Philadelphia (photo from visitphilly.com)

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Recently I mentioned that our upcoming visit to Philadelphia will earn us a few free hotel nights. Several people wrote to ask how that works. Sorry for being too vague.

Thanks to the quarterly IHG Accelerate promotion our 3 nights in Philly will earn over 62,000 IHG Rewards Club points.This is worth over $400 or somewhere between 2 and 3 free nights.

Here are the details:

IHG Accelerate Q2 2017

Every quarter the IHG Rewards Club has an Accelerate promotion, whereby it is possible to get a ton of bonus points. The requirements and rewards are somewhat unique per Rewards Club member, and vary in difficulty and value. Sometimes just a single stay can earn large rewards.

This is my personal offer for Q2 2017 (May 15 – Aug 31, 2017) with potential earnings of 60,200 points.

Difficulty and Value

If we were to complete all promotion offers we could earn a total of 60,200 points. Using The Points Guy’s subjective valuation of 0.7¢/point, total value is upwards of $421.40. I wouldn’t go out of my way to earn $421, but if the stars align, then why not?

Completing all offers isn’t the easiest thing this time around. Last quarter we were able to get most of the bonus with just a single 2 night stay, but this time it will require 5 paid nights in 4 different hotels. Without the IHG Rewards Club credit card, it would require an additional Points & Cash stay. (We seldom do Points & Cash stays.)

With the IHG Reward Club credit card, it is possible to earn 57,800 points with 5 paid nights in 4 different hotels, 2 of them being a Holiday Inn Express and the other 2 being other IHG brands, e.g. Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental, etc… (Without the IHG Rewards Club credit card we would need to book an additional night using Points & Cash.)

Those 57,800 points for 5 nights are worth roughly $80/night, realized on future stays. That’s not too shabby, assuming we are going to stay 5 nights in 4 different hotels anyway, and that IHG hotels are conveniently located and fairly priced.

Putting a Plan Into Action

We aren’t big on staying in a place for only one night, but sometimes it makes onward travel more convenient. On our current European Expedition we’ve already done this twice.

We spent one night in Salzburg as a gateway to the Austrian mountain lakes. The Holiday Inn Salzburg City was a 10 minute walk from the train station and a 2 minute walk to the rental car office. Location and cost were both great.

Hallstatt Austria / Lake Country

Later in Italy, we had an early morning departure from the central Milan train station. The Crowne Plaza Milan City. was nearby and very comfortable. They even upgraded us to a nice Junior Suite, thanks to having Platinum Elite Status (a nice perk of the IHG Rewards Club credit card.)

Things get tricky from here though. Next up on our journey is Croatia, which has no IHG hotels. From there we fly to NYC, which has no IHG hotels that I want to pay for. $300/night for a Holiday Inn Express in need of renovation isn’t great value, IMHO. (Instead, we booked 5 free nights at a Starwood property with Starwood Preferred Guest points. Gotta love the 5th Night Free feature!)

What to do…??? Sometimes it helps to take a holistic approach.

Flights from NYC to Minneapolis were looking a bit expensive, but I noticed flights from Philadelphia were dirt cheap. And I’ve always wanted to visit Philly… mostly to see the important historical sites, such as the birthplaces of the cheesesteak and the Fresh Prince. And bus tickets to Philly were only $10!

Now, instead of paying $750 to get to MSP we paid a total of $258 (jackpot!) Save $500 and visit a new place on the bucket list? Yes, please. Plus Philly had two different and reasonably priced Holiday Inn Express hotels within walking distance of each other. Not only will we get “free” breakfast, we’ll complete the Accelerate promotion for this quarter.

Cost/Benefit (gory details)

When chasing rewards points like this it is important to make sure we are getting real value. It just wouldn’t make sense to spend $300 for a hotel to get $200 worth of points when there is a perfectly good hotel next door for $100. I don’t want imaginary ROI. So here are the gory details on each of the 5 nights in 4 different hotels.

Salzburg – Holiday Inn Salzburg City 1 night
Cost: $135.67 minus $9.50 from BeFrugal.
(See how the whole Cash Back on Hotels thing works.)
Alternative hotels: similar price
Points earned: 1,801 points for the stay, 678 points from IHG credit card spend.
Accelerate: Stay Once Get 2,500 Points offer, Spend on Your IHG Rewards Club Credit Card offer (1500 points), and the Early Stay Bonus (3000 points.)

Milan – Crowne Plaza Milan City. 1 night
Cost: $258.50 minus $10.16 cash back from Ebates.
Alternative hotels: $20 less nearby, $50 less with 15 minute taxi ride.
(We likely would have booked the Four Points by Sheraton at 208 Euro+tax vs this hotel at 220 Euro+tax)
Points earned: 3,384 points for the stay and 1,294 points for paying with the IHG credit card.
Accelerate: no realized points, but now have stays at 2 different brands for Discover Our Brands offer

Philly – Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia-Midtown & Holiday Inn Express-Penn’s Landing – 3 nights
Cost: $136/night average minus 8.5% cash back from BeFrugal.
Alternative hotels: $10 less per night but don’t include breakfast
Points earned: 2,485 + 6,822 for 3 nights, plus 2,040 for paying with IHG card.
Accelerate: complete the Discover Our Brands, Be the Readiest, and Stay More Earn More promotions, unlocking the Achievement Bonus. Total points = 50,800

Total out of pocket cost: $747.83 ($149.57/night)
Total cost paid over alternatives: $50
Total points earned: 76,304 (~$107/night)

All of these points (plus what we earned from the Q1 Accelerate promotion) will most likely be spent on our upcoming visit to Japan (~140,000 points / $980 worth.)

Overall, I’m OK with the results. Could be better as the cost of last minute bookings in Milan were high.

Worth it?

I know some of you are probably thinking, all of that for a measly 76,000 points? No way!

That is fair. I had almost written off this quarter’s promotion myself until the awesomely discounted flight from Philly to Minneapolis presented itself.

But don’t fret! There is good news.

The signup bonus on the Chase IHG card was recently raised from 60,000 to 80,000 points AND the annual fee of $49 is waived for the first year! That is enough points for 2 to 3 free nights (or even up to 16 nights in the extreme case.) This is valid as of today / July 10, 2017.

If you don’t have this card, it is a must have. The free annual night certificate alone makes it a keeper. (We are using ours this year at a hotel in SF the night before our Alaska Cruise departure, a savings of $353.68.)

HOT! 80,000 Hotel Points, $1k min spend, 1st year fee waived!

Are you working on an Accelerate Bonus?

Retire Early.

Travel the World.

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