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IHG Rewards Review: Find Out What You Need to Know About This Changing Program

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IHG Rewards Review: Find Out What You Need to Know About This Changing Program

Ethan SteinbergIHG Rewards Review: Find Out What You Need to Know About This Changing ProgramMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: IHG will be switching to dynamic award pricing by the end of 2019, so don’t hold on to your points too long.

The information for the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

IHG Rewards, the loyalty program for InterContinental, Kimpton, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and more, can be a tricky program to navigate. But right now it’s never been easier to earn gobs of IHG points. The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card currently has an all-time-high intro bonus of 125,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. Not only that, but 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).

IHG used to have broad appeal even to travelers who were primarily loyal to a different hotel chain, but even that is changing and the opportunity cost of sticking with IHG keeps going up.

We’ll take a deep dive into the program in this IHG Rewards review to help you decide whether it makes sense for you.

In our IHG Rewards review, we’ll show you how IHG points can help you score free nights at hundreds of InterContinental hotels around the world, like the InterContinental Madrid. (Photo by Enriscapes/Shutterstock)

IHG Rewards Club Review

While IHG Rewards Club currently uses a fixed award chart for free nights, it has announced plans to move to a dynamic pricing scheme soon and it’s anyone’s guess what that is going to mean. The current award chart uses wildly inflated prices, which means it could take you a long time to save up enough points for top-tier redemptions.

While many hotels have weak no blackout date policies, IHG doesn’t even bother with one. Hotels are allowed to restrict the number of rooms they make available for award redemptions, which can be a problem at upscale brands like InterContinental and Kimpton. IHG elite status is also comparatively less rewarding, but it’s easy to jump straight to Platinum elite by holding the right credit card (more on that later).

Another reason I’m not the biggest fan of IHG is that it doesn’t have as many diverse brands within its portfolio. Marriott has multiple luxury offerings, including St. Regis, Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott, W Hotels and Westin, while IHG only has InterContinental and Kimpton for those seeking a luxury stay.

If you prefer less-upscale accommodations, there are more options. IHG hotels include:

If you’re new to IHG, read our guide to how to set up an IHG account.

How to Earn IHG Rewards Club Points

1. Stay at IHG Hotels

By far the simplest way to earn IHG points is by booking cash stays at an IHG hotel. Depending on the brand and your elite status, you’ll earn points at the following rate per dollar you spend:

IHG Elite StatusPoints Earned at Most IHG BrandsPoints Earned at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites
General Member10 points per $5 points per $
Gold Elite11 points per $5.5 points per $
Platinum Elite15 points per $7.5 points per $
Spire Elite20 points per $10 points per $

You’ll need to book your stay directly with IHG in order to earn points. Stays booked through an online travel agency like Expedia or with bank points (like Chase Ultimate Rewards points) normally won’t earn IHG points or be eligible for elite benefits.

2. Use the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Apply Here: IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Read our review of the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

You can earn 125,000 IHG points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. That’s more than enough for a night at a luxury InterContinental hotel, or up to 12 nights at the lowest-category locations. This new offer also includes an opportunity to earn more bonus points on your spending with. For the first 12 months you have the card, you’ll also be able to earn 40x IHG points on IHG stays (then 25x IHG points after that) and 4x IHG points on all other purchases (then 2X on gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1x on everything else).

  • IHG Platinum Elite status (late checkout when available, complimentary upgrades (subject to availability), a welcome amenity, 50% bonus on the base points you earn and your IHG points won’t expire with elite status)
  • Anniversary free night worth up to 40,000 points
  • Fourth night free on standard room award stays of four nights or more
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years
  • 10,000 bonus points after you spend $20,000 each account year
  • No foreign transaction fees

This card is affected by the Chase 5/24 rule, which means if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards from any bank (excluding certain business cards) in the past 24 months, you won’t be approved. If you’re new to miles and points or are below 5/24, you’ll have to weigh this increased offer against the other valuable Chase credit cards first.

3. Buy Points

IHG is one of the many programs that allows you to buy points, and it frequently runs discount promotions. Each account is allowed to purchase up to 100,000 points per calendar year.

I recommend you buy these points only if there’s a points sale, you have a specific redemption in mind and have already confirmed that there are available award rooms on the dates you’re traveling. Always check the paid price of the room to be sure you’re getting a better deal with points.

As an added bonus, IHG Premier card holders get a 20% discount when they purchase points and pay with their IHG credit card. However, this perk does not stack with IHG points sales.

