Final IHG Free Night Certificates Only Usable 9 Nights Beyond Expiration

One of the hidden benefits of the unrestricted free night certificate from the IHG credit card has long been that you could use it to book a stay beyond your expiry date.

That meant that you could book a stay after the expiry date with one certificate, then book a consecutive night with your new certificate once it posted to your account. If you had a partner with the card, that meant you could book a four night stay using only those certificates with enough planning.

InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa – a 4 night stay previously bookable for 4x $49 annual fees if you could find availability

In April 2018, IHG announced that they’d be capping the free night certificate for use at properties costing up to 40,000 points per night (See: BUMMER: IHG Free night capped for everyone (includes $49 card)). Many people applied for the card shortly before that change was officially announced, only to discover they’d never receive an unrestricted free night certificate.

IHG subsequently listened to its customers (take note Marriott) and suspended that change for a year. See: Another uncapped free night: Chase and IHG do the right thing. The final unrestricted free night certificates were initially due to be issued on May 1, 2018, but this positive change meant anyone whose card renewed from May 1 to December 31, 2018 would receive one final uncapped free night. Update: This is in addition to cards renewing from January 1 to May 1, 2019 also receiving an unrestricted free night.

Our Intended Plans

That change benefited me as my IHG card renewed on December 5, 2018, meaning I got one final unrestricted free night certificate. I’d been unsure where to use it, but my wife and I came up with a plan a few months ago.

We’re on a 5 year, 50 state road trip and celebrated New Year’s Eve 2018 in Denver. We realized that gave us an opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve in five different time zones over the course of the five years (Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific and Hawaii-Aleutian).

I know it’s not to everyone’s taste, but we’d talked about doing Times Square as our Eastern time zone New Year’s Eve at some point during the five years. With this being my final year of having an unrestricted certificate, we decided to use that to make New York our December 31, 2019 location, even though we’re due to spend November and December in Tennessee.

Well, that was the plan anyway.

Ever since making that decision last December, I’ve been searching IHG’s website every other day looking for availability at one of their Times Square properties. The problem was that it showed zero free night availability at any property on December 31, 2019. It either looked like this…

IHG New Year's Eve New York 1

…or like this:

IHG New Year's Eve New York 2

Even though my certificate was due to expire on December 5, 2019, it had never been an issue booking a stay beyond that date. I’d wondered if IHG had ended the ability to book beyond the expiry date, but that didn’t appear to be true. That’s because I could still book a stay for December 14 which was 9 days after the expiry date.

IHG Free Night Cert 12.14.19

So my free night certificate could still be used beyond its expiry date, but not far enough for me to book a free night on New Year’s Eve. It was mid-January at the time, so I hypothesized that perhaps IHG released free night certificate availability on a different calendar to regular awards. December 14 – the latest date I could book – was ~330 days away, so maybe checking again in mid-to-late February would show December 31 availability.

Alas not.

The end of February and beginning of March came and went, yet I still couldn’t book beyond December 14. My hypothesis was therefore incorrect.

Nick’s Success

I’d been emailing Greg and Nick about this off and on over the past few months to keep them updated on what I was seeing. Or, more accurately, what I wasn’t seeing.

To confuse matters even further, Nick was able to see free night availability in New York on New Year’s Eve. Not all properties were available, but the InterContinental Barclay had free night certificate availability, as did the Holiday Inn Express and EVEN hotels in Times Square.

He was also able to find wide open availability in January 2020 whereas I still couldn’t see anything beyond December 14.

IHG New York January 2020

Greg’s Semi-Success

Greg had slightly different results from Nick and I. He could find free night availability anywhere up to and including December 30, 2019…

IHG December 30

…but not from December 31 onward.

IHG December 31

Interestingly, Greg’s certificate is due to expire on December 21, 2019, 9 days before the latest date he can book a free night. My certificate expires on December 5, 2019, also 9 days before the latest date I can book a free night.

But what about Nick? Why is it that he could find availability so far ahead of time but we couldn’t?

When Old Is Better Than New

It turns out that Nick’s unrestricted free night certificate was issued in April 2018, so before IHG announced they were ending the unrestricted aspect. Mine and Greg’s certificates were issued far more recently, after that change had been announced.

It therefore appears that certificates issued before May 1, 2018 can still be used to book a free night far beyond their expiry date. For certificates issued since May 1, 2018 (or at least since December 2018), you can only book 9 days beyond the certificate’s expiry date.

Summary

What this means is that if you were planning on using your final unrestricted free night certificate for a stay beyond its expiry date, that might not be possible. It’d therefore be best to check what dates are bookable with your certificate ASAP so that you have plenty of time to use it, rather than assuming you’ll be able to use it for a later date only to find out that’s not allowed.

