Free Hotel Night Certificates – Anniversary Gifts from Credit Cards

Numerous credit cards offer a gift for your card anniversary. Some of those gifts are more flexible than others, but it really depends on the card. Two credit cards I have which offer 1 free night certificate are the Hyatt and IHG credit cards from Chase. However, these certificates are not equal, aside from being for different hotel groups.

The certificate from Hyatt allows for 1 night at any hotel from Categories 1-4, versus the sign-up bonus of 2 nights at any hotel (even the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome). IHG, on the other hand, allows any hotel, regardless of Category level.

What doesn’t make sense with this difference is the annual fee for the IHG credit card is about half that of the Hyatt card.

My anniversary certificates posted to my accounts earlier this year and they came in handy during my vacation to Europe. I used my Hyatt cert at the Hyatt Regency Cologne which was an exception hotel and room.

For IHG, I booked a night at a Holiday Inn Express in Queens for the night between landing in JFK and leaving from LGA to go home.

New PointBreaks Hotel List from IHG

If you remember from my posts about IHG’s PointBreaks deals, you’ll know there are a select few hotels which are offered at a discounted 5,000 IHG points/night. This list usually has inexpensive hotels, but even saving $75-100/night by booking at a nightly rate of 5,000 points can save you enough to buy your tickets to visit.

Well, my recent visit to France to watch the Tour de France didn’t quite satisfy my desire to explore France. Finding new places to visit lead me to the city of Clermont-Ferrand, and the Holiday Inn Clermont-Ferrand Centre.

The new list of PointBreaks hotels is up and the Holiday Inn Clermont-Ferrand Centre is right at the top of the list for Europe. Now, this hotel goes for anywhere between 60-80 Euros, which is $70-94, so it’s not terribly expensive, however booking this for only 5,000 points can mean the difference between 1 night in a hotel in Paris or 7 nights in a less well known city.

Am I going back to France this early? Maybe not, but this city looks exciting and the hotel is rather enticing. Plus, the average elevation of this city is above 1000ft so I could do some triathlon training at a slightly higher elevation than I’m accustomed to in San Jose.

The Tour de France live!

I saw the end of the Tour de France live today and it was spectacular.

The race didn’t start until nearly 5:00 PM local time today so I had plenty of time to catch up on sleep (which I did by sleeping until 10 am) and relax before heading out to watch the Tour.

Pokemon Go started an event today and released the first Legendary Pokemon (Articuno and Lugia) as raid battle targets, so I tried my hand at the first one I saw, and I failed. And I failed again, and again, but it was still fun and it wasn’t even noon yet!

But time started to pass quickly as I started packing and changing outfits for the day. And eventually it became half passed 3. So I asked my dad if he wanted to head out to grab some lunch on our way to the Champs-Élysées where the Tour would do 8 laps before concluding for the year.

Our hotel, the Holiday Inn Paris Opera – Grands Blvd, is directly outside of a metro station. Literally, outside the door are the stairs leading into the metro station.

We hopped on Line 8 which took us to Line 1 which should have dropped us off at the Champs-Élysées, but that stop was skipped because of the Tour so we got off at the next stop.

This worked out in our favor because we were situated next to a bridge the riders crossed over right before heading to the Champs-Élysées, which was right after they came over a bridge just far enough away we could see them in the distance before they whizzed passed us.

Many people walked from the first vantage point to the Champs-Élysées; my dad and I walked to the Franklin D Roosevelt circle not far from our original spot which allowed us to see the riders ride towards and away from the Arc de Triomphe (which we will be visiting and entering in 23 hours).

Given the 8 laps the riders made along the same road, this meant spectators at the Champs-Élysées could see the riders zoom by 16 times if they arrived at the Avenue early enough. My dad and I, however, were not there so we missed a couple laps and a few of the potential video/photo ops.

But 10 times was plenty for the riders passing by us, and I got plenty of video footage on my cameras, and my dad shot numerous (a few hundred) photos.

Alas, the race ended around 7:15 PM and we had to head out with the rest of the thousands of spectators.

