Dilemma: Go Fancy and Chic or Practical and Cost Effective With the Chase IHG Anniversary Night?

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Jasmin:   Like many of us in this hobby, I have the old Chase IHG Rewards card (that’s no longer available), which comes with a free night every account anniversary.  It’s an amazing deal for an annual fee of just $49, and one of the reasons I’ve kept the card for many years.

With this card, if you earn your free anniversary night before May 1, 2019, you can redeem it at any IHG hotel – even their most expensive luxury hotels and resorts.  But anniversary nights after that date will be capped at locations that cost 40,000 IHG points or less, to match with the anniversary night on the new IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (that’s also an excellent deal!).

I recently earned my IHG anniversary free night.  The last couple of years, I’ve ended up using the night at decidedly non-aspirational locations (hokey airport hotels, anyone?).  So this time, I really want to make the redemption count and get the most bang for my buck.

Because I have a weekend event coming up this fall with my family in downtown Toronto, where hotels are quite expensive, I thought it’d be a perfect opportunity to burn the anniversary night for huge value.

My First Pick Was the InterContinental Toronto Centre, Which Runs ~$352 per Night for Our Dates

But…now I’ve got a miles and points brain freeze.  I’m torn between booking a fancier hotel with the highest cash price, or one with a much more convenient location that isn’t quite as swanky or expensive.  Maybe you can help me decide!

An IHG Anniversary Night Conundrum

I tend to overthink every single miles and points redemption.  Am I using the fewest number of points?  Is it a good deal or should I pay cash?  What if I’m missing an angle?

It’s led to a lot of mental gymnastics, even when the solution should be pretty simple.  And with the uncapped IHG anniversary free night, there’s a lot more angst because – please tell me I’m not the only one who does this – I know I could otherwise be using it for a spectacular resort night in Bora Bora or a top-tier InterContinental in Paris.

There are 6 of us (including my 3 kids) needing a room in downtown Toronto for one night, so we’ll have to book 2 rooms.  My intention is to redeem the IHG anniversary night for one room, and IHG points for the other.  But my first choice, the InterContinental Toronto Centre (which is walking distance to our event) isn’t available for our dates.  And the even fancier InterContinental Yorkville isn’t either.

In fact, the only 2 IHG hotels available to book are:

The Holiday Inn Express Toronto Downtown Looks Fairly Average, and so Do the Reviews

Logistically (and from an out-of-pocket standpoint), the Holiday Inn Express Toronto Downtown makes the most sense.  It’s a ~10 minute walk from our event, includes free breakfast, and is close to spots we’d like to visit the following morning.  But reviews are hit and miss, despite it having recently undergone renovations.  And it’s not in the nicest part of downtown.

We’d get a value of nearly $300 per night here.  That’s a very good deal for a free anniversary night from a card with an annual fee of $49.  Even if you consider the $89 annual fee on the new Chase IHG Premier card (this hotel qualifies because it’s under 40,000 IHG points per night), it’s still a fantastic deal.

Here’s the dilemma – the Kimpton Saint George isn’t even open yet but will be for our dates.  It’s the first Kimpton Hotel in Toronto, and they’re known for chic, upscale amenities and a more luxurious vibe.  I’d love to try it out and share a review on the blog.  But it’s not walking distance from where we need to be, so we’d have to snag 2 Ubers there and back.  And breakfast isn’t included, which can get pricey in Toronto for a group of 6.

But it looks sooo much nicer!  Plus, it’d be a real treat for my family, despite costing more in points for the second room plus Uber rides and breakfast.

The Kimpton Saint George Looks Like It Will Be Amazing! It’s Opening This Summer

A night at the Kimpton Saint George on our dates is just shy of $400.  So it’s an even better value with the Chase IHG anniversary night (and, for what it’s worth, this hotel would also qualify for the anniversary night from the new IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.)  But I’ll pay more (40,000 IHG points) for the second room, and the cost of Uber rides and breakfast would probably negate the additional “value” we’d get from the stay compared to the Holiday Inn Express Toronto DowntownI’d probably end up spending ~$100 more out of pocket by booking this hotel, and an additional 15,000 IHG points.

Yet, I’m super curious about this hotel because it’s brand new.  And about Kimpton Hotels in general, because I’ve only ever stayed at a Kimpton (in Boston) once.  As for Holiday Inn Express, let’s just say my hips remind me I’ve already consumed enough of their fresh breakfast cinnamon rolls in this lifetime.

I’m so torn.  What’s better – squeezing the highest cash price and most luxury from the anniversary night at a brand-spanking-new boutique Kimpton Hotel?  Or be practical and settle for a more convenient and overall cheaper (though still decent value) night at fairly pedestrian-looking Holiday Inn Express?

I’ve already locked-in a reservation at one of these hotels in case available award nights disappear while I’m waffling and fussing about the decision.  So, please help me out with your opinion – what would you do in this situation?

Bottom Line

I can’t decide where to redeem the IHG anniversary free night from my old Chase IHG card (no longer open to new applicants) in downtown Toronto this fall.  While it’d be nice to book the fanciest, most expensive hotel, not all of them are available for our travel dates.

Plus, I’ll need to book a second room to accommodate our group of 6 (including my 3 kids).  I’m on the fence.  Do I:

  • Book the more practical Holiday Inn Express Toronto Downtown, which is walking distance from our event and includes free breakfast (but isn’t anything fancy) – it’s a ~$300 value and the second room costs 25,000 IHG points per night, or
  • Check out the soon-to-open Kimpton Saint George with its luxury, boutique vibe in a nicer part of town, but doesn’t include breakfast and would require Uber rides back and forth for our group (cash value ~$400, award nights cost 40,000 IHG points)

Either of these hotels is a terrific deal for just paying the annual fee on a card.  And while the old Chase IHG card is no longer available, the Chase IHG Premier comes with a similar free anniversary night, but it’s capped at hotels that cost 40,000 IHG points per night or less.  So both of these hotels would still qualify regardless.

Please let me know in the comments what you’d do if you were in my shoes.  And I’ll definitely report back after the trip and let you know where we stayed and how it went!

Jasmin Baron was an editor at Million Mile Secrets. She covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel. Her work has appeared in The Points Guy and Business Insider.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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