I hope this post does not scare anyone off; it’s complicated and may make your brain hurt. This post is meant to give an example of how my mind thinks while trying to maximize loyalty programs and credit card benefits for huge savings. Before I jump in, let me lighten the mood with this amazing piece of entertainment.
IHG Accelerate Promotion: How it Started
So how did we end up chillin’ at the Holiday Inn? It started when IHG came out with a new promotion called Accelerate. They’ve had many similar promotions in the past. Each IHG member is targeted with a different set of offers. Sometimes it is worthwhile to go for the promotion and sometimes it is not. I was a little on the fence about mine, but eventually decided to go for it.
Each line in the screenshot above is a separate offer. Once you complete an offer, you receive the point value for that specific offer. Then there is as achievement bonus that you’re awarded if you complete a certain amount of your offers (my achievement bonus says “Complete 3 of the 4 offers,” but I only have 3 offers, so this is a typo and should say “Complete 3 of the 3 offers”). In addition to the offers in the screenshot, I also had a bonus offer to get 5,000 points if I completed a stay in September (which we did with the Holiday Inn). If I completed the promotion (and had a stay in September), it would net me 45,000 IHG points, which is a decent chunk of points.
How to Complete my Promotion
Looking at my requirements, I noticed there were two ways I could complete them.
- I could book 5 nights and use my IHG card to complete the whole offer in 1 booking.
- I could have multiple bookings adding up to 5 nights, paying for at least 1 of them with my IHG credit card.
I opted for the second choice, as I have a credit card that would allow me to save some money while completing this offer. I decided to do this with 2 bookings: a 4 night stay with my Citi Prestige card and a 1 night stay with my IHG card. Here’s why.
Citi Prestige 4th Night Free
The Citi Prestige credit card has a great benefit for hotel stays of 4 nights or more. If you book your hotel stay through Citi, they will reimburse the cost of the 4th night. This basically means: buy 3, get 1 free. We normally book cheap hotels that Citi does not have access to, but in the case of IHG, Citi should have access to all of their hotels. I saw that the Holiday Inn Chiang Mai was super cheap (for a chain hotel) for the dates we wanted. We could book 4 nights for $158.54. Since the hotel rate for every one of those nights was the same, if I booked through Citi, they would reimburse 1/4 of that cost. That brought the cost down to $118.90 for 4 nights!
The Booking Process
The booking with Citi was painless and took about 20 minutes to complete.. I called the number on the back of my Citi Prestige card and said I would like to take advantage of the 4th night free benefit. The agent transferred me to the correct department to help me. I gave the next agent the hotel I wanted and our dates. She asked if I was an IHG rewards member, as the rate would be cheaper. The cheaper rate was the one I had researched and was expecting. I told her I was and gave her my IHG number. Citi cannot log into your IHG account and book the room, so when there is a cheaper rate for members, they must call the hotel to book directly. The agent put me on hold so she could call IHG and book the room. A few minutes later, she said we were all booked.
Boom… I had 4 out of the 5 nights I needed to complete the IHG promotion.
What about that 5th night?
To complete the promotion, I still need another night. I am not 100% sure what we will do, but I believe we will splurge on a room at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. We get to Singapore late at night from Bali and have a flight the next day to Japan. That next night, we will be spending in the Osaka airport without a hotel room before our flight to Micronesia.
I want to maximize our sleeping/resting time before our few grueling days of travel. This hotel is the only one connected directly to the Singapore airport. We would not need to deal with cabs (and the cost of them) and could be to our hotel quickly after landing in Singapore. There are definitely cheaper places we could book to complete this promotion, but this place looks like it will be best for us.
What’s 45,000 IHG points worth anyways?
It completely depends. If we wanted to buy 45,000 points outright, it would cost $270 using the always available IHG cash and points trick. If we stay at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, that is about what we will pay for both our 4 nights at the Holiday in Chiang Mai and the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport combined. The advantage is that we also got 5 nights at nice hotels for the same price!
Unless it is a super great deal, I will not buy points. I would not pay $270 for 45,000 points, so I like to look at the value of points differently. Before jumping into this promotion, I had about 15,000 IHG points, so afterwards I’ll have about 60,000 points. One idea I have is to use these points for 2 nights at the Intercontinental Mauritius, which goes for 30,000 points a night. If I look at how much it would cost in cash to book these nights it would cost about $520 for 2 nights. Since the Accelerate promotion would get me 3/4 of the points needed for this award… $520 x 3/4 = $390. So are these points really worth $390 instead of $270?
But then it gets even more complicated. I have the IHG credit card from Chase and one of the benefits it provides is giving 10% of my points back when I make a reward booking after I complete my stay. If I take that $390 and add 10%, I get $429 ($390 x 1.1 = $439). So now is the value of these points I get really $429?
There is no steadfast way to value points. Their value fluctuates depending on how you use them. I am confident that I will be able to use these points in a way that gives us enough value to make completing this promotion worthwhile.
You always need to be aware of both promotions that are going on for the loyalty programs you take part in (which should be almost all of them) and the benefits you get from your credit cards. Knowing these things can save you some serious money in the long term. For example, many airline credit cards offer free checked bags when you fly. Premium credit cards sometimes give you free lounge access, elite status, and some will even reimburse you for expenses if your flight is delayed or cancelled.
There is free money sitting everywhere in the miles and points game. You just need to have the knowledge to take it.
I hope this post gives you some insight on how I am constantly looking for ways to game the system and get value out of loyalty programs and credit cards.
Let me know if there is anything that didn’t make sense or if you would like for me to go into more detail about anything I mentioned.