4. Transfer From Chase Ultimate Rewards (BAD VALUE)

If you’re short on points, running out of time and buying points (see above) isn’t an option for you, you might consider transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG. IHG uses a very inflated award chart, with the most expensive hotels pricing out at 70,000-100,000 points per night. Still, Chase points only transfer at a 1:1 ratio, the same as Hyatt where the top tier costs one-third as much.

I can’t think of a single scenario where this would be a good use of your Chase points, unless you need a few points to top off your account. But it’s worth knowing all of your options.

Redeeming IHG Points for Free Hotel Nights

Standard Award Nights

Even though IHG uses a fixed award chart, you won’t find it published anywhere on the IHG website.

What we do know is that free night redemptions start at just 10,000 points per night for the lowest category.

Most of the expensive hotels top out at 70,000 points per night, but a handful can hit 100,000 points per night including InterContinental properties in Macau, and the Maldives.

In between you’ll find most luxury hotels and many properties in big cities hovering around the 35,000-50,000 point range.

Points & Cash

Any time a room is bookable with points, IHG will also offer a points & cash option. What’s interesting to note is that when you book this way, IHG actually sells you the extra points and then debits them from your account instead of just charging your credit card. You’ll generally pay a rate of between 0.7-1 cent per point, with the cost dropping the more points you decide to buy.

The exact rate will vary based on which pricing package you pick and what property you’re staying at, but you’d usually be better off buying the points outright during a sale instead of using this method.

You can combine points and cash to stretch your IHG points for more stays.

How Much Are IHG Points Worth?

Now that we understand how to earn IHG points and the two most straightforward ways to redeem them, it’s time to ask the all important question: How much are IHG Rewards Club points really worth?

I keep using the InterContinental The Willard Washington DC as an example, so let’s stick with that. The property costs 70,000 points for a free night award, or about $600 for cash rates most nights. This gives you a rough value of 0.85 cents per IHG point, though the numbers aren’t always so rosy.

My all-time favorite use of IHG points was redeeming 35,000 for a mini staycation at the InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin, located in a historic old state guesthouse. Cash rates at that property are generally $200 a night, giving me a redemption value of about 0.6 cents per point. I find this to be a good baseline, and I generally peg IHG points at 0.5-0.6 cents each.

While it’s certainly possible to lock in a higher redemption value, this generally only happens at top-tier properties and it’s always a gamble whether you’ll find award space. I based my value half on the average of my own personal redemptions, and half on how much I’d be willing to pay to acquire IHG points. That’s the piece of the equation that often gets overlooked when we talk about value. It’s not just how much you should be trying to net from your redemptions, but also at what price would you be equally happy if someone gave you points or cash.

PointBreaks

In addition to standard award redemptions and points & cash bookings, IHG also offers a promotion about once a quarter called PointBreaks. IHG selects a few dozen hotels and discounts them to 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 points a night. You can check out the current list here.

IHG PointBreaks hotels change every quarter, and the best ones sell out fast.

This promotion used to be a surefire way to score luxury hotels at a steep discount, but IHG has slowly and repeatedly devalued it over the years. There seem to be fewer and fewer luxury hotels with each iteration, with most of the list being composed of various Holiday Inn properties. While there are occasionally InterContinentals on the list, remember you’re competing with other travelers for award rooms and the hotels are allowed to limit their award inventory.

IHG Elite Status

IHG Rewards Club offers three different tiers of elite status:

  • IHG Gold Elite (10 nights or 10,000 qualifying points)
  • IHG Platinum Elite (40 nights, 40,000 qualifying points or holders of the IHG Premier card)
  • IHG Spire Elite (75 nights or 75,000 qualifying points)

The primary benefits of IHG elite status are the bonus points, welcome amenities and priority check-in. IHG offers some of the weakest room upgrades to its elite members, with even top-tier Spire elites not entitled to space available suite upgrades. My primary hotel loyalty is to Marriott where I hold Titanium elite status, and comparatively speaking, I’ve never been impressed with the upgrades I’ve received at IHG hotels.

IHG elite status doesn’t compare to other hotel chains like Marriott.

IHG is rather unique in that it offers the ability to pay for elite status. For $200 a year you can join the InterContinental Ambassador program, which comes with (only) Platinum elite status and a few other benefits such as a free weekend night (at InterContinental hotels only, combined with a paid weekend night), late check-out, and a food or bar credit of up to $20 per stay.

