The award traveller’s guide to IHG Rewards Club

Aug 9, 2020

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InterContinental Hotels Group – better known as IHG – and its IHG Rewards Club programme have multiple attractive aspects. First, it’s relatively easy to get good value from IHG points. Second, the programme has luxury brands as well as mainstream brands. And third, even the least-prestigious IHG brands usually provide acceptable quality.

IHG Rewards Club is by far the hotel loyalty programme I utilize most. Specifically, over the last three years, I’ve stayed 244 nights across 13 IHG hotel brands. And, 119 of these nights were reward nights. So, let’s take a closer look at the IHG Rewards Club programme.

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In This Post

Elite levels

Hotel Indigo Birmingham Five Points South – UAB (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
Hotel Indigo Birmingham Five Points South – UAB (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

IHG offers four membership levels within its IHG Rewards Club loyalty programme. And, IHG also offers two additional membership programmes: InterContinental Ambassador and Kimpton Inner Circle.

IHG announced earlier this year that all elite levels will be extended through January 2022. So, you don’t need to requalify this year.

Here’s what you should know about each of these membership levels.

IHG Rewards Club Member

You’ll become a Member simply for signing up for the IHG Rewards Club programme. Members get the following benefits:

  • Standard internet access at no additional cost
  • Reward nights count toward elite status

On top of these benefits, IHG Rewards Club Members earn:

  • 2.5x at IHG Residence properties (1.25% return based on TPG’s valuations)
  • 3x at IHG Army Hotels (1.5% return)
  • 5x at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (2.5% return)
  • 2,000 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas (worth £8)
  • 10x at all other IHG properties (5% return)

IHG Rewards Club Gold Elite Member

You’ll normally become a Gold Elite member after 10 nights or 10,000 elite qualifying points in a calendar year. However, the requirements have dropped to 7 nights or 7,000 elite qualifying points to qualify in 2020.

In addition, if you open the IHG Rewards Club Credit Card, you’ll get automatic Gold status.

On top of the benefits available to all IHG Rewards Club members, Gold Elite members also get the following perks:

  • Extended check-out
  • Points don’t expire
  • Priority check-in
  • 10% bonus earnings on top of base points
  • Welcome amenity (Raid the Bar at Kimpton hotels)

So, due to the 10% bonus, Gold Elite members earn:

  • 2.75x at IHG Residence properties (1.375% return)
  • 3.3x at IHG Army Hotels (1.65% return)
  • 5.5x at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (2.75% return)
  • 2,200 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas (worth £9)
  • 11x at all other IHG properties (5.5% return)

TPG values IHG Gold Elite status at about £45 per year primarily due to late check-out, welcome amenities and bonus points.

IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite Member

Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown-University suite
As a Platinum Elite, I was given a nice upgrade when staying at the Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown-University. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

You’ll normally become a Platinum Elite member after 40 nights or 40,000 elite qualifying points in a calendar year. However, the requirements have decreased to 30 nights or 30,000 elite qualifying points to qualify in 2020.

On top of the benefits available to Gold Elite members, Platinum Elite members also get the following perks:

  • Elite rollover nights
  • Complimentary room upgrades
  • 50% bonus earnings on top of base points

Due to the 50% bonus, Platinum Elite members earn:

  • 3.75x at IHG Residence properties (1.875% return)
  • 4.5x at IHG Army Hotels (2.25% return)
  • 7.5x at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (3.75% return)
  • 3,000 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas (worth £12)
  • 15x at all other IHG properties (7.5% return)

TPG values IHG Platinum Elite status at about £670 per year primarily due to room upgrades and bonus points.

IHG Rewards Club Spire Elite Member

You’ll normally become a Spire Elite member after 75 nights or 75,000 elite qualifying points in a calendar year. However, the requirements have dropped to 55 nights or 55,000 elite qualifying points to qualify in 2020.

On top of the benefits available to Platinum Elite members, Spire Elite members also get the following perks:

Due to the 100% bonus, Spire Elite members earn:

  • 5x at IHG Residence properties (2.5% return)
  • 6x at IHG Army Hotels (3% return)
  • 10x at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (5% return)
  • 4,000 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas (worth £16)
  • 20x at all other IHG properties (10% return)

TPG values IHG Spire Elite status at about £1,670 per year primarily due to room upgrades and bonus points.

