How I Traveled for Free: A Long Holiday Weekend Getaway in Montreal

Rosemarie Clancy
By Rosemarie Clancy 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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This finance professional and his wife wanted to take advantage of the extra time off for Columbus Day. They headed to Canada for a stay at the InterContinental in Quebec using an IHG free night certificate.

The cardholder

Name: T.L. Rob Age: 34 Occupation: Finance professional Home: New York Credit card: IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card

The stay

Hotel: InterContinental Montreal Dates of stay: October 6 - 8, 2018 What kind of room? King Deluxe

Q: What amenities did you take advantage of?

A: We took advantage of room service, the hotel bar, hotel coffee shop and fitness center.

The room service was quick and tasty and not as expensive as we've found in other hotels. And their absinthe bar was a lot of fun and had fair prices for drinks. The coffee shop that was accessible through the hotel was an offshoot of a Montreal coffee chain, but we went twice and enjoyed our food both times.

Unfortunately, the fitness center was fairly small and lacked equipment. There weren't many weight machines to use, and there were only two treadmills, one stationary bike and maybe one elliptical. It did the job, but just barely.

Q: Did you travel alone or with someone?

A: I went with my favorite travel companion, my wife. We love to take advantage of holiday weekends where we get an extra vacation day on a Monday. This year for Columbus Day we chose Montreal as a weekend getaway since we'd never visited before, and it's close to New York City.

The credit card

Q: What credit card did you use to get a free stay?

A: As a Chase IHG cardholder, I get a free night certificate every year after paying the super-low $49 annual fee. Even though that perk was devalued earlier this year (for bookings after May 1, 2019, the free night is only eligible at IHG hotels that cost 40,000 points or less, meaning the chain’s top-tier hotels will be ineligible), I was still able to use my 2018 certificate at any hotel in their portfolio.

Q: How long were you a cardholder at that time?

A: I opened this card in 2014.

Q: How long were you planning/saving for this stay?

A: We started planning in April, about six months before our stay. Since only one night would be free and we didn't want to change hotels, I looked for a nice property to stay at where our second night paid with cash wouldn't be too pricey. This hotel fit the bill.

Q: What's your favorite perk of this card?

A: Getting a free night for just a $49 annual fee is hard to beat, even with the card's recent changes. I don't value IHG points that highly so I don't actively spend with this card, but I'll gladly keep it for the annual certificate.

Redemption and booking

Q: Did you take advantage of promotions while earning points for this trip?

A: No promos for us to use this quarter as this would be our only stay at an IHG property.

Q: Where/how did you book?

A: I booked on the IHG website. For our paid night, we decided to do a prepaid rate to save a few extra bucks.

Q: How many points/rewards did this cost?

A: One night was booked with my credit card annual night certificate (so a $49 annual fee), and the second night was booked at the standard prepaid rate.

Q: Did you book in conjunction with a promotion or deal?

A: No deals for us this time around.

Q: Any surprises or bonus upgrades?

A: Even though the IHG card gives me Platinum status, I think the only perk we received was free high-speed Wi-Fi. And I use the term high-speed lightly.

What's your next travel rewards goal?

We are going to Chicago with flights paid with cash, but the hotel was booked using our annual free night certificates from the World of Hyatt Credit Card. We’ve already booked most of our travel for 2019, so we’re looking ahead to 2020. That fall, we plan to do a trip to Asia, with stops in India, Singapore, Vietnam and Tokyo.

Photo via T.L. Rob

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

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Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.


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Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

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