The New IHG Free Night Promo Is the Most Generous and Game-able We’ve Seen in Five Years. Here’s How to Play It.

IHG Rewards Free Night Promo: Here’s how it works and why you’ll want to play

Earlier in the week I wrote that IHG Rewards – the loyalty program for Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and related brands – would be bringing back their fun, complicated, and rewarding “Big Win” promotion for the fall under a new name.

IHG’s Into the Nights Promotion turns out to be easier and more rewarding than past versions. Registration is required and the promotion period runs through the end of the year.

Different members get different offers. Generally unengaged, irregular guests with the chain get easy offers and regular guests get tougher offers. (Members opening a new account seem to get the easiest offers.)

I haven’t been an IHG regular in quite some time so here’s what I received:

Bottom-line: If I download and use the IHG app to make at least one of my reservations, and book 3 nights over two stays — each of which includes a Saturday night — at Holiday Inn properties then I will earn my choice of:

  • 60,500 points, or
  • 2 free nights at any IHG participating properties and 10,500 points.

In general I value points more than free nights, since the former won’t expire. But the free nights offer here is super generous. Three paid inexpensive nights generating 2 free nights at any hotel plus bonus points on top of the normal points earned is probably the third most generous hotel promotion I’ve ever seen.

IHG confirmed for me that these free nights work just list their co-brand credit card’s annual free night: usable at any participating IHG property (as long as reward nights are available) and expire after 12 months.

Beating this would only be —

  • Hyatt’s Faster Free Nights (two stays earned a free night at any Hyatt in the world when paying by MasterCard) back when Priceline stays counted and even the free nights themselves counted, as long as something was charged to the room – like a single phone call. But that was a decade ago…
  • Hyatt’s ‘Next Big Thing’ where every two stays at a cheap Hyatt earned a free night at any Hyatt plus 13,500 United miles and other bonuses plus double elite night credit stacked. (There may even have been a cheap airport hotel I knew of which credited phantom stays..) But that was five years ago…

It seems like everyone in the family could sign up for this promotion, whether they have existing non-frequent IHG stay accounts or need to open an account for the first time. Then find a couple of cheap Holiday Inns to check into on Saturday nights.

Spending say $300 should earn back points worth at least a third of that amount plus earn 2 nights at any Intercontinental. Do that for all members of the family and you potentially have pre-paid luxury Intercontinental nights (that will expire if unused) in expensive destinations at a cost of ~ $100 per night.

Last summer I wrote that this promotion bucks real industry trends by embracing gamification.

I expected this promotion to be good for folks already staying at IHG Rewards properties, and certainly not to make ‘mattress runs’ make any sense. But for many members the promotion turns out to be better than that. It’s certainly worth directing incremental stays to the program, if you receive a good enough offer. And it may even be worth booking hotel nights you do not even need and will not use, depending on your situation, how much you’ll value those free nights.

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, 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. I don’t see how you are getting anywhere close to 60,500 points based on what is shown here. It that a typo?

  2. You say 2 free nights at any hotel, but it clearly states “at any IHG participating properties”. Do we know which those properties are?

  3. @Mark
    If you complete that list of items you will get 10,500 PLUS either the 2 free nights or 50,000 points bonus.

  4. @Gary — “It seems like everyone in the family could sign up for this promotion, whether they have existing non-frequent IHG stay accounts or need to open an account for the first time. Then find a couple of cheap Holiday Inns to check into on Saturday nights.”

    Each person’s offer is different, so I don’t think you can say that everyone can sign up for THIS promotion. Sadly, my offer sucks — 21 nights, 7 different ICs, blah, blah….not gonna happen.

  5. How, with generally lower awards and similar qualification requirements, are you seeing this as the “most generous and game-able” in five years? The points earning potential on the Big Win the prior two times around were much higher in many cases and just as game-able in combining one stay across multiple qualifying actions (e.g. book via app, Saturday night, specific brand).

    So, what’s really different this time around??

  6. Strange, on both mine and my wife’s accounts, under “My Offers”, we both see 2 items that say:

    “25,000 Points or 1 Free Night(s)
    Complete 1 offer and earn 25,000 bonus points or 1 free night(s)”

    And over to the right they each say

    “0 of 1 offers complete”

    Okay, makes sense. Then right under that it says

    “Unlock bonus offers
    for the opportunity to earn additional rewards”

    But I don’t see anything else – so no ‘offers’, but I have 2 entries that say complete an offer for 25k points or 1 night….am I missing something? Or just out of luck that we didn’t get any offers?

