IHG Devalues Credit Card Anniversary Free Night

Reader Ryan C. sends me a letter than he received about his IHG Rewards Club credit card.

This $49 card has come with an anniversary free night every year that’s good at any IHG hotel. For new certificates issued May 1 onward these certificates will only be good for hotels that normally cost 40,000 points per night or less.

That’s the end of redeeming these nights at top end Intercontinental hotels in places like New York, Paris, and resort destinations such as Bora Bora.

They’re still nice, and indeed other credit cards offering annual free night perks do cap the categories of those nights. So this isn’t surprising. For more than 15 years I’ve been writing that perks offering outsized value relative to competitors will tend to regress towards the mean. That’s happening here.

However I’m more than a little chagrined that apparently even some 40,000 point per night hotels are excluded with these certificates which just feels like adding insult to injury. Here’s the list of excluded properties most because they normally cost more than 40,000 points, but not all do. The Intercontinental Kansas City, really?

We’ll have new full details, it seems, regarding additional cardmember options soon.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It was nice while it lasted.

    Went from TGTBT to TGTL (too good to be true to too good to last).

  2. Card is toast Cancel !
    It’s a crap card for the most part
    Elite members can depend on no benefits at ihg ic properties
    Ex Hong Kong Sydney
    And now you can get a free night at a Hoilday inn
    It’s a no go

  3. How about the IC Milwaukee that can be booked for $125/night or the Bali IC that has been low as $99/night? The only reason we got this card was for this benefit. I signed up last summer and now they change the program? We’ll take a free night worth more than $49 and then cancel the card!

  4. The letter talks about “issue after May 1”. What about those on May 1?

    Too good to stay true, I agree

  5. This is some pretty insulting stuff. The big list of Holiday Inn Express hotels exemplifies this. Well, there goes the main reason to keep the card.

  6. I use them for TG night in San Francisco. There is only one HI property in the city that is 40k now. By next year I’m sure it will inflate to 50k so who wants a free night in Bakersfield or Fresno or South nose pick?

  7. I wonder if you could use a free night plus 10K points to stay at a 50K property.

  8. All these people complaining and saying it’s a shit card now are hilarious. Is it as good as before? Of course not. But many people will still get a good value from it and you’re insane if you expected it to last anyway.

  9. So basically it’s now a Radisson card with less flexible anniversary points.sad.

  10. Actually, since IHG doesn’t recognize status on award stays, it’s below Radisson’s card (although hotels at high end are much better).

  11. @Mwwalk

    People applied for this card with a specific benefit presented. Now Chase changes the benefit for people who have the card now, after the fact. Change the benefit going forward for new applicants! That is is the honest thing to do. Will I keep the card, probably not. The main incentive is gone.But I should have been given the chance to have at least ONE anywhere free night. The whole thing is a bait and switch!

    Just wait for the Starwood changes! That will really be hilarious!

  12. @barry lipton — IHG terms do not obligate hotels to provide benefits on awards, but in practice, many hotels still do.

  13. Haha goodbye! I’m staying at the IC in Milwaukee as I write this and it’s a dump! Browne in Detroit last night wass better. Back to Marriott I guess.

  14. Completely serious, I’d much rather take the 40k in points please. I still want to redeem at 50k properties on average and I’m fine putting up the extra points. 40k will work, please let that be an option over the hard cap which will make it useless for me.

  15. Doesn’t JohnB have a point? I thought there were rules requiring banks to keep same terms intact for 1 year from card sign up.

    Wouldnt this violate the rule?

  16. @DaninMCI the Radisson actually seems way better now lol.
    When I saw the list of Holiday Inn EXPRESS’ that are excluded I legit laughed out loud.

  17. What a shame, no longer the best hotel CC but at $49 for a cheap night will probably survive the next cull.

  18. 40,000 point hotels excluded from cert includes holiday inns including the oceanfront Miami Beach Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn – Virginia Beach – north . So cert not even good at any 40,000. Hotels. Terrible

  19. @PJ, I’m not a lawyer, but I think JohnB probably didn’t didn’t pay any annual fee, so they could just cancel his card if he doesn’t want it anymore.

