(Update: Extension for some certs) Rumor: IHG To Extend Free Night Certs, But Too Late For Many

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Update 1/16/21: IHG is now extending certificates that were originally set to expire in 2021 to December 31, 2021. This does not apply to those that have been extended to 2021 already but rather if you had a certificate issued early last year that was scheduled to expire during the year this year, it is now going to be extended to 12/31/21 (note that if your certificate was issued in March 2020 or later, it should already have an 18-month expiration). The certificate in your account should reflect the newly-extended expiration date by 2/15/21. H/T: Traveling for Miles

Update 12/16/20: IHG appears to be rolling out the certificate extensions in an unusual but, in some cases, pleasing way.

GBSanDiego commented yesterday that they now had three free night certificates rather than two, as did Carl WV. When checking my account today, I’m seeing the same thing on my IHG Select card. There’s a certificate due to expire on December 31, 2020, one due to expire on June 13, 2022 which was recently issued following the renewal of my card, but there’s a third – one which was seemingly issued on April 2, 2020 (but which wasn’t there before) and which expires on August 31, 2021.

IHG free night certificates

It therefore appears that if you hadn’t redeemed a certificate due to expire on December 31, 2020, IHG is giving out new certificates with an expiry date of August 31, 2021, but letting you keep the old one too. They’ve therefore gone from having a disappointing policy to having an overly generous one if you hadn’t already redeemed your free night certificate this year and can still use the one expiring in 2020 within the next couple of weeks.

The start date of the newly added certificate is a little strange, but perhaps April 2, 2020 is when IHG started making COVID-related changes on their system and so that ended up being the date listed.

Not everyone has gotten so lucky though. If you’d redeemed your certificate already at some point this year, you get nothing. That makes sense seeing as IHG isn’t going to want to give out an additional free night certificate to all cardholders, but it’s a shame for those who redeemed sub-optimally just so that their free night wouldn’t go to waste.

The additional free night only appears to be given on accounts where the certificate was due to expire on December 31, 2020. If you have other certificates on your account with an expiry date in 2021, IHG was already extending those by 6 months or so. For example, the new certificate I received a couple of weeks ago from the renewal of my card has an expiry date of June 13, 2022, an extra ~6 months on the expected expiry date seeing as it was issued at the start of December 2020. Greg and Nick are seeing something similar on their accounts too.

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Original Post

Early on during the pandemic, most hotel chains extended the expiry date of free night certificates seeing as people weren’t traveling.

Many chains have since extended the expiry dates once again, such as Marriott which has just extended certificates to August 1, 2021.

A notable holdout on this was IHG. They’d previously extended certificates through to December 31, 2020, but hadn’t committed to anything beyond that. Although Marriott only just extended the dates of certificates to August 1, 2021, they’d announced back in October that this extension would be taking place. That gave Bonvoy members the opportunity to plan accordingly and not redeem their certificates for the sake of it.

Kimpton Hotel Palomar in Phoenix, AZ

IHG Rewards Club members on the other hand have been strung along. IHG hasn’t made any official announcement, presumably running down the clock in the hope that as many guests as possible would redeem their certificates for sub-optimal redemptions to prevent them from going to waste.

I was one such member. I had a certificate expiring on December 31 and so decided to use it for an awful redemption. We needed to book a one night stay after Christmas, so I used my expiring certificate for a Holiday Inn Express in the outskirts of Charlotte, NC. It would’ve cost less than $100 with tax or only 15,000 points, so it was painful redeeming that way considering IHG’s dynamic pricing means you can redeem the certificates at most of their domestic properties right now (free night certificates are valid for properties costing up to 40,000 points per night).

There have been rumors in recent weeks though that IHG would be extending the expiration date of certificates, although there hadn’t been any kind of official announcement.

It certainly seems there’s a strong likelihood of this happening though. A reader reached out to share the results of an online chat, with the most notable part being the following:

I understand your concern around the 2020 expiration date of your Anniversary Night certificate. Later this month, we are planning to share an update with cardholders about anniversary certificates with a 2020 expiration date – know that the update will be shared before any 2020 certificates expire.

The problem with this is that “later this month” is the end of December 2020 which is when the certificates are expiring. As a result, many people will likely have made those sub-optimal redemptions I referred to earlier, rendering an extension for them moot.

Due to the recent rumors, I decided a couple of days ago to cancel the reservation I’d made with my certificate. I was concerned that if I cancelled that reservation after IHG had extended certificates (if they do), the certificate that would be loaded back on to my account might have the old expiry date. I don’t have any confidence that online reps could – or would – manually extend that certificate, so I figured it’d be best to have that certificate already showing up in my account before any kind of extension took place.

If worst comes to worst and these rumors don’t come to fruition, I can rebook that stay as I doubt the property we were looking to stay at is going to suddenly get fully booked. If they do get extended though, I can go on to make a much better use of the certificate in 2021 than a quick overnight stop as we drive through North Carolina.

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