I’ve always been into any scheme that lets me get something for nothing. That’s why I fell so hard for the credit card-churning game. For very little effort, I can reap huge (“YUGE!”) benefits. Fifty thousand points one month, forty thousand points another month… It adds up, and before you know it, you’re swimming in 3 million rewards points.
But sometimes this travel hacking scheme takes a little work. Gone are the days when people would do “mileage runs,” basically paying for and taking cheap flights strictly because of a bonus mileage offer. Gone are the days of the US Mint dollar coin deposit trick. But there are new schemes all the time. All it takes is someone like Barry Egan to figure out that each individual pudding cup is worth 250 frequent flyer miles.
Barry Egan stockpiling miles
So it was with the recent IHG Priceless Moments promotion. IHG is the group that owns the Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental, Staybridge Suites and other hotel brands. The Priceless Moments promotion is supposed to work like this: For every stay at one of their hotels, you get an entry to an online contest. And with each entry, you can win anything from 500 IHG points to 1 million points to a private helicopter ride over NYC.
The loophole is that, for some legal reason, there is “no purchase necessary.” And so buried deep in the contest’s terms and conditions is the rule that, instead of staying at a hotel, you can also enter the contest by sending them a 3×5 piece of paper in the mail with all of your IHG member information on it. And since the contest ran for 3 months, there were 94 nights you could possibly be staying in their hotels. So to make things even, you are allowed to enter by mail 94 times.
Someone also figured out the ratio of hotel point prizes and calculated that the average person will get about 47,000 IHG points. Sounds worth it to me!
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what 188 envelopes looks like:
Many thanks to the intrepid soul who figured this one out, because we benefited from their discovery. But not without some work. See, each entry had to be filled out by hand with 8 different bits of information (Name, member number, date of birth, daytime phone number, etc.) Filling out 94 notecards with all of that takes some time! I did it while watching a movie or two. Luckily, the envelopes could be addressed with pre-printed labels!
There was also the matter of sealing the envelopes. Does anyone really wan to do that much licking? So Marge invented the method seen below. She remembers using an old ceramic stamp moistener at an prior job to seal envelopes, and put together the wet paper towel and bowl method seen below.
What’s the price of all of this? 94 first class stamps are $46.06. I got 100 notecards for $1, and 100 envelopes for $3, so about $50 total. A week after I sent in my entries, I started getting contest entry emails. You had to click a link in each email to see what you won.
More often than not, you get this screen:
But sometimes you get 1,000, 2,000 or 5,000 points. After everything was done, I had won 57,000 IHG points. At $50 spent, that comes out to .09 cents paid out of pocket for each point. That’s great, because I’ve gotten about 0.8 cents of value from each IHG point from my redemptions so far. That also means the 57,000 points is worth $456 of stays at IHG hotels.
You might have noticed I didn’t mention what Marge won. She also filled out 94 cards, and we spent $50 on notecards, envelopes and postage. But in the end, she didn’t receive any entries. It took me a while to figure out why. I knew the cards were filled out correctly and I had sent them at the same time. The problem was I forgot to register her on the website for the promotion! Always remember the cross your T’s and dot your I’s, kids!
So in the end, we actually paid .18 cents per point. Still good, but not great. Mostly I’m annoyed that we potentially missed out on another 57,000 points!
What schemes have you been running?