IHG Rewards: More Value for the Frugal Traveler


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With modest pricing and more than 5,700 properties worldwide, the InterContinental Hotels Group, or IHG, loyalty program may be your best bet if you’re a more frugal traveler who wants plenty of options. Here’s what you should consider before signing up.

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Table of Contents

How much IHG points are worth

Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values IHG points at 0.8 cent apiece. To determine the value of reward points, we compared cash prices and reward redemptions for hotel stays across several destinations and dates. We divided the cost in cash by the cost in points to determine a “cent per point” value for each flight, then averaged this value across several searches. Read more about how we arrived at these figures.

This is therefore a baseline value for IHG points, based on real-world data collected from hundreds of hotel stays, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award bookings that offer 0.8 cent or more in value from you IHG points.

To determine the value of your points for specific bookings, divide the cash value (minus any fees associated with the reward booking) by the number of points required. So if a hotel room would cost either $100, or 15,000 points + $10 in resort fees, the math would be as follows:

($100 – $10) / 15,000 = 0.006, or 0.6 cent per point.

IHG Rewards Club: The basics

To advance in the IHG program, all you need to do is stay at hotels in the IHG portfolio. That includes several affordable venues, such as the Holiday Inn. The loyalty program is split into four tiers, ranging from Club to Spire Elite. Here’s what you get at each level:

  • Earn 10 base points per eligible dollar spent at Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Express hotels and InterContinental Hotels & Resorts.

  • Earn 5 base points per eligible dollar spent at Staybridge Suites or Candlewood Suites.

  • Earn 2,000 points, 1,300 points or 600 points per qualifying stay at ANA partner hotels.

Gold Elite – 10 Elite Qualifying Stays (EQSs) or 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points (EQPs)

  • 10% bonus on base points.

  • Welcome amenity (like a bottle of water or extra points).

  • All the benefits of the Club membership and more.

  • All the benefits of Gold Elite status.

  • 50% bonus on base points.

  • Roll over your extra nights toward next year’s qualification.

  • Complimentary room upgrades (if available).

  • Guaranteed room availability.

  • All of the benefits of Platinum Elite.

  • 100% bonus on base points.

  • Complimentary room upgrades.

  • Guaranteed room availability.

  • Exclusive choice benefit upon receiving status.

Fine print

  • All points will expire after 12 months of inactivity unless you have Gold or higher status. To keep up your activity, earn or redeem points at least once every year.

  • An EQS (Elite Qualifying Stay) is defined as consecutive nights at a hotel booked through IHG; an EQN (Elite Qualifying Night) is defined as night spent at a hotel booked through IHG.

  • You can’t earn rewards retroactively; that is, if you stayed at IHG before signing up for the rewards program, you can’t report it once you joined.

  • You won’t earn points on reward nights, but you can earn points on in-room purchases during your stay.

Cards that earn IHG points

  • Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening

  • Enjoy a Free Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a free reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights.

  • Earn 25 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel.

  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member.

  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card.

  • IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®.

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

  • Earn 15 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel.

  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.

  • Fourth Reward Night Free.

  • IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®.

How to get more IHG points

Aside from staying at hotels in the IHG portfolio and spending with the company’s many partners, you can also get more points by purchasing them for 1.15 cents to 1.35 cents each. Since NerdWallet values IHG points at 0.8 cent each, purchasing these points usually isn’t a good idea unless you have a specific redemption in mind or are just a few points short of a free stay. Occasionally, these points are offered at a discount.

How to redeem IHG points

IHG offers several redemption choices, but if you want to optimize your points, you may be better off steering clear of certain offers.

Good redemption options

To get the most out of your IHG points, use them to book hotel stays. NerdWallet values IHG points redeemed for IHG hotel stays at 0.8 cent each, much more than when redeemed for airline miles or gift cards.
When booking through IHG, you’ll notice that the number of points required for a stay correlates with the tier of the hotel, not the list price of a room. You can land an especially good deal if a list price at a certain hotel is expensive compared with rooms in the same tier. For example:

  • If you got a $250 room for 25,000 points, you’d get a great deal when paying with points ($250/25,000 points = 1 cent per point). In general, it would be better to use points instead of cash for a stay like this (although you wouldn’t be able to earn points on your rewards stay).

  • If you got a $100 room for 25,000 points, you’d get a worse deal when paying with points ($100/25,000 points = 0.4 cents per point). You might be better off paying in cash in this instance.

Paying for a hotel stay with a combination of points and money can also be a high-value choice. You can either reduce the points needed by 5,000 by paying $40, or by 10,000 points by paying $70. For the former, you’d be only be paying 0.8 cents a point, and for the latter, 0.7 cents per point. That’s roughly equal to NerdWallet’s valuation of these points, making it a much better deal than buying points through IHG’s website.

Bad redemption options

While IHG points offer a fair value for hotel stays, that value decreases dramatically when you redeem them for other things, such as gift cards or flights.

The airline booking tool on IHG’s website allows you to book with more than 200 airlines with no blackout days, but redeeming this way can ding the value of your points by 30% or more. Transferring your points to airline miles also offers a poor value, which we’ll cover later.

Redeeming points for gift cards is also a bad deal. At best, it’s hard to get more than 0.26 cents per point when using rewards this way. That’s less than half the value you’d get cashing in your points for hotel stays.

Transfer partners

Transferring IHG points to miles is probably not worth it. Among IHG’s many airline partners, most give you only 2,000 miles for 10,000 IHG points, tanking the value.

Take Delta, for example. You can trade in 10,000 IHG points for 2,000 Delta SkyMiles. But considering that NerdWallet values IHG points at 0.8 cent each, and Delta SkyMiles at1.1 cents each, you’d essentially be trading in $80 for $22 and getting a value of 0.22 cent per point.

Now consider United Airlines MileagePlus miles, which NerdWallet values at 0.8 cent each. If you traded in 10,000 IHG points for 2,000 of these, you’d be trading $80 of value for $16 and getting a value of 0.16 cent per point.

You can elect to earn airline miles rather than IHG points, too, by changing your user preferences, but you’ll get a similar earning ratio as you would by transferring your points, giving you much less value per dollar. If you want to rack up more frequent flyer miles, consider focusing most of your loyalty program energy elsewhere.

The information related to IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card credit card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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