As for the experience, it was great.

Seeing the best of the best (at least those still in the ride after crashes and what not) live, in person, at the most famous bike race in modern history was exceptional. I would gladly visit next year, and even make it an annual tradition.

The only thing which would make watching the Tour live any better would have been getting a signature or meet & greet with the riders. I’ll just have to wait and see how things go in the next few years to see if my dream comes true.

What to do When Annual Fees Post

Many credit cards with annual fees waive the annual fee the first twelve months. Twelve months have passed since I got my first credit cards with an annual fees (AFs) so my twelve months of waived annual fees have ended. This means I have to decide what to do with these cards.

My three options are:

  1. Cancel the card and not pay the annual fee;
  2. Keep the card and pay the annual fee; or
  3. Keep the card, but product change the card to a no-AF version

Keeping a budget for the entire year has meant I budgeted enough money each month to be able to pay any annual fees (AF) once it came time to pay up. However, a year of use has helped me learn more about my spending habits, and how much I value each of the cards I have acquired.

So what am I doing with these cards?

The biggest reason I’m okay with signing up for credit cards is knowing I am building credit history, so I prioritize options 2 and 3 from above.

Now, I could cancel all of my cards and the accounts would continue to increase my Age of Credit History for 10 years until they fall off my credit report (10 years from now), but I’d rather keep them forever and have 30+ year old accounts. Plus, keeping as many accounts open helps me build a relationship with banks.

Product Changing

I wrote about flying to Hawaii using points from the United MileagePlus Explorer card and flying to the east coast to visit family using American Airlines miles from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card last year. And I decided to product change these two cards instead of canceling or paying the AFs.

By product changing (PCing) these cards within 30 days of the AF posting, the $95 annual fees were refunded to my accounts. If the cards did not have fee-free versions, I would have canceled the cards and still been refunded the annual fees.

Canceling

Another card mentioned in the post about flying to Hawaii was the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. I am still unsure of what to do with this card because it offers good category bonuses, but I’m not sure if I would benefit from earning Membership Reward points since I don’t spend enough to accumulate enough for a full trip. Fortunately, I have a couple more months to decide whether I will cancel the card or pay the AF.

A third card I used during my Hawaii trip was the Barclaycard ArrivalPlus. This card allowed me to redeem points to zero out the cost of the GoCity Card I bought to hit all the tourist attractions. These points are very flexible, but the ArrivalPlus requires a minimum of 10,000 points ($100) to redeem against a travel expense. I could have changed the card to the no-AF version, but I had too much trouble with the card so I ended up canceling it.

Keeping and Paying the Annual Fee

At the other end of the spectrum, I am planning to keep the Hyatt and IHG credit cards from Chase and pay the annual fees because I get a free 1-night stay from each card every anniversary. The Hyatt certificate restricts use to category 1-4 hotels. However, the IHG annual certificate has no restrictions on hotel categories, so I could spend the night in Times Square for the $49 annual fee on the card.

IHG PointBreaks Official Hotel List For April-July

IHG has published their list of PointBreaks hotels after publishing a preview list on Friday.

These hotels are only 5,000 points/night but they’re also generally not the most popular hotels. One hotel I’m looking at is the Holiday Inn Express Karlsruhe City Park which is normally 20,000 points/night or about $120/night in July.

Chase offers an IHG credit card which has an offer of 60,000 points which amounts to 12 nights of PointBreak stays. If you don’t want the IHG credit card, you could transfer Ultimate Rewards points to IHG if you have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Sapphire Reserve.

I’d recommend getting the IHG credit card because you get that big sign-up bonus (sometimes the bonus can be found for up 80,000 points) and every card anniversary you’ll get a free 1-night stay at any hotel.

IHG PointBreaks Hotels: April – July 2017

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) offers select hotels every 3 months at a discounted rate for reward stays. These are called PointBreaks and stays can be booked for just 5,000 points/night. IHG released a preview of the list for April 24 – July 31 today which can be found here.

