IHG and MasterCard have announced a Priceless Surprises promotion that allows you to win 47,000+ IHG points from home for $56 and a few hours of your time.
The way the promotion is supposed to work is that you get 1,000 points for your first qualifying IHG stay with a check in date between November 15, 2015 and February 15, 2016. Then for each subsequent qualifying stay during that time period, you get a Priceless Surprise.
Some Priceless Surprises are huge.
But if you read the fine print, you see that most are 500 IHG points.
Speaking of reading the fine print, there is a second way to get Priceless Surprises. IHG cannot require purchase for a promotion that randomly assigns prizes since that would run afoul of state lottery laws. For that reason, according to the official rules, “From November 15, 2015 to February 15, 2016: You can enter the Instant Win Game without completing a Qualifying Stay… Each entrant is eligible to receive up to ninety-four (94) Game plays during the Promotion Period, regardless of method of entry.”
Now they don’t make it too easy.
“To enter without completing the minimum two Qualifying Stays, hand print your full name, complete mailing address, day and evening phone numbers, valid email address, member number, the first six (6) digits of your MasterCard and date of birth on a 3″ x 5″ piece of paper and mail it in an envelope with proper postage to “IHG and MasterCard® Priceless Surprises® Promotion,” c/o HelloWorld, Inc., P.O. Box 5996, Kalamazoo, MI 49003-5996. Once your mail-in request is received, you will receive an email within five (5) business days from the Administrator inviting you to play the Game and you will receive one (1) Game play for each mail-in request. Limit: One (1) request per envelope. Once you receive an email inviting you to participate in the Game, click on the link found within the email and follow the links and instructions to play the Game. The Game results will be instantly displayed. Potential winners of the Game will be provided directions for validation. All potential winners are subject to verification before any prize will be awarded. Administrator is responsible for the functionality of the Instant Win Game. All mail-in entries must be handwritten and must be postmarked by February 15, 2016 and received by February 22, 2016. All entries become the exclusive property of Sponsor and none will be acknowledged or returned. Proof of sending or submission will not be deemed to be proof of receipt by Sponsor. Sponsor is not responsible for 308468.1 lost, late, incomplete, invalid, unintelligible, illegible, misdirected or postage-due entries, which will be disqualified. All Game plays must be completed by March 15, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. ET.”
So this is what you can do starting November 15:
- Register your IHG number for the Priceless Surprises promotion.
- Buy this 100 pack of 3″ x 5″ index cards for $2.99 from Amazon. (Free shipping as part of a larger order.)
- Buy this 100 pack of envelopes for $6.99 from Amazon. The price seems high. Can you find some cheaper? (Free shipping as part of a larger order.)
- Buy 94 stamps for $46.06.
- Fill out 94 of the cards with (1) your full name, (2) complete mailing address, (3) day and (4) evening phone numbers, (5) valid email address, (6) IHG member number, (7) the first six digits of your MasterCard, and (8) date of birth.
- Fill out the 94 envelopes with the address IHG and MasterCard® Priceless Surprises® Promotion, c/o HelloWorld, Inc., P.O. Box 5996, Kalamazoo, MI 49003-5996 and stamp them.
This will probably take you three to four hours.
Within five days of HelloWorld receiving each entry, you will get an email that gives you one entry for a Priceless Surprise. Each entry is worth a prize.
Ten prizes are worth about $20,000 each, 24 prizes are in the $600 to $2,500 range, 1,775 prizes are in the $50 to $120 range, and the vast majority of prizes are 500 to 5,000 IHG points. Check out the prizes here.
If you do everything right, you are guaranteed to get at least 47,000 IHG points (94 times 500). I’d value those at about 0.5 cents each or $235. If it takes you four hours, costs you $56 to get those points, and you value your time at under $45 per hour, that’s a good deal.
You will likely do better than 47,000 IHG Points. Here are the odds for the points prizes:
- 5k points: 2.333%
- 2k points: 3.5%
- 1k points: 7%
- 500 points: ~84.746%
See nerd note at the end, if you, like me, are a nerd.
I am going to do this. It is a decent return on time, I’ll get a rush out of beating the system, and hey, maybe, I’ll win one of the big prizes!
(And by, “I am going to do this,” I mean that I am going to offer my nieces a chance to do the work for pay. How does $50 sound to a 10 year old?)
Is anyone else in?
The Frequent Miler has a version of this post where he notes that the prize odds are stated like this:
He correctly points out that those don’t mean 1 in 28.57 and 1 in 1.18. Those mean 1 in 29.57, 1 in 2.18, etc. He reasons that this means you are actually likely to win only 31,657 points on average.
However, I am almost certain that that’s just a typo on IHG’s part and that the odds are 1 in 28.57, 1 in 14.29 etc. My three pieces of evidence:
- The promotion clearly says that each stay after your first unlocks a priceless surprise. It doesn’t say “may unlock.”
I think that clearly means every entry gets a prize. The smallest prize is 500 IHG points.
- IHG’s Twitter says my reading is correct and every entry wins a prize.
— IHG CARE (@IHGCare) November 5, 2015
- Sum the probabilities my way and you find a 97.579% chance of getting 500-5,000 IHG points. There are 2,009 other prizes listed. Assuming they constitute a 2.421% chance total, that means that everyone gets a prize, and IHG is expecting about 82,982 entries. Sounds reasonable. Sum the probabilities the Frequent Miler’s way, and the chance of getting 500-5,000 IHG points is 58.073%. That means that either IHG is expecting 4,792 entries (way too low!), or IHG is not giving everyone a prize, which doesn’t square with points 1 and 2 on this list.
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