October 24 2015

New PointBreaks List Goes Live on Monday

Every few months, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) releases a new PointBreaks list. I consider PointBreaks one of the best deals in hotel loyalty programs, with award nights offered at the deeply discounted rate of 5,000 points per night.

IHG brands consist of the following:

IHG brands

A new set of PointBreaks properties will be released for booking on Monday (October 26). The list of properties can be found on IHG’s blog (here), and I have also pasted it below.

I value an IHG point at 0.7 cents, so being able to book a room for 5,000 points is like spending $35. Having the co-branded credit card gives you a 10% rebate on redemptions, effectively lowering the cost to 4,500 points per night.

$35 a night is a good deal at just about any decent hotel anywhere. But among the 100+ properties on each PointBreaks list, there is usually a handful of extraordinary deals – InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Hotel Indigo properties that normally require up to 50,000 points for an award night (or several hundred dollars for a paid night).

A few potential gems in this round:

There are also a few properties within a short drive or flight of my home that I’ll consider for weekend getaways

 

Ways to acquire IHG points

If you’re short on points, I previously suggested ways to earn IHG Rewards points. Among the methods described is a way to indirectly buy points for $0.007 each.

 

Booking strategy

These properties are offered at the PointBreaks rate from October 26, 2015 to January 31, 2016, but award nights are capacity controlled and desirable properties only last a few hours (if that). So if you’re interested I’d be poised to book as soon as the booking window opens.

The PointBreaks rate usually loads sometime between 8 to 10 AM Eastern on the day booking opens. However, the official PointBreaks page usually doesn’t display the new properties until the afternoon – by which time many desirable properties are gone. (If you go to that page before the new round is loaded, you’ll just see properties from the prior round still there.)

So here’s my strategy in advance of each new round:

  • Check out the preview list now and identify properties I’m interested in.
  • On the Eastern Time morning of the day booking opens (Monday, October 26 for this round), go to the webpage of each desired property (accessible from the links below) and navigate to the booking page.
  • Find the 5,000­ points-­per-­night ­rate and book it! Again, the exact time the PointBreaks rate loads is unknown, but it’s usually between 8-­10 AM EST. I just periodically refresh the page until it appears (while working on other things in another window).
IC Cairo
The InterContinental Cairo on the banks of the Nile – a steal at $35/night (photo: IHG)

 

Preview list

Below is the full list as of this writing. Once a property sells out of PointBreaks nights it drops off the PointBreaks page and the 5,000-­point rate no longer displays.

Remember each member may make up to two PointBreaks reservations per property. A reservation can be of any duration (availability permitting).

 

ASIA / AFRICA / MIDDLE EAST

 

EUROPE

Belgium

Czech Republic

Finland

France

Germany

Italy

Lithuania

Poland

Russia

Slovakia

Spain

Turkey

United Kingdom

 

THE AMERICAS

Brazil

Canada

Columbia

Costa Rica

Guatemala

Mexico

Nicaragua

Panama

 

THE USA

Alabama

Arkansas

Arizona

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Iowa

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Massachusetts

Maryland

Michigan

Minnesota

Missouri

Mississippi

Montana

North Carolina

North Dakota

Nebraska

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

Nevada

New York

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Virginia

Vermont

Washington

Wisconsin

West Virginia

 

December 12 2014

IHG Bonus Points Offer – To Buy or Not To Buy?

[If you came here just for the free donuts, the information is at the bottom of this post. 😉 ]

IHG Rewards Club, the loyalty program of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), is currently offering a bonus when you buy points in the program.

IHG Bonus Pts Offer

A few people have asked me if it’s worth it. My answer – as it is to most questions in life – is “it depends.”

The offer

IHG normally sells points for as low as 1.15 cents each. Here’s the price chart:

IHG Bonus Pts Rates

That is not a good deal considering they can be acquired for 0.7 cents by other means (discussed here).

However, this promotion gives you a certain bonus when buying points.

But not everyone is offered the same bonus. The various offers are 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. You can find out which you received here.

