IHG Rewards Visa limits free nights, 300+ best hotels no longer available!

The IHG Rewards Visa card by Chase was one of my most recommended travel rewards cards due to the exceptional value of a free night each year at any IHG Hotel worldwide for an annual fee of ony $49. Unfortunately, Chase has severely devalued the card, limiting the annual Free Night Certificate to hotels of 40,000 points or less. That excludes the most desirable hotels, making this a big blow to loyal customers! Find out the details and what to do about your IHG Rewards Club Visa Card now!

I’ve been a big fan of the IHG Rewards Visa card (my review here) and have used the free night certificates at fantastic hotels like the InterContinental Bora Bora, the InterContinental Hong Kong or InterContinental San Francisco. Sadly, none of the properties I’ve used the certificate in the past is available any longer. 

InterContinental Bora Bora

You will still earn a free night certificate every anniversary of your IHG Rewards Visa card. Any certificate issues on/after May 1, 2018, will be valid for hotels costing 40,000 points or less.  This excludes many InterContinental hotels, most Kimpton hotels that just recently became available through IHG Rewards or nice Indigo hotels. It also includes most hotels in expensive city destinations like San Francisco or New York, limiting the usefulness of the certificate even more. 

To make matters worse, this devaluation comes in parallel with an increase of points needed for many hotels, moving them above the treshold and making them ineligible. And, that’s not the last of the bad news, the IHG Rewards wording on the website is mis-leading as several hotels that cost 40,000 points. are also excluded, for example the Holiday Inn San Francisco Airport. Holiday Inn Express San Francisco Airport North or Holiday Inn Express Mill Valley!
You can find the full list of excluded hotels here!

What should you do? If your Free Night Certificate is issued before May 1 (mine was issued in April), you can still redeem it for any IHG Hotel and don’t have to worry about this issue till next year!
If your renewal date is in May or later, you should look at the value you still receive: I value 40,000 points at $200 – still 4x the annual fee! Some hotels you could use it for are the excellent InterContinental Vienna (often more than $200/night) or the new Indigo Bali (also frequently over $200/night)! Pretty much any of the more than 4,000 hotels eligible will cost more than $49/night, making this card still good value (if not the exceptional value it was before!). Add the complimentary Platinum Status and 10% discount on points for reward stays, in the IHG Rewards Visa card is still worth holding. Other rewards credit cards that offer free nights, like the Marriott Rewards card, Hyatt or Radisson Rewards, have similar caps on the hotels for which you can use them.

Indigo Bali Seminyak Pool

If you only travel to major cities in the US or Europe and can’t see yourself staying at a Holiday Inn or even Holiday Inn Express, the IHG Rewards Select card might provide limited value to you in the future.
Parallel to these changes, Chase is rolling out two new cards, including a Premium card that offers a free night (with the same limitations), a 20% discount on purchased points, a 4th-night-free award and 10 points per USD spent for an annual fee of $89. If you plan at least one 4-night award stay per year, you basically get a free night for the additional $40 in annual fee, which might be a good value alternative to the current card.

I will review the two new cards as soon as they are available. I have reached out to IHG Rewards/Chase to clarify the issue of hotels at 40,000 points being excluded and will update this post with any feedback I receive!

UPDATE: Well, IHG is really bungling this change. Customer Service responded to my information request that I must be confused/mistaken and the hotels in question are more than 40,000 points/night. As you can see below, I’m neither and hotels that cost 40,000/night are indeed excluded. 
I’ve requested that IHG update their website to provide accurate information instead of the mis-leading statements they are making now! Let’s see how long that takes…

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