IHG launched a pretty unique 4th quarter promotion where you are given a series of tasks to complete in order to earn points. For example, my “Big Win” for the 4th quarter of 2013 included the following items:
- Stay 1 & Done – 1,000 points (Stay 1 night at any IHG property.)
- Stay more & earn more – 6,400 points (Stay a total of 4 nights.)
- Explore our brands – 20,000 points (Stay at 2 IHG brands.)
- Book with us – 4,000 points (Book 2 stays through the IHG website or app.)
- Survey the win – 100 points (Complete an online survey.)
- Win in a weekend – 8,000 points (Stay 2 Saturday nights.)
- Win Big – 40,000 points (Complete all of the other tasks.)
- Total Points: 79,500
Back in September, I was able to book two nights (including a Saturday) at a Holiday Inn Express. This stay was already needed and came only at a small premium compared to other hotels in the area. Since then, I haven’t had the need to pay for a hotel, so I have not been able to complete the offer. Since the promotion ends on December 31, 2013, I decided to see if it would be worth doing a mattress run.
A mattress run is where you check-in to a hotel just to get the points. In other words, once you check-in, you usually leave and don’t ever stay in the hotel. After looking at IHG hotels in Las Vegas, I was able to find an advanced booking special at the Candlewood Suites for $51 per night. Most of the IHG properties in Vegas run at quite a premium for some reason. This hotel during the week normally runs from $109-$129 per night. My guess is that the business clientele clears out on the weekends and those looking for a good time would rather stay in one of the casinos. Since I specifically needed at least one weekend night, this actually turned out to be good news for me. The $51 rate was only available for Friday and Saturday, which fit in perfectly with what I needed.
The other great news about The Big Win is that it is stackable with other promotions going on. There is a great thread on Flyertalk with a list of all codes that can be added to your account. I always visit the thread and try out any new codes before I complete a stay. For example, my two night stay in September yielded me 17,834 points because of bonuses. This upcoming stay should yield around an additional 20,000 points outside of The Big Win promotion.
So now lets do some math to see why it makes sense for me to do a mattress run:
- Total cost of 2 nights in Holiday Inn Express: $250 (Versus a cost of around $200 for competing hotels.)
- Total cost of 2 nights in Candlewood Suites: $116
- Total out of pocket expenses: $366 (Or $166 if you consider I would have paid $200 for my hotel stay somewhere else.)
- Points earned from Holiday Inn Express Stay: 17,834
- Points earned from Candlewood Suites Stay: ~20,000
- Points earned from The Big Win: 79,500
- Total points earned: 117,334
- Cost per point: .003 (.0014)
I consider my cost for these points as being .0014 per point, because I would have already been spending the money on the hotel for those first two nights. Either way you look at it though I come out ahead. IHG points can be purchased for .7 cents (.007) each directly. Ultimately though I value them at .5 cents (.005) per point. This valuation also seems to be the consensus of most people that I have spoken to in the miles and points game. By that value, the 117,334 points I get from this promotion are worth $587. No matter how you slice it, I win! (I realize some calculation has to be figured for time as well, but to keep it simple I have left that out from this discussion.)
While the math comes out in my favor no matter how I slice it, when it comes to The Big Win, the conclusion isn’t always the same for everyone. Each person’s offer for this promotion was different and many people were given much lower rewards or more complicated tasks to complete. For example, Jasmine’s offer was for more points, but entailed making stays in two specific cities. If we went out of our way to go to these cities, then the cost to get the points would have gone up tremendously.
It is always important to do the math to see if it is worth it to shift your hotel stays from another brand and/or make a mattress run. In most cases you will probably find that it IS NOT worth it, but in this case it worked for me. If you are just hearing about this promotion now, chances are it is too late. With that said, IHG just announced a new Big Win for the 1st quarter of 2014. My offer was not as good, but Jasmine’s is much better and I suspect we may just seek out a way for her to “win” as well.
Update: It has been brought to my attention that I did not account for my time or transportation costs in the mattress run. This is a good point and not one that I overlooked. I had decided to leave those expenses out since they were so miniscule, but I now realize I should have made mention of them. The hotel I booked for the mattress run was 5 miles from my house. My cost outside of the room for the mattress run was about forty-five minutes of time to check-in and drive back home and $2 in gas.
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