Mattress Running Potential of the IHG Accelerate Promotion

IHG has been doing custom promotional offers since last year and their latest “Accelerate” promo is no exception.  I took advantage of their “Into the Nights” promo late last year to turn ~$350 in hotel stays into over $1,000 worth of value.  At first glance, my targeted offer might have mattress running potential, but the new member offer is far superior in terms of ease of use and potential value.  Mattress running is the art of checking into hotels to get benefits beyond a room to stay at for the night, with the goal of getting more back in benefits than you actually paid for the night.  While it’s not true mattress running, you can get tons of value out of creative hotel stays if you’re going to be taking a trip anyway!  It doesn’t happen too often, but every once in a while a hotel promotion comes along that makes checking into a hotel in your home town make sense.  I dove into an analysis of a couple SPG promotions in a previous post which ended up having marginal value at best, but I have higher hopes for this one.  Let’s see how much value we can extract from the latest IHG promotion.

First, the Easy One – The New Member Offer

As I mentioned, the targeted offer for new IHG members is fantastic and definitely worth a mattress run if you have any big trips planned before the end of 2016.  Becky didn’t have an IHG account yet, so I decided to help her sign up and immediately registered for the Accelerate promotion.  Here’s the offer she was given and from what I’ve heard, this is the offer for all new members:

ihg_accelerate_becky_offer

As you can see, it’s possible to make two hotel stays at any IHG property and earn a free night at any IHG property.  These types of promotions tend to be the best because they don’t rely on how much you spend, but instead rely on the number of nights you purchase.  This allows you to really maximize the value by staying in lower end properties for the promotion and then using the free night at one of the very high end properties available.  In the case of this particular offer, we should be able to more than double the value on our money spent up front.

Promotion Details

The promotion itself lasts from September 1st to December 31st 2015 and all nights and stays must be “qualifying” which typically means you must book them directly through the hotel.  Qualifying stays also exclude both award nights and points+cash bookings which means you will have to pay some money up front to take advantage of the deal.

Easy Math

This promotion only requires two stays to get a free night with nothing fancy, so it’s easy to calculate the worst-case value.  By worst-case value, I mean simply looking at the up front cost and not taking into account all the additional points and cashback you can earn along the way.  One important thing to note is that the promotion specifies 2 Stays and not simply 2 Nights.  A “Stay” is defined as 1 or more consecutive nights at the same hotel, so you can still qualify for the promotion with 2 nights as long as they aren’t back to back at the same hotel (regardless of whether or not you checked out in between).

Many IHG properties such as Holiday Inn Expresses can be found for $100 per night or even cheaper which means it would cost you only ~$200 to earn a free night at any IHG property.  The only consideration at this point is whether or not you will get that much value out of the free night.  IHG also has several luxury hotels such as the Intercontinental brand that can typically cost over $500 per night to stay at!  Hotel preference and how much value you place on these up-scale locations will definitely vary from person to person, so I can’t say definitively that this would be a good deal for everyone.  Having said that, anyone who plans to travel to an expensive hotel location (such as New York) before the end of 2016 will definitely be able to get their value back from paying for a couple hotel nights they don’t actually need.  And that’s even before taking into account all the extra benefits you’ll get from adding a couple hotel stays!

Our Plan

We’ve already booked our needed hotels for the rest of the year and it doesn’t make sense to shift around our plans for this promotion.  Having said that, there are several IHG properties a short distance away from our house that would be minimal trouble to visit for a check-in or even use the room for a nice “date night” not too far away.  Glancing through some of the options yields a $110/night property about 20 minutes away near a few nice restaurants we haven’t tried before.  I think we’ll plan a couple of fun nights for the two of us in the next couple months at this property and then use the free nights on one of our trips in 2016.  If you don’t live near a major city with a slight hotel shortage, I’m sure you’ll be able to fine a fairly local property for even cheaper!

Now, The Fun One – My Personalized Offer

While the new member offer is nice and straight-forward, my personalized offer is a bit more complicated and the payout isn’t quite as good (in most cases).  Instead of earning free nights after a couple hotel stays, I have the opportunity to earn a lot of IHG points after a few very specific types of stays.  Here’s the IHG Accelerate offer on my account:

ihg_accelerate_noah_offer

As you can see, they broke the 54,700 possible points into 6 different tasks and an achievement bonus for completing 5 out of 6 of them.  The individual tasks are:

  • 5,000 points for any single Stay
  • 10,200 points for any 5 Nights
  • 13,200 points for 3 Stays at Holiday Inns
  • 6,000 points for any Weekend Stay
  • 3,000 points for a Bonus Points Package Stay
  • 2,300 points for Booking a Stay with my IHG Credit Card

While the value of a free night is somewhat easy to calculate, putting a value on IHG points isn’t quite as simple.  The only redemption I’ve ever done ended up being worth just over 1 cent per point, but I would say the average value is probably closer to half a cent.  To be conservative, I’ll use the 0.5 cents per point valuation when determining whether or not it makes sense to mattress run.

