Remember Alanis Morrisette nineties song “Ironic”? If it was written today, I’m sure it would include a line that goes “It’s like burning your uncapped IHG cert on a cheap airport hotel…” Or maybe in my mind this hobby is more mainstream that it actually is in reality.
Anyway, if you currently hold an uncapped renewal certificate or two, you are probably agonizing on where to burn it. Intercontinental properties in New York, San Francisco and even Bora Bora, all are fair game as long as there is award availability.
I was actually planning to use mine at Intercontinental Willard in Washington DC before scrapping the whole idea after my husband’s rant. I then reserved two nights in Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel and Spa (60,000 points per night) and was even preemptively upgraded to one-bedroom suite. Score! But then I got an idea to go to Costa Rica for our wedding anniversary, and Vero Beach was out. A nice problem to have, for sure.
But not to worry, because as long as you burn the certificates by the expiration date, you can use them for stays through the end of schedule. Or so I thought. As was reported on Frequent Miler few months ago, IHG has started strictly enforcing the expiration date for certificates issued in May of 2018 and later. So, if you are holding on to those in hopes of finding the perfect place to use them, maybe you shouldn’t. Your stay will have to be consumed no later than 9 days after the cert’s expiration date.
We had two certificates, with one expiring in September and the other one in December of this year. Since our travel schedule is relatively packed for the next few months, I didn’t see a way of squeezing in a weekend getaway. However, I did end up burning one of the certificates at Holiday Inn Sarasota Lido Beach It costs 45,000 IHG points per night, so it’s not eligible for new certificates which are capped at 40,000 points.
The hotel is located a little over an hour from our house, so driving there for just one night is doable. We’ve stayed here a few times before, so I knew what to expect. Honestly, the place is looking rather tired these days. The mattresses are old, furniture tatty, and tiny bathroom is humid and smells funny. It didn’t help that we got a view of an old sock and a lollipop:
Still, $49 rate for a beachfront hotel during Memorial Day weekend is tough to beat, so I viewed our lodging as a glorified camping of sorts. Plus, you can’t beat the view from the restaurant.
Originally, my husband and I were supposed to go there for a couple’s getaway. But then I found out my cousin-in-law was heading there the same night and was bringing the kids. So, we brought our little rascals with us. The kids had so much fun, and the water was absolutely gorgeous.
If you have an uncapped IHG certificate and don’t mind staying in a rather basic hotel with a loud A/C window unit, consider this place. But would I ever pay 45,000 IHG points for it? No way, Jose. Not even during holidays.
What about the other certificate?
One down, one more to go. My husband’s certificate won’t expire until middle of December, so we technically have plenty of time to figure out what to do with it. But once again, we’ve got so many travel plans in the fall, I just don’t see where it would fit in. I don’t want to drive two hours just to stay in a hotel for one night.
Holiday Inn Lido Beach is relatively close, but I don’t feel like going out of my way for it. We can simply pack a cooler in the trunk of our minivan, and drive to the coast for few hours on the weekend instead. Plus, I much prefer my own bed and a view that doesn’t include an old dirty sock.
As it turns out, soon we will need to spend one night near Salt Lake City airport. So, I figured I will burn IHG points+certificate and reserve three rooms for us and in-laws. And that’s what I did. It pains me to burn my precious unrestricted cert on an airport hotel that otherwise costs $95 all-in, but it seems like the most logical option. I don’t want to scramble at the last minute just to use up that one night locally, and irritate my husband in the process.
Bottom line is: $49 is a great deal for any decent hotel, and we happen to actually need to stay overnight near Salt Lake City. As counterintuitive as it sounds, using renewal certificates on airport stays is one of the best values when it comes to family travel. Usually, with vacation destination, you have a ton of other options: AirBnB, VRBO and so on. But nobody will be looking at AirBnB for a one-night stay near an airport.
Ranking renewal certificates
A few months ago Nancy wrote an excellent post comparing three renewal certificates: one from Marriott card (property that costs up to 35,000 points), one from IHG (up to 40,000 points) and one from Hyatt (Category 1-4). Her conclusion was the one I would make as well: “The correct winner in the battle of renewal certificates depends on you and your circumstances.”
When it comes to my family’s travel patterns, I would rank the certificates this way:
1) Marriott certificate (from personal Chase card or discontinued Amex SPG card, $95 annual fee).
Even with all the latest devaluations and merger frustrations, it’s not that hard to find a nice property that costs 35,000 points or less. Marriott also has an excellent footprint, a big deal for me. As a result, it shouldn’t be difficult to get at least $95 in value, thereby recouping the annual fee.
Incidentally, that’s one card on the list I don’t actually have!
2) IHG certificate
This card used to be a no-brainer to recommend to just about anyone. For $49 annual fee you could get a night in any IHG property, including Bora Bora. No more. New certificates are only good for properties that cost 40,000 points or less. Plus, if you’ve applied for this card recently, you are stuck with $89 annual fee.
Even so, I believe that an average traveler should be able to justify keeping the card long-term, though it depends, of course. IHG has an excellent footprint, and even paying $89 all-in for a decent airport hotel isn’t a bad deal. Occasionally, you can score a 2-bedroom unit in a resort near Disney
3) Hyatt certificate
Some people probably think I’m nuts for putting it last, but hear me out. It comes down to limited footprint. I really like Hyatt properties. If the choice is between Holiday Inn Express and Hyatt Place, I will pick the latter every day. But since I usually renew hotel credit cards without having specific plans for certificates, I like to have as many potential options as I can.
As long as Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa was a Cat.4, it was my favorite use of renewal certificates. Sadly, it’s no longer eligible. That said, I still believe Hyatt card is a keeper, and I plan on renewing it for the foreseeable future. I have the version with a $75 annual fee, but IMO even $95 fee is worth it (for most).
You will get 50,000 Hyatt points after spending $6,000 in 6 months, $95 annual fee is not waived. Keep in mind that the signup bonus was higher when it was initially launched, but this is the best offer available at the moment. Each year at renewal time, you will get a free night certificate good at Cat. 1-4 property.
As you can see, I held out when it comes to my IHG uncapped certificate, and ended up using it in a way that is definitely less than optimal. Don’t be like me! If you see a decent IHG property that fits your travel plans, burn the darn cert. Don’t think you will do better down the road. You may not.
On the other hand, it’s not the end of the world if you end up burning it at an airport hotel. You are still getting a heck of a deal for $49.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.