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INSIDER SECRET: IHG allows hotels to limit the number of rooms available for award bookings. That’s important information, because it can make last-minute IHG award nights especially difficult to find.
No matter what you value in a hotel loyalty program (low award rates, great elite benefits, valuable credit cards or something else entirely), IHG is arguably the weakest of the four major programs. Still, for many years, it roped in travelers who were loyal to other chains by offering a free night at any IHG hotel around the world in exchange for a $49 credit card annual fee.
This perk has since been devalued (the free night has been capped and the annual fee raised), but many award travelers, myself included, took full advantage of this opportunity to explore the ins and outs of IHG Rewards Club. But now is a great time to consider getting the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card because it has a best-ever bonus of 125,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. And you’ll also be able to earn tons of extra points for the first 12 months, you’ll earn 40x IHG points when you stay at an IHG hotel (after that, 25X points) and 4x IHG points everywhere else (then 2X points at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases).
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’ll get the best value redeeming IHG points at the top end and the bottom end of the award chart. Let’s take a look at some of the best uses of IHG points.
Best Uses of IHG Points
Free nights at IHG hotels range from 10,000 points on the lower end all the way up to 100,000 points on the higher end. IHG has announced plans to move to dynamic pricing in the next year or two, which is likely to change the entire process of redeeming IHG points. IHG allows hotels to cap the number of rooms they make available for rewards. While dynamic pricing is usually a bad thing for consumers, the silver lining is that it might lead to more award space being made available, albeit at higher prices.
IHG is perhaps best known for its luxury InterContinental brand, and quirky millennial (and pet) friendly Kimpton Hotels, but it generally doesn’t have a strong presence in middle market properties. This means you’ll get the best values using your points on truly aspirational trips.
1. French Polynesia Four Ways
French Polynesia, including Tahiti and Bora Bora, is a bucket list destination for many travelers thanks to the stunning turquoise water and beautiful nature scenes. It also has the added benefit of being much closer to the US than the Maldives, and InterContinental has a huge edge when it comes to points properties here.
You’ll have your pick of four different InterContinental hotels to choose from, making it ever so slightly easier to find award space at this coveted destination.
InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora: 70,000 points per night
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa: 70,000 points per night
InterContinental Resort And Spa Moorea: 50,000 points per night
InterContinental Resort Tahiti: 50,000 points per night
If you’re after that elusive overwater bungalow, you’ll want to pick 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, since the resort doesn’t actually have any rooms on land! It’s also the hardest resort to find award availability, and at the time of writing there isn’t a single available reward night for the rest of the year.
That said, nights tend to open up sporadically a few weeks before.
2. Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives
Keeping with the theme of faraway tropical places, let’s turn our attention to the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives which can be booked for only 45,000 points per night. While 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 seen before.
The resort comes outfitted with 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.
3. 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 located on West 48th and 11th Ave, just a few blocks from the Hudson river and the Intrepid museum.
With cash rates often climbing above $400 at this hotel, points are the way to go. You’ll be sure to enjoy all the fun benefits of staying at a Kimpton, as well. Make sure to weave the secret password into your conversation when checking in (until September 2, 2019 it’s “off duty”) and watch the magic happen. You’ll receive anything from free drinks or breakfast to a host of other surprises.
If the password isn’t enough to get you free drinks, IHG Elites will get the $10-$15 “raid the bar” credit which is valid for mini-bar or hotel bar charges at Kimpton properties.
Perhaps my favorite part of the Kimpton charm is their 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 US.
4. InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin
One of my biggest complaints about the InterContinental brand is that it feels like cookie cutter luxury without a personal touch. While there are certainly worse things for a hotel to be than “generically luxurious,” I have 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 itself (you can check out my full review here).
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 and the winding alleys of Tianzifang. The property itself used to serve as the state guest house of Shanghai and the headquarters of the Communist Party during the War of Liberation. Much of the exterior facade has been maintained, and I spent most of my time just peacefully strolling around the property without a care in the world. While 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.
5. 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 of this would be Jerusalem, a highly popular tourist destination with surprisingly few points hotels to choose from, especially compared to Tel Aviv.
20,000 points per night to stay in Jerusalem is a great deal, and a relaxing vacation to the Dead Sea is a good value too. 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 renovations 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 (if you need a hotel stay you’d be much better if 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 125,000 IHG points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
The card also normally earns ten points per dollar at IHG hotels, helping to quickly increase your balance, but with this offer you can even more. For the first 12 months, you’ll earn 40x IHG points when you stay at an IHG hotel (after that, 25X points) and 4x IHG points everywhere else (then 2X points at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases).
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.
You can learn more IHG tips and tricks here:
- IHG Points Review
- IHG Points Value
- IHG Status
- Best Credit Cards to Earn IHG Points
- How to Setup a IHG Account
- IHG Award Chart
- Do IHG Points Expire?
- Current IHG Promotions
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