Incredible IHG Deal Stack – How I Reduced The Cost Of My Stay By 90%!

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I need to start by making clear that not every part of the following deal ‘stack’ will apply to everyone reading, but hopefully it will still give you some ideas on how to save big money on a luxury summer holiday…

Step One: Renewing Ambassador Status

I’m a little bit annoyed at IHG for not extending my Ambassador status further, given that it’s been legally impossible to take advantage of it for most of the last year. However, I’m not annoyed enough to ignore a fantastic deal.

If I pay $200 to renew my Ambassador status before the end of June, I will receive 15,000 IHG Rewards Club Points:

In addition, I will receive a free night certificate (up to 40,000 points) if I stay at an Intercontinental, Kimpton or Regent hotel by 31st August.

Given that a certificate isn’t as flexible as points, let’s downgrade the value of that a bit to 35,000 points. In total then, on top of the standard Ambassador benefits, I’ll effectively be 50,000 points to the good, after making a stay at one of the above brands.

Step Two: Cashback

TopCashback is currently offering 5.1% cashback on IHG bookings:

Obviously I’ll click through from whatever the best cashback rate is at the time of booking, but let’s apply that 5.1% to this current deal stacking opportunity, because that’s what is available right now.

Step Three: Using my existing Ambassador 2-4-1 certificate

When you renew Ambassador status, you can still use your old 2-4-1 certificate, so long as the expiry date hasn’t passed. Historically these certificates could only be used at Intercontinental hotels, but you can now redeem them at Kimpton and Regent hotels too.

I’m very much looking forward to meeting some friends in Manchester for a celebration soon, and am keen to try out the new Kimpton Clocktower hotel there. My existing 2-4-1 certificate is due to expire in the near future, so this seems like a perfect opportunity to use it.

When you book a room using an Ambassador 2-4-1 certificate, the pricing is a bit weird. Basically, you pay the equivalent of the Best Flexible Rate, but only for the first night. On the booking screen it looks like you will pay for the second night too, but you don’t in reality. In my experience, you do still earn points for the second night though.

Rather than simply booking the cheapest room type, I saw that I could book the top level ‘non-suite’ room for just ~£50 more. As I’ll only be paying for the first night, that’s basically ~£25 per night more. At an Intercontinental hotel, this is a great strategy if you want a cheap suite, as Ambassadors are guaranteed a 1-level upgrade, so by booking the top standard room, you’ll normally end up with a Junior Suite at least. Kimpton doesn’t offer the same guarantee, but given that I have top-tier IHG Rewards Club Spire status, as well as Ambassador, the odds of an upgrade have got to be good.

As you can see above, it looks like I’d be paying £220 per night, which is the cost of both nights averaged. In fact, I’d be paying £216 in total, as that is the real cost of the first night (and the second night is free):

I would therefore be paying the equivalent of £108 per night for a deluxe room (with a very good chance of an upgrade to a suite or junior suite).

Step Four: Triple Points

IHG Rewards’ current promotion offers triple points from your third stay onward.

I have had a few IHG stays, so will be eligible for triple points. In addition, I also receive a 100% base points bonus due to having Spire status. I will therefore effectively earn 4x base points from the stay.

Base points at (most) IHG hotel brands are 10 points per $1USD of pre-tax spend. UK VAT for hotels is currently 5%, and hotel companies normally convert across to USD at a poor rate, so let’s say I’ll earn points on about 92% of my total spend.

In my experience, you receive points for both nights of a 2-4-1 certificate stay, even though you don’t actually pay for the second night. My eligible spend should therefore be the dollar equivalent of  ~92% of £440, so about $575.

$575 x 10 points per $ = 5,750 points. With the triple points bonus and my status bonus, that becomes 23,000 points.

Step Five: Targeted 5,000 points bonus

IHG regularly sends out personalised bonus points offers. I currently have one on my account for 5,000 bonus points:

Add that to the 23,000 points, and we are up to 28,000 for the stay.

Step Six: Amex rebate

Amex is offering many cardholders a £100 rebate when spending £350+ at Intercontinental, Regent and Kimpton hotels in Europe, including the Kimpton Clocktower in Manchester.

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the cost of my room is just £216 though, so wouldn’t trigger the Amex rebate by itself. Fortunately, The Kimpton Clocktower has a very nice looking bar, and as I’m treating my friends to drinks and dinner as part of the celebrations, charging an extra ~£140 to my room won’t be a problem.

The important bit to understand for the ‘accountancy purposes’ of this post is that it is money I would be spending at that same bar regardless.

The extra spend also means earning more points. Using the same 92% figure as before, that would work out at a converted rate of about $180. Multiply that by 10 to get the number of base points (1,800), then multiply that by 4 to factor in triple points and my status bonus = 7,200 points. 

Let’s add things up…

What am I buying?

  • Ambassador status for another year, including a new 2-4-1 certificate.
  • 2-night weekend stay at a nice looking hotel  (in a deluxe room at the least, but more likely a junior suite)
  • ~£140 worth of food/drink at the hotel bar/restaurant

What am I paying?

  • £142 ($200) to renew Ambassador status
  • £216 for accommodation
  • ~£140 for food/drinks

Total: ~£500

What am I getting back?

