I won the Big Win for 154k Bonus Points–Why to Nail the Big Hotel Promo Each Year


In August, I excitedly wrote about the biggest hotel promotion of the year: IHG Rewards Announces “Big Win” Promotion.

This promotion is still running for the next 62 days. There is still plenty of time to max out the best promotion of the year like I just did, collecting 153,700 bonus IHG Rewards points for myself that I value at nearly $800.

What is the Big Win? What did I have to do to get 153,700 bonus IHG Rewards points? What is that worth? Should you participate? How can you sign up?

The Big Win promotion is targeted in two ways. Everyone has different requirements for quantity of stays, and everyone has a different number of bonus points for completing the requirements. As far as I know, I got the easiest requirements and most bonus points!

My requirements:

  • Try one and done. 1,000 points for one stay at an IHG property.
  • Book with us. 6,000 points for booking two separate stays through an IHG hotel website or mobile device.
  • Survey the win. 100 points for completing a survey.
  • Live the city life. 18,000 points for staying in any two of the listed cities.
  • Explore our brands. 30,000 points for staying at two different IHG brands.
  • Stay more & earn more. 9,600 points for staying four total nights.
  • Win in a weekend. 12,000 points for staying two Saturday nights.
  • Win big. 77,000 more points for completing all the offers.

A lot of these targets overlap, so in total, I could earn 153,700 points for:

  • 4 hotel nights
  • including 2 Saturdays
  • over 2 stays
  • at 2 different brands
  • at participating hotels
  • in 2 of the listed cities
 The cities:
  • New York
  • Washington D.C.
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Chicago
  • Seattle
  • Denver
  • Vancouver
  • Montreal
  • Mexico City
  • San Paolo

I happened to be in Chicago and Los Angeles back-to-back weekends this month, so I completed my requirements easily.

In Chicago, I checked into a Holiday Inn Express for $94 during the Chicago Seminars. It was a pure “mattress run,” meaning I checked in just for this promotion and didn’t even stay in the room, since I had a room at the Seminars hotel already for the night.

(Luckily I didn’t incur any time or fuel costs on the mattress run. By chance, I was having dinner a quarter of a mile from the hotel, so I checked in after ordering and got back before my food came.)

A few days after checkout, the stay posted in my IHG Rewards account, and about a week after checkout, I got credit on the Big Win site.

The stay completed my “Stay One and Done” challenge and earned me 1,000 points.

More importantly, it got me halfway to some of the bigger bonuses, which was illustrated with a half filled circle.

Now that I had started the challenge, I got around to the only part of the challenge besides hotel stays: completing a survey.

The survey was mercifully short and only took me about five minutes. It basically asked what features were important to me in a hotel.

The next weekend, I stayed Thursday through Sunday at the Crowne Plaza attached to the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles.

This was not a pure mattress run. It kept me off of friends’ couches, which I would value at $50 per night. The room cost $418, so let’s call it $268 worth of a mattress run and $150 worth of value.

A week after check out, I got an email letting me know that I had completed the Big Win!

And the site looked like this:

The Haul

I earned 850 IHG Rewards points for my mattress run in Chicago, 3,730 for the Los Angeles stay, and 153,700 bonus points for completing the promotion for a total of 158,280 bonus points!

I paid $512 for the four hotel nights, though I got $150 of value out of the hotel rooms, so the total extra cost of participating in the promotion was $362.

“Buying” 158,280 IHG Rewards points for $362 is like buying them for 0.23 cents each!

That’s an unbelievable deal, since I value them conservatively at 0.5 cents. I got $791 worth of points for $362.

Hopefully I can use the points for 31 nights at PointBreaks hotels, but I’m sure I’ll have to use some at merely under-categorized hotels.

How Can You and Should You Participate?

Sign up for the Big Win here to see your targeted offer.

You have 62 days and 9 Saturdays left to meet the requirements–one of which has to do with Saturday stays. That’s plenty of time to meet most people’s requirements with real stays or mattress runs.

Determine whether it’s a good deal to participate by figuring out how much extra you’ll have to pay for the hotel rooms beyond the value you’d derive from them and compare it to how many points you’ll earn.

If the cents per point cost is below your value for IHG Rewards points–half a cent is a good valuation–participate full throttle.

The Once-a-Year Promo

I am not a hotel guy. This year, I’ve spent under 20 nights in hotels despite being out of the US for nine months and traveling to six continents. When you travel as much as I do, you need to be a millionaire or to economize on accommodation. I choose the former, but it’s not a choice, so I am stuck with the latter.

Luckily hostels and CouchSurfing are more fun than hotels anyway.

As I wrote in Cheapskate Lodging with Hotel Promos, Hostels, airbnb, and CouchSurfing, the hotel component of my lodging strategy comes down to:

Once or twice a year, there is a promotion that towers above the quarterly promotions of the major chains. These are promotions in which your participation sets you up for future hotel stays at a small fraction of their real cost.

This year that promotion is the Big Win if you got a good targeted offer.

Last year it was the Club Carlson Stay One Get One promo.

I write rarely about hotel promos, but I always cover the big ones you can’t miss.

More Info

For full details on the promo, check out IHG Rewards Announces “Big Win” Promotion.

Sign up for the Big Win here.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

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  1. Scott–general question for you related to your travel in South America recently. We booked a couple of weeks in Peru on the JetBlue promo you had posted about earlier this year. Do you usually take all the recommended vaccines etc when you travel? For going to Peru, yellow fever, typhoid, malaria etc are all suggested. I’m curious if other travelers make sure to get these before they go or if they are mostly ignored. Thanks.

