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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!