Thursday, November 14, 2013

IHG Hotels - Big Win Promotion

As all three of you LCD readers know, my father's a loyal avid Starwood fan. But from time to time, it's hard to ignore the special promotions offered by competing hotel chains, such as Diamond status trials from Hyatt or the Big Win Promotion by IHG (InterContinental Hotel Group, formerly known as Priority Club).

During slower periods of business travel, the hotel chains will offer bonuses (free points or nights) to encourage you to book through them. Most of the time, the traveler is already planning to go somewhere (business trip, family vacation, etc.) so it's just a matter of the hotel getting them to choose their properties. My father, on the other hand, is more of an investor, taking advantage of pricing arbitrage opportunities without actually needing a hotel stay at all.

Mattress Run
First, we should discuss a "mattress run." A "mattress run" is an unnecessary paid hotel stay with the sole purpose of earning hotel elite status and/or loyalty points. To many people, a mattress run would appear to be a giant waste of money and time. But to those who live in this travel hacking world, earning top tier hotel status can be very beneficial, especially to young families, because it frequently includes upgrades to larger rooms or suites, free breakfasts, late check outs, and other perks. Further, the paid hotel stay earns points which can be redeemed later on for free hotel stays or suite upgrades.

A. IHG Big Win
As many other have posted, there's a current Q4 2013 promotion by IHG called the Big Win. In many ways, it's sort of a hotel scavenger hunt where you earn bonus points for completing certain tasks. They customized the individual task requirements and bonus point offerings for each individual IHG member, so while my mother's offering wasn't that compelling, my father's offer was attractive enough to book a few mattress runs in addition to some planned hotel stays we'd need anyway for our December vacation in Puerto Rico.

His specific Big Win promotion (from August to December 2013) was structured as follows:
  1. Try 1 & Done: 1,000 points for staying at any IHG hotel
  2. Stay More & Earn More: 6,700 points for staying a total of 5 nights
  3. Explore Our Brands:  22,000 points for staying at 3 different IHG brands
  4. Book With Us: 2,400 points for booking 2 stays on IHG's website/mobile app
  5. Survey the Win: 100 points for taking a 5 minute online survey
  6. Live the City Life: 12,000 points for staying in 2 of select city/metro locations
  7. Spend It To Get It: 1,500 points for paying for 1 stay on your IHG credit card
  8. Big Win: 46,000 points for completing all 7 tasks
Total earning potential: 91,700 IHG points worth between $640-900 of hotel redemption value to my father.

The best part of the promotion is that all the tasks are stackable. Meaning a single hotel stay will count for multiple task categories. For example, my father booked a 2 night hotel stay recently at a Holiday Inn Express outside Chicago for $94/night including all taxes/fees ($188 total).

This single two night stay completed the following:
  1. 100% of the single stay goal
  2. 40% of the 5 stay goal
  3. 33% of the 3 brand goal
  4. 50% of the 2 booking goal
  5. Already completed
  6. 50% of the 2 city goal
  7. 100% of the credit card goal
  8. Some % of the overall goal (I'm only half Asian, so I'm not that good at math yet)
B. Regular IHG Promotions
What makes this deal so attractive is that the Big Win is in addition to the regular promotional offers that you can register for. IHG is infamous for having frequent smaller bonuses that you can register for. The list isn't readily available on their website, but many travel bloggers such as Loyalty Lobby have monthly lists where you can just click on links to add the promotions to your IHG membership account.

You have to manually sign up for each promotion on the website before your stay. And because some promotions are time based (i.e., within the next 60 days), I suggest signing up a day or so before your first check in date so maximize the promotional window.

So in addition to the credit towards the Big Win, the same 2 night stay at Holiday Inn Express earned my father an additional 34,550 IHG points! By our math, that's a redemption value of $240-350.

1. 1,700 points (10x for the actual stay)
2. 850 points (50% extra for being Platinum)
3. 3,000 Welcome Back Bonus
4. 5,000 Elite Member Next Stay Bonus
5. 5,000 Elite Member Next Stay Bonus (different)
6. 3,000 Next Stay Bonus
7. 3,000 New Member Bonus
8. 2,000 Next 60 Day Bonus
9. 3,000 Elite Member Next Stay Bonus (different)
10. 3,000 Elite Member Next Stay Bonus (different)
11. 1,000 Next 60 Day Bonus
12. 1,000 Anniversary Bonus
13. 1,500 Welcome Back Bonus
14. 1,500 Next Stay Bonus

C. IHG Credit Card Bonus
And because we charged the hotel to our IHG Visa credit card, we earned another 5x points on our $188 hotel spend, so another 940 IHG points. Not that significant, but another $6-9 of redemption value doesn't hurt either.

The earning power of this credit card isn't that amazing, but my parents have this card for other reasons: (A) the 80,000 IHG point sign up bonus, (B) Free top tier Platinum status that gets us free internet and occasional room upgrades and (C) the free night award every year you have the card good at any IHG hotel, including our upcoming free stay at the InterContinental Hong Kong (~$500/night savings).

D. Shopping Portal Rewards
And finally, if you're REALLY into optimizing your travel rewards, you can actually first click through various shopping portals that will then take you to the IHG website. By going through the shopping portal first, you earn an extra bonus from the portal (essentially a partial payment of their commission from the hotel).

We could have chosen the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, but that would earn 3 UR points per dollar spent while Upromise (an affiliate of my College 529 plan) would give us 6%. We value a Chase UR point at about 2 cents/pt so it was about a wash between the two, but we had a lot of Chase UR points already and would have preferred the 6% in cash (about $10) deposited into my 529 Plan.

Final Tally
The hotel cost us $188 in cash outlay upfront. For the 2 night stay, we earned the following
  1. Big Win - estimated 50% credit towards the 91,700 IHG points, so about $320-450
  2. Regular Promotions - 34,550 IHG points worth about $240-350
  3. Credit Card - 940 IHG points worth about $6-9
  4. Shopping Portal - 6% of the base rate, about $10
Excluding the implied value of the free breakfast offered each morning at the hotel, we've (potentially) earned $576-819 of value. Now of course, if my father fails to complete the entire Big Win challenge, then these values come down significantly. But even excluding the Big Win completely, we're clearly earning enough IHG points to cover the $188 cost basis.

Not bad for a two day investment.

1 comment:

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