The portfolio of co-branded Chase & IHG Rewards cards has just been refreshed. Not only have we seen improvements to the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card (review), but we’ve also seen the launch of the new IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card (review).
Both of these cards offer the opportunity to earn free night certificates, which are more valuable than ever before. I’d argue that both of these cards are worth having exclusively for the free night certificates, as they (at least to me) more than justify the $99 annual fee on these cards.
In this post I wanted to take a close look at everything you need to know about earning and redeeming IHG Rewards free night certificates.
How do you earn IHG free night awards?
Both the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card and IHG Rewards Premier Business Credit Card offer the opportunity to earn free night certificates:
- The IHG Premier Card offers a free night certificate on your account anniversary every year
- The IHG Premier Business Card offers a free night certificate on your account anniversary every year, plus the opportunity to earn a second free night certificate when you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year
When do IHG credit card free night awards post?
Both the IHG Premier Card and IHG Premier Business Card offer anniversary free night certificates, meaning you get your first certificate roughly 12 months after you open your card (you don’t get a certificate the first year, since most people don’t celebrate their zero year anniversary). 😉
You can expect the free night certificate to post automatically, and it will be available for redemption in your account online. The fact that the certificate is issued on the account anniversary is all the more reason to get the card ASAP, so you’re closer to earning your first certificate.
How long are IHG credit card anniversary free nights valid?
IHG credit card free night certificates are generally valid for 12 months from the date of issue. You not only have to book by the expiration date, but you have to also stay by the expiration date as well. This means that if you’re issued the certificate on June 1, 2022, you have to book and stay by June 1, 2023.
During the pandemic we saw some extensions to these expiration dates, but I wouldn’t expect those going forward.
At what hotels can you redeem IHG credit card free night awards?
Here’s something that has been greatly improved about free night certificates issued with the IHG Premier Card and IHG Premier Business Card. While the certificates are valid at properties costing up to 40,000 points per night, the great news is that you can now supplement free night certificates with points in order to redeem at more expensive properties.
In other words, you could now book a hotel costing 50,000 IHG Rewards points by redeeming one free night certificate plus 10,000 IHG Rewards points. This makes it much easier to get full value out of the certificate. This is some incredible flexibility to have, and makes these certificates so much more valuable.
Note that a vast majority of IHG properties are bookable for 40,000 points per night or less, though admittedly many of the luxury properties around the globe cost more. So it’s now much easier to redeem for stays at those properties.
Even with the 40,000 point per night cap and without a supplement, I’ve been able to redeem at some fantastic hotels, ranging from the InterContinental Beirut, to the InterContinental Ljubljana, to the InterContinental Johannesburg, to the Kimpton Miami. All of these properties would have cost $200-350 per night if paying cash.
Are there blackout dates for IHG free night awards?
IHG credit card anniversary free night certificates come from the same inventory as points stays, so if you can redeem points for a stay, you can also redeem this certificate.
IHG Rewards advertises “no blackout dates,” though this is different than the “no blackout dates” policies from Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt. Let me explain:
- With Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt you can redeem points for a stay as long as a standard room is available for sale
- Meanwhile with IHG Rewards, the program allocates a certain amount of inventory to points bookings, so there will be some availability every night, but not every standard room is available using points or free night certificates
If planning in advance this shouldn’t be an issue, with very few exceptions.
How do you redeem IHG free night certificates?
On the account anniversary of the IHG Premier Card and IHG Premier Business Card, the free night certificate will automatically be deposited in your IHG Rewards account.
To access these certificates, log into your IHG Rewards account, and navigate to your account management page. Then on the left side you’ll see a section that shows your points balance, as well as your free night certificates, if there are any.
If you click on the section that shows your free night certificates, you’ll be brought to a page all about your free night certificates, which also shows the expiration date. Here there’s also a link to click in order to complete your booking.
You’ll then be brought to the main IHG booking page, where you’ll see the free night certificate listed as one of the rate preferences.
Once you enter a destination you’ll see all the options for redeeming your certificate. First you’ll see all the properties displayed where you can redeem a free night certificate without using any extra points.
Then if you scroll you should also see the options where you can redeem a free night certificate with a points co-pay. For example, for the date I selected you could book the InterContinental London Park Lane using the free night certificate plus 22,400 points.
The final confirmation page will show the cancelation policy for the booking, which should be identical to what it would be if you were outright redeeming points. This is typically going to be a pretty flexible policy, but varies by property.
Can you earn more than one IHG free night award per year?
It’s absolutely possible to earn more than one IHG free night award per year. Between the IHG Premier Card and IHG Premier Business Card, you could earn up to three free night awards per year (with the latter card offering a second annual free night award with spending).
