My IHG Free Night Strategy [On Greg’s Mind]


I’m a fan of IHG’s revamped  Premier card and its new business card twin. For only $99 per year, both cards offer Platinum Elite status, up to $50 per year in United Airlines TravelBank credit, 4th Night Free award bookings, and an annual 40K flexible free night. The last is key. These free nights can be supplemented with points to book nights that cost more than 40,000 points. That makes these certificates super easy to use towards full value at mid to high end hotels. And IHG is not limited to budget Holiday Inn hotels. IHG points and free night certificates can be used to book Kimpton, Intercontinental, Regent, Six Senses, Hotel Indigo, select Mr. & Mrs. Smith hotels, and more.

a man holding a banana and a bunch of tickets
Should I go for four Premier cards or keep the bird in hand?

I had previously thought that it would make sense for my wife and I to each have two Premier cards (it’s possible for one person to get both the consumer and business version). That way we would get 4 nights at IHG properties at least partially paid for every year. Assuming I get the full 40K value out of each certificate, it’s like pre-paying only $396 ($99 x 4) for 160,000 IHG points per year. That’s a steal.

But then I started to have second thoughts. We already get multiple free nights each year from our Marriott and Hyatt cards. And I’ve become more interested than ever before in picking up a couple of Hilton cards with annual free nights (in no small part due to Tim’s review of Zemi Beach House LXR, Anguilla). Do we really need more free nights to use up before they expire each year? We could (and probably will) drop my wife’s Marriott cards. I have enough Marriott cards myself to keep us happy at mid-tier Marriott hotels. But even with that, I don’t think I want to add to our annual find-a-good-use-for-our-free-nights-before-they-expire burden. Fortunately, with IHG, there’s a great alternative…

IHG frequently offers points for sale for as low as half a cent each. Instead of paying almost $400 per year for credit card annual fees (4 x $99), I could use the same amount of money to buy 80,000 points each year during sales (assuming IHG continues to offer these sales). True, that would get me only half as many 40K free nights as I’d get with 4 credit cards, but I would have the flexibility to book stays whenever I wanted without worrying about annual cert expirations. And two not-so-secret weapons in my arsenal make this “buy points” plan even better:

4th Night Free w/ Traveler Card

I have the fee-free IHG Traveler card. Just like the Premier card, the IHG Traveler card gives me 4th Night Free on award bookings. It’s important to understand that you can’t get the 4th Night Free when booking with free night certificates. So, a four night stay at a 40K per night property would cost me only 40K x 3 = 120K points; whereas I would have to use four 40K certs for the same stay.

10% Rebate w/ Select Card

I also have the old no-longer-available $49 per year IHG Select Card. This card gives me Platinum Elite status, an annual inflexible 40K free night (inflexible because I can’t add points to book a more expensive stay), and a 10% rebate on points bookings. Thanks to having this card, the same four night 40K per night stay described above would cost me net 108K points (120K due to 4th Night Free – 10% back).

More expensive stays favor my current card selection

The combination of 4th Night Free plus 10% back gets better relative to the Premier card for more expensive stays. Consider a four night stay at the Six Senses Laamu Maldives. Currently, this property costs a flat 100,000 points per night. Here’s how much the stay would cost with four Premier cards vs. the Select and Traveler card:

  • 4 Premier Cards: 4 40K certs + 240K points (60K points per night)
  • Select + Traveler Card: 270K points (300K – 10% rebate)

As you can see above, with my current cards the stay would cost me only 30K more points than with four 40K nights from Premier cards, and I’d save nearly $350 in annual fees! Plus, I would still have the Select card’s inflexible 40K free night to use at an inexpensive IHG property.

I don’t value United credits

Each Premier card gives the cardholder $25 in United TravelBank credit for the first half of the calendar year and again for the second half. Those who fly United often may value these credits close to face value. If so, that would be a strong argument in favor of having more Premier cards.

In my case, I rarely fly United, but when I do it is nearly always via award travel. And, unfortunately, United doesn’t allow using their Travel Bank for award fees. So, to me, the United credit is nearly worthless.

My plan

For now, I’ll keep my current Traveler and Select cards as-is with a combined $49 annual fee. But I’ll be watching IHG’s next moves. It wouldn’t surprise me if they start offering extra benefits exclusively to Premier cardholders. Or, they might dream up new elite benefits that make it worth spending my way to top tier status with the Premier card (see: Are the IHG Premier cards worth our big spend?). If either of those things happen, I may re-evaluate my plans. For now, I’m all status quo.

As to buying points, my current thought is that I’ll try to keep a 300,000 point balance at all times. This is enough to book a four night stay at the Six Senses Laamu, Maldives.  So, after spending points and getting below that magical 300K number, I’ll wait for the next half cent sale to replenish my account.

