Warning with IHG Free Night Expiration!

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As most of you probably know, you receive a free night every single year if you have the IHG credit card. The free night has zero restrictions, although hotels are able to put capacity control on awards/points. The annual fee costs $49 a year, so in reality this “free” night is costing you just that. You can use it at a $79/night Holiday Inn at the airport or a $500/night InterContinental in Bora Bora. It is by far one of my favorite yearly award perks!

The free night will hit your account on your FIRST anniversary date. Once the free night is deposited to your account, you have an entire year to BOOK the free night reservation, but you do not actually need to stay by that expiration date. The one thing to note though, is that if you cancel a free night reservation after the free night expires, you cannot redeem it for another hotel stay.

Now, let’s assume your free night expires August 31, 2017. That means you have until that day to book the hotel, even if the stay takes place after that date. IF you go to book the hotel online on August 31, 2017, the system will unfortunately pull the award that was recently deposited to your account, NOT the one that is expiring. For whatever reason, if you book the same day as the expiration date, the system cannot process the free night award in time and the free night award that is expiring will in fact expire and not be the one applied to the future stay. And you might actually have no idea until you go into your account to book the free night that was recently deposited.

This exact scenario recently happened to me! Fortunately, after speaking to an IHG representative he was able to manually deposit a new award into mine and my husbands account. But he did tell me that this is a very common system error and suggested next time to make the reservation over the phone if I am making a reservation the same day the free night is expiring.

This is a just a warning / good fact to know when booking your IHG free nights! In theory, I suggest not waiting till the last minute, but if you do I suggest calling! And if for whatever reason you make the reservation online and notice that it pulled the wrong award, call and ask for a supervisor. Don’t even waste your time with the first line rep!

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  1. So you booked your free night at the expiration date. How far out did you booked your free night? The agent is okay with booking your free night past the expiration?
    The IHG in Seoul advised me to cancel the reservation using certificate 1 month past the expiration when I emailed them to ask whether or not it’s ok. I guess not.

    • @Tim – Yes, the free night just needs to be booked by the expiration date. The actual properties might not actually know how the free nights work.

  2. Good to know.

    I recently booked a free night the day prior to expiration (Aug 30 in your example) for a stay next year, and even though the new certificate had already been deposited to my account, the system correctly pulled the older expiring one. So the issue must be specific to bookings made only on the exact day of expiration.

  3. Readers should be aware of this verbiage, just in case they decide to enforce it. Copied directly from my IHG Reward Night page. Even though some have not had this enforced, it is pretty clear what their actual written rule is. They give a week or so overlap.

    “Happy Anniversary! As a valued IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card cardmember, you have earned an Anniversary Free Night. The Anniversary Free Night must be redeemed, and stay must be completed within the booking window dates shown. The Anniversary Free Night is valid for one standard room night rate and applicable taxes only.”

  4. In my account, it shows my Chase Anniversary Free Night with booking dates of Booking Dates of Dec 6, 2016 – Dec 16, 2017. When I click “View Free Night Offer Details” it says this:

    “The Anniversary Free Night must be redeemed, and stay must be completed within the booking window dates shown.”

    Wouldn’t that mean that my stay must be completed by December 16, 2017?

    • I’d like clarification on this as well. If you can indeed complete your stay well after the expiration sate, then you could book a one-night stay months ahead. Then after the new anniversary date comes around, use that new reward to add another night to your stay.

      You’re not cheating the system as you’d still only get one night/year. But you could at least use the card for a two-night stay somewhere.

  5. Regarding everyone’s concern about booking prior to expiration for a stay after expiration, is this something that has been confirmed to be okay based on speaking to a customer service person?

    Or is it more a ‘your-mileage-may-vary’ based on whether it is something the system (or property) will catch later on closer to your date of stay?


    • @Mike – 100% confirmed. I have used my certificate post the expiration date (but have booked by the expiration date) many times.

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