About Stephen Pepper

Stephen Pepper is on a 5 year, 50 state road trip with his wife Shae and their dog Truffles. Finding opportunities to earn miles and points is one of the ways they can afford to do this, so he'll try to help you do the same for your own travels.

More articles by Stephen Pepper »

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Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)
Guest
Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)

Yep, I was bit by this, too. Took a long phone call with the poorly trained IHG agents, several of them, before figuring this out.

james h
Guest
james h

Just to be clear, the rules say the cert AND stay must be used by the expiration date….but you’re saying they informally don’t enforce it?

voyager
Guest
voyager

I concur, my certificate was issued on December 30th, but I called them and asked how in the world would I be able to book a New Year night since I don’t get the cert right away. The agent said I can use it through January 8th of 2020. I also plan on being in Times Square for the NY, but I used my cert in the Times Square Intercontinental on the 30th, and two Ritz certs in Marquis for the actual New Year days.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Just to be clear, I think the uncapped certs are still being issued until May 1, 2019.

TJ Park
Guest
TJ Park

Yes, uncapped certs are still being issued at this point. The last one I received, 2/18/2020 is still uncapped.

by the way, all certs I received second part of last year, one issued on 6/6/18 and one 12/13 are good for 9 days beyond the expiration date. 6/6/19 exp, latest stay can be 6/15 check in and 6/16 checkout.

TJ Park
Guest
TJ Park

i meant to say “one I received, 2/18/2019 is still uncapped”

Mark P
Guest
Mark P

Any word on whether this works on Hyatt certs as well?

TJ Park
Guest
TJ Park

Never works with Hyatt Certs. Strictly enforced period.

Neena
Guest
Neena

My certificate was issued June 2018 (expiry June 2019), and the online booking is not letting me book it for Feb 2020 or even July 2019. It works only till June 2019 (9 days after the expiration as you concluded). It sucks as I was planning to book during spring break of next year, but at least now I know a few months in advance. Thanks a lot for decoding this and letting us know. Is there any way around this?

Pan
Guest
Pan

Thanks for this post, I would’ve totally missed this, assuming it’s the same as before.

D T
Guest
D T

DP:
I was able to use our certificate expiring in March 2019 for a booking in Budapest in May 2019.
Obviously, that certificate was issued before April, 2018.

Billy Bob
Guest
Billy Bob

Did this just happen? I had a cert expiring March 1 2019 and a few days beforehand successfully booked the Hong Kong Intercontinental (>40K) for early April.

calwatch
Guest
calwatch

Looks like I lucked out since my free night certificate expiring in early May was issued in late April, and as such I was able to create dummy bookings to the end of the year.

Platinum
Guest
Platinum

I was able to use my certificate that expires tomorrow for a 70k hotel in London for the end of May. I also just used my new certificate which hit my account two days ago to book a second night at the same hotel for free using the new cert. Great value as I got two nights at a 70k property for a total of 98.00 (two AFs of 49.00 each.

PoorlyTraveled
Guest
PoorlyTraveled

Thanks, @Stephen, great post! I’ve never redeemed an IHG cert before, so I’m not sure how it works. My cert (appears to be unrestricted, as it’s letting me book Intercontinental hotels) expires on Sept 9, 2019.

Couple questions: 1. Assuming the website lets me book on a date after Sept 9, 2019, am I golden? It does let me go about 9 days or so out, but nothing further. Once I book and have everything confirmed, they’re not going come back to me and expect payment since the stay was after the Sept 9, 2019, date, correct (or somehow invalidate the certificate when I’m checking out at the hotel)?
2. Do I need to present a physical certificate to the hotel at check-in or check-out? Or is this something that is all done online (i.e. once booked, I never need to touch anything regarding a cert again)?
3. Since my anniversary date is about Sept 9’ish, I would probably get the 2020 anniversary night sometime in August? I hopefully would then be able to use it during my trip (although, now I would be limited to the 40k point range) during my same overseas trip, right?

michael
Guest
michael

Cert issued 4/30/18 and was able to book for June 10. Thanks for the tip as I would have used 55K points instead.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

I’m guessing no one has had any luck having these extended? I literally need 1 more month past my expiry.

Tyler
Guest
Tyler

I literally need one day past the 9 day grace. Bad luck!

Steve
Guest
Steve

Did you have any luck getting them to extend? I’m in the same boat (1 day past the 9 day grace!)

Tyler
Guest
Tyler

After seeing unsuccessful data points, I didn’t bother and am taking a staycation with mine :-/

Tammy O
Guest
Tammy O

So glad I stumbled onto this. I definitely need to confirm whether or not I’m going to lose my free night. Thanks!

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[…] by the expiration date, you can use them for stays through the end of schedule. Or so I thought. As was reported on Frequent Miler few months ago, IHG has started strictly enforcing the expiration date for certificates issued in May of 2018 and […]