This is the effective cost per point with each offer:

IHG Bonus Pts CPP

Analysis

If you received a 50% offer or below, it does not make sense to buy points this way (since you can acquire them for cheaper, at 0.7 cents each, as mentioned above).

If you got a 75% or 100% offer, then I could see it making sense if both of the following are true:

  • You think IHG points are worth more than these sale prices. I personally value an IHG point at about 0.7 cents, so I think prices are favorable if you received the 75% or the 100% offer.
  • You have a specific, near-term use for them. I would not buy points just to hoard them as (1) loyalty points can be – and often are – devalued at whim by the company, and (2) I think it unwise to convert a liquid asset (cash) to an illiquid one (hotel points with little value outside their loyalty program) without good reason.

Here’s an example where it does make sense to buy points. Below is the price of a room at the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam on a random date this summer.

IC Amstel 2

As you see, for one night the cash rate is €1,460 (about $1,800 at today’s exchange rate).

Instead of paying cash, you can book a night for 40,000 points – which can be purchased for $230 with the 100% bonus offer (40,000 x $0.00575) or $263 with the 75% offer.

I’ve used this example before, and it’s a fairly extreme example, but it’s good for illustration.

But be sure to check award availability at your desired hotel before purchasing points!

Bonus tip

Treat yourself to a free dozen Krispy Kreme donuts (with purchase).

Krispy Kreme Dozen

Coupon is available here and offer is valid only today (December 12). Enjoy!

November 30 2014

2,000 Bonus Points for Enrolling in IHG Rewards Club

IHG Rewards Club, the loyalty program of Intercontinental Hotels Group, is offering 2,000 bonus points for simply signing up. You can do so here.

IHG Signup Bonus

I believe IHG offers one of the best values in hotel loyalty programs: award nights for the heavily discounted rate of 5,000 points (the equivalent of $35) per night with its PointBreaks program.

2,000 points is 40% of the way to a free night through PointBreaks. If you don’t already have an account, it’s definitely worth a few minutes to sign up.

In case you’re unfamiliar with IHG, its brands consist of the following:

IHG Brands

The offer expires December 7, 2014.

 

November 24 2014

Luxury Hotels for $35/Night – New PointBreaks Properties Now Bookable

Every few months, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) releases a new PointBreaks list. I consider PointBreaks one of the best deals in hotel loyalty programs, with award nights offered at the deeply discounted rate of 5,000 points per night.

IHG brands consist of the following: IHG Brands

A new set of PointBreaks properties was released for booking today. The list can be found here, and I have also pasted it below for convenience.

I value an IHG point at $0.007 (seven tenths of one cent), so being able to book a room for 5,000 points is like spending $35.

$35 a night is a good deal for just about any decent hotel property anywhere.

But among the 100+ properties on each PointBreaks list, there is usually a handful of extraordinary deals – InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Hotel Indigo properties that normally require up to 50,000 points for an award night (or several hundred dollars for a paid night).

PalacePortGhalib
The Palace Port Ghalib Resort in Egypt

A few of the gems on the list, in my opinion:

 

Ways to acquire IHG points

If you’re short on points, I previously wrote about how to earn IHG Rewards points. Among the methods described, there is a way to indirectly buy points for $0.007 each.

 

List of participating properties

Below is the full list as of this writing. The offer is valid through February 28, 2015, but award nights are capacity controlled and desirable properties go quickly so if interested I would book as soon as possible.

Once a property sells out of PointBreaks nights it drops off the PointBreaks page and the 5,000-point rate no longer displays for booking.

Each member may make up to two PointBreaks reservations per property. A reservation can be of any duration (availability permitting).

 

UNITED STATES

ALABAMA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS MONTGOMERY – EAST I-85
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SYLACAUGA

ARIZONA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ORO VALLEY-
TUCSON NORTH

CANDLEWOOD SUITES TUCSON

ARKANSAS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MALVERN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MORRILTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES VAN BUREN-
FT SMITH AREA

CALIFORNIA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES INDIO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES JACKSON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LIVERMORE
HOLIDAY INN PALMDALE-LANCASTER
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES TEHACHAPI
HWY 58/MILL ST.

