SAD! I Burned my Uncapped IHG Certificate at an Airport Hotel

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).

My personal referral link for World of Hyatt card 

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.

Bottom line

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.

Click here to view various credit cards and available sign-up bonuses


Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and 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.

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19 thoughts on “SAD! I Burned my Uncapped IHG Certificate at an Airport Hotel

  1. You *are* crazy for ranking Hyatt certificates last! We are currently sitting on four.

    But I will agree with the airport hotel not being a bad option. Used three certificates over the years at Staybridge Suites SFO, which was always going for $200+ per night.

    • @Ian Oh, I do love my Hyatt certs! That’s why I have no qualms recommending the card. But limited footprint is a problem if one doesn’t have solid plans to use them. It does depend on where you live, of course.

  2. I was able to use 2 (my Husband’s and mine) last uncapped IHG night certs at Kimpton Grand Cayman this February. I think the regular rate was around $1000 a night. That was such a treat to get to experience staying there! It was a beautiful resort (inside and outside) with a big beautiful beach, and the customer service there was outstanding! (We then went to the Westin for 6 nights and the customer service there was poor when compared to the Kimpton.) I would love to go back to the Kimpton, but the cost is 70,000 pts a night.
    We had an uncapped Hilton weekend night that we had to “blow” this month at an inexpensive hotel just like you where it did not fit into any of our schedules, and it was going to expire in a few days. Last year we had a plan to use the 2 Hyatt uncapped nights from a Hyatt card bonus. But then my husband had an unexpected surgery and had to use his vacation time for recovery time. So even when you have a plan to use the “free” bonus nights that plan can get derailed. I have learned the points are way better than the “free night” because the points don’t have a set expiration date.

    • @Clyn6 Congrats on using your IHG certs at Kimpton in Grand Cayman! Certainly a treat, especially considering the rate of $49 per night. I’m a beach person, so any hotel by the ocean is a treat to me. Nicely done.
      Totally agree with you that points are better than certificates. Flexibility to me is key. That’s why it pays to have a plan B when it comes to certs. It’s not so much an issue for those who travel on a regular basis. We take a few trips each year, and maximizing the certs to their fullest potential isn’t always feasible. And of course, there are sometimes unexpected things like illness and so on.

    • @Dan It hurts a little, doesn’t it? But I keep telling myself that flying to Bora Bora for one night isn’t an option unless they invent teleportation. 🙂 Come on, Elon Musk!

  3. I had one last uncapped IHG cert that expired this month. It was attached to a staycation reservation at a beachside hotel for 10 months until the dates no longer worked out.

    So with 2 weeks left before it expired. I booked a hotel in Vegas for 1 night as a 1 day extension on a planned weekend there.

    Although my cert expired mid May, the stay is not until early July but the system still booked it and gave me confirmation. Hope everything goes well at check-in. Now, I’m a little concerned.

    • @Lea If you have a confirmation, you should be OK. It’s possible IHG has starting coding these certs differently right after yours was deposited. Either that, or maybe things went back to how they used to be. I wouldn’t sweat it.

    • @Natasha
      Ehh, I just thought the view was funny more than anything else. It’s a Holiday Inn, not Ritz Carlton, right?
      Enjoy Toronto!

  4. I used my one and only uncapped IHG Cert at Kimpton Canary Santa Barbara (room was going for $800/night). It was a quick unscheduled anniversary weekend, and it was so heavenly. Now I’m going to cry that they’re limited to 35,000 or less 🙁

    • @Stephanie Wow, $800 per night! Goodness, who pays those kind of price? I consider any kid-free getaways to be heavenly. It’s so much easier to just relax and take it easy.
      P.S. The IHG certificates are now limited to properties that cost 40,000 points or less. So you may have more options than you thought.

  5. Ha! I felt like I was reading my own story for my last uncapped ihg night which just expired. Ending up just using it last Friday night in Vernal, Utah (20k property) when we attended my husband’s nephew’s high school graduation. I kept telling myself at least we saved $100 and got upgraded :p

    Last year I used 3 unlimited certificates (2 from the prior year) to stay at the holiday inn express next to Disneyland. It’s actually a pretty good hotel since it’s still new and a great option at 35k points (certificate baby!) since rates can go into the $200s. That’s my little “secret” Disneyland trick 😉 if we don’t use them there, we’ll probably keep using them for Vernal, Utah to attend family events, Moab (Arches national park) or Zion National park (aka “exotic family trips” haha).

    • @Tammie IHG has a lot of sweet spots, more than folks realize. It’s a frustrating program, for sure, but with some work and flexibility it’s still possible to get good value. I’m hoping to use my new certs at Orange Lake Holiday Inn Resort. Can’t beat getting a 2-bedroom unit for $49! I have no plans to cancel the card as long as they don’t raise the annual fee. Even then, I would probably hold on to it.

  6. Pingback: Disney's River of Poop, More Bad News for Wyndham Lovers, IHG Free Night Fail - Miles to Memories

  7. Hi! are you talking about the free night annually, I never get any certificate from ihg, I just book them online, would you explain me the certificate please, thank you Leana.

    • @Maria I believe we are talking about the same thing(online renewal IHG certificate from credit card). I don’t get anything in the mail besides that. Sorry for the confusion!

  8. Me and my wife had planned to use our uncapped nights at the Clarion Times Square on NYE and a day prior but we heard about the bad weather and nixed it.

    I live in MD so we used them both in Ocean City over Memorial Day weekend instead. We also got a Manager’s special and got Friday for $100 at the Holiday Inn Oceanfront. It was a little dated but it had the full kitchen, livingroom, balcony facing the ocean, 2 outdoor pools (kids and adult), an indoor pool, and was right on the boardwalk.

    Complete win. I’d easily go back and I hadn’t been to Ocean City in over 20 years.

    • @Busyman It does sound like a complete win! My kids loved our night at the beachfront Holiday Inn. It was also an outdated property, but you can’t beat the location. That’s the thing with IHG, you can usually find something relatively decent nearby as long as you aren’t too picky. I thought about driving to Kimpton Vero Beach for just one night, but we have too many travel plans in the next six months. Oh well.

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