Use your expiring IHG free night for status match opportunities

a room with a couch and a table
Shown above is a corner suite at Marriott’s Perry Lane Hotel in Savannah. With Platinum Elite status you’ll be eligible for free breakfast, 4pm late checkout, and have a chance of a nice upgrade like this one.  See my Bottom Line Review here.

Thanks to having either the IHG Rewards Club Premier card or the no longer available IHG Rewards Club Select card many of us have IHG Platinum Elite status and free night certificates that expire 12/31/2020.  Instead of extending those certificates, IHG added new ones that expire August 31 2021.  That means that many of us have extra free night certificates expiring very soon and with no plans to use them.  But there’s a good chance that you should.  Here’s why…

Hotel chains often have status match or status challenge opportunities where you can match your status from one chain to another.  And, often, those matches require showing that you have had stays at the competing chain within the past year.  One great example is Marriott’s current status challenge where you can match IHG Platinum to Marriott Platinum status and keep that status for 90 days while you try to meet the challenge requirements.  If you haven’t stayed at an IHG property for a year, though, you won’t be able to sign up.  Using your expiring certificate will give you that one stay and pave the way for a status match.

Real world example

A friend has 3 Marriott free night certificates that will expire 8/1/2021.  Many of us have certificates expiring that exact same date thanks to Marriott’s latest certificate extension.  My friend only has Silver elite status with Marriott, but he’d like to have Platinum status for these three free nights.  He also has points that he may redeem for additional nights and so will likely stay at Marriott hotels for 6 or 7 nights in the near future.

In order to have Platinum status for his stays, my friend’s plan is to sign up for the Marriott status challenge before these stays.  Assuming Marriott doesn’t revoke the status challenge soon, he will be able to time it such that 90 days of status will be enough to cover his stays.  He has no plans to meet the requirements of the challenge (15 paid nights in 90 days).  He wants to enroll in the challenge purely so that he’ll get 90 days of Platinum elite status.

At most Marriott hotels, Marriott’s Platinum Elite status offers 4PM late checkout, a welcome gift w/ breakfast option, room upgrades including to suites when available, and lounge access (which may not be too valuable during the pandemic, FYI).  My friend is hoping to at least get free breakfast and late check-out for his stays.

One little hitch in my friend’s plans is the fact that enrolling in Marriott’s status challenge requires showing stay activity in the competing chain within the past 12 months.  He has IHG Platinum status thanks to the IHG Rewards Club Select card, but he hasn’t stayed at an IHG hotel in the past 12 months.

In order to meet the requirements of the Marriott status challenge, my friend’s plan includes using his IHG free night certificate that expires 12/31/20.  He used it to book a local IHG hotel.  He’ll check in, but won’t stay overnight because he’d rather stay at home.  The purpose is only to get activity in his IHG account.  Once that’s there, he should be able to match his IHG Platinum status to Marriott Platinum for 90 days.


There’s a very real risk that Marriott will end their status challenge before my friend has a chance to sign up for it.  As a result, his plan is to try to sign up as early as possible.  In his case, he’s planning Marriott stays in February and early March and so as soon as activity shows up on his IHG account, he should be able to sign up for the Marriott challenge and keep Platinum status through the dates of his stays.  If he was planning instead to stay at Marriott hotels in June and July, he would need to wait until around May 1st to sign up for the challenge.  There would then, of course, be a far greater chance that the Marriott challenge would have ended.

Another risk is if IHG didn’t intend to give us two certificates.  Some fear that using the expiring certificate will cause IHG to take away the one that’s good through end of August 2021.  I don’t think that’s likely at all.  IHG’s email to members about the extended certificate stated “This change will be reflected in your account before the end of the year in the form of a new Anniversary Night certificate with an expiration of 8/31/2021.”  The fact that they explicitly described the extended certificate as a new one rather than a replacement certificate suggests to me that the addition of a second certificate was deliberate.

Timing your stay

In the past we’ve been able to book stays for as much as 9 days past the expiration, but this time it appears that you have to book your 1 night stay for no later than 12/30/2020.

Our extra certificates expire 12/31/2020, but in the past we’ve been able to book stays 9 days past that expiration.  This suggests that it may be possible to book a stay for as late as January 9th check-in.  However, I believe you’ll have to book that stay by 12/31/2020.

Wrap Up

If you haven’t had a recent IHG stay, it can be worth spending your expiring IHG free night so that stay activity will be recorded in your IHG account.  The reason for this is that will then make you eligible for status matches that require showing stay activity within 12 months of application.  As described above, those with Marriott free nights expiring 8/1/2021 may be especially interested in the opportunities that this offers.

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Terry Anserello

Hey, don’t do this! They will use the award that is not expiring, as that was intended to replace the one that is expiring Dec 31.

Luckily, I caught this after making the reservation and was able to have them give me my replacement award back.


