IHG Rewards announced its new promotion that will run from September 1 to December 31 called “The Big Win.” You can register for The Big Win today to see your offers, which vary by person. Here is a FlyerTalk thread discussing various offers people have gotten.

Somehow I hit the jackpot, and I can earn 153,700 IHG Rewards Club points for as little as $300 and four nights in hotels.

What was my offer? How will I take advantage? What are IHG Rewards Club points worth? Should you go all in with The Big Win?

My targeted offer is among the most generous.

  • 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 can earn 153,700 points

  • 4 hotel nights
  • including 2 Saturdays
  • over 2 stays
  • at 2 different brands
Additionally my stays need to touch two of the following cities:

  • New York
  • Washington D.C.
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Denver
  • Vancouver
  • Montreal
  • Mexico City
  • San Paolo
  • Chicago
My counter. Up to 153,700 points that I plan to get.

Is The Promotion Worth Participating In?

For me the answer is unequivocally yes, since I got such a generous offer. But for everyone, the answer is a pretty simple math problem comparing the value of the bonus points earned and the cost of the stays needed.

The only trick is to think on the margin. If the stays you do for the promotion are pure mattress runs, their cost is:

  • the cost of the room
  • + the cost of transportation there
  • + the cost of your time.

But if you need a hotel night anyway, and this promotion just causes you to choose a different hotel than you otherwise would have, then the cost of participating is:

  • the cost of the room
  • + the cost of transportation there
  • + the cost of your time
  • – the cost of your other option (including room, transportation, time)

So for instance if the total cost of a night at an SPG hotel is $100 and that’s where you were planning an upcoming stay, but this promotion causes you to switch that night to an IHG hotel that costs $140, the cost of the promotion is $40 for that night, not $140.

Once you have the cost side of the equation down, you have to compare it to the benefits of racking up however many IHG Rewards points you’ll get. Here you have to have a value in mind for IHG Rewards points.

There is no minimum value for your valuation–you could value them at zero if you hate IHG–but there is a maximum value of 0.7 cents because you can freely buy IHG Rewards points for 0.7. (Yesterday a deal to buy them for 0.575 cents ended, so you can make a case that you need to value them at up to 0.575 cents.)

How do you choose your valuation between 0 and 0.7 cents per point? You should see what kind of value you’ll get for redeeming the points.

The award chart reads:

And of course, there are always some PointBreaks hotels for 5,000 points.

I’d put the value of my IHG Rewards points at about 0.5 cents. If I had a Big Win offer of only about 50,000 points, I’d value them at 0.7 cents each because I could use all my bonus points for PointBreaks hotels. But by earning over 150k, I’ll surely use some of them at other hotels where I’ll get a lower value for my points.

So I can earn 153,700 points worth 0.5 cents ($768.50) to me for a marginal cost of about $300. That’s why I’ll be participating.

My Confusion

Initially I had two questions about the promotion that the terms and conditions cleared up. The first question regarded the “Live the city life” challenge. Under the challenge, five specific hotels were listed:

Do I really have to stay at two of the five random hotels listed? I’m not headed to any of those cities in the next few months. Luckily the terms and conditions state:

“Number of bonus points or miles listed above will be rewarded after stays at required number of distinct cities from the following list of cities: New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Vancouver, Montreal, Mexico City and San Paolo between 1 September 2013 and 31 December 2013(both dates inclusive) at participating InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Hotel Indigo®, Holiday Inn®, Holiday Inn Express®, Staybridge Suites®, Candlewood Suites® or Even® hotels.” [Emphasis mine.]

(The participating hotels list is here and quite extensive.)

So I don’t need to plan mileage runs to my mattress runs because I can stay at properties in any of the 10 listed cities. Since I plan to be in Chicago for the Chicago Seminars one Saturday and Los Angeles the next Saturday, the promotion will be incredibly easy for me to complete.

My second question regards an upcoming booked stay at a Holiday Inn. Would it count toward relevant parts of the promotion? Unfortunately not. The terms and conditions say:

“No retroactive points or miles will be awarded for stays prior to registration.”

That means I need to book two new stays.

What I’ll Book

I need four total nights over two stays at two different brands in two different cities, encompassing two Saturday nights.

Since I’ll be in the listed cities only two Saturday nights, my options are limited. The first Saturday I’ll be in Chicago, and I already have a hotel room booked. I’ll book a second hotel room near the Chicago Seminars at the combination of the cheapest location and price for one night on Saturday night. It looks it will cost me $99.90 all in plus roundtrip taxi fare of about $20 to book a night at the Holiday Inn Express, Chicago-Arlington Heights.

The other three nights will be in Los Angeles at a participating hotel of a different brand from the Holiday Inn Express. I’ll actually stay at the hotel these nights, so I may not choose the cheapest option.

I’ll figure out the cheapest option and internalize that cost as the “mattress run cost.” Then I’ll look at better hotels in better locations and treat the difference in price as the marginal cost of the hotel stay. I’d be willing to pay a modest premium to end up in a more interesting part of the city, closer to where my friends live.

With one night in Chicago and three nights in Los Angeles, I’ll meet all of the requirements except the survey.

  • Try one and done. 1,000 points for one stay at an IHG property. Done with first stay.
  • Book with us. 6,000 points for booking two separate stays through an IHG hotel website or mobile device. I’ll book both stays at ihg.com.
  • Survey the win. 100 points for completing a survey. I’ll do this tomorrow.
  • Live the city life. 18,000 points for staying in any two of the listed cities. Chicago and Los Angeles are both on the list, and I’ll be sure to choose participating properties in both.
  • Explore our brands. 30,000 points for staying at two different IHG brands. The first stay is at a Holiday Inn Express, so I’ll make sure the Los Angeles stay is at a different brand.
  • Stay more & earn more. 9,600 points for staying four total nights. One night in Chicago + three nights in LA = 4 nights
  • Win in a weekend. 12,000 points for staying two Saturday nights. Both stays will include one Saturday night for two total.
  • Win big. 77,000 more points for completing all the offers. Yee-haw!
Are you going to go all in for The Big Win? What was your offer? Share it in the comments.

Fine Print

Terms & Conditions

Participating Hotels for City Life offer

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