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Currently, Chase issues two IHG One Rewards credit cards that offer cardholders a free night certificate as part of their benefits package – the card_name and the card_name – and quite a few of us who have been around the miles and points hobby for some time, also hold the IHG One Rewards Select credit card (no longer open to new applicants) which offers the same benefit.
If you take a look at the terms and conditions that accompany either the card_name or the card_name, there’s nothing complicated about how the free night certificate is supposed to work – an eligible cardholder is awarded a free night certificate on their card anniversary and this can be used to book a night at an IHG property charging up to 40,000 points for that night.
If a cardholder wishes to book a property costing more than 40,000 points, they can top up the value of their certificate with points from their IHG One Rewards account (this does not apply to the certificate issued by the legacy IHG One Rewards Select credit card).
It’s all pretty straightforward, and as there are no exceptions to this benefit listed in Chase’s terms and conditions, the free night certificates should be useable at any IHG One Rewards property in the world.
This, however, isn’t always the case and while I’ve chosen to call what I’m about to discuss a “glitch”, I’m not entirely convinced that there isn’t more to this than meets the eye so let me know what you think.
Here’s my recent experience:
A couple of days ago, I had two free night certificates sitting in my IHG One Rewards account – one courtesy of my card_name and one courtesy of my legacy IHG One Rewards Select credit card – and one of them is due to expire at the end of this year.
Unfortunately, I don’t really have a pressing need to stay at an IHG property before the end of 2023, but because I’m always loathe to let a free night certificate expire unused, I decided to try to use it to book one of IHG’s Heathrow properties ahead of an upcoming trip home.
I headed over to the IHG website, logged in to my account, selected the free night certificate that will expire this year, and searched for a suitable property.
Quite a few properties showed availability, and once I filtered the results for some of the better IHG brands, the Crowne Plaza London Heathrow T4 was the property that I decided to book.
Almost immediately, however, there was an issue.
As soon as I selected the property from the list of results, IHG.com decided that there wasn’t any free night availability after all and tried to sell me a cash rate.
I changed the search parameters to see if IHG would sell me the same night at the same property as a regular award booking and, sure enough, I was offered a room for 24,000 points (yes, I know this isn’t a great use of my free night certificate so please don’t write in!)
This was odd.
What made this situation odder still was the fact that when I went back into my account and searched for a free night using my other free night certificate (the one from my legacy IHG One Rewards Select credit card that expires in April 2024), I was able to book the property with no issues at all.
At this point, I noted that IHG.com was referring to the non-functioning certificate search as an “Anniversary Free Night Flex” search while the functioning certificate search was being referred to simply as a “Chase Reward Night” search so, just to see what would happen, I used the functioning certificate to get me as far as the room selection page and then changed the search parameter to indicate that I wanted to use the certificate from my card_name.
Immediately, all availability disappeared and I was once again being told that “my preferred rate” was not available.
I wasn’t about to give up, so I called IHG to see what could be done about this.
At first, the agent followed the same steps that I had taken and then told me that there was no Chase free night certificate availability.
After I told her that I could book the room with my other certificate and that the room was also bookable with points, she put me on hold for a few minutes before coming back to tell me that her system was still not allowing her to book the room and suggesting that she make the booking using my other certificate.
Politely (but firmly) I refused her offer to use my other certificate and pointed out just how ridiculous the situation was (why does one certificate work but not the other?!), so after she said she would see if she could get some help, she put me on hold again.
30 minutes into the phone call, she came back on the line to say that she had found a way to make the booking using the certificate that I wanted to use and then proceeded to do exactly that.
I have no idea who helped her or how she did it but I now have just one certificate in my IHG One Rewards account…
…and a reservation at the Crowne Plaza London Heathrow T4 (which I’m looking forward to checking out).
Apparently, there was availability after all!
This isn’t a one-off issue
It would be tempting to put this down to bad luck or to a one-off issue but the simple fact is that this is neither.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had an issue trying to use a free night certificate at a property where rooms are available for 40,000 points or less (I just lost the will to live and gave up before I got to the bottom of those issues), and Flyertalk is littered with examples of other IHG One Rewards members having trouble using their certificates when there appears to be no rational reason for their certificates not to work.
On one Flyertalk thread we can see that IHG told Gary Leff (VFTW) that the issue flagged was “an isolated incident” which they were “working to rectify”, but as that was far from the only report of someone having trouble using a free night certificate, and as that thread is over a year old, I feel safe in saying that IHG was wrong about the issue being “isolated” and that my experience shows that the problems have not been rectified at all… at least not entirely.
Per the terms and conditions of Chase’s free night certificates, there should be no reason why one of these certificates cannot be used at a property that is prepared to sell a room for 40,000 points or less.
Chase doesn’t mention blackout dates, give any examples of when a certificate cannot be used, or suggest that certificate free night awards come out of a different inventory to award bookings (even though you’ll find people on the internet telling you exactly that), so if you’re having trouble redeeming an IHG Chase free night certificate but everything points to the fact that you shouldn’t be having any issues at all, don’t give up.
Call IHG and don’t hang up until you have the booking you need. Your certificate represents a significant rebate on the annual fee that you’re paying to Chase so don’t let IHG stop you from using it when you have every right to do so.