IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty program for Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG). IHG brands include InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites.
The IHG Rewards Club program is special for a few reasons: 1) It’s extraordinarily easy to get Platinum elite status; 2) It’s very easy to earn or buy IHG Rewards Club points and free nights; and 3) IHG Rewards Club has more rooms available worldwide across their properties than any other program.
Getting elite status
IHG recently introduced a new top-tier in their program called Spire. To earn Spire you must stay 75 nights per year or earn 75,000 points. Spire members receive a 100% bonus on earned points and 25,000 bonus points or a giftable Platinum membership each year.
The former top-tier in IHG Rewards is Platinum. Platinum members get a 50% bonus on base points earned, free room upgrades (when available), and priority check-in. Some IHG Rewards Club hotels offer additional perks such as welcome gifts and/or lounge access. You can get Platinum status the hard way by staying 40 nights or earning 40,000 points in a calendar year; or you can get Platinum status the easy way by signing up for the Chase IHG Rewards Club Mastercard, which automatically confers Platinum status.
The sign-up bonus for the card is usually between 60,000 and 80,000 points. After the first year, there is a $49 annual fee, but that is more than offset by a free night certificate that is valid at any IHG Rewards Club property worldwide! In addition, the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard gives card holders a 10% rebate on all point redemptions. For example, if you redeem 100,000 points for a four night Holiday Inn stay, you’ll get 10,000 points back. To me, getting this card is a no-brainer.
IHG Rewards Club sells points directly for 1.15 cents each. However, if you’re short on points, there’s a simple way to buy points for less than a penny (as low as .6 cents each). IHG Rewards Club offers a “Points & Cash” option when booking award nights. To buy points for .6 to .7 cents each, search for an award, any award, and choose to pay with a combination of points and cash. You will be required to pay the cash portion up-front with your credit card. Then, after the room is fully booked, cancel the award. Instead of getting your money back, you’ll get back all of the points you spent, plus additional points in exchange for your payment. Effectively you will have just bought points for .6 to .7 cents each.
IHG Rewards Club award nights vary from 10,000 points per night for some Holiday Inn Express hotels to 50,000-60,000 points per night for many InterContinental properties. If you choose to buy points at .7 cents each to pay for your stays, this means that you will pay between $70 and $350 per night. In some expensive cities this can be a bargain, but usually I’d only recommend buying points as a way to top off your account when needed.
Getting points from spend
The IHG Rewards Club Mastercard earns 5 points per dollar at IHG properties, 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Since IHG Rewards Club points are worth less than a penny each, I wouldn’t recommend using the card for anything but IHG properties. In most cases you will do better with higher value cards such as the Sapphire Preferred Visa, or the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Amex. I also do not recommend transferring Ultimate Rewards points to IHG Club. If you really need to transfer points, you’d be much better off cashing out Ultimate Rewards at 1 cent per point, and then buying IHG Club points for .6 to .7 cents each.
Getting points from stays
At most IHG hotels, IHG Rewards Club members get 10 points per dollar spent at the hotel. If you have the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard, you’ll earn another 5 points per dollar when you pay with that card, and another 5 points per dollar for your Platinum Status. In total, you should earn 20 points per dollar, which is quite good! To sweeten the deal, IHG Rewards Club offers many promotions in which you can earn extra points (or other perks) for your stays. In general, if you get an invitation to sign up for a promotion it’s always a good idea to do so, just in case you end up meeting its requirements.
To get the most out of the IHG Rewards Club program, I recommend the following:
- Sign up for the Chase IHG Rewards Club Mastercard in order to earn Platinum elite status, a big sign-up bonus, an annual free night certificate, and 10% award rebates. (For the best current bonus, see: Best credit card offers)
- Use the Points & Cash trick to buy points for less than a penny each when you need to top off your account.
- Use your IHG Rewards Club Mastercard only at IHG Rewards Club properties.
- Do not transfer Ultimate Rewards points to IHG Rewards Club points
- Prior to paid stays, sign up for any IHG Rewards Club promotion for which you qualify.
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