I have a free night certificate with IHG hotels that I need to use by the end of next month. The free night is a perk of the IHG MasterCard issued by Chase. Several years ago when I was applying for every travel rewards credit card under the sun, I got this one for myself and my husband.
The bonus points are long gone (actually we got 80K bonus points), but I pay an annual fee of $49 to keep the card because I get a free night at any IHG property, even the swanky InterContinentals. So it really is not a free night; rather, it is a certificate for a night’s stay that costs $49. This is a pretty good deal if you are staying at an InterContinental that costs 300-400€/night. Here’s an example of where I could use the certificate:
This is the InterContinental in Paris. Yes, I could stay in the InterContinental Paris with my Chase Free Night. Will I be staying here, or any other InterContinental, to use the Chase Free night? NO, I will not. I have decided that I am not going to plan a trip just so that I can use my free night in an expensive hotel. I have a few trips coming up, including three that will be overseas, but I can’t seem to find any category 6 or 7 IHG hotels that fit in with my plans.
There is an IHG hotel that will work for one of my trips, and it is this:
That is a Holiday Inn Express, and I could tell you where it is, but it doesn’t matter because they all look the same. And this brings up the problem with hotel loyalty programs—you have to stay in chain hotels. Staying in chain hotels is like being in an airport or driving on the interstate–they are more alike than different.
The landmark properties like certain InterContinentals and Ritz Carltons are in the expensive touristy parts of town. In the photo of the Paris IC, look at the cafe on the ground floor. The Cafe de la Paix is world famous–so much so they charge 12€ for a cappuccino.
I’ve stayed in the InterContinental (Hotel de la Ville) at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome. The location is a short walk to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain, but you still have to eat. This area is where you can buy a small slice of mediocre pizza for 4€ or eat in a tourist restaurant for 50€. I think I would rather stay across the Tiber in a cheap apartment in Trastevere and just walk across the river to visit the sights.
Last year we flew into Athens to begin our Greek island-hopping cruise, and we stayed at the Athens Athenaeum (another IC) using one of our Chase free nights. The hotel was nice, but it was about a mile walk to the Plaka (where all the restaurants are) and the Acropolis. We could have eaten in the hotel restaurant, but we didn’t want to pay 40€ EACH for dinner.
As you can probably tell, I don’t get a big thrill out of staying in a fancy hotel, so I don’t plan my trips around where I can stay using points and awards. I do like to stay in hotels for free, but I won’t go out of my way to do so.
Here’s an example: We will be going to Venice in November to meet a cruise. We will be staying a night in Venice on each end of the cruise, and we want to stay right on the island. There are some hotels in chains where I have points, but they are located in Mestre, which is on the mainland. If we stayed there, it would be like staying in Newark if you were visiting New York City. We have reservations in two hotels that are less than 60€ a night. I am not going to waste valuable touring time just to have a free night.
I will continue to apply for hotel credit cards, but they will be very low down on the priority list of my applications. If Chase goes the way of AMEX, and limits the number of cards you can carry with them, then I probably won’t apply for ANY hotel cards. And I’ll probably “waste” this year’s free night at a Holiday Inn somewhere close to home.