Ever since I picked it up back in early 2015, I’ve held onto the old IHG Mastercard. It may not be good for daily usage, but paying $49 per year for an annual free night certificate has been entirely worth it. There are few hotels where you don’t come out ahead on that deal.

When the annual free night came around for the first time, I used the certificates (two, since my wife has the card as well) for the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes. The certificates were uncapped at that point. Two certificates plus a third night for 60,000 points was entirely worth it in an expensive location at a famous hotel where rooms were selling for hundreds of Euros per night. We were getting massive value out of our $49.

But little did I know what good value I would get out of the cards later.

Burning IHG Free Nights for Airport Hotels

Compared to a stay at the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes, using a free night certificate for an airport hotel sounds totally lame. You’re there to basically sleep, eat breakfast (if you’re not departing at 4:00 a.m. for the first flight of the day), and head to the airport. Or, in our case, back home.

After burning points for a couple airport hotel stays, I realized that this was one of my least favorite uses of points. It hurts to pay a bundle for a hotel room you hardly enjoy, no matter if its cash or points. And it hurts even more when the airport is consistently SFO, which cost a bundle no matter how you book.

After burning two certificates for stays at the Staybridge Suites SFO, it dawned on me that this wasn’t as painful as using points. I’ve now spent four certificates total at this same hotel. This might seem backwards, given that I was using an uncapped certificate (until the most recent stay) for an airport hotel. But we don’t generally have a lot of aspirational stays, especially within the IHG chain. Burning a single certificate for a night makes way more sense than using points. I prefer to stretch my points at properties where I can either book a low award rate or book a longer stay that includes a free fifth night with Marriott or Hilton.

Using a single certificate for a single airport hotel night is a great fit, at least in our case. It is even better that I can still say I am getting great value. Rates are obscene at the Staybridge Suites SFO.

a close up of a price tag


Undoubtedly folks will disagree with me. But a necessary airport hotel on the front or back end of a trip (since we have to drive a whopping 5 hours to the airport in most cases) is a fantastic use of a $49 certificate. I’m not sure I’ll ever book an aspirational stay again using these. Given that the new certificates are capped at 40,000 points and IHG has moved many fantastic hotels to higher tiers than this, this truly is the new best use of IHG certificates.

Have you ever used your IHG free night certificate for an airport hotel?