COLORADO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CO SPRINGS-
AIR FORCE ACADEMY

CONNECTICUT
HOLIDAY INN NEW LONDON – MYSTIC AREA
EVEN HOTEL NORWALK

DELAWARE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES DOVER

FLORIDA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BARTOW
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BROOKSVILLE WEST
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LIVE OAK
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PANAMA CITY-TYNDALL

GEORGIA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AUGUSTA EAST
STAYBRIDGE SUITES COLUMBUS – FORT BENNING
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES HINESVILLE EAST –
FORT STEWART

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MOULTRIE

IDAHO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SANDPOINT NORTH

ILLINOIS
STAYBRIDGE SUITES AURORA/NAPERVILLE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BOURBONNAIS (KANKAKEE/BRADLEY)
CANDLEWOOD SUITES CHAMPAIGN-URBANA UNIV AREA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MATTOON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MORRIS

INDIANA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES KOKOMO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS WASHINGTON

IOWA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CEDAR RAPIDS-I-380
@ 33RD AVE

CANDLEWOOD SUITES SIOUX CITY – SOUTHERN HILLS

KENTUCKY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES HAZARD

LOUISIANA
CROWNE PLAZA EXECUTIVE CENTER BATON ROUGE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS COVINGTON-MADISONVILLE
CANDLEWOOD SUITES DENHAM SPRINGS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MORGAN CITY –
TIGER ISLAND

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES NEW IBERIA-
AVERY ISLAND 

MAINE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BIDDEFORD

MARYLAND
CANDLEWOOD SUITES ABERDEEN-EDGEWOOD-BEL AIR
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BALTIMORE WEST –
CATONSVILLE

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS WASHINGTON DC – BW PARKWAY

MICHIGAN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CANTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS HASTINGS
CROWNE PLAZA LANSING WEST
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES DETROIT
NORTH – TROY

MINNESOTA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ROGERS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ST. PAUL NE
(VADNAIS HEIGHTS)

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES WILLMAR

MISSISSIPPI
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CORINTH
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES FULTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GRENADA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES JACKSON
DOWNTOWN – COLISEUM

HOLIDAY INN HOTEL AND SUITES TUPELO NORTH

MISSOURI
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MARYVILLE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SIKESTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ST. JOSEPH

MONTANA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GLENDIVE
CANDLEWOOD SUITES SIDNEY

NEBRASKA
CANDLEWOOD SUITES OMAHA AIRPORT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES YORK

NEVADA
CANDLEWOOD SUITES WINNEMUCCA

NEW JERSEY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CARNEYS POINT
NJ TRNPK EXIT 1

NEW MEXICO
CROWNE PLAZA ALBUQUERQUE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES DEMING
MIMBRES VALLEY

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LOS ALAMOS
ENTRADA PARK

NEW YORK
STAYBRIDGE SUITES BUFFALO-AIRPORT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PAINTED POST – CORNING AREA

NORTH CAROLINA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GOLDSBORO –
BASE AREA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS HICKORY-HICKORY MART
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MONROE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ROANOKE RAPIDS SE
STAYBRIDGE SUITES WILMINGTON EAST

OHIO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BOWLING GREEN
HOLIDAY INN DAYTON/FAIRBORN I-675
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MARION
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES VAN WERT

OKLAHOMA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CHICKASHA
CANDLEWOOD SUITES MIDWEST CITY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GLENPOOL-
TULSA SOUTH

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PRYOR

PENNSYLVANIA
HOLIDAY INN BENSALEM-PHILADELPHIA AREA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PITTSBURGH SW – SOUTHPOINTE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS EXTON-LIONVILLE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GREENSBURG
HOLIDAY INN WILKES BARRE – EAST MOUNTAIN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES YORK

SOUTH CAROLINA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SUMTER

TENNESSEE
CANDLEWOOD SUITES KNOXVILLE AIRPORT-ALCOA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MORRISTOWN

TEXAS
CROWNE PLAZA DALLAS NEAR GALLERIA-ADDISON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES HOUSTON-ALVIN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES FAIRFIELD-NORTH
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES FLORESVILLE
HOLIDAY INN DALLAS-FORT WORTH AIRPORT S 
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GRAHAM

