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Most hotel brands offer free nights in exchange for a credit card application, a few paid nights, or even a credit card anniversary, but how much is that really worth? Well, it depends. The value of one free night could range from $0 (if you don’t use it) to a few hundred or even a few thousand, depending on the hotel, room, and date(s) booked.
The hypothetical value of said free night is completely dependent on the type of person taking advantage of the night. “Type of person,” you ask? Well based on my observations, there are three types of people who use free nights; savers, planners, and opportunists. I’ll get to the definition of each type in a minute, but the idea is that the category of person using the free night determines just how “valuable” it is, not the hotel itself.
A free night is a free night.
The Saver doesn’t plan a trip to use a free night. Instead, a trip is planned and the free night is used to lower the total cost. It doesn’t matter if the original price of the hotel was $60 or $600, if The Saver has a free night to use, they will use it.
To some of you this may seem crazy. You may be thinking, “Why waste a free night cert on a cheap hotel?” Well, it’s not really a waste, if the person using it is finding value. I have a few relatives that redeem points, miles, and free night certs for lower value than I would, but the way they look at it is, it’s free.
This approach doesn’t work well for mattress runs, because the cost usually outweighs the value earned. That’s likely due to the fact that many Savers do not manufacture spend or even read this blog. They simply enjoy the price of free, which isn’t a bad thing.
What hotel will give me the most value for this free night?
The Planner looks at free nights in a much different way than The Saver. They will specifically plan for it. In fact the planning may go as far as to plan a vacation around a free night. For example, Planner’s who participated in IHG’s recent Into The Nights promotion, likely have their eye set on one of IHG’s more aspirational properties, such as Bora Bora. That hotel can cost upwards of $900 per night, but with a free night cert, it’s free.
People that fall into The Planner category are much more likely to get the most value out of their free nights, but they deserve it since they usually put the most work into them.
What hotel is in the area?
The Opportunist is the happy medium between The Planner and The Saver. They won’t use their free nights willy nilly, like The Saver does, but they also won’t plan a vacation around them either, like The Planner does. Instead, they take a different approach and plan a vacation, then look for a high-end hotel in the area to use their free nights at.
This method offers a lot of value, not as much as The Planner’s method, but still more than The Saver’s. Personally, this is my preferred way of using a free night. It guarantees a lot of value out of my nights, but it also offers a lot of flexibility.
This has been my approach for the use of my “Into The Nights” nights. I figure my wife and I will be traveling to someplace internationally with fancy IHG hotels in the next year, so why not go for the promotion? I’m thinking London, Israel, or Tokyo… or maybe some place else. Who knows…
What type of person are you?