Credit Cards IHG Rewards

IHG Rewards Credit Card Free Night Devalued: Is it Worth Keeping?

Unfortunately, this is not a late, pathetic attempt at an April Fool’s joke. Yesterday, Chase announced it would devalue the IHG Rewards Credit Card’s annual free night benefit. Starting May 1, the annual free night can only be redeemed at hotels that require 40,000 points per night or less. In other words, it’s only good at Category 1 – 7 properties. Plus, additional exceptions. The IHG Rewards Credit Card’s free night benefit has always been a little too generous, considering the $49 annual fee. It has also been the only reason most people have kept the card beyond the sign-up bonus. So should you get out the hedge clippers and dump this card? I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate and say no.

Deluxe Ocean View Room at the Intercontinental Mauritius Balaclava
Intercontinental Mauritius Balaclava – a Category 6 IHG hotel, where you can still redeem your annual free night

For starters, when the annual free night benefit was unrestricted, a lot of people had difficulty redeeming it. Everyone I know who has this card is always worried about “maximizing the free night”. That sometimes translates to spending a single night at an amazing Category 9 hotel…then roughing it at a cheaper property for the remainder of a trip. Some people are tempted to pay (enormously) out of pocket for the convenience of staying at the same hotel for multiple nights.

Now that the IHG Card’s free night is restricted to hotels requiring 40,000 points or less, the pressure is off. You can feel good redeeming it at an airport hotel or for a random staycation in suburbia. If you think I’m reaching here, you should also keep in mind that Category 7 IHG Hotels are actually pretty nice. In Europe, you can stay at awesome properties like the Intercontinental Budapest and Vienna. Headed to Asia? Depending on when you’re traveling, you’ll get great value at properties like the Intercontinental Bangkok and Sanya.

So you won’t be able to redeem your free night at the Intercontinental Cannes anymore. You’re probably better off for it, considering how obscenely expensive everything is. Your “free” night at top-tier hotels can end up costing way more than a budget-friendly hotel, thanks to the high cost of food, parking, and other expenses. Not being able to redeem the IHG Rewards Credit Card’s annual free night at a hotel you can’t normally afford anyway isn’t such a huge loss.

Should You Keep the IHG Rewards Credit Card now that the free night benefit has been devalued? Might as well. The card’s annual fee is still one of the lowest at $49 and it offers other useful perks, like IHG Platinum status, a 10% point rebate on award redemptions. More importantly, you can still get plenty of value out of the IHG Rewards Credit Card’s annual free night benefit. It does suck that IHG is not only restricting the free night benefit to hotels that require 40,000 points per night, but some additional properties that should be eligible by this criteria. Oh well – time to get a Hilton Aspire card, I guess…

Are you going to keep your IHG Rewards Credit Card? Is the annual free night devaluation going to deter you from applying for the card?

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8 Comments

  1. Beach Miles

    After living without this card for several years, my wife and I each picked up the card in late 2017. The plan was to use them for a free Kimpton weekend every year. I think they should honor the commitment they made, for at least one year.
    Who do I complain to? Is there some government agency protecting us Point Schemers?

  2. My wife got very lucky in that her AF just hit. I checked her account and the annual free night was awarded on March 21. I got this card last summer, but I’ll probably keep it for the 40K points–for now. I’ve read rumors of the AF going up.

  3. I just booked 4 nights. (Last yr and current year awards) at Kimpton grand cayman. Stay is in July. do you think they will still honor?

  4. I had thought about closing this card even before this as I only wanted cards that are part of the Chase trifecta . So may still close this one. Though I did just get the CIC and I don’t want to tick Chase off.

  5. Your argument seems like saying, why need a big 10% raise? You will be temped to reach for more expensive stuff and pay out of pocket lot of the times..
    Am unrestricted choice gives you more options to redeem whether you want to or not or give someone a gift of a lifetime etc.

    • My argument is based on my experience with people who have this card. I know people who let their free night expire because they kept putting off the redemption in order to maximize it. And then there are people who get slutshamed for redeeming the free night at a non-Vendome type property. The devaluation isn’t great by any means, but I know people who will now feel less restricted (oddly) in how they redeem their free night.

  6. I’m definitely keeping mine. The free night is well worth the low fee. A few days ago I received a notice in the mail of a higher benefit card coming out in the near future.

    • I imagine IHG is going the Amex Aspire route in the future. Good for you for seeing the value in this card – yes, the free night has been devalued but you can still put the free night to good use.

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