What about my wife? She also has the Select card, but not the Traveler card. Should she cancel the card? Upgrade to the Premier? Downgrade to the Traveler? Sign up for the Premier Business card? My best bet is probably for her to cancel or downgrade so as to save $49 per year. That way we can concentrate all of the IHG points and free night certificates in my IHG account. That makes the management of points and certificates simpler. On the other hand, the Select card only costs $49 per year. If we only use her free night once every other year for a property costing over $100, we’ll still come out ahead. So, there’s my answer. She’ll keep her Select card for now.

What about you?  What are your IHG Premier/Select/Traveler plans?  Please comment below.

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[…] My IHG Free Night Strategy. – With the introduction of the new IHG One Rewards program, many frequent travelers are re-evaluating how they handle their IHG points and credit cards. I think Greg has the right idea favoring the flexibility of buying points on sale vs. having to “find” reasons to use the “free” nights that come with the credit cards. If you like IHG at all, having one of its cards is a good idea. You’ll get benefits like 4th night free, automatic elite status, and an annual free night. […]


Hey Greg – data point here for having the Select card (for 5+ years), applying for Traveler, getting approved, and even getting the bonus. So, it does seem possible, even if by luck.

My wife tried the same and was denied due to “already having an IHG card”, however.


When this change hit, I stopped seeing the Venetian and Palazzo availability in IHG reward searches for Vegas.

Has there been an announcement re: this? Are they no longer bookable w/IHG points?


Can I downgrade to the Premier card to the Select card? If not, is there another card that can be acquired and then product changed to the Select card?


Thanks for the info. I was trying to book Laamu Maldives but was unable to find the flat 100,000 points offer. Could you let me know where to find the offer?


Very informative post, thanks.
I have the $49 Select card and am thinking to get the no fee IHG card for its 4th night free. Can I? would Chase deny me on the second IHG card?


Very interesting post.

I calculated how much a 4-night stay would cost with various card combos, assuming all points used are purchased @ 0.5 cpp:

This is basically just the cost in points x 0.5 cents + the total annual fees.

Your combo always works out better vs. someone with just two premier certificates (who has to buy points for the remaining two nights). Compared to someone with four premier certificates, your combo is better at properties 70k/night and up.

Two important notes:

  1. The Select + Traveler combo still has a limited 40k certificate available (you said this in your post too, but worth mentioning again)
  2. This analysis does pigeon-hole you into stays of exactly 4 nights. It will be more expensive for 2- and 3-night stays.

Feel free to double-check my math

Last edited 2 years ago by Andy

I was tempted to upgrade my Select to the Premier, but the quickly-expiring and limited $50/yr United credit + losing the 10% point rebate soured me on that 🙁

I already have a Chase biz card and they’ve been pretty direct with me that they won’t approve a 2nd biz card for me 🙁

Sharon Scarinci

I thought I remembered someone posting a really good redemption with IHG® at a resort in southern Florida. Anybody know what that resort might be called?


Does the 4rh night free apply to points bookings? Can you mix and match (i.e. use Select certificates, flexible certs, AND top up with points on a single 4 night booking?

v m

Greg covered those questions in his article.


Very helpful reply vm. Thanks.

Dave Hanson

Nice to see these strategy pieces! A few thoughts:

Select card conversions are one way. My understanding is you can product trade *from* Select, but not *to* it.

-Select benefits are unique. Traveler, Premier, and Business all do 4th night free, but only Select provides a 10% points rebate.

Select rebate is capped. Only 100,000 points in 10% rebates a year. A few high end bookings will wipe this out. This gives added value to having a p2 have their own account with its own select card IMO.

Select benefits stack with other cards. A Select with any other IHG CC allows the 10% rebate and 4th nights to stack. Before March 24 2022, you could apply for any of the new cards while holding a Select. Now, you can still apply for the business card while holding the select.

IHG point bookings are often attractive even before these card benefits. We just had a points booking sale, and points are now being sold for .5c each. Meanwhile, with the demise of IHG’s quarterly customized promos, cash bookings are generally less attractive. For me, that means more IHG bookings are done with points vs. cash.

Bottom line: I’d be very careful before scrapping that select card. $49 is a very low price to get a 40K cert (albeit not upgradable), and the stackable 10% rebate.

I’m keeping my Select and Premier cards, and am looking forward to doing more IHG bookings.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dave Hanson

IHG points closed down my accounts and won’t even reply my email asking for refund on money I used to purchased their points.

Dave Hanson

Sorry to hear John. Any idea what might have triggered their action?


From a different perspective – didn’t get into the game until the Select Card was discontinued, so that part of the equation is out. And the Traveler Card is only helpful for stays of 4 or more nights. With a scenario where we typically travel domestically (have a kid whom is too young to get vaccinated), the Premier(s) seem like a good deal for use on multiple 2-3 night stays, though admittedly, I have done the math yet to confirm. I do appreciate the alternative view – makes me think, and I appreciate that!


How strict are they in enforcing certs being used by the cardholder only? 5 years ago, I successfully used my father’s cert at the IC HK, but was warned by the front desk not to do so again.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethan

I’ve never had any issues using a family member’s FNC and adding myself as a guest. And I know plenty of others that have experienced the same.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jimbo

Please do a post like this for the Hyatt Business card