UTAH
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SPRINGVILLE-
SOUTH PROVO AREA

VIRGINIA
STAYBRIDGE SUITES CHANTILLY – FAIRFAX
CANDLEWOOD SUITES HARRISONBURG
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SUFFOLK
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES WINCHESTER

WASHINGTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS VANCOUVER NORTH –
SALMON CREEK

WEST VIRGINIA
HOLIDAY INN HOTEL AND SUITES BARBOURSVILLE
CANDLEWOOD SUITES LOGAN

WISCONSIN
CANDLEWOOD SUITES LA CROSSE
STAYBRIDGE SUITES MADISON-EAST
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PLEASANT PRAIRIE /
KENOSHA

WYOMING
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BUFFALO

EUROPE

BELGIUM

CROWNE PLAZA LIÈGE

FINLAND
CROWNE PLAZA HELSINKI

FRANCE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS STRASBOURG – SUD
CROWNE PLAZA LYON – CITE INTERNATIONALE

GERMANY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AUGSBURG
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS STUTTGART AIRPORT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS NEUNKIRCHEN
HOLIDAY INN STUTTGART
CROWNE PLAZA WIESBADEN

IRELAND
CROWNE PLAZA DUNDALK

ITALY
HOLIDAY INN SALERNO – CAVA DE’ TIRRENI
HOLIDAY INN NOLA – NAPLES VULCANO BUONO

RUSSIA
HOLIDAY INN MOSCOW – SOKOLNIKI

SPAIN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS MADRID – GETAFE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS VALENCIA – BONAIRE

SWITZERLAND
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AFFOLTERN AM ALBIS

TURKEY
CROWNE PLAZA ISTANBUL – ASIA

UNITED KINGDOM
STAYBRIDGE SUITES BIRMINGHAM
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BIRMINGHAM – SNOW HILL
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS EAST MIDLANDS AIRPORT
HOLIDAY INN SOLIHULL

ASIA

INDIA
HOLIDAY INN AMRITSAR RANJIT AVENUE
HOLIDAY INN COCHIN
CROWNE PLAZA KOCHI

INDONESIA
HOLIDAY INN JAKARTA KEMAYORAN 

MALAYSIA
HOLIDAY INN KUALA LUMPUR GLENMARIE

THAILAND
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BANGKOK SATHORN

CHINA-PEOPLES REPUBLIC
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BEIJING YIZHUANG
CROWNE PLAZA BEIJING LIDO 
HOLIDAY INN TEMPLE OF HEAVEN BEIJING
HOLIDAY INN CHENGDU XINDU
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CHENGDU WEST GATE 
HOLIDAY INN HOHHOT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SHANGHAI GONGKANG 

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

EGYPT
INTERCONTINENTAL THE PALACE PORT GHALIB RESORT

JORDAN
HOLIDAY INN AMMAN
HOLIDAY INN RESORT DEAD SEA

MAURITIUS
HOLIDAY INN MAURITIUS AIRPORT

QATAR
CROWNE PLAZA DOHA – THE BUSINESS PARK

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
HOLIDAY INN ABU DHABI

CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA

ARGENTINA
HOLIDAY INN ROSARIO

BRAZIL
HOLIDAY INN PORTO ALEGRE

CHILE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS IQUIQUE

ECUADOR
HOLIDAY INN GUAYAQUIL AIRPORT

PANAMA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PANAMA DISTRITO FINANCIERO

MEXICO

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CABO SAN LUCAS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SALTILLO ZONA AEROPUERTO
CROWNE PLAZA TORREON
HOLIDAY INN CAMPECHE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PUEBLA ANGELOPOLIS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SAN LUIS POTOSI
CROWNE PLAZA XALAPA
INTERCONTINENTAL PRESIDENTE MERIDA

CANADA 

BRITISH COLUMBIA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS FORT ST JOHN

NEW BRUNSWICK
CROWNE PLAZA FREDERICTON-LORD BEAVERBROOK

 

September 17 2014

Free Coffee, Up to 33% off Hotels, and an IHG Points Purchase Promo

Good afternoon! This will have to be another quick post but there are a few deals today I thought worth sharing…

$100 off a Travelocity hotel booking of $300+ (link)

This deal is valid only through 11:59 PM Pacific today (September 17), but if it fits your plans it’s a nice discount.

