IHG free night certs have better availability than points (book Bora Bora, maybe more)

There was just too much to fit into one title there, but Points Adventure uncovered something awesome that I had previously missed: availability when booking with Chase IHG free night certificates is much better than when booking with points. If you read this morning’s post (See: Is the IHG sky falling? My take on variable point pricing.), Greg noted that the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa only had one or two nights available on points in all of 2019. That’s true if you’re booking with points. If you’re booking with an uncapped IHG free night certificate, the picture looks better:

Who has uncapped IHG free night certificates?

If you have the old IHG Rewards Club Select credit card ($49 fee version, no longer available), that card was arguably the best value in rewards credit cards as it awarded a free night at any IHG property each year without a cap.

Chase introduced the IHG Rewards Club Premier card last year, and the new card comes with a free night annually that is capped at a maximum value of 40K points. Initially, Chase announced that the same 40K cap would apply to certificates from the old IHG card last May.

However, they backtracked on that and announced that free night certificates from the IHG Rewards Club Select card ($49 fee) that are issued before May 1, 2019 would remain uncapped. That means those with the old IHG Rewards Club Select card may still have an uncapped night from last year and an anniversary free night certificate issued before May 1st this year will also be uncapped.

Availability is better than with points

The fun find here from Points Adventure (which they previously reported last year) is that in some cases availability for free night certificate reservations is better than availability for points bookings. For example, here is a look at availability at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa if you look for “Rewards Nights” (i.e. using IHG Points) in June 2018. There isn’t a single night available on points.

However, you should instead log into your IHG account and click where it says “1 free night” on the left side under “My account” (assuming you have a free night cert).

That will bring you to another page with a link to book.

That link in turn brings you back to the main IHG booking engine, but it will then check a box under “Rate Preference” to search for the “Chase Anniversary Free Night” rate.

After selecting that and searching for the Intercontinental in Bora Bora for dates later this year, I came up empty for my set of dates. But I was able to click a link to “View available dates”, and this is what June looks like for a Chase free night redemption:

As you can see, there is a lot more availability. But there are also a few gotchas.

Gotcha #1) The tool is funky

First gotcha is that the tool doesn’t work the best. For example, I ran a search for Paris from June 11th-12th, 2019. This is what I got the first time:

No hotels in Paris? Uhhhh…..

Of course, there are tons of IHG properties in Paris. I literally just hit the orange search button again and got a list of 23 hotels. So don’t take the tool’s word for it if it tells you there are no hotels in Paris.

Gotcha #2) The calendar might not always be accurate

Unfortunately, I don’t have all the screen shots to illustrate this, but you’ll have to take my word for it and settle for words over pictures.

While Points Adventure shows that some of the dates for the Intercontinental Bora Bora do indeed allow you to go through to the final booking page, the calendar may not always be accurate. I tried a search for free nights in Paris, France from June 12th-13th, 2019. The Intercontinental Paris Le Grand is not available that night, so I checked the calendar:

As you can see, the calendar shows June 11th is available. So I clicked on June 11th to the 12th….and on the next page, it said no rooms were available with free night certificates. I tried manually inputting the dates at the top – it still showed unavailable. I tried going back to the main search page (started in my account and clicked on 1 free night, etc). June 11th came up with no free nights available, even though the calendar showed it was available.

Fast forward 20 minutes to when I decided to get a screen shot of that and now it does show that it is available with either 70K points or a Chase Free Night Certificate that night. While I would often chalk this up to some type of operator error — like maybe I was looking at June 2020 or maybe I didn’t have the check out date selected correctly or maybe I did something else wrong, I’m 105% confident that I searched it correctly. So I’m only 73% confident in the accuracy of the calendar. No, those numbers have nothing to do with each other and are not rooted in any sort of science whatsoever.

Gotcha #3) This has limited utility

The major gotcha on this one is the extremely limited utility of this trick. If you only have one Chase free night certificate, are you going to fly to Bora Bora and pay the cash rate the rest of the nights? The answer is likely no for most readers.

  1. This certainly might come in handy in 2-player mode, especially so if you’re around the time of your next certificate issuance. For example, in my case, my current certificate expires at the end of April. I expect that I’ll get another certificate issued next month. Since IHG will let you book a hotel beyond the expiration date of the certificate, I could theoretically book the Intercontinental Bora Bora for one night now and then hope a second night before or after is also available next month when my new certificate arrives. If you’re playing in 2-player mode, you’ve likely lined up your anniversary dates so you would each get certificates with the same period of validity — so it might be possible for a couple whose anniversary date is coming before May 1st to book as many as 4 nights…assuming availability doesn’t disappear. It’s a long shot.

This may be more useful for properties in locations that are less difficult to reach and/or that do have some availability on points. I made a few searches in popular areas and I didn’t immediately notice huge trends like the one in Bora Bora where there is nonexistent availability on points and a number of nights on free night certs, but I expect that those situations exist based on this finding. Still, if room rates are high and points availability limited, it may not be hugely helpful.

Bottom line

If you have an uncapped Chase IHG free night certificate from the old IHG credit card, you want to specifically search for Chase free night availability as that availability is better than the availability for bookings with points. This is a helpful trick if you still have one of these certs. As the last rounds of those certificates are coming out over the next few weeks (remember that certificates issued before May 1, 2019 on the old IHG Rewards Club Select card will be uncapped), it seemed worthwhile to highlight this one while some readers still have a chance to take advantage. I’ll probably keep my $49 card even when the certificate is limited to 40K, but I’ll be a lot less excited about it. Still, if I’m able to snag a night at the IC Bora Bora Thalasso that matches up with my St. Regis Bora Bora dates before this is dead, I’ll be happy to get one last awesome redemption out of it.

