How to use IHG points for maximum value

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IHG doesn’t have as many locations as Marriott. It’s award chart isn’t as appealing as Hyatt’s. It’s not as generous as Hilton in recognizing elite status.

However IHG has a unique attraction for travelers, even those who are already loyal to other hotel chains: The benefits that come with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, such as automatic Platinum elite IHG status and an annual reward night. It’s hands-down the best hotel credit card for IHG loyalists. And right now the card has an all-time-high offer of 150,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Despite being a Marriott Titanium elite, I’m happy to be an IHG cardholder as well, and I’ve found my IHG points to have complementary benefits when Marriott isn’t meeting my travel needs. Today, I’ll show you how to use your IHG points for free hotel nights all around the world. Let’s dive in.

Use your IHG points to stay at unique properties, including this InterContinental hotel in Japan. (Photo by SenSeH/Shutterstock)

How to use IHG points

There are a few different ways to redeem your IHG points, but the best value by far is to use them directly for hotel stays. Whether you book a standard award night, mix points and cash or take advantage of the quarterly IHG PointBreaks promotions, you’ll always come out ahead using these points for free nights at IHG hotels.

One important thing to keep in mind: The IHG website proudly proclaims there are no blackout dates but that doesn’t mean you can book any standard room on points. Hotels limit the number of rooms they make available for reward nights, which makes this policy close to worthless. At some of IHG’s top properties, like the InterContinental Bora Bora and the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort, it’s incredibly difficult to find award nights.

Redeeming IHG points

The IHG award chart sorts its properties by category, though they’ve announced plans to move to “dynamic pricing” in the near future (meaning they’ll abolish categories and charge whatever they want). Hopefully, this will lead to an increase in award availability, albeit at a higher cost in all likelihood. For now, IHG reward nights cost the following amounts:

CategoryPoints per Night
Category 110,000
Category 215,000
Category 320,000
Category 425,000
Category 530,000
Category 635,000
Category 740,000
Category 845,000
Category 950,000
Category 1055,000
Category 1160,000
Category 1265,000
Category 1370,000*

There are some anecdotally higher hotel rooms. For example, you can secure an overwater villa at the aforementioned InterContinental Maldives for 100,000 points per night.

Even though there is only one true luxury option among IHG hotel brands (InterContinental), I’ve found that in big-city markets like New York or London are several mid-tier hotels that end up costing close to the top of the award chart. The flip side is also true: In historically cheap markets like Kuala Lumpur you can find InterContinental hotels for as low as 30,000 points per night.

Using Points + Cash

If you’re short on points, IHG will often offer you the ability to mix points and cash on an award stay. IHG essentially sells you the missing points at the price shown and then deducts the total amount from your account. Here’s an example.

The exact cost of the points varies by hotel and by the amount you’re buying, though in this case it costs 0.6 cents. For instance, you can pay 65,000 points for a free night or 60,000 points and $30 cash. That means IHG is selling you 5,000 points for $30 ($30/5,000 points = 0.6 cents per point).

We estimate IHG points value to be around 0.5 cents each, so Points + Cash isn’t usually a great idea. However, 0.6 cents is significantly less than the price IHG normally charges to purchase points. You can actually use this method to “buy” IHG points at a discount if you’ve got a good redemption in mind (read our post on the IHG Points & Cash trick to learn how to do it).

Keep in mind, points purchases are processed through and you won’t earn bonus points by paying with an IHG credit card.

Jump on IHG PointBreaks

Every few months the hotel releases the IHG PointBreaks list, allowing you to book certain hotels at 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 points per night, which represents a huge discount over normal rates. You’re not going to find a litter of five-star hotels on this list, but you will usually find a few InterContinental hotels for 15,000 points per night. The better values tend to come from the 5,000 or 10,000-point deals, especially if you can use them in expensive cities. This is often the best use of IHG points.

Low-value redemptions

If you don’t have enough IHG points for a hotel night but are still looking to squeeze some value out of them, there are a few options you can consider. Most of these redemption values are pretty low and should only be used as a last resort.

IHG lets you transfer points to a number of popular frequent-flyer programs, including Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Avianca LifeMiles, but the transfer ratio is an abysmal 5:1 or worse. There’s also a 10,000-point minimum, which would net you 2,000 airline miles at best.

Alternatively, you could redeem for gift cards or magazine subscriptions, but this gives you less than 0.3 cents per point, making it one of the worst possible options. You can also donate your points to charity if you’d like, but IHG doesn’t tell you how much cash the charities actually get when you donate.

How to use your reward night certificates and IHG Premier Card

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is a great choice for frequent IHG travelers for a number of reasons. Aside from the large welcome bonus, cardholders will also enjoy automatic Platinum elite IHG status and a reward night on award stays of four or more nights (this reward night is a discount, not a rebate).

The best benefit of the IHG Premier Card is its annual reward-night certificate, which is valid at hotels costing up to 40,000 points per night. When you’re trying to redeem this certificate, you need to go through your main account dashboard instead of searching for normal award space. If you have a reward-night certificate available, you’ll click the link on the left side of your account and it will redirect you to the correct search page.

Bottom line

Some people don’t like points that are complicated to redeem, despite their potentially high value. It can lead to analysis paralysis. If you’re new to miles and points, know that IHG points certainly don’t have that problem. You can read our IHG points review for all the details.

IHG points are very easy to use and you’ll always come out ahead using your points for hotel stays. Hopefully, you can take advantage of a PointBreaks redemption or buy points at a discount if you need them, but in most cases a simple, no-nonsense award stay is really your best bet. Read our post on the best credit cards to earn IHG points to accrue them in a hurry.

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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

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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