Waiting too long to redeem an annual award night certificate — reader mistake story

Apr 6, 2020

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Editor’s note: This story was submitted to TPG when the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. was much smaller. You can see TPG’s complete coronavirus coverage here.

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Liang, who waited too long to redeem an IHG anniversary award night certificate:

I opened an IHG Rewards Club Select credit card with Chase back in April 2018 hoping to start taking advantage of the yearly uncapped anniversary award night certificate being offered (no longer available). Wouldn’t you know it, they capped the certificate at 40,000 points less than a month after I just got the card. Luckily, a few weeks later, they decided to extend the offer of the uncapped certificate until May 2019. Success!

Fast forward almost two years later to January 2020 and I still haven’t used the uncapped night certificate I received in April 2019.  My spouse and I also wanted to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. So I decided to book the Intercontinental the Willard as I read on TPG that is one of the nicer IHG properties to book with the uncapped certificate. Again, my bad luck strikes. COVID-19 starts spreading around the world and there are hundreds of reported cases in the U.S. including a few in Washington, D.C.

I called both IHG and Chase to see if they could extend the expiration on the certificate, but neither company would budge. Now I’m nearing a point where I either have to travel to a location with known cases of coronavirus or cancel my plans and lose out on my one and only uncapped night certificate that I had been patiently waiting for almost two years to use.

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The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on travel plans all around the world, and at this point I would unfortunately have to encourage Liang to cancel the trip and avoid all nonessential travel, even if it means forfeiting a coveted, uncapped IHG award-night certificate. There’s a chance that IHG might relent and extend the certificate as the virus continues to spread, but the real mistake here is waiting until the last minute to use a certificate with an expiration date.

Of course, no one expected a global pandemic to bring travel to a halt in the way that it has, but even during good times there are plenty of things that can come up at the last minute and interfere with your travel plans. There are various hotel chains extending award night certificates, sometimes on a case-by-case basis, but it’s far from a guarantee. In fact, if I have any award night certificates in my account, I go out of my way to try and use them before redeeming any points, which are fairly easy to keep from expiring.

Related: Hotel credit cards that come with an annual award night

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Liang a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo of the InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy.

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