  7. Gary: are you understanding this to mean, for the Holiday Inn stay(s), to exclude HI Express as far as the hotel-specific bonus?

  8. So how and when do I choose 2 free nights over 50,000 points? I would hate the be credited the points instead by accident…

  9. Looking at the terms and hypothetically using Gary’s offer list, would it be possible to just:

    1) Book 2 reservations, both for one Saturday night
    2) Book 1 reservation, any day of the week

    I don’t see that it mentions the reservations have to be consecutive days…is that accurate?

  10. Gary, do you know if this promo is only good for reservations made after the announcement date?
    I have a six (6) night stay already booked at a Crown Plaza in Louisville, Ky for later in September. Do you know if that will qualify? I am IHG Platinum

  11. My offer reads:

    “Complete 4 of 5 offers and earn 28,300 bonus points or 2 free nights”, for a total of 50K points.

    But I think the “2 free nights” means enough points for 2 nights at a low level property, not 2 free nights anywhere. Because the offer I see reads:

    “at least two free nights or 50,000 points”

    It doesn’t say 2 free nights anywhere, it seems to mean you can get 2 free nights for 25K points per night at many low level properties. The top end ICs require 45k to 50K points per night. I hope your interpretation is correct, but it doesn’t seem to read that way in my offer at least.

  12. Gary – I don’t know if you saw my post about this this morning, but one reading of the terms and conditions suggests you can get 50,000 AIRLINE MILES. That would certainly be worth more than 50,000 IHG points, though potentially not as valuable as 2 free nights, depending on where you took them.

  13. @Robert Hanson: Good point…I don’t see that the 2 nights are good for any hotel! My hunch says you can potentially redeem up to 2 nights, given the different tiers to redeem those points

  14. @Robert In my offer at least, it doesn’t matter which type of property you stay at:

    “Stay 2 Saturdays at any of our IHG hotel brands”

  15. @Points with a Crew — Good catch; however, you earn 25k miles or 50k IHG points. IMO, the miles are more valuable.

  16. Contrary to your experience. My new promo was worse than either Big Win (the last Big Win wasn’t worth completing).

    For 50K points I need 20 nights, 18 with breakfast package, and three Saturdays.

    Not much hope for gaming that.

  17. When I signed up for a new IHG account, my offers are blank
    It says complete one offer per free night but it has no actual offers

  18. Opps One of my nights must include a “bonus points package with breakfast”. At my local HIE I find a non-refundable rate of $99. But when I specify a “bonus points package”, the rate jumps to $160. So 2 Sat nights, one non-ref, one bonus points, with tax will total $285. Probably cheaper than the $ cost for a European or Asian IC that runs 50K points a night. But I wouldn’t normally book a $400 room for cash, so I’m not this is really a deal.

  19. I don’t see anything in your offer about the free nights or 60,500 points after 3 nights with 2 stays. All I see is the 10,500 points if you add up all the little points categories

  20. My wife’s offer is the same as Jay’s:

    “25,000 Points or 1 Free Night(s)

    Complete 1 more offers and earn another 25,000 bonus points or 1 free night”

    So potentially 50K points for completing both of the two offers. But no mention of what those offers are, and no obvious way to find out. What the (heck)?

  21. Same with me as Robert’s wife and Jay’s.

    25k for completing a secret offer that they don’t reveal to us.

  22. @ Beachfan Maybe that’s the game. In order to get the bonus points, you first have to figure out on your own what the offer is. If you guess correctly, you get the points; if you guess wrong, you don’t. I’m willing to bet IHG will win that game, but probably only 100% of the time.

  23. @Jennifer True, I did have to sign her up for email offers, so that may be it. Maybe she will now get an offer sent to her. But I’m already signed up, and I haven’t gotten anything sent to me about this promotion.


    I registered this morning, and I just got this response:

    “This email has been sent to confirm that you have been successfully registered for the promotion outlined below.

    Member: Robert Hanson

    Member Number: xxxxxxxxx

    Promotion: Into the Nights”

    IHG is so royally screwed up. Just saying “into the nights” is not “outlining” the offer. If I don’t get what I expect to get, I can’t use this email to back the offer up, as it doesn’t in any way say what in fact I am supposedly registered for…

  24. Gary: How confident are you that you can choose 2 free night anywhere certificates rather than the bonus points?

    When I looked at my offer and selected the Nights tab of the Earnings section it showed my bonus points (20 something K) and then “Potential Nights” as 2. It sure looked as if they were suggesting that my points had the potential to get me that many nights, not that I was getting free night certificates of any kind.