Use code BIGDAYHOTEL100 for $100 off a Travelocity hotel stay of $300 or more. Note that “pay later” hotel options are excluded.

Travelocity $100 off $300+

(If you’re a package-deal kind of person, also note code BIGDAYPKG100 saves $100 on a flight + hotel package of $500+.)

Up to 100% bonus on purchased IHG Rewards points (link)

In what is the largest bonus I recall ever seeing on purchased IHG points, you can earn a 100% bonus when buying 50,000 to 60,000 IHG points. The bonus offer expires September 22.

IHG Points Bonus

IHG Rewards is InterContinental Hotels Group’s loyalty program. The group’s brands include Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, and InterContinental Hotels, among others.

If you buy 50,000 points through this promotion, you’d pay $575 and end up with 100,000 points. Your net price would be $0.00575 per point.

Since I value IHG points at $0.007 apiece (and there is also an indirect way to obtain points at that rate), I think this promotion is decent. However, I would only buy points if I had a specific redemption in mind.

I don’t buy points just to hoard them as (1) loyalty points can be – and often are – devalued at whim by the company, and (2) I think it unwise to convert a liquid asset (cash) into an illiquid one (hotel points with little value outside their loyalty program) without good reason.

But if you had a specific use for IHG points, this promotion can be compelling.

Take, for example, the InterContinental Amstel. I pulled up a random date in May 2015 and the nightly rate was from €1,460 (about $1,900).

IC Amstel 2

Since a reward night requires 40,000 points, you can effectively book on points instead for $230 (40,000 x $0.00575). (But be sure to check reward availability before buying points!)

Free coffee at McDonald’s (link)

McDonald's

Finally, if you’re near a McDonald’s during breakfast hours, stop in for a free McCafe coffee through September 29. 🙂

 

June 23 2014

Hotel Review: InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam

Trip report index:

 

I have stayed in all kinds of accommodations – from sleeping bags in flimsy tents, to fleabag motels next to freeways, to mid-range business hotels when traveling for work, to luxury resorts with nightly room rates exceeding most mortgage payments.

When forming an opinion of an accommodation, I try to bear in mind the kind of property it is. At a St. Regis, it takes much more for me to say I had a good stay than it would at a Ramada Inn. After all, the latter costs far less (whether in cash or points).

So when I say my stay at the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam was “okay,” it is a relative assessment. In absolute terms, the hotel is top notch.

But if someone is considering spending €500/night (more for some dates, less on others) – plus tax – for a room, I believe they’ll want an opinion on whether it’s worth the expense and not simply whether it’s nice. So let me approach this review from that perspective.

The location

Compared to the other IHG property in town (which I loved, by the way), the Amstel is not as centrally located. It is by no means totally out of the way – in fact I could walk to Museumplein (the Museum Quarter) in about 20 minutes – but certainly farther from the city center than other options.

So if you are seeking a hotel that is convenient for seeing the city on foot (which I think is the best way to see Amsterdam, by far) then this one isn’t ideal.

On the other hand if you’re looking for a more tranquil location outside the bustle of the city center but still close to it, this would be perfect.

The hotel isn’t just near the Amstel River, it’s on it. In fact, it almost looks like a floating hotel given how close to the water it is.

The hotel exterior
The hotel exterior

Walking up and down the Amstel River is as pleasant as can be. It’s also a quick way to reach the Hermitage Museum, the Jewish Historical Museum, and Waterlooplein. And the photogenic Skinny Bridge is en route.

While the true city center is not close enough to be a comfortable walk in my opinion, there are metro and tram stops only a block away – although I have a feeling most hotel guests don’t use public transport. (When I declined the bellman’s offer to arrange a car to the airport saying I’d take the metro instead, he looked at me as if I was nuts.)

