Ouch: IHG To Devalue Anniversary Nights

The IHG Rewards Club Credit Card offers one of my favorite credit card perks out there. Up until now it has offered an anniversary free night certificate valid at virtually any IHG hotel in the world. Given that the card has just a $49 annual fee (waived the first year), this was essentially a way to get a free night certificate at top IHG hotels for just $49 per year. I’ve used this perk at InterContinentals in London, Hong Kong, and Geneva.

Unfortunately it looks like this will be changing going forward. For IHG anniversary free night certificates issued on May 1, 2018, or later, you can only redeem at properties that cost up to 40,000 points per night. IHG free night awards cost anywhere from 5,000 to 70,000 points per night, so this excludes many of IHG’s top properties.

Here’s the letter that a reader received from Chase about this benefit change:

Update: We’re changing the Anniversary Free Night on your IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

Thank you for being a Chase customer. On May 1, 2018, we’re changing the Anniversary Free Night benefit associated with your IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card.

Here’s what’s changing
Currently, we award this Anniversary Free Night each year after your anniversary date, and it is redeemable at any IHG property. Going forward, Anniversary Free Nights issued after May 1, 2018, will be redeemable at eligible IHG hotels with a redemption value up to and including 40,000 points.

All the other perks of the card remain the same. This is obviously a huge devaluation to the card. Personally I still think the card is well worth the $49 annual fee, though I’ll have to rethink how I use this certificate. Going forward I won’t be redeeming these certificates at $300+ per night InterContinental hotels, but rather at some nicer airport hotels, Kimptons, etc.

I’ve long said that this benefit was too good to be true. It was great while it lasted, and it had a good run, though I can’t say I’m surprised.

(Tip of the hat to @Moleebs)

Comments

  1. Holy crap. I miss this by literally 4 days. Really lucked out there…but yeah this blows. Still $49 for 40,000 point properties is certainly at least a $50 discount if used correctly.

  2. I wish they’d just give me 40k instead. This reminds me of the Marriott free night where it was a big hassle for me to find a use for it.

  3. IHG loves to give points out but the value is just awful. They restrict availability too much and often the point cost is out of touch with the paid room night.

  4. I received the same letter today. However, at the end it says:

    “Coming Soon!
    Be on the look out for an exciting offer to upgrade to our new IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.”

    Will this offer to upgrade be subject to the 5/24 rule?

  5. Oh well…the gravy train is dead . Too bad I didn’t get a chance to get this one ad I was under 5/24

  6. Hopefully the reference to the upgrade offer means the new IHG Premier card is going to be a separate card product, and that holders of the existing card will be able to apply for the bonus.

  7. Are old cardholders grandfathered at the old rules or are they just unilaterally cramming this down on everyone?

  8. I get my next certificate in July and had been planning to use it at the Kimpton in Amsterdam but it’s 50K per night so that won’t work. Rats!

  9. Damn that’s a huge devaluation. I can’t even stay at any Manhattan property nor any IHG in Hong Kong or Tokyo. I wont be keeping this card. It’s not worth it.
    Being a Platinum status or Spire you still don’t even get a free breakfast.

  10. I think Lucky’s numerous posts about how good the IHG anniversary free night cert is too good to be true contributed to this devaluation.
    I really don’t understand why you had to write so many posts about it for IHG to finally take action.

  11. Yeah, ouch. Looking back at locations where we’ve used ours:

    Hong Kong – instead of the IC on the harbor, we’d be at a CP or HIE in more outlying locations
    London – instead of the IC Park Lane, one of actually a fair number of choices among HI’s, HIE’s, and CP; even a Hotel Indigo in there.
    New York – instead of the IC Times Square, there are a couple of HI’s and HIE’s in Manhattan at or below 40k, otherwise you’re bridge & tunnel
    Osaka – can still stay at the CP
    Honolulu – the Beachcomber is no longer an HI, but there is an HIE in a less central Waikiki location, that would be eligible
    Washington DC – instead of the IC Willard, various HI’s around the District or in Arlington

    So there’s still value, but not _wow_ value.

  12. “I think Lucky’s numerous posts about how good the IHG anniversary free night cert is too good to be true contributed to this devaluation.”

    It’s not like they didn’t know they offered a class-leading benefit. That is somebody’s job to know. Personally I would have preferred keeping the benefit and raising the annual fee.

