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How to Use IHG Points for Maximum Value

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How to Use IHG Points for Maximum Value

Ethan SteinbergHow to Use IHG Points for Maximum ValueMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: Keep an eye out for IHG PointBreaks to enjoy discounted award rates at select properties.

IHG doesn’t have as many locations as Marriott. Nor is its award chart as appealing as Hyatt’s. Nor is it 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 status and an annual free night. 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 frequent 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 Bora Bora and the soon-to-open InterContinental Maldives, it’s not unusual to see zero award nights for the entire year.

Redeeming IHG Points

IHG uses an award chart for its properties, though they’ve announced plans to move to “dynamic pricing” in the near future. (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 free 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

Even though IHG only has one true luxury brand (InterContinental), I’ve found that in big-city markets like New York or London many mid-tier hotels 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.

If the hotel you want doesn’t have award space on a given night, IHG makes it very easy to open a calendar and view available dates. Any day shown in white has award space, while those that are grayed out and struck through do not.

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 ranges from about 0.7 to 0.8 cents. For instance, you can pay 70,000 points for a free night, or 65,000 points and $39 cash. That means IHG is selling you 5,000 points for $39 ($39/5,000 points = 0.78 cents per point).

This price is significantly more than the value I put on IHG points, so I rarely take advantage of this option. However, some hotels sell points through the Points + Cash option for as little as 0.6 cents each, which is less than it costs to purchase IHG points normally. You can actually use this method to “buy” IHG points at a discount. (Read our post on the IHG Points & Cash trick to learn how to do it.)

Note: Points purchases are processed through, and you won’t earn bonus points by paying with an IHG credit card.

Jump on IHG PointBreaks

Every couple of months, IHG releases a list of PointBreaks hotels. (You can view the current list here, valid for bookings through August 31, 2019.) You can 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 (including Houston, Kuala Lumpur and Minneapolis-St. Paul). The better values tend to come from the 5,000- or 10,000-point deals, especially if you can use them in expensive cities like Orlando.

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 Free 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. Not only is the card offering a great 125,000-point welcome bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months, but cardholders will also enjoy automatic Platinum elite status and a fourth night free on award stays.

The best benefit of the IHG Premier Card is its annual free-night certificate, worth up to 40,000 points. 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 free-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 (though they may be worth a lot). It can lead to analysis paralysis. If you’re new to miles and points, know that IHG points certainly don’t have that problem.

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.

You can check out other IHG info here:

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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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Michael Karpiel

I’m also finding great value in Indigo properties. They have a unique boutique charm like Kimpton and are upscale. So 3 higher end brands (IC, Kimpton, Indigo).

Plus there are tons of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza properties in many places that cover smaller locations.

Dont forget about Kimpton redemptions now that they are part of IHG. For example, Kimpton Grand Cayman. Super redemption with availability if you book far enough ahead! We are going there next week (booked it about 5 months ahead)

Excellent reminder 🙂

Yup, see my comment below…I’ll be there in 3-weeks, but booked 6-months out

Although it’s scarcely mentioned, that 4th night free on redemptions is what I’ve found to be the most valuable feature. I’m making two stays using that feature this year, while attending conferences. One property is 15,000 pts per night, the other 25,000. The 4th night free means it’s a total of 120,000 points instead of 160,000 – but since I’ve maintained my old Select card I’ll get 10% of those points back, so it’s only 108,000. The cost of the two rooms for 8 nights would be over $1300 if I paid cash, which means I’m getting about 1.2 cents per point.

I mentioned it (4th night free) in my below comment and used it to save me 70,000 point in addition to the 10% back with the Select card. 😉 Agree, can’t beat the combo especially at top tier hotels.

Article should probably mention the Kimpton brand if we are talking about IHG value. Some really nice properties including the Kimpton Seafire in Grand Cayman. It’s a 5-star resort ocean front which many guests prefer over the Ritz Carlton. As a IHG Spire AMB I’ll be taking the whole family there in a few weeks 100% on points for 7-nights. Stacked with my IHG Select CC, and IHG Premier CC I’ll be getting 10% of my points back PLUS the 4th night free for a total spend of 378,000 IHG points vs the $5200 rack rate for a value of about 1.4 cents per point.

Hi! The picture is not Dubai, is Minatomirai in Yokohama, Japan. It is the intercontinental grand Yokohama.