With the current sign-up bonus of 60,000 points for the credit card from Chase, someone could stay at a single PointBreaks hotel for 12 nights OR 12 hotels for 1 night each.

PointBreaks hotels typically won’t be for the fancy luxurious hotels that typically cost $400+. They are, however, more for a road-trip or a quick overnight visit to a nearby city.

This means the list isn’t going to include the InterContinental New York Times Square during New Year’s Eve, but it does include hotels like the Holiday Inn Express Karlsruhe City Park which runs for about $120 in July.

I’m still making my reservations for my upcoming Europe trip this summer so that Holiday Inn Express in Karlsruhe could be a nice overnight stop on my way through Germany.

Again, the list found above and here are only previews. Trying to book the Holiday In Exress for July before Monday will still show reward nights as 20,000 points/night. Starting April 24, the hotels listed will have a lowest possible price of 5,000 points/night.

A (Hypothetical) Weekend in Seattle

I want to visit Seattle for a variety of reasons, a small one being the chance to visit The Centurion Studio at the SEA airport on my flight out. Since I have Hyatt, IHG, and Hilton credit cards I wanted to find out which hotel I would earn the most points from.

All 3 hotels offer their lowest redemption at 5,000 points, but the number of hotels at the bottom tier and availability to book these rooms is where there is going to be a difference. Regardless, let me look at how many points I can earn during a weekend visit to Seattle.

First, I’ll look at Hilton.

Earning Hilton Points

Most Hilton properties earn 10 points/$ on room rates and other charges, Hampton Inn & Homewood Suites only earn those points on the room rate. I don’t expect to use the room phone or get room service so these exceptions don’t bother me.

10x points on the room rate, plus another 50% for being Diamond (15% for Silver, 25% Gold) brings me up to 15 points/$. Choosing to earn Points + Points gets another 5 points/$ on room rate bringing my total up to 20 points/$. Adding in my American Express Hilton HHonors card means my final points earning up to 27x + 1,000 bonus points (Silver is 23.5x, Gold is 24.5x) by choosing my welcome amenity as Points. I could book a 2x points package and increase this up to 37x, throw in a promotion or Hilton card with an annual fee and I could easily break 40 points/$.

There’s a Homewood Suites for $170/night, which means a 2 night stay would net me 10,180 HHonors points, enough for 2 nights at a Category 1 hotel or 1 night at a Category 2 hotel.

Hyatt Earnings

Hyatt stays earn 5 points/$ on the room rate.  Being Platinum from the Hyatt credit card gives me a bonus of 15%, and owning the credit card earns 3x points/$. This brings the total to 8.75 points/$ on the room rate.

Hyatt has either the Grand Hyatt or the Hyatt Place for $198/night bringing my points earned to 3465. This would be 1535 points shy of earning 1 night stay at the lowest category hotel from this weekend visit.

Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Last but not least, IHG. Like Hilton, IHG stays earn 10x points and my status of Platinum from the IHG credit card gives me a 50% bonus for 15 points/$. The IHG credit card also earns 5x points at IHG properties bringing the total points earned to 20 points/$, just shy of the 27x points I would earn at Hilton.

Staying at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites would cost $147/night and I would end up earning 5880 points, enough for 1 night stay in a Points Break hotel stay.

Final Decision

Let me recap:

  • Hilton
    • 27 points/$ as Diamond with the no-annual fee Amex HHonors credit card
    • 10,180 HHonors points from 2 nights in the Homewood Suites
  • Hyatt
    • 8.75 points/$ w/ Platinum and Hyatt credit card
    • 3,465 Gold Passport points for 2 nights in a Grand Hyatt or Hyatt Place
  • IHG
    • 20 points/$ with Platinum and the IHG credit card
    • 5,880 IHG points from 2 nights at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites

IHG wins this time around because I am just shy of 90,000 IHG points so a trip to Seattle would get me up to and over 90,000 points. I have plans for using my IHG points, whereas I have no plans for my Hilton points in the near future which makes IHG points more valuable at this time.