How to use the IHG hotel award night certificate

Oct 13, 2021

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The award certificate that comes with the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is one of the best reasons to carry the card.

With an $89 annual fee (waived for the first year), you’ll receive an award night certificate (starting on your first anniversary as a cardmember) which can be used at any hotel with a redemption level of 40,000 points a night or less. If used strategically, this certificate is valued at about $200 — which more than offsets the card’s annual fee.

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Traditionally, the certificates expire exactly 12 months after they are earned and deposited into your IHG account, but IHG extended has extended some due to the pandemic. Ultimately, certificates that were set to expire March 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, were extended through Dec. 31, 2021. And all certificates that were issued in 2020 were given an 18-month expiration date, although no earlier than Dec. 31, 2021.

Those dates are fast approaching, though, and with many IHG certificates set to expire in just a few months, it’s time to start using them. Of course, there is always the chance that IHG extends them again, but we suggest redeeming them now so they do not go unused.

Related: Top hotels for redeeming the IHG Premier Card’s anniversary reward night

How to book a night with your IHG award certificate

Even though the certificates hold a lot of weight, using them is not so straightforward. Instead of going through the normal booking process, you first need to sign in to your IHG account and click on your name in the upper right-hand corner, which will bring up your account profile.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Underneath the “Available Points” area, it’ll show you if you have any free nights available. You’ll need to click the free night link, which will then pull up another page detailing the free nights in your account.

On the next page, you’ll see how many anniversary nights you have available and the ones redeemed. It’ll also include the expiration date for each individual free night. Unless you still have an anniversary night grandfathered into the old rules, you must actually complete your stay by the expiration date, not just book by this date.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

To book with the award certificate, you’ll need to click the “Book Night” button. Then, enter enter your destination and dates. If you are planning on staying at the hotel for more nights than the number of award night certificates you have, you’ll have to book separate reservations. The system will only allow you to book a stay that is equal to or fewer than the number of award night certificates in your account and will not put them toward a longer stay, allowing you to use points or cash for the remainder of the stay.

You’ll notice that “Chase Free Night” automatically pops up as the “Rate Preference” in your search.

Note: Going through the regular booking process will not give you the option of selecting an award certificate.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Your search will then appear, listing all hotels in your destination where you can use the award night certificate. If it says “FREE” you are able to book using your certificate. If there is a dollar amount given instead, your award night certificate cannot be used at that property on that particular date.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Once you find a property that works for you, you’ll then want to click the orange “Select Hotel” button. You’ll then proceed with your reservation as you normally would by selecting your room choice, confirming that you want to book with your Chase Free Night, entering your credit card information (if it’s not already saved in your account) and then agreeing to the terms and conditions and cancellation policy.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Keep in mind, though, that similar to booking with IHG points, not all room types are available when using your award night certificate. If this happens, you could always try booking a less desirable room type (as long as you can cancel) and then call the hotel directly to see if they’ll honor your request for a different room — for example, one with two queen beds instead of one king bed.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to IHG Rewards Club

Finding available dates with award certificates

Since IHG no longer has a fixed award chart, the number of points required at a single property can vary drastically depending on the date. If you are flexible with your dates, there’s a chance that you’ll be able to find a night that costs 40,000 points (the cap when using your award night certificate) or less. Unfortunately, going through the booking process above doesn’t give you a clear calendar view on when the award night certificates will work for a given hotel.

Instead, you’ll want to start fresh and create a search as if you are using reward points. Similar to above, include your destination, but instead of a specific date, input a date range for when you are able to travel. Then, on the “Rate Preference” drop-down window, select “Reward Nights.”

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

The hotel options will then appear, letting you know the average number of points required per night for your time frame. Even if the average is over 40,000 points, there’s still a chance that a few nights are less than the 40,000-point cap, allowing you to use your award certificate.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Once you select the hotel you are interested in, you’ll want to click “Rate details.”

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Here you’ll see the number of points required per night. For this particular property, you can see that the points range from 22,000 to 51,000 per night for the searched time frame. If the night is 40,000 points or less — which is the case for most of the nights in this example — search again for your desired night and book the hotel using your award night certificate.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Related: From Paris to Bogota: How I’m using 17 expiring hotel free night certificates this year

Bottom line

Knowing the ins and outs of booking an IHG award night certificate is extremely important. This will help you book at your preferred property and help ensure that your certificate does not go unused.

With many certificates expiring at the end of the year, and many travelers looking to get away, you’ll want to book early. I have my fingers crossed that IHG and many other hotel chains that offer similar certificates extend their expiration dates once again, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

Featured photo courtesy of Holiday Inn Resort Aruba – Beach Resort & Casino.

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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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