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.
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?