Home Hotel Loyalty IHG Rewards Odd: Are IHG free night certificates a little better than I thought?

Odd: Are IHG free night certificates a little better than I thought?

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I have an IHG free night certificate that’s expiring at the end of the year and as I was performing a few random searches to see what I could and couldn’t book with it last night, I stumbled across something that I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen before – the free night certificates can sometimes be more useful than points.

The search

I was using the IHG iOS app to search for availability so in the search parameters I set the app to show me what I could book using a Chase Free Night award.

I started off looking for something to book for a friend who’s coming to visit us in Los Angeles and it was only because I scrolled well past any properties that were of interest that I noticed an oddity.

What I found

For a single night stay in North Hollywood on 3 December, the search results showed that a Holiday Inn Express in the area has no reward night availability but will still allow me to use my Chase Free Night certificate to book a room.

Just in case this was simply a display error of some kind, I re-performed the search using ‘Reward Nights’ instead of ‘Chase Free Night’ in the parameters and once again got a result that shows that the property cannot be booked with points on that night.

I went back to the search with my Chase Free Night certificate and checked to see that I could actually book the room without having to use any cash (which I could), and then checked again to make sure that I couldn’t book it with points (which I couldn’t).

Considering that this type of Free Night Certificate is supposedly only useable at properties charging up to 40,000 points for a night (i.e. properties with award availability) this is a little odd.

Wondering if this was just some strange one-off glitch, I then set about trying to replicate this result elsewhere, and although finding more examples like this wasn’t easy, this turned out not to be an isolated case.

Here’s an example somewhere near Atlanta:

And just to prove that this isn’t limited to the United States, here’s the same thing happening in London:

I’m not going to suggest that IHG Free Night Certificates are suddenly more valuable because they appear to be able to book free nights at properties where award bookings are unavailable because these three results were very clearly outliers in a sea of otherwise very normal results. But I do find it interesting that room availability for Free Night Certificate bookings isn’t always tied to availability for points bookings as up until now, that’s what I have always assumed to be the case.

Has anyone else seen this before? Do we know what causes this to happen? And has anyone ever seen this happen at any high-end properties?

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  1. Data point, it was the same for me when I booked Orlando hotels for Columbus Day weekend. Many hotels didn’t have points availability, but was available for the Chase Free Nights.

  2. Hey Ziggy. Yeah, this has been going on for years, but like you say is somewhat rare. There was a discussion awhile back, probably on Flyertalk, that indicated the Chase Free Night rooms come from a different pool than the reward nights. This dates back to well before the 40,000 limitation and I believe you can find instances in which a room is available on points but NOT with a Chase Free Night.

    • Thanks for confirming Bob. I guess it’s not hugely surprising that I haven’t seen this before as my IHG searches tend to be very focused so I don’t usually scroll thorough a lot of results (unlike this time around).

    • Also, chase free nights often put a limit to 2 people in the room. So if you’re searching for 3 people, there may be a normal reward available, but it’s not available on Chase free nights because at that hotel, they limit rooms on chase awards to no more than 2.

  3. It really depends on the level of certificate and room demand in that area from my experience. It’s also not unusual to have 40k capped certs and hotel that even think they have demand to have points rooms at 41k.

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