Several Options and Therefore Several Calculations

As the promotional offer is broken down into several different tasks that can all be completed separately with the possibility to do more than one at a time, there are several different ways to approach it when trying to maximize value.  For example, 3 of the tasks can be completed after a single night!  I’m going to calculate the value for just grabbing the easy points with a single night and for completing all of the tasks via 5 nights spread across 4 or 5 stays.

Common Numbers

Here are some of the “assumptions” and fixed values I’ll be using to do the analysis and how I arrived at each one.

  • Value of IHG Points: 0.5 cents per point (conservative estimate as mentioned above)
  • Cost of Cheapest IHG Night: $108.78 ($95 rate + taxes = cheapest within ~30 minutes of our house)
  • Cost of Cheapest Holiday Inn Night: $116.64 ($104 rate + taxes = cheapest within ~30 minutes of our house)
  • Cost of Bonus Points Package Stay: $142.24 ($109 rate + $15 for 5k points + taxes)
  • IHG points earned per $ spent on hotels: 20 (15 for the easy to get Platinum Status and 5 for using the IHG credit card)
  • Bonus IHG Points earned per stay: 500 (common Check-In “Gift” for easy to get Platinum status)

Analysis 1: 1 Night + Points Package, $142 for 18k IHG Points

The first analysis will just be to see how much value I would get out of checking into a hotel for a single night and grabbing 3 of the different Accelerate tasks at the same time.  I will do this by booking a Bonus Points Package with one of the cheaper hotels in my local area.  The Points Packages seem to vary by hotel in cost and value, but I was able to find a pretty good one for $15 for 5k points on top of the regular $109 rate per night.  I’ll be paying for this stay with my IHG credit card for the extra points and to complete the “Book with the IHG Credit Card” task.  Let’s see what we walk away with at the end.

Total Cost: $142.24

  • Rate per Night: $109
  • Bonus Points Package: $15
  • Taxes and Fees: $18.24

Total Points Earned: 18,145

  • Base IHG Points earned on $109 rate: 1,090
  • Bonus IHG Points earned for Platinum Status: 545
  • Points Earned via the IHG Credit Card: 710
  • Bonus Check-In Gift for Platinum Members: 500
  • Bonus Points Package: 5,000
  • Accelerate Promo “Any Stay” Task: 5,000
  • Accelerate Promo “Points Package Stay” Task: 3,000
  • Accelerate Promo “Book with IHG CC” Task: 2,300

Worth It at 0.78 cents per point?

No!  Even with the Points Package on top of the normal stay netting us 8,000 points for well under 0.5 cents per point, the value of the bonuses just don’t work out to make the mattress run night worth it in the first place.  For starters, it’s always possible to do Cash + Points bookings and cancel them to effectively buy points at 0.7 cents per mile.  On top of that IHG will occasionally run point sales where you can straight up buy them for even less that 0.7 cents per mile.  Regardless of how much value you can get out of IHG points, it’s cheaper to simply buy them than go out of your way for this promotion (at least with my specific offer).

Analysis 2: 5 nights across 4 Stays, $ for IHG Points

In this second analysis, I’m going to calculate the value of completing the entire promotion that was offered to me by spreading 5 nights across 4 stays.  One of the single night stays will be a Bonus Points package, the other 2 single night stays will be at a Holiday Inn, and the 4th stay will be for a 2-night “Weekend Stay” at a Holiday Inn.  With that combination, I should be able to complete all 6 tasks for the lowest out of pocket cost.  Let’s see what the final damage is, I’m not too optimistic after that last analysis:

Total Cost: $608.80

  • Bonus Points Package Stay: $142.24
    • Base Rate: $109
    • 5k Points Package: $15
    • Taxes and Fees: $18.24
  • 4 nights in a Holiday Inn: $466.56
    • Base Rate Total: $416
    • Taxes and Fees: $50.56

Total Points Earned: 72,620

  • Base IHG Points earned on $525 rate total: 5,250
  • Bonus IHG Points earned for Platinum Status: 2,625
  • Points Earned via the IHG Credit Card: 3,045
  • Bonus Check-In Gift for Platinum Members (x4): 2,000
  • Bonus Points Package: 5,000
  • Accelerate Promo “Any Stay” Task: 5,000
  • Accelerate Promo “Points Package Stay” Task: 3,000
  • Accelerate Promo “Book with IHG CC” Task: 2,300
  • Accelerate Promo “5 Nights” Task: 10,200
  • Accelerate Promo “3 Holiday Inn Stay” Task: 13,200
  • Accelerate Promo “Weekend Stay” Task: 6,000
  • Accelerate Promo 5/6 Tasks Complete Bonus: 15,000

An Even Worse Deal at 0.84 cents per point!