The room

The view from my room was divine. Now, this is Amsterdam – pretty much everything is next to water. Even then, the view from this hotel must be one of the best in the city.

View of the Amstel River from my room
View of the Amstel River from my room

Not all rooms face the river so be sure to get a river-view room if that is important to you.

The Dutch décor isn’t my personal style, but that is purely a matter of taste (and I don’t think I’m the target demographic for this property).

Dutch decor
Dutch decor

The bathroom was large and luxurious with a tub, separate rain shower, and water closet. Bath amenities included robes, slippers, and even a nice jogging map for exercise-minded guests.

IC-AMS bathroom
Bathroom

Of note, this particular room featured a step-down bedroom with several steps between the bathroom and bedroom.

Steps from bedroom to bathroom
Steps from bedroom to bathroom

While it added character, I thought about the safety implications. It is one thing to have character in your own home, where everything is familiar to you, but in a hotel this can be a hazard if you forget it’s there when you make a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom while half asleep.

While I don’t think the hotel can do much to remedy this, I do think it’s worth mentioning. And if you have trouble negotiating steps in general, then I would be sure to get a room without them.

The service

As you might imagine, the service was most polished. It’s not the more laid-back, friendly type of service I described at the sister property across town, but there was no fault to be found with the service here either.

Check-in was seated at a desk, with the agent accompanying you to your room after completing the paperwork. Although I can appreciate that some guests like this extra touch, personally I have never been a fan of having an agent stand inside my hotel room droning on about its features. I find it awkward and unnecessary (I already know how to work a light switch, and I’m tired so please leave already).

Since I also dislike evening turn-down service, I hung up the do-not-disturb sign when leaving for dinner. I removed it as soon as I returned and, within 60 seconds of the sign coming down, a housekeeper knocked and offered turndown service. Maybe she was already nearby, but I thought that was very attentive and observant and I almost felt bad declining the service.

By the way, the embossed leather-like sign was so nice I wanted to steal it thinking it would’ve been a fun decorative piece for my home. (But I didn’t.)

IC-AMS DND sign
Do not disturb sign (looks much cooler in person)

The amenities

As with my review of the Crowne Plaza across town, I completely neglected to take pictures of any hotel amenities on this trip. I will blame it on a senior moment (or more like a senior week), but please excuse the oversight and fire up your imagination as I describe them without visuals.

The lobby was decorated in the same old-world style as the guest rooms, with a grand staircase in the center making for a great photo spot. However, I never saw guests actually sitting in the lobby (the environment felt more uppity than cozy) and the view isn’t that interesting (the river is not visible).

There’s a fitness center with a heated indoor pool overlooking the river – which you must see even if you don’t intend to work out or swim – and an outdoor terrace with lounge chairs.

The two restaurants looked marvelous in terms of setting, and one of them – La Rive – is very well regarded. But as a general rule I prefer eating around town to eating in hotels so I cannot comment on the food except to say I’m sure it would have been great, albeit priced to match. (In fact I’ve heard exactly that from acquaintances who stayed on another occasion.) 24-hour room service is also available.

Summary

Overall this is a very elegant, classic hotel as you would expect from its reputation of being the best hotel in Amsterdam and one of the best in the world. However, I personally would not pay “retail” to stay here as (1) I like to explore on foot and the location is not ideal for that, and (2) the old-world style and décor are not my thing.

If you intend to use private transportation for your stay then the location is not an issue; it is certainly close enough to be a quick car ride to the city center.

Pros:

  • Fabulous views of the Amstel River.
  • Elegant atmosphere.

Cons:

  • Not within easy walking distance of the city center (but only one block to tram and metro stations).

Cost:

  • I redeemed 36,000 IHG Rewards points for one night. (It is actually 40,000 points, but I received a 10% rebate from my co-branded credit card.)

Link to hotel website.

March 28 2014

Don’t Leave Points on the Table – Check Your Big Win Offer

I have long wanted to see the Anne Frank House, and recently the stars aligned to make a quick trip to Amsterdam potentially viable in a few weeks. So I made a reservation at the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam, where the cheapest room during my timeframe was priced at €500 (about $680) per night. While I am frugal, I don’t believe that price and value are synonymous. The cheapest option doesn’t necessarily offer the best value, and in this case I think a splurge is justifiable. Situated on the Amstel River and considered the premiere hotel in Amsterdam, the InterContinental is where the champagne-and-caviar crowd lunches.