Since you can get Platinum status just as easily by holding the IHG Premier credit card, a good idea for any serious IHG traveler, the added benefits here seem rather limited outside of the free weekend night certificate.

IHG Rewards Club FAQs

Q: Is It Worth Collecting IHG Points?

A: This is a tough one, and ultimately a very personal decision. While I used to enjoy IHG when the old version of the IHG card (no longer available) offered an uncapped free night at any IHG property in the world, I’ve wound down my interactions with IHG since they capped the free night at 40,000 points.

I think almost every type of traveler (luxury, budget, business, etc.) would be better served with one of the other hotel chains, but if you frequently find yourself staying with IHG or like their brands, there’s definitely value to be had in the Rewards Club loyalty program.

Q: How Many IHG Points Do You Need for a Free Night?

A: Free nights start at just 10,000 points, but in most big cities in the US and around the world, expect to pay a minimum of 30,000 points for a decent hotel. If you have your eyes set on a luxury brand like Kimpton or InterContinental, you should raise your budget even higher, to 50,000+ points a night.

Q: How Much Are 50,000 IHG Points Worth?

A: The value depends on how you choose to use them, but if you gave me 50,000 IHG points I’d probably redeem them for one free night at a nice InterContinental property. That’s probably going to net me ~$300, which is on the higher end of what I value IHG points at.

Q: What’s the Best Way to Earn IHG Points?

A: Hotel stays, credit card spending and buying points on sale are all great ways to rack up IHG points. While you can transfer them from Chase Ultimate Rewards, that’s a relatively bad value and something I strongly advise against doing.

Bottom Line

IHG’s inflated award pricing and lack of a no blackout date policy makes it tough, but not impossible, to find good value redemptions in the IHG Rewards Club program.

I’ve stayed at some incredible InterContinental hotels for free over the years, and I’ve always left impressed with the unique and local twists each hotel puts on the brand’s overarching luxury design. More budget-minded travelers may find good value at family-friendly or extended-stay brands like Holiday Inn Express or Staybridge Suites.

If you like IHG hotels, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card comes with 125,000 IHG points after meeting minimum spending requirements.

IHG Rewards perks like points+cash redemptions and the PointBreaks promotion list are a saving grace, but IHG certainly has room to improve if it wants to remain attractive to award travelers.

To learn more about IHG, check out these guides:

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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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My spouse and I both have the IHG credit card. We stay at Holiday Inn Express when we travel seasonally between 2 homes. So, for the $49 annual fee, we get 2 free nights at hotels that would normally cost us $125.00. However, we have been holding on to our nearly 200,000 IHG points with the hope of scoring some nice hotels via the Points Break program. No such luck. After reading this article, we’ll probably use the points as soon as we can, before they lose more value. We love the relaxed atmosphere of Holiday Inn Express and the attentive service that we always receive there. But, IHG never notifies members of the upcoming Points Break. I always have to remember to do an internet search quarterly. And, they are always stingy about having rooms available. Sometimes, I wonder if the reward rooms actually exist.

You have forgotten to mention one new luxury chain IHG now has. Regent. They are mostly in Asia right now but will be expanding globally as I understand it. The HK IC will soon be converted to a Regent.

Good catch, added it.

The reason why you’ll need to book your stay directly with IHG to earn points is a higher rate. As Gold Member I just booked a 5 night stay through Booking.com 56.- GBP cheaper than as Gold Member with IHG.

IHG is a bad program. is free night is worth the annual fee? Not if u have marriot platinum and hilton gold who have SO MUCH BETTER benefits (free breakfast, suite upgrqdes) so very difficult for me to ever use IHG. they offer nothing in exchange for loyalty. their free night is worthless to me if i add in the extra cost of breakfast for 2:)

As a former business traveler who had an extensive amount of clients in smaller towns and cities; I found IHG to be more prevalent than Marriott, Hyatt or Hilton. I just took an extensive cross country road trip and found IHG properties where the others either weren’t located allowing my daily driving to be more flexible. I’ve valued the points at ~$0.006/point but on my recent trip without having a single ‘freebie’ by staying 4 or more nights; I averaged about $0.008-1.2/point. These guys aren’t flashy but when I need a safe and comfortable place to sleep they fit the bill.

That’s good to know. Yeah, IHG seems to have a pretty good footprint nationwide.

I’ll admit I’m a bit partial to Hyatt, but mostly out of habit. I had a great experience the first few times I stayed at a Hyatt property and figured why try something else when I’m happy with their service.

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