My post on Tuesday comparing the annual free night certificates of the Chase IHG and Hyatt credit cards elicited a lot of well-thought-out responses in the comments section.
The responses fell along 3 lines:
- Commenter JEM: "I generally travel solo, and don't usually stay more than one night in any one location."
- Commenter Shawn Coomer: "Hyatt's chart is more reasonable and those points are an easy transfer. In my mind, this cements the IHG card as the better of the two since high-end stays in their properties are harder to come by."
- Commenter Kenny: "Hyatt has a laughably small footprint, and may be an option (although usually not the best one) for 1 or 2 out of ten of our stays. I often can't get a room for four at the top properties of either chain, but IHG has many more possibilities."
The wonderful thing about this hobby is that all three commenters are absolutely right — and I still "disagree" with all three for my own miles and points strategy! But I want to carefully consider each of these points, so readers can decide which view corresponds most closely to their own travel hacking strategy.
If you enjoy hotel hopping, or if for other reasons you tend to stick to one- or two-night stays, then the cost-per-night analysis I use doesn't make any sense for you. There are a ton of hotel co-branded cards that offer the equivalent of one or two free nights per year:
- US Bank Club Carlson Premier and Business Rewards: 40,000 bonus Gold Points each year and last night free on award reservations (up to 50 free nights per year).
- Chase Marriott Rewards Premier: free night certificate good at Category 1-5 properties.
- Chase Hyatt Gold Passport: free night certificate good at Category 1-4 properties.
- Chase IHG Rewards Club: free night certificate at any IHG Rewards Club property worldwide.
This strategy doesn't have anything to do with manufactured spend, or even travel hacking per se. Get all four cards and enjoy their 4-5 annual free nights in good health!
IHG does have some aspirational properties, and if you have your heart set on one of them, it makes sense to build such a redemption into your credit card application timeline. That means convincing your partner/roommate/child to apply for a card at the same time as you, gaming expiration dates, and basically making sure you're able to make the top-tier IHG Rewards Club redemption of your dreams.
Save money on family vacations
IHG Rewards Club has a vast worldwide footprint, their properties are often reasonably priced and, overseas, can have a more generous approach to packing parents and kids into a single room. So when you're planning a trip that you're certain will involve an IHG Rewards Club property, you can save hundreds of dollars by using free night certificates — something that's vanishingly unlikely with a Hyatt Category 1-4 free night certificate.
My strategy: filling out vacations
As regular readers know, I travel a lot. For example, I have five and a half vacations planned in the next 9 weeks (what's half a vacation? I'm flying directly from San Diego at the end of one vacation to Milwaukee to start another). But I'm not a hotel hopper: my preference is for longer stays. Here's my agenda:
- Two nights in Reno, NV
- Four nights in Boston, MA
- Seven nights in New Orleans, LA
- Two nights in San Diego, CA
- One night in Milwaukee, WI
- Five nights in Lexington, KY
I take a lot of vacations, and IHG free night certificates don't make a lick of sense for any of them! Reno doesn't have any rooms that cost more than $40, I'm staying with a friend in Boston, in New Orleans I'm staying too long and IHG properties are too expensive, in San Diego I actually am staying at an IHG Rewards Club property (but burning some spare points from previous promotions), in Milwaukee I could redeem 8,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points (although I actually redeemed 25,000 random Marriott Rewards points I had lying around), and in Lexington I redeemed 40,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points transferred from a flexible Ultimate Rewards account.
For my strategy, substituting out 8,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points (transferred from a flexible Ultimate Rewards accounts) for a $75 annual fee makes perfect sense. For the strategies of my three commenters, free IHG Rewards Club nights make more sense.
But not one of us is wrong: we just have different goals and different travel styles, and understanding them is key to making the right decisions when it comes to both credit card applications and annual renewals.