Check your account: IHG emailed cardholders regarding expiring reward night certificates

Dec 18, 2020

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Editor’s note: This news story has been updated with additional information.

As the end of 2020 approaches, my husband and I have struggled with what to do with three IHG Rewards Club reward night certificates set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. When I wrote about four ways to use expiring IHG nights during the pandemic back in September, I had plans to use these expiring certificates before the end of the year.

These plans changed multiple times as hotels have delayed reopening and we’ve had to cancel trips. And, as daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, we decided we wouldn’t be traveling to use the certificates before the end of the year.

Many TPG staffers and other travelers I’ve spoken to seem to be in similar situations. Even as other hotel loyalty programs provided further extensions to reward night certificates, IHG Rewards Club remained silent. But, an IHG spokesperson confirmed to me earlier this week that IHG was in the process of extending expiring reward night certificates.

And today, IHG sent out emails to affected cardholders with the good news. Here’s what you need to know.

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IHG’s statements on the free nights

InterContinental Fiji Resort
InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Earlier this year, IHG Rewards Club extended reward nights expiring between March and December 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020. But, as the Dec. 31, 2020 expiration date approaches, many IHG Rewards Club members still haven’t been able to use their reward nights. After all, we’re still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that led IHG to extend the certificates in the first place.

Back on Dec. 8, 2020, an IHG spokesperson provided the following response after I reached out about the reward night certificates that expire on Dec. 31, 2020:

We’ve continually monitored the impact of the global pandemic and have responded with program changes and increased flexibility to better serve our IHG Rewards members. Earlier this year, we announced several measures to extend Anniversary Night certificates set to expire and deposited in 2020. Later this month, we will share an update with cardmembers about anniversary certificates with a 2020 expiration date.

And, on Dec. 16, 2020, this IHG spokesperson provided the following additional statement to me:

We’ve continually monitored the impact of the global pandemic and have responded with program changes and increased flexibility to better serve our IHG Rewards members. We understand that, right now, some members may need more time to use their certificates to travel when they feel ready.

This week, we’re announcing to cardmembers that they will have until August 31, 2021 to use Anniversary Night certificates originally set to expire in 2020. Cardmembers will begin to see a new Anniversary Night certificate with a redemption period through August 31, 2021 in their accounts. These certificates will be deposited on a rolling basis, through the end of the week.

As a reminder, earlier this year we announced that all Anniversary Night certificates deposited in 2020 had an 18-month redemption period to give members more time to travel.

Now, today IHG sent out the following email to IHG Rewards Club cardholders with anniversary night certificates set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020:

IHG Anniversary Night extension email
(Screenshot courtesy of IHG Rewards Club)

I’m thrilled that IHG Rewards Club is offering new anniversary night certificates for cardmembers who have not yet redeemed their certificates set to expire in 2020. But you may have more questions. So, in the next section, I explain in more detail how this extension works in practice.

Related: Why I often choose IHG and Choice hotels, despite limited elite perks

How does this extension work in practice?

Kimpton Seafire Resort on Grand Cayman
Kimpton Seafire Resort on Grand Cayman (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

My husband and I have three certificates set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. When I initially checked on Dec. 16, we’d only gotten one new certificate with an Aug. 31, 2021 expiration date deposited. But, now all three new certificates with Aug. 31, 2021 expiration dates have been deposited.

All of the certificates with Dec. 31, 2020 expiration dates are still showing, though. And you likely see something similar in your account. Luckily, an IHG spokesperson confirmed this is normal and expected.

In particular, IHG won’t be removing any of the existing certificates that expire on Dec. 31, 2020, from your account. So, you could theoretically use the original certificate before its Dec. 31, 2020 expiration date and then still use the new certificate before its Aug. 31, 2021 expiration date. IHG has confirmed it won’t prohibit members from using both certificates.

However, don’t worry if you don’t see a new certificate for each certificate still in your account with an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2020. This is expected, as the process to deposit the new certificates is ongoing. The email sent to IHG Rewards Club cardholders notes that IHG will deposit new certificates by the end of the year, but the IHG spokesperson said the process should be complete today. And, IHG confirmed that anyone who still had an expiring certificate in their account as of Dec. 14, 2020, will receive a new certificate.

IHG also confirmed that expiring IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card certificates, as well as Select and Select Uncapped certificates, will all be treated the same way. And, if you have multiple certificates in your account that expire at the end of 2020, you will receive multiple new certificates.

Finally, I also asked about members who may have an expiring certificate in their account that is currently tied to an upcoming stay. IHG confirmed that if a cardmember cancels a reservation made with the original certificate set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, they will have until Aug. 31, 2021, to rebook with the new certificate.

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

Why did IHG wait so long?

InterContinental Tahiti (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

IHG cardholders with expiring certificates have wondered for months whether IHG would extend the certificates. Although I’m thrilled about IHG’s decision, I know several members who already burned their expiring certificates on sub-optimal redemptions. And, I would have done so myself if multiple canceled trips and closed properties hadn’t kept me from doing so.

So, you may be wondering why IHG waited so long to extend its expiring certificates. I can’t provide a conclusive answer to this question. But, my hunch is that the reason is three-fold:

  • IHG hoped that most of its members would feel comfortable traveling by the end of 2020 but decided to extend as the coronavirus pandemic worsened
  • IHG felt pressure to extend its certificates as other hotel loyalty programs did so
  • IHG’s backend system can’t handle modifying or removing certificates expiring on Dec. 31, 2020, or at least can’t do so at a large scale

Regardless of the reasoning, the delay caused many to assume that IHG wouldn’t be extending its certificates. I’m happy IHG eventually made the customer-friendly move of issuing new certificates for members who hadn’t yet used their expiring certificates. As an IHG spokesperson told me, IHG wants to allow members to redeem their free night “whenever they feel safest traveling again.”

Related: 6 ways IHG Rewards Club should improve its loyalty program

Bottom line

As with many hotel credit cards with annual reward nights, I’m generally happy to pay the annual fee on the IHG Premier due to the card’s anniversary night. But, using hotel reward night certificates during the pandemic has been challenging.

I’m thrilled that IHG Rewards Club has decided to extend the expiring reward night certificates by providing new certificates with an expiration date of Aug. 31, 2021. In particular, the issuance of a new certificate is a generous, customer-friendly move. But, although this announcement is excellent for those of us who held on to our expiring certificates, it doesn’t help members who already stayed on sub-optimal redemptions.

Featured image of the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso by JT Genter/The Points Guy

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