    • I got Yellow Fever for my first Peru trip. The others I had gotten for college. Malaria is usually tablets you take during the trip. Consult your medical professional.

  2. I didn’t get an offer anything near that good – just 50,000 points. I don’t believe it’s worth it to me to participate…maybe… Can you tell me – if I were to buy a couple of Pointsbreak hotel stays within the time period (using your great method at $35/night), would those count toward this promotion? Or do they have to be regular-priced hotels?

    • To get credit for the Big Win, you need cash stays. PointBreaks stays are point stays, even if you buy the points for $35.

  3. Scott – I got the booby prize (10,000 points for completing all activities). Guess I’ll continue focusing where I get value – SPG and Club Carlson. 🙂

  4. Completed Big Win in my account, my wife’s account, and Dad’s account when the family went to SE Asia for 2 weeks. All offers were the same 50,000 IHG points total (had to do 2 weekends, 3 brands, 4 nights, all others overlapped)…not as good an offer as you, but 50,000 x 3 came in handy. Also, it took a bit of time to register, but before I started, I registered all 3 accounts for multiple IHG promos (1023, 1041, 2954, 4041, 4644, 4709, 7637, 7641, 3241, 2670, 2656, 2619, 2369, 1881, 1038, 1037, 1012, 1027, 2169, 4777) and basically got an additional 45,000 points per account in addition to the Big Win points after all was said and done. Never get free breakfast or major upgrades with IHG, but they do give out the points easily. Now gotta find an excuse to get to Johannesburg, Tahiti, or China to use those Pointsbreaks.

    • Awesome! I did PointBreaks in Jo’burg and Pretoria in August, but just Holiday Inns, no InterContinental.

  5. Still bitter about my ridiculous offer. It has had the unintended (by IHG) consequence of shifting my hotel stays to Marriott since I can easily get a free night for every two stays.

  6. What is your status with IHG and how often had you stayed with them before? Was it very sparse, and that is why you got a huge offer. I am Platinum through the Priority Club credit card, and have stayed with them several times this year, so I am wondering if that is why my offer was about half yours, and required a number of additional stays to meet the requirements? I have a stay coming up this weekend, and did what Cody did above, using all of the codes, so I hope those bonus points will post as well.

    • At the time of receiving the promo, I had never taken a paid stay at an IHG property. I had only ever purchased points and made PointBreaks and other rewards stays. I now have Gold Status because I am above 10 nights (12) this year, counting paid and reward stays.

    • I figured Scott had a long history with them too! Now it sounds kind of random. I was offered 50,000 (not that great), and I’ve JUST started the whole rewards/miles thing (I mean, no trips yet, first sign-up rewards credit card NEW). I’ve never stayed with an IHG hotel using my Priority Club number (have not had a chance to yet). I don’t think IHG status could get any lower than I am, and I figured I’d gotten the 50,000 offer because of that, but I see someone on here only got offered 10,000 points!

  7. Stupid question BUT I can’t figure out how to register for the promotions. Joined. Did the hundred point survey. Made a two night reservation in Monterey for later in the month but can’t figure out how to add in those extra codes. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  8. Great job!
    I’m tempted to do the mattress run since I’ve been offered 143K.
    Just not sure if “advance purchase rate” qualifies. T&C only mentions “qualifying rates, which include most business and leisure rates”.

  9. Congrats, Scott! That IS a Big Win! I only qualify for the IHG 50,000 points and wondering if a few mattress runs costing $400-500 would even be worth it for the 50,000 points. I have no previous IHG points but my girlfriend and I are planning a trip to NYC July ’14 and the 50,000 pts. could be a good start for us. Thoughts?

  10. Out of curiousity: if you book an advance purchase rate which are prepaid and don’t actually stay, do you get credit for this promotion? Some of the Dulles area hotels are only $65/nt…$130 would complete the ‘big cities’ portion (12000 bonus) for me and also get me the big win (another 37000 pts)… would seem worth $130 to get 50k points no? Unfortunately my travels don’t take me to any of the qualifying cities this year.

    • I’m not sure if one needs to check in or not. In the past, for other promotions, some people have called hotels directly and asked if they purchased an advanced rate whether the hotel would or could check them in remotely.

  11. I was thinking about doing a mattress run in my city for 50,000 points, but it would cost me roughly $300. That’s .006 per point. It seems like I could get a comparable deal anytime outside of the Big Win promotion by following Scott’s PointBreaks tutorial for $35/night hotels. Using that method, I could get 45,000 points for $280, which is .0062 per point – not much difference from the Big Win. Am I figuring this correctly? If I am, is there any other reason to complete the Big Win, meaning would IHG perhaps consider me a more “favorable” rewards member (and offer me better promotions in the future), just for doing it? I know you don’t know this with any certainty – I’m just looking for an opinion.

    • You must be in NYC! Are you sure there are no other options than $300? Getting them for 0.6 cents is slightly better than the PointBreaks method which is 0.7 cents. Don’t forget you’ll also get a few thousand base points for a $300 hotel stay.

      • No, I’m in St. Louis – a far cry from NYC! 🙂 Those were (I thought) the cheapest rates I found that didn’t take me too far out of my daily commute. $65-70, and choosing another brand was more expensive, closer to $85. I can check again though… I didn’t think about the base points for the hotel stay.


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