  • 15,000 IHG Rewards Points for renewing Ambassador, plus ~35,000 points (23,000 for the room +7,200 for food/drink spend, plus the 5,000 targeted bonus) from the stay, so 50,000 points in total. I value IHG Rewards Points at about 0.4p each, so 50,000 are worth ~£200 to me.
  • Free night certificate (for stays up to 40,000 points) from renewing Ambassador and staying at a Kimpton/ Intercontinental/ Regent hotel. Certificates aren’t as flexible as points, so let’s say that’s actually more like 35,000 points, worth £140 to me.
  • 5.1% cashback on the £216 room spend = £11. That could be potentially more like £22, depending on if the cost of the ‘free’ second night tracks or not, but let’s be conservative and stick with £11.
  • £100 Amex rebate for spending £350.

Total: ~£451

My net cost is therefore about £50 (£500 – £451).

Not everyone will accept my valuation of IHG Points and the free night certificate etc, but I’d argue they are actually relatively conservative. While I might be content to redeem IHG points at a rate of 0.4p each, I usually get a fair bit more – even after the recent changes.

Bottom line

To be completely clear, in net terms (if you accept my valuations), I am effectively paying £50 in total to receive the following:

  • Ambassador status for another year, including a new 2-4-1 certificate.
  • 2-night weekend stay at a nice looking hotel (in a deluxe room at the least, but more likely a junior suite)
  • ~£140 worth of food/drink at the hotel bar/restaurant

Given that I need a hotel in Manchester anyway, would be spending plenty on food/drinks anyway, and would (probably) renew my Ambassador status anyway, you could even make a reasonable case that IHG is effectively paying me a few hundred quid here. I won’t go that far, but the case could be made.

As I said at the beginning, not all of the steps here will apply to everyone – but if you keep your eyes open, most of them could at some point. There are few secrets when it comes to successful ‘travel hacking’ – the key point is to think flexibly and to stack as many different deals together as possible.  

One more thing… Some key caveats

I want to finish with a couple of important caveats. This sort of elaborate deal stack might be fun and will likely work out as outlined – but things can and do go wrong. Cashback might not track properly, the Amex credit might not come through for some obscure reason hidden in the terms and conditions, IHG might mess up the number of points paid, etc, etc. You need to be prepared for those eventualities and able (financially, emotionally) to shrug them off as minor irritations. Basically, if things not working out as intended is likely to cause you any sort of stress, I wouldn’t recommend getting involved.

In a similar way, it’s also important to have a firm (and realistic) sense of your own points valuations. Just because I think 0.4p is a fair valuation of IHG Points, doesn’t mean it necessarily is for you. Whenever you’re crunching the numbers on this sort of thing, use your own valuations to see if a deal really makes sense for you.

Are you tempted to get or renew IHG Ambassador status this year?


  1. BuildBackBetter says

    Incorrect. You are also paying (utilising) the free night certificate you already have, probably worth 35k points. Either consider that as an outflow or ignore the new certificate you receive.
    Another option is to buy a new ambassador package at the hotel and get it billed by them instead of spending more at the bar (if you would rather have not spent it).

    • Joe Deeney says

      I consider that one (it’s a 2-4-1 rather than a ‘real’ free night certificate) basically dead, given that IHG aren’t willing to extend it, I had no opportunity to use it earlier in the last year, and I have no other trip to spend it on before expiry. It doesn’t really impact the maths though either way, as I don’t ascribe a value to the new 2-4-1 certificate in the piece.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Great tip on getting Ambassador at the hotel to meet the Amex spend though – any idea if they offer the 15k renewal points if you do it that way?

      • BuildBackBetter says

        Unlikely they’d give us the points. I guess they receive a commission when they sell new packages, but wouldn’t expect it for a renewal.

  2. Paul W Court says

    The TCB cashback states “Cashback is also not available if your purchase is not fully completed online.” Using the 2-4-1 certificate means paying at checkout. Anyone had any experience of TCB crediting cashback if payment is at checkout rather than online?

    • Joe Deeney says

      Yep, lots – I’ve never had a problem with cashback paying out on flex rates with any hotel group.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      You always get cashback when you pay at the hotel. The only question with the 2-4-1 is whether you earn cashback on the paid night, or for both nights… 😉

  3. Vince says

    I did much the same thing as this at the Clocktower a couple of weeks ago (and stayed another night for only 22,000 points). The entire stay posted as non qualifying due to hotel error but Ambassador CS fixed it immediately after I sent an email. It was a very cheap stay. The hotel is fantastic, Staff are BRILLIANT, Architecture amazing, great location. The only let down is the bar/restaurant – hit and miss with staff. FYI you can use your weekend night ANY night of the week at Kimpton, I did Thur/Fri (with Sat using reward points).

    • P W Court says

      Good to be reminded that using the 2-4-1 voucher at a Kimpton hotel gets round only being able to use it at the W/end in ICs. Anyone know if USA TopCashBack site is any more or less likely to track properly than the UK site?
      As a point of no interest to anyone but myself, Amex appear to have sent me inducements to spend money at every hotel chain on the planet apart from IHG!

      • Joe Deeney says

        I’d say roughly the same in terms of tracking (I imagine they use the same tech). I’m not sure what USA customer service is like if things don’t track properly though, whereas I’ve always had good experiences with UK.

        I think I’ve currently got a clean sweep for all major chains (on at least one card or another), and some smaller ones like malmaison etc too. Really looking forward to getting back to travel (domestically anyway) and using them!

    • Joe Deeney says

      Cheers for the report Vince – glad to hear you had a good stay!. Very much looking forward to trying it out myself soon.

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