IHG Spire: Ideas for nabbing the new 25K Choice benefit without staying in hotels.

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UPDATE: It appears that points from credit card signup bonuses no longer count as elite qualifying.  As a result, a number of items in this post are no longer relevant.

IHG finally named their new top-tier elite status: Spire.  Inspiring, right?  And, now that they’ve added a new top tier, IHG will surely offer top tier perks competitive with other chains, right?  Free breakfast?  Guaranteed lounge access?  Suite upgrade certificates?  Nope, nope, and nope.

Spire offers only guarantees two benefits above those already offered for Platinum status:

  • 100% bonus on base point earnings (vs. 50% with Platinum status)
  • Exclusive Choice Benefit upon receiving status

Those who spend a lot of money at IHG properties will no doubt get good value from the 100% point bonus.  The rest of us will look to that Choice Benefit for value.  Here are the current Choice Benefit options:

  • Receive 25,000 Points to your account
  • Gift Platinum Elite to a friend

Since Chase’s IHG Rewards credit card grants Platinum status automatically (plus many other great perks) for only $49 per year, the obvious choice is to go for 25,000 points.  That’s actually a pretty good perk for a status level that’s pretty easy to obtain…

25K Choice benefit IHG_Partners

How to get Spire status

You can earn Spire status by either by staying at IHG properties for 75 nights within a calendar year or by earning 75,000 elite qualifying points.  Unless you live on the road, points are the way to go.  The interesting thing about elite qualifying points is that they can be earned from multiple sources.  The IHG Membership Terms & Conditions document states:

Base points earned from Qualifying Rates paid for hotel stays, points collected from partner transactions, IHG® Rewards Club Bonus Points Packages and Meeting Rewards are considered Elite Qualifying Points and counted towards membership elite status.

Let’s break that down:

  • Paid hotel stays: At most IHG properties, members earn 10 base points per dollar.  These “base” points do count as elite qualifying. Bonus points do not count.
  • Points from partner transactions: Points earned from partners do count.  IHG’s partner page, for example, lists: Chase IHG credit card; Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers; Hertz, Avis, Budget, etc.
  • IHG® Rewards Club Bonus Points Packages: “Bonus Points Packages” specifically earn extra elite qualifying points.  Start your IHG booking search here.  Typically you’ll see offers such as 1,000 bonus points per night.
  • Meeting Rewards: Details found here.

What counts, in practice, and is fast?

For the purpose of this post, I looked at ways to get IHG points quickly.  Which of these earn elite qualifying points?

  • IHG credit card signup bonus: Probably not anymore. Sometimes/usually.  Many people previously reported that their signup bonus points counted as elite qualifying points.  More recently, though, people have reported that their bonus did not count as elite qualifying.
  • IHG credit card spend: Points earned from credit card spend do count.
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to IHG: Yes, transfers count (I even wasted 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points to see for myself).
  • Virgin Atlantic miles transfer to IHG: Yes, according to this Head for Points post.
  • Buy points: No
  • Buy points using the Cash+Points trick: No. The trick: book a points+cash reservation then cancel the reservation. The cash amount paid will not be returned. Instead, you’ll keep the extra points that were required for a full award stay. This is a cheaper way to buy points than buying direct from IHG.

Cool things one can do with the above information…

Here are a number of ideas (hat tip to Million Mile secrets)…

Transfer Citi ThankYou points to IHG

Citi is currently offering a 25% bonus for transfering ThankYou pointst to Virgin Atlantic.  You need to have a premium Citi ThankYou card such as the Premier or Prestige cards to do so.  Here are a few ways to make the most of that:

Scenario 1: Start from zero

  • Transfer 60K ThankYou points to 75K Virgin Atlantic miles
  • Transfer 75K Virgin Atlantic miles to 75K IHG points
  • You now have Spire status!  Select the 25K Choice Benefit
  • End with: 100K IHG points and Spire status

I wouldn’t normally want to transfer ThankYou points at a 6 to 10 ratio to IHG points, but if you have a definite need for IHG points or you have many upcoming stays were Spire status will be helpful (for the 100% point bonus, for example), it could be well worth it.

Scenario 2: Start from 60K

UPDATE: This will only work if you previously signed up for the 60K offer and found that the points were elite qualifying:

  • Signup for the IHG credit card 60K signup bonus offer and meet the $1K spend requirement
  • Transfer 12K ThankYou points to 15K Virgin Atlantic miles
  • Transfer 15K Virgin Atlantic miles to 15K IHG  points
  • You now have Spire status!  Select the 25K Choice Benefit
  • End with: 101K IHG points and Spire status

I like this approach because there’s little risk.  If your signup bonus points don’t count as elite qualifying then don’t proceed.  Once you have the 61K points from the signup bonus + the minimum spend, and you see that the points are elite qualifying, I think it is well worth 12,000 ThankYou points to jump to Spire status and get the 25K Choice Benefit.  

