How to Spend $46 and Receive Up to 9 Free Hotel Nights


Want to do something fun that will help you travel for free? Just want to make fun of me and a couple of friends who are out to earn points? Here’s a chance to do either or both of those things.

On December 4, I’ll meet up with some travel hacking friends to stuff 94 handwritten index cards into envelopes in hopes of receiving at least 47,000 hotel points that we’ll use for free nights. If you’re as crazy as we are, you can do this, too.

How It Works

A new promotion called “Priceless Surprises” from global hotel group IHG offers guests the opportunity to earn bonus points of at least 500 points for staying at their properties. So far, so basic… but it turns out you can also earn the points through a mail-in offer.

If you handwrite (no computer-generated entries allowed) your address and info on an index card, then send it to their office in an envelope with a 49-cent postage stamp attached to the envelope, you’ll earn a minimum of 500 points.

Oh, and you can enter the mail-in offer 94 times. What?!

That’s right, for every index card you mail off to IHG, they’ll give you a code that you can use to receive a deposit of at least 500 points in your account—and maybe a lot more if you’re lucky. Unfortunately you can’t just send 94 index cards in one envelope—they all have to be mailed separately—but still, it’s not a bad deal, at least for those of us who like these kinds of things.

How to Prepare

If you’d like to join us in earning your own points, it’s pretty easy.

You’ll need to have:

  • A free loyalty account with IHG (get yours here)
  • A Mastercard (any MasterCard will work, though of course we recommend the IHG Rewards Club Select—it offers 60,000 bonus points and an additional free night every year you have the card)
  • 94 envelopes, index cards, and first-class postage stamps (currently $0.49 each)
  • A hand to write your entries

These items are recommended but not required:

  • Half a liter of decent gin or bourbon
  • A friend or ten friends to make it a collaborative effort

Oh, and can you do this if you’re not in the U.S.? It seems so. The postage will cost more, of course, but otherwise there’s no problem as long as your IHG account address is in the U.S. Members of the Travel Hacking Cartel already have access to a U.S. address they can use when entering promotions, but you can also use an address of a friend who lives in the States.

What You’ll Get: At Least 47,000 IHG Points Worth At Least $235

Remember, every entry should earn at least 500 points. Assuming that they all earn the minimum, and that you complete the full 94 entries, you’ll end up with 47,000 IHG points. And since it’s a contest where the minimum prize is 500 points per entry, it could be a lot more!

At a conservative valuation of $0.005 per point (half a penny), you should be able to receive at least $235 of value for the $46 purchase of stamps. Of course, it will take you some time to address the envelopes. But as your hand cramps on envelope #67, just tell yourself: I’m having so much fun.


I recently redeemed 50,000 points to stay at the San Francisco Intercontinental. Because the average hotel room in San Francisco costs approximately $10 million a night these days, 50,000 points was a good value. If you’re staying in any other city in America, many cheaper properties are available for far fewer points.

For example:

1. Candlewood Suites San Diego, 15,000 Points
2. Holiday Inn Express & Suites Kansas City, 20,000 Points
3. Crowne Plaza Tampa-Westhore, 25,000 Points

But wait, there’s more.

You can also really maximize the value you’ll receive by staying only in PointsBreak hotels. Every quarter, IHG publishes a list of several dozen properties that are available for the low, low rate of just 5,000 points a night. Usually, most of these places suck, but at least a few are decent.

At the PointsBreak rate of 5,000 points a night, that’s 9 free nights just from completing this challenge. Whoa. Of course, you may not want to spend 9 nights at a random Holiday Inn Express located next to a midwestern freeway. But the point is that you can if you want to.

Holiday Inn Vanuatu

Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu

One last note: is it guaranteed that you’ll get the points? Not really. With the exception of a certain membership site that promises you’ll earn points and miles, nothing in the travel hacking world is ever guaranteed.

But the terms of service for this offer are pretty clear, and we’ve saved a copy on our own server to be safe. Basically, we think it will work, and if we didn’t feel reasonably confident, we wouldn’t spend a whole afternoon doing this ourselves.

Oh, and if you don’t want to wait until December 4, that’s fine—you can do this anytime. Pick up a bunch of envelopes and handwrite the addresses while you watch Netlix and chill, or write them on the subway or whenever you have free time.

But if you’d like to do it on the same day as us, December 4 is the day. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Hat tip: I first learned about this from the Deals We Like blog.


Images: 1, 2, 3, 4

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