If you’re looking to book a longer stay but don’t have enough free night certificates, you can always supplement a free night award by redeeming points for another night. And if you don’t have many IHG points, note that IHG Rewards often sells points at a discount, which can represent a great deal.
Can you redeem IHG free night awards for others?
The free night certificates issued with the IHG Premier Card and IHG Premier Business Card have to be used for a reservation in the name of the primary cardmember. Some have had luck making a reservation for two guests, then adding the second guest’s name, and then having them check in, but that’s not a published policy.
Do you have to pay taxes & fees when redeeming free night awards?
When redeeming a free night certificate you generally don’t have to pay any percentage-based taxes or service charges, since for those purposes the rate is zero. That being said, if there’s a fixed per-night tax or tourism fee, or if there’s a resort or destination fee at the property, you are on the hook for that.
Are IHG cards worth getting for free night awards?
The IHG Premier Card and IHG Premier Business Card both offer a variety of valuable perks, which in my opinion more than justify the annual fee. But I’ll take it a step further — with each card I think the free night certificate alone more than justifies the $99 annual fee.
I’ve consistently been able to redeem these at properties costing well over $200 per night, and that’s not even accounting for the fact that these are more flexible than ever before, and you can now use points to supplement these certificates, and redeem at properties costing over 40,000 points per night.
I don’t go out of my way to stay at IHG properties to redeem these certificates, but rather I just stay at them when the IHG property is the best option, which is often the case, given the group’s footprint.
There are lots of great perks to the IHG Premier Card and IHG Premier Business Card. However, I’d argue the single best perk is the anniversary free night certificate offered with each card. This is a better opportunity than ever before, given that you can now use points to supplement these, to redeem at properties costing more than 40,000 points per night.
If you travel with any frequency, then having both the personal and business version of the IHG Premier Card should be a no-brainer.
What do you make of the value of IHG’s new and improved free night awards?
I also got the new IHG card which promises free nights awards at 40k you can top off. However, the "New Credit Card Reward Night" does not seem to have this characteristic. I note another person with a similar issue. This seems incredibly misleading. Anyone have any success getting any exceptions?
I tried to use my Chase free night award in San Francisco. 100% of the hotels showed no availability for the free night award. Most of them had availability using points. Then I tried in Chicago. Same result. I think that there is a systems issue that is preventing award holders from booking a room.
Just tried to use my Chase free night from my IHG Rewards Club card. The only rate search option is “New credit card reward night”. Can’t use at many Intercontinental hotels and no option to top up. Disappointing.
The new flexible award is a positive, but I wanted to note a couple of issues I have had using these awards.
Several IHG properties have 2 or 3 night minimums. You CANNOT combine a certificate with a point or cash stay for these hotels which greatly limits their usability.
I understand that when booking award stays you will get a 4th night free. Can your award certificate be one of these three nights you actually "pay for", or do these have to be booked in points only?
"Both of these cards offer the opportunity to earn free night certificates, which are more valuable than ever before" huh? Didn't we used to be able to use them at any IHG property? I know I was able to get free nights at the Intercontinental NYC, the Venetian in Vegas, and a few other similar properties before they capped them. These new changes are great but let's not act like they were still hugely devalued in the past...
Let's not act like they were not hugely devalued in the past**
Please update to address how to book for a property costing more than 40k using points. This is now live, but I don’t see the ability to do so via the app. Do I have to call?
@ Hepworth -- The post does reflect how to top-off with points. Hmmm, strange it's not showing for you. Out of curiosity, do you have the IHG Select Card (no longer open to new cardmembers) or the IHG Premier Card? There are some reports that the former isn't allowing awards to be topped off with points, so curious if that's what's going on.
This isn't working for my free night from the recent sign up bonus. For properties over 40k, it just shows cash prices, sadly.
Yep, Same here. It seems as if it's from a SUB, then you can't top it off. Big Sad.
My free night from the sign up bonus is only allowing me to book rooms for 20,000 points or less ☹️
Never mind. I was looking at points + cash.
To add a data point here, I have both the IHG Premier Card and grandfathered IHG Select Card, and reward nights for both. I was just able to book a night with the Premier Anniversary Night + Points, but that option wasn't available at the same hotel the next night when I tried to use my Select Anniversary Night + Points (I booked that next night with just points). So, maybe those Select Card Anniversary Reward Nights aren't getting this same flexibility.
This is what I see as well.
I have the IHG Premier
I do see two different rate preferences, the "IHG Rewards Premier Card Annual Flex Night" and the "Select IHG Rewards Credit Card Anniversary Night". There is definitely a distinction between the rewards certificates. Only the first from the Premier card can be topped off.