    Actually to me, the changes suggest a possible new strategy, depending on how things develop with the card offerings. I’m one of many who have simply held onto this card year after year for the free night. Now, since the anniversary bonus is effectively 40,000 points, it may make sense to cancel the card, with a view to reapplying later for an enrollment bonus higher than that (I’ve seen up to 80k). The IHG card is not subject to 5/24 application restrictions, and for me at least, getting down to 5/24 isn’t going to happen anytime soon anyway.

  20. Hmm, I got this card in July last year and my wife got it in Sept both with 100K bonuses. This is foul. We never even got our ONE unrestricted free night. They should, at the very least, honor the ONE night. I will probably cancel this card out of spite but I await 2 things. One, I await this letter. Two, the family is headed to Holiday Inn Montego Bay where I got 4th night free with Citi Prestige and used both our bonuses for the other 4 nights (so 8 nights).
    Adding to the insult, this is less than one month away. I haven’t even got the letter yet. Imagine if my free night cert was just shy of May 1.
    If they honor at least the ONE night we each signed up for, I’m cool with that.

  21. @JohnB: This is the first time I’ve seen Chase devalue a benefit for existing cardholders with inadequate notice. They must believe that this particular benefit is too minor to warrant more notice. They are wrong. Maintaining the trust of your customers is always important, on matters large and small.

    I’ve never had this card, but I’m now on notice that, for example, Sapphire Reserve benefits could change very quickly.

  22. It’s not the legal issue that really matters here. It’s that these companies spend so much money and work so hard to create that false sense of “urgency” to sign up for their products, and a dick move like this just screams not to rush into anything because they will probably just rescind anyway. So they are actively shooting themselves in the foot. There are entire companies you can hire to create FOMO (Fear of missing out) in order to get people to commit to a purchase/trial/sign up whatever it is your business is trying to maximize.

  23. I tend to use this benefit for overnights at airports before early flights. An example is the Crowne Plaza at the Madrid airport in a few weeks. I think I used it in Singapore, now off the list, and others who are not on the list that I recall.

    This is a minor annoyance, not a life-changing trauma. Adapt and move on, folks.

  24. Got my letter yesterday. Was wondering how long it would remain such a good deal. But my Hyatt and Marriott cards are also capped, and I keep them, due to their free nights being worth well more than the annual fees.

    I will certainly be using my April anniversary free night at the InterContinental in Austin before it is devalued.

    Wonder what the “exciting offer to upgrade” to the new IHG Premier card is all about. A fee hike, I predict.

  25. Will be dropping this card later this year. The free night (and no international currency exchange fees) was the only real value for the annual fee. And the winner is … the Richer-than-Rich Croesus cadre.

  26. Mommy Points and readers there have noticed that the list IHG has published of excluded hotels actually includes some where the points price _is_ 40K. So it’s not up to and including 40k, it’s “if it’s 40k, maybe.”

  27. I don’t know why everyone hates on IHG so much. I have had great success in getting upgraded rooms both domestically and internationally. Some were reward nights, others were cash. I have probably received a room upgrade more often than not. My platinum status, which I only have because of the credit card, has always been honored and appreciated. I am using my free night this year at the IC in Athens, Greece which I believe is normally 35,000 points. There are still plenty of good hotels where the certificate can be used.

  28. Let us keep in mind that the banksters are going out of their way to screw us time after time after time in a period of RECORD PROFITS and receiving RECORD WELFARE on our (taxpayers’) backs. To say nothing of their crimes after crimes after crimes.

    Is most of your short-term money and most of your loans with credit unions? Are most of your equity/bond investments with Vanguard?

  29. Like @busy, I just got this card last summer so will not receive even one uncapped anniversary night as promised. Bait and switch.
    To add insult, I read on FlyerTalk that IHG will “grandfather in” cards issued in the first few months of this year to give them one uncapped anniversary night. Why should they get the uncapped night but not those who got the card last year? To lure people to your product and then not give them the opportunity to use a major benefit even once before taking it away is deceitful. Can’t help but think less of IHG — there are a lot of hotels and credit cards in this world. Will be cancelling mine unless they give me at least one uncapped night when my anniversary comes.

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