New Offer: Get Surprise Bonuses (Million Points, Free Nights) that Stack With Free Nights

For a long time I’ve said that you need to have at least one of each flavor of major card — Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. That way you’re prepared for whatever lucrative promotion comes along.

Recently there have been some big offers from Discover Card, and there are regularly big standalone savings offers from American Express but I was actually starting to question whether my advice was still relevant because we haven’t seen as many airline or hotel loyalty program offers funded by payment networks.

Years ago the single most lucrative hotel promotion — Hyatt’s Faster Free Nights — required paying for your stay with a MasterCard. Faster Free Nights was, of course, “stay two separate times and get a free stay at any Hyatt in the world.”

Back then Priceline stays counted and so did award stays, as long as you charged something to the room. So folks doing one night stays, after the first one earned, actually got “stay one night via Priceline, and consume a free night, get a free night at any Hyatt in the world.” That’s back when Priceline stays counted towards elite status as well. And we had to talk hotel front desks into not waiving our one long distance call from the room because we needed it to post as a qualifying stay in our account.

The world has changed in many ways, and Faster Free Nights no longer exists. Chains don’t need to be as generous to put heads in beds, and Hyatt has more select service hotels where you’d be able to make your paid stays so the economics is harder for them as well. But before the promotion was killed it was a standalone, no more MasterCard sponsorship or MasterCard payment required.

That’s why IHG Rewards Club is such a throwback.

The IHG Rewards Club co-brand credit card is the only Chase card I know that’s issued as a MasterCard, Chase has gone almost all-Visa since they struck a deal with that payment network to pay a flat fee for unlimited charge volume. More Visas don’t cost Chase more money.

  • Register at starting this week
  • Use a MasterCard* to book and stay at any IHG hotel in the world between Nov. 15, 2015 – Feb. 15, 2016 (Guests can check out up to Feb. 29, 2016 as long as they have checked in by Feb. 15, 2016)
  • On the first stay, members will receive 1,000 IHG Rewards Club bonus points
  • On the second stay, and every single stay thereafter, guests will receive a Priceless Surprise every time. Priceless Surprises can include:
    • Priceless trips to New York City, Orlando or Paris
    • One million IHG Rewards Club Points
    • $50 prepaid MasterCard gift card
    • A free night at any IHG hotel in the world … and more
  • It’s hard to justify incremental stays based on bonuses that are ‘surprises’. Most stays won’t earn a million points or free nights.

    But it’ll be worth registering once the page for the offer goes live, since it’s better to get whatever prizes are provided rather than not getting them. And surprises can be fun, even if they don’t really serve as clear incentives.

    About Gary Leff

    Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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    1. A glance at the official rules reveals that 84.7% of the prizes will be 500 points. A paltry incentive indeed. Another 7% will be 1,000 points. 3.5% will be 2,000 points. And 2.3% will be 5,000 points.

      Expected value = 680 points. So it’s a modest boost to points earning. Also important to note that your 7th stay earns NOTHING and you can only earn one “real” prize per the rules, even though you get 6 chances.

    2. With 1,609 “real” prizes, average est value of $232, you also have a small chance of getting something good. Assuming there are 300,000 entries (just made that up), you’d have a 0.5% chance of winning a better prize.

      stvr- according to the official rules, you get a play on your 7th stay- “After completing your second (and each subsequent) Qualifying Stay, you will receive one (1) Instant Win Game play”. And “Each entrant is eligible to receive up to ninety-four (94) Game plays during the Promotion
      Period”, so not limited to 6 entries.

      The way I look at this, the postcards are not a bad option- for $60 you can send in 94 entries ($46 for postage, $14 for supplies), which would yield on average 64K IHG points (so $0.001/point) and a 40% chance of winning something good. Sure, it’s a pain to write out 94 hand written cards, but that’s why I have kids!

    3. Hi, people:

      Are those points elite-qualifying?
      Can I do those mail-entry activities January 2016 and qualify for the elite status 2017?

      Thanks very much.

    4. Before you infect your children with a mix of carpal tunnel and cheap disease, read the rules in which it states that you are limited to 1 prize from category A and 2 prizes from category B

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