  13. All the co-branded hotel cards are becoming less and less valuable, so to Lucky’s point, I’m not surprised at the change on this card. Fortunately I just received my anniversary certificate and already applied it to a stay in June. I’ll look at the feedback on redeeming with the new limitations to see if the card’s worth renewing next year.

  14. So now I’m curious if my Kimpton Tier 3 night that got converted to an IHG anniversary night will mean I can’t use it at all Kimptons.

  15. Never mind – reading the somewhat fine print again says reportedly no. My plans to have 2 free nights (current plus post-May-2018 anniversary) available from August to October 2018 confused me.

  16. wow that sucks. I just applied for this card last week after Lucky’s post to GET IT NOW BEFORE BENEFITS CHANGE. Obviously Ben didn’t know but it was implied that people who have the card before the changes go into place will be grandfathered in. So even before I even receive my new card, it’s been devalued and I almost have no use for this card. Will definitely be cancelling before the annual fee comes up.

  17. @Luis
    Same thing here. Just got the card in the mail today for myself and my wife and already it is completely useless. I thought banks weren’t allowed to change terms of any kind for the first year?

  18. Applied In August never really used the card after the min spend. Now this. Absurd change a few
    Months prior. I’d Cancel right away. Not even worth holding onto it.

  19. @Lucky

    I JUST got this card, and was working to put the minimum spend on it. Are there any exit strategies you can think of that would be worthwhile to pursue? Changing to another card perhaps, or straight up canceling? It would have already ding’d for 5/24 right?

  20. I would say that the nicest InterContinentals left to redeem your free night in the U.S. or Canada would be the 2 in Toronto…

    I do agree with a prior poster that I wish they would just give you 40,000 points, but I imagine there are still a handful of people that don’t redeem their free night, or use it at hotels costing less than 40,000. Besides they are just following the lead of Marriott and Hyatt with their credit cards containing free nights up to a certain category.

  21. Hmm, unfortunate but it’s still worth the annual fee. I did some searching and was able to find downtown HIX in San Diego and Seattle for 40k points, and of course airport and more average cities will have plenty of properties.

    It’s a shame they didn’t restrict to 50k points though (or provide an option to kick in an extra 10k), as I see a lot of properties at 50k and that still skims off the signature properties.

  22. Wow, I’m also getting in under the deadline by 4 days. I’ve been waiting for it to use for a 70k hotel next Feb so I’m getting super lucky here

  23. @Luis and everyone else who applied last week. I was very close to pulling the trigger on the IHG card, but something told me something bad was going to happen when I read Lucky’s post. Instead, I applied for the SPG Business AMEX with the elevated 35k award. Going to use that up as fast as possible too before something happens with SPG.

    Having said that, maybe they’ll bring it back with the premium card. Even with a $89 or $100 annual fee, the free night certificate would still be worthwhile especially if they pair it was more points per spend.

  24. C’mon. Cant they just raise the annual fee and keep the unlimited free night? I’ll just bet they’re prob gonna do both…womp womp

  25. They should have given a much longer notice (or grandfathered current holders) – otherwise it looks like bait-and-switch for those who got the card this year attracted by the unlimited free night feature.

  26. Hotels feel the squeeze from Airbnb and this is how they compete? IHG used to be a good program as recent as 2 years ago. Now it’s about the same as Hilton in terms of worthlessness. The only good program left is SPG and we already know its days are numbered.

  27. If you connect this change to the other rumour of IHG portfolio refresh (two-tier cards), it’s likely that Chase and IHG are negotiating the terms of a new cobrand deal. From the bank’s perspective, it’s a flat rate for free nights paid upfront, and therefore it’s not in their interest to devalue. It certainly wants its members to maximise the value, and hopefully spend more. However, it is the merchant that decides the rate and may not be happy about $49 for IC properties, or the actual comp IHG needs to offer to properties. $49 is def an old rate if I were to guess

  28. With the speed IHG devalues IHG points, 40k points will only get you a room at the lowest category IHG hotels in a few years…

  29. Its an awful deval – I am a Spire Elite and IC Ambassador. I can meet Spire Elite status based on stays alone, and I never charge the rooms to my IHG credit card, I take the 3x on the CSR.

    40k / night is more of a random Crowne Plaza focused on business vs a nice leisure hotel like an IC or a Kimpton.

