5 best uses of IHG points: Pennies on the dollar take you to faraway islands and expensive cities

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The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card just catapulted itself into the running for the best hotel credit card. It’s got a gargantuan 140,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

I’m not a fan of IHG’s incredibly limited award availability, but I’ve gotten some great redemptions using my points for one-night stays in pricey markets. As with any loyalty program, you get the best IHG points value by redeeming IHG points at the top end and the bottom end of the award chart. Let’s look at some of the best uses of IHG points.

Standing inside the InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin you’d never know you are in a city of 24 million people. (Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock)

Best uses of IHG points

Free nights at IHG hotels range from 10,000 points on the lower to 100,000 points on the higher end. Within the next two years, IHG plans to move to dynamic pricing, which is likely to change how you redeem IHG points. (IHG allows hotels to cap the number of rooms available for rewards.) Although dynamic pricing is usually a bad thing for consumers, the silver lining is that it might lead to more available award space, albeit at higher prices.

IHG is best known for its luxury InterContinental brand, and quirky millennial-friendly (and pet-friendly) Kimpton Hotels, but it doesn’t have a strong presence in middle-market properties. This means you’ll get the best value using your points on truly aspirational trips.

French Polynesia four ways

French Polynesia, including Tahiti and Bora Bora, is a bucket-list destination for many travelers. Its stunning turquoise water and beautiful natural landscape also has the added benefit of proximity to the U.S. than the Maldives. InterContinental has a huge edge when it comes to points properties here. You have your pick of four InterContinental hotels, making it easy to find award space at this coveted destination.

If you’re after that elusive overwater bungalow, choose the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa. This is the nicest property of the four, and the only one where award nights book straight into overwater villas. (That’s a given though, because the resort doesn’t actually have any rooms on land.) It’s also the hardest resort to find award availability, and there isn’t a single available reward night for the rest of the year.

You’ll often have the best luck if you search no more than a few weeks out from the current date.

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives

Keeping with the theme of faraway tropical places, the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives can be booked for only 45,000 points per night. Although you normally think of the Maldives as a high-end luxury destination (and IHG is opening an InterContinental there later this year), this is unlike any Holiday Inn you’ve ever booked.

The resort has a number of overwater bungalows. And like all Holiday Inn hotels, kids eat free. One of the biggest selling points is that the speedboat transfer from Malé only costs $229 per person, as opposed to $700+ at some of the higher-end resorts in the area.

(Photo by evgenii mitroshin/Shutterstock)

Kimpton Ink48 Hotel New York

At only 65,000 points per night, the Kimpton Ink48 Hotel is a relative bargain in New York’s pricey market (and IHG’s pricey award chart). The hotel is at West 48th and 11th Avenue, just a few blocks from the Hudson River and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

With cash rates often climbing above $400 at this hotel, points are the way to go. Be sure to weave the secret password into your conversation when checking in and watch the magic happen: free drinks or free breakfast or other surprises.

If the password doesn’t get you free drinks, IHG Elites will get the $10-$15 “raid the bar” credit, which is valid for minibar or hotel bar charges at Kimpton properties.

Perhaps my favorite part of the Kimpton charm is its pet policy: At every Kimpton boutique hotel, we invite you to bring your furry, feathery or scaly family member — no matter their size, weight, or breed, all at no extra charge. If your pet fits through the door, we’ll welcome them in.” It’s incredibly hard to travel internationally with my dog, but I see a lot of Kimpton stays with him in my future when I move back to the U.S.

InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin

One of my biggest complaints about the InterContinental brand is that it feels like cookie-cutter luxury without a personal touch. There are certainly worse things for a hotel to be than “generically luxurious,” but I found at least one hotel that broke this mold and made an incredible impression on me. The InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin is the perfect mix of antique charm and new-age luxury, much like the city of Shanghai.

The hotel is nestled in sprawling gardens in the French Concession, no more than a 20-minute walk from the shops in Xintiandi or Jing’an Temple and the winding alleys of Tianzifang. The property once served as the state guest house of Shanghai and the headquarters of the Communist Party during the War of Liberation. Much of the facade has been maintained, and I spent most of my time peacefully strolling around the property. Although Shanghai is home to four InterContinental hotels, I think this is, by far, the best combination of location and charm, and at 35,000 points a night, it’s a great redemption.

Float in the Dead Sea for free

Outside of luxury hotels, IHG’s pricing in major cities is rarely competitive. However, I’ve often found IHG to have reasonably priced hotels in smaller markets where there aren’t as many options for using points. One great example is in Jerusalem, a popular tourist destination with surprisingly few points hotels, especially compared to Tel Aviv.

For 20,000 points per night to stay in Jerusalem, it was a great deal and a relaxing vacation to the Dead Sea. I must warn you though that my two nights at the Crowne Plaza Jerusalem were two of the worst nights I’ve ever spent in a hotel. The floor I was staying on was under renovation and I stepped on a two-inch long nail within five minutes of getting to my room. I brought the (now bloody) nail down to the front desk agent who refused to do anything about it. After a few minutes of shouting back and forth with the manager, I accused the hotel of gross negligence for leaving a nail in a guest room. Apparently that magical phrase meant that they couldn’t offer me compensation, as this entire issue now had to be resolved by IHG’s corporate insurance. I pressed my case for several months and the best the hotel was willing to offer me was 3,000 IHG points (which I value at about $15).

Earning IHG points

IHG Rewards Club is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, but this is almost always a bad redemption value. IHG is one of the worst Chase transfer partners, as Chase points value is much higher than that of IHG points. If you need a hotel stay, you’d be much better off transferring your Chase points to Hyatt.

Instead, you can earn IHG points quickly by applying for the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which is currently offering a bonus of 140,000 IHG points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. You’ll find our complete guide to the IHG rewards program here.

Bottom line

Redeeming your IHG points for a good value requires a little bit of work since the hotel company doesn’t have as many middle-of-the-road hotels, but it’s certainly possible. If you target aspirational and expensive hotels and look for areas where there aren’t many options for using points, you’ll generally get a much better deal.

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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