IHG Rewards review: Everything you need to know
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IHG Rewards, the loyalty program for hotels like Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and more, can be a tricky program to navigate. 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.
IHG Rewards review
There are plenty of weaknesses with IHG.
While the IHG award chart currently prices free nights at hotels by category, 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.
Many hotels have weak no blackout date policies, but 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. 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 five-star stay.
If you prefer less-upscale accommodations, however, there are more options. IHG hotel brands:
- avid Hotels
- Candlewood Suites
- Crowne Plaza
- EVEN Hotels
- Holiday Inn
- Holiday Inn Club Vacations
- Holiday Inn Express
- Holiday Inn Resorts
- Hotel Indigo
- InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
- Regent® Hotels and Resorts
- Staybridge Suites
If you’re new to IHG, read our guide to how to set up an IHG account.
How to earn IHG Rewards Club points
Stay at IHG hotels
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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) normally won’t earn IHG points or be eligible for elite benefits.
Use the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card currently offers 150,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. You’ll earn 25 points total per dollar at IHG hotels, 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. It’s the best credit card to earn IHG points and makes our list of best hotel credit cards.
With this card you’ll also always get:
- Platinum IHG 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 reward night worth up to 40,000 points
- Fourth night reward on standard room award stays of four nights or more
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years (up to $100)
- 10,000 bonus points after you spend $20,000 each account year
- No foreign transaction fees
The 140,000 point bonus is the highest the card has ever offered. While we value IHG points around 0.5 cents, that means this bonus should get you at least $700 in value from the bonus alone. However there are many redemptions that will get you much more value than that, usually when staying at a high end resort like the Intercontinental Bora Bora. More on that below.
You can read our IHG Credit Card review for more details on the huge bonus and card benefits.
This card is affected by the Chase 5/24 rule, which means if you’ve opened five 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 many of the other best Chase credit cards.
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 you’ve 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.
Also consider that Chase IHG Premier cardholders 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.
You can also “buy” points by utilizing the IHG Points & Cash trick, usually for ~0.6 cents each.
Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards (BAD VALUE)
IHG is a Chase transfer partner. If you’re short on points, and running out of time and buying points 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 hotel reward 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 reward 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 0.6-1 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.
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?
Determining IHG points value isn’t cut and dry, though we estimate they’re worth an average of 0.5 cents each. 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 reward 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 (see our post on the best uses of IHG points), 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.
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. However, IHG has delayed the release of a new list of PointBreaks hotels. It’s currently unclear if and when they’ll come back.
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 two entities:
- Fellow travelers who will jump on the best deals
- The hotels, which are allowed to limit their award inventory
Still, it possible to get solid value from Pointbreaks’ redemptions if staying at those properties works for you.
IHG elite status
IHG Rewards Club offers three different tiers of IHG 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 Marriott Bonvoy elite status. Comparatively speaking, I’ve never been impressed with the upgrades I’ve received at IHG hotels.
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 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 weekend night certificate.
IHG Rewards FAQs
Is it worth collecting IHG points?
This is a very personal decision. I’ve wound down my interactions with IHG since they capped their credit card’s annual reward 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 in the Rewards Club loyalty program.
How many IHG points do you need for a reward night?
Reward nights start at just 10,000 points, but in most big cities in the U.S. 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 prepare to drop 50,000+ points per night.
How much are 50,000 IHG points worth?
We estimate IHG points value to be around 0.5 cents each. That means 50,000 points should be worth roughly $250. However, the value depends on how you choose to use them — if you gave me 50,000 IHG points, I’d probably redeem them for one reward night at a nice InterContinental property. That’ll net me a reward night worth about $300.
What’s the best way to earn IHG points?
Hotel stays, credit card spending and buying points on sale are all great ways to rack up IHG points. I just want to repeat, while it’s possible to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to IHG, that’s a bad value and something I strongly advise against.
IHG’s inflated award pricing and lack of any 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 150,000 IHG points after meeting minimum spending requirements. It also comes with a ton of perks that’ll make your IHG stays more comfortable and rewarding.
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.
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