  25. Those of you complaining about not getting a great offer, why not just open a new account? IHG doesn’t commit to honoring elite benefits on award nights anyway.

  26. Gary – any chance you can use your leverage to get some answers as to why there are no offers populating in many peoples accounts? I’m one of them, by the way.

  27. @Wandering Aramean it’s the two free nights option, not the points option, that provides the leverage here.

    @Gene what @Jeremy Jordan said

    @robert Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express are different brands

    @Jana miller – as long as they are points-earning rates booked through an IHG channel they should be qualifying

    @Points With a Crew – that wasn’t my read

  28. @Gary @Jereny Jordan — There is a chance that your new (and maybe your old) account will be closed if you do this. And, there is a huge uptick in benefits on award stays these days, especially in Europe. For example, I just stayed in the Penthouse Suite with free minbar at IC Amsterdam last week on a points stay. I also hear that IC Paris Le Grand is again granting free club access to RAs on award stays.

  29. Glad you got a good offer, Gary, but the article title is pretty misleading. It’s only generous if they’ve given you a good set of offers, some of us have been given rubbish ones that we don’t have a hope of achieving (and I’ve only had one run of 3 IHG nights on a redemption in the whole of this year!) – I was hoping the article had some great insight (“here’s how to play it”) but it doesn’t appear so.

    Zero nights from me to IHG for this one, I’ll stick with Hilton’s bonus points offers, it’s not that generous but at least I’ll get something extra for my stays!

  30. @TJ –

    re-read the thread – that’s what quite a few of us are seeing. Not sure if it’s a glitch or if we’re just SOL 🙂

  31. I’m super stoked for this. I’ve got a whole bunch of hotel stays coming up that I’m not wedded to, and I’m going to shift it all to IHG (which is great for them) and pick up some sweet sweet rewards (which is great for me)

  32. I’ve heard people called and were told the free nights are good anywhere, and are good for one year, but I for one would like to see this in writing, via the T&C of the promo.

  33. My offer doesn’t suck as much as my last Big Win offer, but I’m not going to do it unless my work puts me in HI for 5 nights (one of my requirements). Not worth it to spend my own money for 50K IHG points (my offer).

  34. Hmm. 50K or 37.5K+2nts. Definitely going for 2 nights. But don’t like the options

    Take the survey
    Book once via the app
    5 nights anywhere
    2 Saturdays anywhere
    2 IC Resorts. Terms do not say two “different’ IC’s. Does say alliance properties count, so I could do relatively cheap Venetian/Palazzo mid-week stays if I hurry while it’s still hot in Vegas. Hmm.

    It’s the IC thing that bugs me. Wish I’d gotten Holiday Inn option, there are still dirt cheap summer rates abound in Phoenix for a few more weeks.

  35. Have you found terms and conditions for these? Such as, can you redeem the certificates for someone else (so if my dad were to do this but couldn’t use up the free nights in time, could he use them to book hotel nights for me?), or must the hotel night stay be completed before the expiration date, or only used? For that matter, when are the certificates issued? Shortly after you complete the terms, or shortly after the promotion ends? I’m fairly surprised I could not find any terms and conditions specifying pretty basic details like this.

  36. Something worth some cases, not all offers/tasks need to be completed in order to obtain the two free nights. In my case, I need to complete 3 of 4 offers to get the bonus and 2 nights.

  37. Terms and conditions?

    There isn’t even a clear description of the offer on the IHG website. And the email IHG sends you when you register doesn’t say what you are registered for. It just says that “you are now registered”.

    But registered for what? Is it 2 free nights anywhere, or enough points for 2 free nights somewhere? Why are we expected to jump thru these strangely varying hoops now, and find out what we get for it later?

    Gary has an email. Ok, but what does it say? And if/when IHG doesn’t fulfill what it says, assuming it’s not as vague as the description on the website, what do we do? Email IHG and say: a blogger said he got an email from you that promised “something”?

    I’m getting fed up with these “take a chance” offers. First AMEX with “if we identify you as having an American Express card” (how can they NOT identify you, since the app requires your SS#, home address and phone number?) “you may not qualify for the bonus”.

    What, sign up now, get a hard pull, put spend on the card, and find out later if you are going to get a bonus or not? Now IHG is getting in on the “take a chance” game. But this doesn’t just involve a app, this involves some serious spending to qualify for an unclear result.

    I’m doing a one person boycott. Any “take a chance” offer that requires money, significant effort, or a hard pull, is going to be ignored.

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