This promotion is definitely not worth going out of your way for for the same reasons listed above in Analysis 1.  The primary reason being that points can be simply purchased for cheaper than this rate!

IHG Accelerate Promotion Final Analysis

I can’t make any sweeping conclusions about this promotion because every person has a completely different set of tasks to complete and everyone has different hotel stays upcoming between now and the end of the year.  The obvious conclusion I reached for my situation is that this promotion is NOT worth it for me.  Keep in mind, I was purely viewing it from a mattress running perspective and the ability to work nights and stays in with your already planned trips makes the offer look much better (as it should).  Unfortunately, this IHG promotion is another hotel promo that really only makes sense if you’re going to be making paid hotels anyway and value the IHG points earned above what you would earn from other chain’s ongoing promotions.

Keep in mind that while I am essentially analyzing whether or not I can buy points for cheap, for the majority of people it probably doesn’t make sense to buy points at ANY price.  By taking advantage of large credit card signup bonuses, it’s most likely possible to cover your regular hotel nights without ever having to buy points!  Don’t fall into the trap of earning points for extremely cheap because it only ever makes sense financially if you would be replacing hotel nights that you would otherwise pay out of pocket for.  I try to avoid paying out of pocket whenever possible and the amount of travel we do each year allows me to pay almost nothing for our hotel nights without ever resorting to purchasing points.  Every person’s situation is different and it will make sense to buy points for some, but be cautious about getting too caught up in the excitement of points that you end up paying a lot more than was actually necessary.

Other Notes

  • It may be possible to get 8% cash back on the hotel stays by going through a shopping portal such as TopCashBack, but I’ve also heard they have disqualified stays booked through a portal in the past.  Attempt at your own risk.
  • Despite the IHG credit card earning 5 points per dollar on IHG bookings, it may make more sense to use a different card that receives a travel bonus.  For example, if you value 2 Chase Ultimate rewards points or 3 Citi Thank You points above 5 IHG points, you’re probably better off using that respective card.
  • I’m not positive if staying at the same Holiday Inn multiple times qualifies for the “Stay at 3 Holiday Inn hotels” task.  Does anyone have experience with this in past IHG promos?

4 thoughts on “Mattress Running Potential of the IHG Accelerate Promotion

    1. The Promotion T&Cs simply mention “Qualifying Stay” and the official T&C on “Qualifying Stays” mention “Qualifying Room Rate” several times:
      “A Stay is defined as one night or consecutive nights at the same hotel, regardless of frequency of check-in/check-out. A Stay is qualified when paying Qualifying Room Rates, which include most business and leisure rates. Eligible Charges Worldwide include the following Qualifying Room Rates paid for hotel room nights: including the hotel’s Advanced Purchase Rate, Best Flexible Rate, worldwide sales negotiated rate, national/regional/local government rate and specified leisure rates as confirmed by IHG’s HOLIDEX® Plus reservation systems. Points will be awarded for Qualifying Room Rates booked through IHG central reservation offices, IHG web sites, travel agents or directly at the hotel.”

      The best definiton they have of “Qualifying Room Rate” I can find in the T&C is the following:
      “Limits on Points for Stays. Points are not issued for stays at the following reduced room rates (Non-Qualifying Room Rates; Non-Qualifying Stay): net wholesale individual and group rate, certain package rates, employee discount rate, friends and family rate, crew rate, special discounted contract rates, seasonal worker/crew rate, 50% travel club discount rate, distressed passenger rate, IHG® Rewards Club Reward Nights/Airline Hotel Reward rate, most rates booked through most third-party web sites, complimentary hotel stays and any other rates not defined as a Qualifying Room Rate.”

      Because shopping portal rates aren’t mentioned explicitly, they could be disqualified under the catch-all they added at the end “…and any other rates not defined as a Qualifying Room Rate.”

      I’ve heard stories of people successfully getting stays/points tracked when going through a shopping portal, but I’ve also heard a few stories where people we quoted the non-qualifying portal rate when inquiring about why they didn’t receive credit. Looks like a solid case of YMMV and I suggest you try it out at your own risk.

  1. Hi, Noah! I’m almost positive that going through a shopping portal shouldn’t preclude you from getting the points. Most of the time, you are getting the same rates either way unless there is a special promo going on. IHG IT system isn’t sophisticated enough to even track this sort of thing. If someone was told otherwise, it was probably an excuse.
    IHG is a very poorly run operation, but many times it works out to customer’s advantage. I’ve just discovered that my father-in-law’s targeted offer requires only 1 night stay in order to get 47K points. Yes, that’s right! Almost certainly a mistake, so I took a screenshot and mentally prepared myself for inevitable battle with IHG rep. But I certainly will be taking advantage of it.

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