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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!
IHG Rewards, the loyalty program for InterContinental, Kimpton, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and more, can be a tricky program to navigate. Between rewards from cards like the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, large bonus multipliers and frequent sales, IHG points are incredibly easy to earn, but redeeming them for a good value requires patience and just a bit of luck.
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 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:
- 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
- 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
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 Status||Points Earned at Most IHG Brands||Points Earned at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites|
|General Member||10 points per $||5 points per $|
|Gold Elite||11 points per $||5.5 points per $|
|Platinum Elite||15 points per $||7.5 points per $|
|Spire Elite||20 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 80,000 IHG points after spending $2,000 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 eight nights at the lowest-category locations.
With this card you’ll also get:
- 10x points per dollar you spend at IHG hotels
- 2x points per dollar you spend on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants.
- 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, I suggest you skip this card and apply for more 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 points per night. Still, Chase points only transfer at a 1:1 ratio, the same as Hyatt where the top tier costs half 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.
The most expensive hotels top out at 70,000 points per night, including InterContinental properties in London, Bora Bora and Hong Kong.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 80,000 IHG points after meeting minimum spending requirements, but there are more valuable Chase credit cards you’ll want to consider first because of the Chase 5/24 rule.
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:
- Our review of IHG status
- Find out about IHG points value
- Learn how to navigate the IHG award chart
- How to setup a IHG account
- See all the current IHG promotions
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