I read these recommendations and planned on making a booking to use my expiring certificate before 12/31. Before making that booking I made 2 future bookings for August ’21 so system wouldn’t mistakenly apply my 2 new certs. To my surprise it automatically applied a 12/31/20 expiration date cert to an August ’21 reservation. Does anyone have experience with a reservation past the expiration date being honored by IHG? Are these treated like prepaid rate, or will they eventually realize cert has an expired date? I assume I would loose all flexibility in that scenario also. The cert in question is an uncapped night, so might be willing to gamble on a booking to maximize value. The status match idea isn’t as relevant to me.


I’m not sure why you say 12/30 for the old one. About a week ago I booked a night for 12/31/20 and it used the expiring night, not the new 8/31 night


I also did the same today. At first I used the strategy to book far out but when i booked for May 2021 it took my 12/31 certificate which left me confused. I tried P2 and it did the same. So I went back and canceled those and did 12/30 and 12/31 reservations and I still have both 8/31 certs left. FYI, my certs are from the original credit card and were uncapped. Sadly I’m using them at a $100 night hotel, but it’ll be a nice night away from home.

Last edited 3 years ago by CJ R

IHG corporate confirmed to me that you can use both nights, so no risks there.


Greg et al, I have old ihg card. I don’t see any December 31 2020 expiring certificate(s)!! Only one certificate that goes to June of 2022. I’m feeling a little unloved right now….at least from ihg!!!


the 12/31/20 expiring certs are from the FIRST Extension for those whose certs expiring in 2020. The first extension was in March, extend existing certs that would have expired in 2020 to the end of 2020.
NEW certs after the March extension on existing certs, ALL HAVE 18 MONTHS life, such as your current cert!

While it takes IHG this late to do the 2nd extension, over all, IHG has a better accommodation than Marriott which very reluctantly extended the certs to 08/01/21, and NO new 18 months expiration on new certs issued.

Marriott Marty

I tried to use the certificate for 12/31/20-1/1/22 and the system would not accept it and I called in x2 and was unable to use the expiring certificate past a 12/31/20 check out date


because the stay must be completed on the expiration date. you will NOT get to use it if your check out date is beyond 12/31/20.
IHG ALREADY GAVE YOU NEW CERTS. And the old certs are windfalls. Dont try to cheat as it would not work.


The first commenter Joe seems to figure it out. In order to use the expiring certificate, your stay needs to check in by 12/30/2020. I hope it works for you.


Don’t know the deal with Marriott. I applied for the status challenge exactly the same as your example and submitted proof of my Holiday Inn 2-night stay as well as my Plat status. Wasn’t good enough for Marriott, they told me I do not meet the eligibility requirements. Applied twice and was rejected twice.

I’m Marriott Gold. Could that be the reason why ?

David Kemp

P2 and myself had 3 IHG certificates expiring 12/31/20. We booked all 3 before they announced the new 8/31/21 certificates. We received three new 8/31/21 free nights even though we had already used the expiring ones.


I am in a similar boat and was planning to go for Marriott Status match.
I saw the 2 free night certs in my account and tried to make use of it in Jan and I was successfully able to make a reservation on Jan 16th. Weirdly enough the other free night cert is still showing valid till 12/31. SO it doesnt look I can use the expiring one.

Last edited 3 years ago by lon3volf
Teresa Henning

Issue if you stay with Certificate there are no receipts. So you will have a stay but no folio. I myself did Marriott status match. I needed to send folio for proof of one stay at competing brand. Certificate nights are direct billed to IHG.

Teresa Henning



I tried booking using my ihg certificate and it keeps taking away the new on that ends 08/31/2021 and not the one ending 12/31/2020. If you know a trick to use the latter either explicitly or manually, please let me know cause I would love to use it for status match as you suggested.

Ed k

Is it possible to book two reservation at the same time using both certificates knowing the extended one is for even a different location and later date (since it was extended) and then you could cancel or change the later one if your plans change, thus keeping both certificates? Hotels need business so it’s a win-win. Another thought, since I usually use these using the online way, I wonder if calling them at this pandemic time would make a difference because they are trying to help get tourism alive again. Unusual time.


Greg, here is the trick i figured out after trying a variation of your suggestion. I’d have to do 3 bookings using the 3 certificates (i had 2 plus the one expiring 12/31/2020). and in order to use the one expiring 12/31/2020, the one has to be booked for stay by 12/30/2020 (checkin) or else there is some weird suffling when i cancelled the one end on 08/31/2021 and got back the certificate for 12/31/2020, which is what i was trying to use. if I used the one ended on 12/31/2020 and book a night for checkin by 12/30/2020, that works. Not 12/31/2020 checkin afterwards. Maybe this is worth a mentioned on those podcasts dealing crazy IHG reservation system 🙂


Because the stay MUST END on the cert’s expiration date – it is IN THE FINE PRINT of the Cert’s T&Cs. Therefore booking 12/31 would not work as you would then complete your stay on 1/1/21!

If you obey the rule the system would ALWAYS take the earliest expiration cert first. It does not, is ONLY BECAUSE YOUR STAY CHECK OUT DATE PASS THE EXPIRATION DATE!