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For a long time, the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer available to new applicants) offered one of the most valuable perks in the credit card world. In exchange for a modest $49 annual fee, you received an unrestricted free night, valid at any IHG property in the world. The possibilities were endless, including overwater bungalows in Bora Bora and fancy rooms in London or Hong Kong that routinely sell for over $500 a night.

This value proposition was strong enough to attract customers who were loyal to other hotel chains, but unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and the IHG Select Card has been replaced by the new IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. Here are a few highlights of the new IHG Premier card:

  • Earn 125,000 IHG points as a sign-up bonus: 125,000 IHG points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • 25 points per dollar on IHG purchases for the first 12 months; then 10x points
  • 4 points per dollar on all other purchases for 12 months; then 2 points per dollar at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • Fourth night free on award stays
  • Automatic IHG Platinum status
  • Anniversary free night at an eligible hotel
  • $89 annual fee

Change to the Free Night Benefit

In addition to nearly doubling the annual fee, the biggest change with the new card is that the free night certificate can only be used at hotels that cost 40,000 points or less per night. While legacy Select cardholders were initially told they wouldn’t be grandfathered in, IHG did add a one-time extension: All free night certificates issued before May 1, 2019 are still uncapped. Once that day arrives, all certificates moving forward will be capped at 40,000 points per night for both Select and Premier cardholders.

IHG has published a list of hotels that are specifically excluded for your convenience, and it contains one more piece of bad news: While many people were excited when Kimpton Rewards was folded into IHG, almost every single Kimpton hotel including newly opened properties cost over 40,000 points per night. I’ve only found one exception to this rule, the Kimpton Overland in Atlanta which costs 40,000 points a night.

To make matters worse, the IHG list isn’t even fully correct. The recently opened Kimpton Da An in Taipei is not on the excluded list, even though it costs 50,000 points a night.

While you should absolutely use the list as a starting point, just because a hotel is not on the list, doesn’t mean you will be able to redeem your free night certificates there.

Best IHG Hotels Where You Can Still Use the Free Night Certificate

There’s no question that this change was a devaluation, one that was worsened with January’s award chart changes. That being said, there are still a number of spectacular IHG hotels that meet the new criteria for free night certificates. In compiling this list I focused on two main factors to help determine where the best value lies:

  • Level of luxury
  • Normal cost (in both points and cash)

There are many other factors that come into play, however, so be sure to chime in with your favorites in the comments section below.

Without any further ado, here are some great options for your (now capped) anniversary night from the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card:

Photo courtesy of the InterContiental Shanghai Ruijin
Photo courtesy of the InterContiental Shanghai Ruijin

1. InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin

The InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin has held on to its storied history as the city around it has continued to grow and modernize. Formerly the state guest house of Shanghai, the building served as a residence to Mao Zedong as well as the Communist Party headquarters during the war of liberation. The 221 rooms retain their old-world charm while offering modern luxuries like Bose surround-sound systems. Each room comes with a garden view, and guests are no more than a 20-minute walk from some of Shanghai’s best shopping and nightlife including Xintiandi and Huaihai roads, Tianzifang and Jing’an.

Points per night: 35,000

Photo courtesy of the InterContinental Bangkok

2. InterContinental Bangkok

Bangkok takes on a distinctly different feeling depending on where in the city you choose to stay. The InterContinental, located just a few blocks from Lumphini Park in the center of the commercial district, reminds you that for all its ancient temples, the “city of angels” is now a bustling metropolis. In addition to six on-site bars and restaurants, guests will enjoy easy access to every corner of the city, as the hotel is also situated on two of the main metro lines. With 381 rooms and suites, this is one of the larger hotels in the city, making it more likely that you’ll find award space on the dates you need.

Points per night: 40,000

Photo courtesy of the InterContinental Athens

3. InterContinental Athenaeum, Athens

The InterContinental Athenaeum offers stunning views overlooking the Acropolis. The hotel’s design pays respect to its ancient Greek surroundings while still delivering modern luxury. After a long day exploring the city or shopping in the boutique galleries and street markets nearby, return to the rooftop bar for champagne cocktails and sweeping views. From the art in the lobby to the comfortable design of the 553 guest rooms, the InterContinental Athenaeum provides a pleasant stay all around.

Points per night: 35,000

Photo courtesy of IHG
Photo courtesy of the InterContinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers.

4. InterContinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers

The more business-oriented InterContinental Sandton Towers is connected to the Sandton Convention Center, and the staff draws on their local knowledge and experience to help you plan a memorable meeting. Their “Insider Collection” will produce tailor-made participant experiences that range from off-site team building activities to finding engaging local speakers to add to your lineup. Leisure travelers will still enjoy this hotel for the easy access to food and shopping as well as the spacious and airy guest rooms.

Points per night: 30,000

Photo courtesy of IHG
Photo courtesy of the InterContinental Budapest

5. InterContinental Budapest

Guests at the InterContinental Budapest have the unique experience of enjoying 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites while staying in one of the most prized pieces of real estate in the city. From the famous Chain Bridge to the Royal Palace and Buda Castle Hill right across the Danube River, the InterContinental is seamlessly integrated with the city. The surrounding neighborhood is full of bars and restaurants, allowing you to get to know the city instead of just watching from a distance.

Points per night: 40,000

Photo courtesy of IHG
Photo courtesy of the InterContinental Doha

6. InterContinental Doha, Qatar

This InterContinental is located on Doha’s longest stretch of private beach and surrounded by a surprising amount of greenery for a location in the middle of the desert. Whether you’re looking to stay in and enjoy one of the 10 bars and restaurants at the hotel or get out and explore the iconic landmarks of Doha, it’s a great pick.

Points per night: 35,000

Bottom Line

The IHG free night certificate is much harder to use now, with many of the best redemptions sitting just out of reach of the 40,000-point limit. This is especially true in the United States, as you’ll often be forced to pick a less desirable location or a lower-tier brand to fall within that threshold. That being said, there are plenty of ways to redeem this free night for a stay worth much more than the $89 annual fee on the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (or the $49 on the old IHG Select card), especially if you’re traveling internationally and looking to stay at higher end InterContinental hotels.

Featured photo courtesy of the InterContinental Bangkok.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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