father was paranoid . . .

  35. @Wilson, I agree with you. What is the point giving a free night that you cannot use. Marriot gives cat 1-5 for renewing there card. I needed a layover near SFO but cannot find any Marriot hotels under cat 6. I am sure there are some rooms available in some far off location which would involves to/from taxi in access of $100 while you wait to catch the connecting flight.

  36. I know the website says the promotion ends on Monday. But your entries have to be postmarked by then, and Monday is a Holiday. So anything not posted by last pick up today is wasted effort.

    And we will most likely combine our new points, assuming we each do get all of them, with existing points, to stay at the Intercontinental Hong Kong. Well worth a few hours filling out cards spread over several days. 🙂

  37. The biggest advantage for me on this promotion is that it was a way to earn a decent number of points without using a credit card. There are so few opportunities for that these days.

    Also, I had fun going to a coffee shop with a friend and filling out index cards. We made it into an evening. It was a good time.

  38. I just used the 50K IHG Points I earned from the promotion to book two nights in Athens at the Crown Plaza hotel which ran 350€ per night the nights I wanted in May. So I got about a $775 value from 3 hours of work and $54. Not bad for points supposedly worth .5 cents! 🙂

  39. Sent in ten cards. It took about a month but I actually ended up getting about 15 emails for Priceless Surprises. Only got 500 pts from each entry, but worth it for the 15 minutes I spent.

    I honestly don’t get the love for Hyatt and SPG. I consistently get upgrades at Holiday Inns and Radissons, but we’ve only been upgrades at a Hyatt when we ask. My wife and I stayed with our seven month old last night at a Hyatt Recency in San Fran. My wife has Platinum status. No upgrade…the crib we requested wasn’t even in the room, and only arrived after we called the front desk twice. Checked in today to the Hyatt in Santa Rosa. Crib was clearly indicated on our reservation…told there was no crib request, the hotel was out of cribs, and of course, no upgrade.

    Sure the Hyatts and Westins may have slightly nicer furnishings, but with a baby, I’ll stick with IHG and Club Carlson, where I know exactly what I will get.

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