Scenario 3: Start from zero and go for the 80K IHG offer plus more

There is an 80K IHG credit card offer that seems to be targeted.  As I reported here, accounts I manage that have Platinum status are able to see the 80K + $50 statement credit offer by making dummy hotel reservations.  Accounts without any status or activity only get the 60K + $50 offer.  I’m not sure of the exact trigger for getting the 80K offer: it may be that having any account activity will trigger it; or it may be that elite status is required.  For the purpose of this post, let’s assume that Gold elite status is enough to trigger the 80K offer.  In that case:

  • Transfer 8K ThankYou points to 10K Virgin Atlantic miles
  • Transfer 10K Virgin Atlantic miles to 10K IHG  points
  • You now have Gold status!
  • Follow the tips in this post to find the 80K + $50 signup offer: How to find the best IHG signup offer: 80K points plus $50 (hopefully this offer will still be around by then!)
  • Sign up for that offer and meet the $1K spend requirement.
  • You should now have 91K IHG points
  • If all goes well, those 91K points will all be elite qualifying, and you will then have earned Spire status
  • Select the 25K Choice Benefit
  • End with 116,000 IHG points

The above might work, but there is risk that Gold status won’t be enough to make the 80K offer available to you.  There is also risk that the credit card bonus points won’t count as elite qualifying points.  If anyone tries this, please let us know how it turns out.

Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG

Chase points transfer 1 to 1 to IHG.  Normally I’d say that it’s a waste of good points to make that transfer, but if you don’t have ThankYou points or you just want to get Spire status quicker and easier, you can do this instead.  Here are the same scenarios as above, but with Ultimate Rewards:

Scenario 1: Start from zero

  • Transfer 75K Ultimate Rewards points to 75K IHG points
  • You now have Spire status!  Select the 25K Choice Benefit
  • End with: 100K IHG points and Spire status

I wouldn’t do this, but if you have a definite need for IHG points to be used for high value or you have many upcoming stays were Spire status will be helpful (for the 100% point bonus, for example), it could be worth it.

Scenario 2: Start from 60K

UPDATE: This will only work if you previously signed up for the 60K offer and found that the points were elite qualifying:

  • Signup for the IHG credit card 60K signup bonus offer and meet the $1K spend requirement
  • Transfer 14K Ultimate Rewards points to 15K IHG  points
  • You now have Spire status!  Select the 25K Choice Benefit
  • End with: 100K IHG points and Spire status

I think it is well worth 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points to jump to Spire status and get the 25K Choice Benefit.  If you signed up for the 60K IHG card offer and found that your points are elite qualifying, then you might as well go for Spire status.

Scenario 3: Start from zero and go for the 80K IHG offer plus more

There is an 80K IHG credit card offer that seems to be targeted.  As I reported here, accounts I manage that have Platinum status are able to see the 80K + $50 statement credit offer by making dummy hotel reservations.  Accounts without any status or activity only get the 60K + $50 offer.  I’m not sure of the exact trigger for getting the 80K offer: it may be that having any account activity will trigger it; or it may be that elite status is required.  For the purpose of this post, let’s assume that Gold elite status is enough to trigger the 80K offer.  In that case:

  • Transfer 10K Ultimate Rewards points to 10K IHG  points
  • You now have Gold status!
  • Follow the tips in this post to find the 80K + $50 signup offer: How to find the best IHG signup offer: 80K points plus $50 (hopefully this offer will still be around by then!)
  • Sign up for that offer and meet the $1K spend requirement.
  • You should now have 91K IHG points
  • If all goes well, those 91K points will all be elite qualifying, and you will then have earned Spire status
  • Select the 25K Choice Benefit
  • End with 116,000 IHG points

The above might work, but there is risk that Gold status won’t be enough to make the 80K offer available to you.  There is also risk that the credit card bonus points won’t count as elite qualifying points.  If anyone tries this, please let us know how it turns out.

Transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to IHG

Amex often offers Membership Rewards transfer bonuses to Virgin Atlantic.  Bonuses have ranged from 25% to 35% in the past.  Assuming we see one again soon, it should be possible to do the same steps as outlined above regarding transferring Citi ThankYou points.  Even without a transfer bonus, you could use Membership Rewards points, but it wouldn’t be nearly as good of a deal.

Sign up for the Virgin Atlantic 75K offer

Bank of America often advertises a “90K” bonus for their Virgin Atlantic credit card.  I personally think it should be referred to as a 75K bonus, but that’s another story (found here).  The “90K” offer requires $12K spend plus the addition of 2 authorized users to get 75K bonus miles.  Plus, you’ll earn 1.5 miles per dollar for that $12K spend, so you’ll have 93,000 miles.  Simply transfer 75,000 of those miles to IHG in order to earn Spire status and the 25K Choice Benefit.  You can find the latest and greatest BOA offers here.

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