    Perhaps a new more expensive card will be released with less restrictions, if I could apply for a nice size bonus plus get an uncapped free night each year, I may listen.

    The only redeeming quality is the 10% rebate on points spent on up to 100,000 points back to you. but not sure that is worth carrying a card for $49/year. Going out of my way to get a free night at a random Crowne Plaza or outdated Holiday Inn is not exciting and barely a benefit.

    I recently got the Hilton Aspire card, and I think I’ll put more effort towards Hilton stays, enjoy the Diamond status, and earn Hilton Points. I got about 400k left in IHG that’ll burn on another vacation and move along.

    Had a good 3-4 year run with IHG but it is time to change. Yearly increases by 10k to their top properties, lowering the value of their rewards card, no free breakfasts for elites, no guaranteed upgrades, etc. I have tried to stand by hoping for improvements, but it is only getting worse.

  30. The rewards night certificate is also not worth 40k points because of the inflexibility of its use (i.e. only for one night regardless of number of points required) and its expiration date.

  31. Been using the free night at ICs for years, Kiev, Prague, Istanbul and Budapest. IC Cancun is only 35000 points and worth it. We always make it a 2 night stay as my wife has it also. Just a little more effort to find a place. 49.00 for a 300 plus Euro room is worth it any day.

  32. Not surprised at all coming from a company that still uses a 4 digit PIN on their accounts and blames the account holder when the accounts are hacked. Getting rid of this card asap. Not worth the hassle in my opinion.

  33. Well, that takes this card off my list of cards I want to acquire. Too bad since I’m under 5/24 and am looking to add a card this month.

  34. Only thing I’ve gotten from Chase is an offer for 7% off MSRP for a Maserati SUV… Nooooo thank you.

  35. In a program that has no breakfast benefit guarantee even for elites
    Discrimination on awards for benefits in many a hotel this is now the final straw
    I will absolutely cancel upon my renewal date
    Their most recent devaluation was another unacceptable money grab
    Message to ihg Done!

  36. “Hotels feel the squeeze from Airbnb and this is how they compete? ”

    Hotels are not feeling the squeeze of airbnb. The last 3 years have been record RevPAR for the industry each year. 90% of Airbnb is Leisure travel vs 25% for broader hotel industry. This is just corporate America in action to grow earnings at the margins.

    I literally just applied for this card last week, quite disappointing. Will almost certainly be cancelling it in 6 months or so now.

  37. @Garrett: Got the same email. LOL!!!! I can guarantee you can get way more than 7% of MSRP if you want to buy that car. Not that I will buy one but the discount is ridiculous.

  38. I just applied for this card as a lot of others specifically for the anniversary night award. Do you think there will be much backlash against IHG/Chase for essentially false advertising about the product? I was very excited about redeeming for Kimpton properties, but at 40k, there’s practically no where to redeem. Hopefully they allow you to stack points on top of the 40k otherwise this card is getting trashed.

  39. Welp, I’ll be canceling as soon as I use my points and free night in NYC. My hubby and I have 2 free nights and 180,000 points between us and we were saving them for Portugal next summer. Oh well…

  40. People, people, people, pay attention!

    I am going to bend over here. You all can form a line to kiss my ass. JUST LIKE TRUMP KISSES PUTIN.

    – ghost of DCS.

  41. @Lucky

    Will the new cards with the higher annual fee also have the same restriction on the free night award? If not, it might make sense to simply upgrade this $49 to the $89 version. While it sucks having to pay the higher annual fee, at least you should still be able to get more value out of the free night certificate if it has no restrictions.

  42. Oh no. I was going to apply for this card this spring.

    Rather than give 40,000 points, you have to stay at a 40,000 point hotel or less. I am not familiar with the program, but that might mean you have to stay in places like Peoria, IL or Columbia, SC or a Holiday Inn Express in suburban Chicago.

  43. This change makes it only marginally better than the Choice Privileges Barclaycard Visa (Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Econolodge, Rodeway Inn). There, they give 32,000 points (average motel costs about 12,000-16,000 for a night, a few up to 25,000).

    However, their yearly reward is only 8,000 points (very cheap motel one night) if you spend $10,000 in a year. That’s big bucks, stingy program.