H/T: Points Adventure

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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James
Guest
James

I actually found the exact opposite situation with the Kimpton in Amsterdam for the fall. My free night is the last one I booked 2 days ago. The room was available for 55,000 points but when I tried to get it for the annual free night, not a single room was available in the entire city for the night I needed. I called up IHG and the guy called the hotel and convinced them to let me redeem my cert for one of the available points rooms…at least that’s what he told me he did, lol.

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

happened to friend who tried to book free night in Boston for October. He called twice and they said he could book with points, but had to wait to book with a free night. First time I’d heard that!

Larry
Guest
Larry

Likewise for the IC Porto. Available with points not certificates- on weekend dates mostly I think. So apparently they can set the availability differently.

bccc
Guest
bccc

For Gotcha #2, sometimes the calendar shows availability, and the hotel itself does not, and I’ve found that this can mean that there are some award rooms being filtered out on the hotel page (by bed type, accessibility, etc). There might be no more standard rooms, but there might be award night rooms available that are handicap accessible but are filtered out of normal search results.

bccc
Guest
bccc

Also, this is my favorite credit card perk in the world. I’ve used my last three as free nights at the IC Amstel Amsterdam, for an average cost per night of over 1000 Euro when you consider the upgraded rooms I’ve gotten with Spire status. I wish I were going back to AMS this summer after I get my free night in April, but I don’t think that trip is in the cards.

Daniel Schwartz
Guest
Daniel Schwartz

Gotcha #4: Hotels might require 2 night stays. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to use my certificates and the hotel won’t let me book a stay for 1 night, regardless of the fact that I’m going to book a 2nd night with cash, points, or another Chase cert. Total BS.

Sean
Guest
Sean

If I opened my CC on 3/26/18, when will the cert post? On 3/26/19 or when AF posts on 4/1/19 or some X day delay?

James
Guest
James

Don’t think it’s tied to the annual fee. My anniversary date of card opening is Mar 10 and I got my cert on Mar 4…so actually 6 days prior to the actual card opening anniversary.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Crossing my fingers… my annual fee usually posts on 5/1.

Clem
Guest
Clem

I’m actually seeing zero availability for Bora Bora with the anniversary free night over the next 2 years. Is anyone else seeing the same thing?

Edit: Actually I managed to find availability now, but when I tried to book, I got an error message: “An error has occurred. Please contact your nearest reservation office and a representative will be able to assist you.”

Duane
Guest
Duane

I just went to Bora Bora IC Thalasso Spa a week ago and used Chase certificates. I booked way in advance but then a week out even added a night with a Chase free night certificate. June has a lot of availability and I was able to walk through the whole booking today with no problem. Are trying to book one night at a time?

Clem
Guest
Clem

I was indeed trying to book one night at a time. I ended up calling them and the rep was able to book for me!

Mark P
Guest
Mark P

“Since IHG will let you book a hotel beyond the expiration date of the certificate…” Is this a known fact?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

i have done it

Duane
Guest
Duane

yes as long as you book the room before the certificate expires

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Ok, so last night I actually booked two nights at the IC Thalasso for my wife’s birthday using free night certificates after reading this post (Thank you btw!) and just did a search for rooms on points… nothing showed available on the calendar for the entire year, as I expected. For the hell of it I did a three day search for the three days before the two nights, and there was award availability!! WHAT?!? I then looked for just two days before, nothing. One day before nothing. Each of those three days one by one, nothing. Went back to all three days and it was available. Went into the booking process expecting it to error out…. Confirmation! Five nights at Thalasso using points and 2 free night certificates!!!

ed k
Guest
ed k

Having been there multiple times make sure, if you can, to book snorkel excursions since one of the biggest negatives at this property is the lack of coral except for a very small amount in their ‘coral garden’. You’ll find a great view of mountain, and the OWB has a nice layout. We no longer go there, but it’s mainly because we were not given to points we earned on food even on the paid stays (depends sometimes on if the last night you book as the checkout date is a points/cert night and management. Maybe that has changed. I have Ambassasdor status and have for years, but couldn’t even get my points after dealing with IHG later. So,we never went back and now stay elsewhere. Overall, the regular staff is nice and we make the best of every stay wherever we go. We also found breakfast delivered to your room better in ways than the buffet, but it depends on the guest. No flies swarming you when your overwater. The fly issue can be worse at the buffet if you want a table near the open air (furthest tables toward the edge of the roof line. Now that construction seems complete on the large OWBs at the end of pontoons the noise has improved. The view is postcard perfect if you get a Diamond Otemanu OWB, but there’s usually an upcharge unless maybe during the raining season. Enjoy your stay!!

P-nope
Guest
P-nope

And this is why I hate IHG. There could be standard rooms but very, very limited points availability.

Jim S
Guest
Jim S

IHG has some great awards, that are sometimes hard to get. Updates are slow, policy fog mixed with Admin vs. Hotel Staff, IT underfunded…, but I’ve gotten pretty much what I wanted, sometimes alternative dates, often after web tries & phone calls. $49 well spent.

Seeing people playing video games spending $$$, I’ll stick with Jim v. IHG, BonVoy, RR, HH, AA, DL, Ethiad,….

Ready player 3!

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cchi
Guest
cchi

I noticed IHG changed this shortly after this article went public. i can see the same result initially, then for the past 2 months, I have been checking daily, not a single available night on the whole calendar, whether chase free night or points. sad….