IHG Amstel exterior

Of course I’m kidding. I’m not paying $680 per night. But before getting to what it cost me (hint: nothing) we have to slog through the “how to.”

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), whose brands are pictured below, is running the Big Win promotion through April 30, 2014.

IHG brands

Big Win is fairly complex as hotel promotions go, and analyzing its value is further complicated because each participant receives a personalized set of “challenges” to complete in order to earn points. Your offer will most likely differ from mine, perhaps vastly. However, if you’re not currently an IHG Rewards Club member, signing up (which is free) will likely get you a generic new-member offer similar to this:

New member Big Win T&Cs hypothetical

One strategy is to complete this challenge in four nights to earn 34k Big Win points.* The key to coming out ahead is rate arbitrage: pay for stays at cheap hotels to earn points, then redeem those points at expensive hotels to save cash. So the analysis boils down to (1) what is the cost for those four nights, and (2) what is the value of the points earned?

  1. Four nights can be had for under $400 quite easily. The challenge above doesn’t specify any brands except Holiday Inn (which is one of the cheaper brands anyway). In many locations it’s common to see sub-$100/night rooms at the lower-cost brands. It won’t be in midtown Manhattan and it will be pretty Spartan, but it is do-able.
  2. Valuing points is subjective, but I generally value one IHG point at $0.007. My actual redemptions are usually much better than that (as we’ll see on my InterContinental Amstel booking), but hotel points are an illiquid asset so I discount their value relative to cash.

In this scenario, after spending $400 on four nights we earn 38,000 points valued at $266.

Revised Big Win points

 

Worth it?

Maybe.

If you have no other reason to buy four hotel nights then it’s not worth it. Why convert $400 in (liquid) cash to $266 in (illiquid) hotel points?

But…if you have travel plans that require hotel nights anyway, and IHG properties would meet your needs, and there are no superior hotel promotions available to you in the same timeframe, then you leave points on the table by ignoring this promotion. Even if you only need one or two nights and don’t complete the entire challenge, you can still earn points for individual components.

As I mentioned, each member gets a customized challenge based on their stay history. Analyzing my offer is not particularly meaningful in that the offer only applies to me, but it illuminates what is possible when you play the miles and points game and will hopefully help you evaluate your own offer.

My offer is for about 150k points. I can complete it in four nights for under $400 by playing strategically. (By strategically, I mostly mean slumming it at Holiday Inns versus staying at InterContinentals). Since I travel often, I am always needing hotel stays so I would need those four nights regardless.

In addition to 150k Big Win points, I can earn another 20k points or so from the same four nights through a combination of base earnings (every paid stay earns 5 to 10 points/$), bonus earnings (because of my membership level), and other combinable promotions. (I also earn 5 credit card points/$ but for simplicity I have omitted those in the analysis.)

So I earn 170k points valued at $1,190 (assuming 1 point = $0.007) from spending $400 on four hotel nights.

(By the way, absent this promotion, I would’ve shifted my business to another hotel chain and earned points there. This happened to be the best promotion available to me this quarter, but it’s always good to know and evaluate your options.)

So, what did the InterContinental Amstel cost me?

If I spend $400 and earn 170k points, my acquisition cost is $0.0024/point. A reward night at the InterContinental Amstel costs 40k points/night. At that rate, I’m effectively paying $96/night (40k x $0.0024).

Amstel reward rate

$96 is less than the rack rate of a Holiday Inn located 27 miles from the city center on the same dates.

But wait.

I’d argue that the InterContinental Amstel stay actually cost me nothing. Because my $400 was not spent on acquiring hotel points, but on four needed hotel nights.

This is why I play the miles and points game.  😉

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*An alternative strategy: complete the challenge in as few as three nights by forgoing the “Change your view” component. Doing so would earn only 31,000 Big Win points but would require one less paid night.