  44. I get that it was a generous benefit and perhaps not sustainable. Disappointed but not mad that they’re changing it. I still see value in card. But for Chase to change a such a MAJOR benefit of the card, like the main reason most people probably signed up for it without giving a year’s notice is SHADY!!!

  45. I tweeted Chase and IHG about my disappointment in this change and with suggestions on how to make it better. Chase said they submitted a “formal complaint” on my behalf. IHG said my feedback was “properly documented” and shared with the appropriate department. So…while it might not change anything, they do appear to be listening to feedback. Hopefully if we make enough noise about this as a community, things will change.

  46. There are still Intercontinental for 30.000 such as Seoul, Sao Paulo, etc… .So not too bad knowing how the loyalty programs are all shrinking.

  47. 40K=$212 and works for me IF they don’t Devalue before 6/1..Up the price a little and help out ” The Poor ”

    CHEERs

  48. For what it is worth, my wife and I also applied a week or so ago and received our cards today. The letter that came with the card states one of the benefits is an anniversary free night at any IHG hotel worldwide.

  49. Few things…

    1. I wish they would have just raised the annual fee to $99
    2. Did this person email Lucky on April 1? (really hoping for an April Fool’s punchline soon)
    3. If true, can we book a redemption for after May 1 if we do so before May 1?
    4. We have used this two years in a row at the IHG Danang…were really hoping to continue that annual tradition…

    http://www.smartmoneyandtravel.com/hotel-review-intercontinental-sun-peninsula-danang-part-2

  50. It’s funny that if you log out of your IHG account in the app it still shows the offer for the credit card with the unrestricted free night listed as one of the benefits! What will they tell new applicants who apply after seeing the benefit and don’t get what they were shown. I recently got the card 5 weeks ago and now sadly I will probably be canceling it before my annual fee is due.

  51. So did everyone (or anyone) here get that email? Because I sure didn’t, and it’s nowhere to be found on my Chase account…

  52. @ScottG

    I actually got a snailmail letter. I picked up the card last November for the 100k points.

  53. Lots of bloggers were pimping this card. Seems like now they looked pretty stupid although they are too busy counting there referral money to care. And no I was one that signed up for this.

  54. I have heard they are planning on increasing the annual fee as well! In that case, I will cancel the card if they don’t have a no annual fee card to downgrade to.

    The IHG card is on its path to become another worthless Club Carlson/Radisson card. I am sorry for the IHG top managers for making such a poor decision.

  55. Ouch indeed! I am just about to post an article where I have assessed my Chase card portfolio. I will still keep the card given this new information but the restriction is very disappointing. The three hotels I have used my certificate (or will use this summer) are on the not-accepted list. However, I am confused about one of them. I understand that we can use the cert UP TO AND INCLUDING 40K. The hotel in London I will use this year’s cert cost me 40K points for my second night. Not sure I follow why it is on the not-accepted list in your other post.

  56. @Rob is correct — the reason we’re seeing devaluations like this is because the hotel industry’s doing rather well and there’s no need to offer discounts to fill the rooms. I’m not sure what other people are seeing, but I’m seeing noticeable increases in domestic hotels & airfare this year over this time last year.

    When the economy tanks and people stop traveling, that’s when you’ll see the great airline & hotel deals. Just look at all the great deals we had 10 years ago when this “hobby” was truly lucrative. You even still got 2 free checked bags with each flight!

  57. Seems fair – the existing one was way way too generous. By comparison £10k annual spend needed in the UK for free night voucher, plus £99 fee!

  58. Any chance you think this letter is backtracked or advise ways to express cardholder frustration through a more productive medium?

  59. I don’t see how they can change the terms, even on the first year’s certificate. Yes, I’m sure in the terms it says they can change whatever they want. But there should be some accountability or companies could constantly be luring you in and changing the terms before you even get any of the benefit you signed up for.

  60. My anniversary night is May 2. Rotten luck! We use it every year, sometimes at the Barclay Intercontinental Hotel on 6th Avenue in NYC. I love that hotel, especially since they renovated it.
    I asked IHG if this is for current Chase cardholders only. They replied, yes, that it only affects people who are already in the program. I asked if I did not have a Chase card and got one now, would I be getting a free anniversary night? Correct! So I can only surmise that loyalty doesn’t really matter to Chase. Not at all surprised. I’m looking for a new hotel credit card. Possibly Marriott? As long as it’s not a Chase card.

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