InterContinental Ambassador

The InterContinental Fiji Hotel. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)
The InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

As mentioned above, you can join the InterContinental Ambassador programme. To do so, you must pay $200 (about £160) or 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points for a 12-month membership. In return, you get the following benefits at InterContinental brand hotels:

  • Guaranteed room upgrade
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out
  • A complimentary weekend night that’s valid on the second night of a paid weekend stay using the Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night rate
  • Dedicated check-in area
  • IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status
  • Restaurant/bar credit of up to $20 per stay (only when staying outside Mainland China)
  • No additional charge for double occupancy instead of single occupancy
  • Mineral water daily
  • Internet, at the highest speed when faster internet is available for purchase
  • Breakfast for the member in the main restaurant each night you stay (only when staying in Mainland China)
  • 15% discount at restaurants and bars and welcome fruit platter (only when staying in Greater China)
  • RMB120 credit for restaurants and bars (only for Spire Elite members when staying in Greater China)

Even if you already have Platinum Elite status or Spire Elite status, it can be worth purchasing InterContinental Ambassador status if you frequently stay at InterContinental brand hotels. And, it can also make sense if you’ll get more than $200 of value from your complimentary weekend night.

Select InterContinental Ambassadors are invited to become Royal Ambassadors based on their activity at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. And, Royal Ambassadors get even more perks including Club InterContinental lounge access.

Kimpton Inner Circle

(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz / The Points Guy)
Kimpton Seafire Grand Cayman (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

If you’re a Spire Elite member and show loyalty to Kimpton, you may be invited to Kimpton’s Inner Circle. However, there aren’t any published requirements regarding how loyalty is measured.

If you’re invited, you’ll get the following benefits at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants:

  • Personalized Inner Circle amenity each stay
  • Chef’s taste when you have dinner at a Kimpton restaurant
  • Free hotel night at a newly opened Kimpton hotel
  • Complimentary highest speed internet available
  • Inner Circle phone line and agents
  • Guaranteed one-category upgrade
  • Guaranteed 10 a.m. check-in and 4 p.m. check-out
  • Waived guest amenity fee and destination fee (but not resort fees)

Which bookings are eligible for IHG elite benefits and earning?

You normally have to book directly with IHG to get elite benefits and earnings. Specifically, IHG’s terms and conditions note that bookings through IHG’s website, app and central reservations office are all eligible. And, bookings made at an IHG hotel’s front desk are also eligible.

But, IHG’s terms and conditions state that you won’t get elite benefits or earnings when you book through an online travel agency (OTA) or through “unauthorized travel agents on online vertical travel portals.”

How to earn IHG points

(Photo by Eric Rosen / The Points Guy)
One way to earn IHG points is to stay at an IHG hotel, such as the Kimpton Goodland Hotel (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)

From hotel stays to IHG Rewards Club partners, there are many ways to earn IHG Rewards Club points. So, here’s a quick overview of some popular ways to earn IHG points.

Hotel stays

One of the primary ways to earn IHG points is through hotel stays. Specifically, all IHG Rewards Club members earn base points as follows when paying a qualifying rate:

  • 2.5x at IHG Residence properties (1.25% return based on TPG’s valuations)
  • 3x at IHG Army Hotels (1.5% return)
  • 5x at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (2.5% return)
  • 2,000 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas (worth £8)
  • 10x at all other IHG properties (5% return)

And, elite members get bonus earnings on top of base points. Specifically, Gold Elite members get a 10% bonus, Platinum Elite members get a 50% bonus and Spire Elite members get a 100% bonus.

Finally, IHG offers frequent promotions that allow you to earn bonus points on stays. Currently, you can earn up to 4x bonus points when you register and stay. However, this promotion is tiered, so you won’t earn 4x bonus points until your fourth stay. And, the bonus only applies to the base earning on each stay. So, any elite status bonuses won’t be multiplied.

Credit cards

Historically, there were two IHG Rewards Club cobranded credit cards in the U.K. However, one of which — the IHG Rewards Club Premium Credit Card — is no longer accepting applications. That leaves the IHG Rewards Club Credit Card, which is still accepting applications and comes with no annual fee.

Currently, the card has a sign-up bonus of 10,000 points after you spend £200 in your first three months of cardmembership. You’ll earn 2 IHG points for every £1 you spend at any IHG family hotel, as well as 2 points for every £1 spent abroad. (Keep in mind, however, you will be charged a 2.99% foreign transaction fee on those international purchases.) Finally, you’ll earn 1 point for every other £1 spent.

With the card, you’ll get automatic Gold elite status.

Related: Credit card reviews: IHG Rewards Club Credit Card

Meetings and events

The IHG Business Rewards programme allows you to earn IHG points when you plan a meeting or event at select IHG properties.

First, you’ll need to register for IHG Business Rewards on IHG’s website. Then, you can earn 3x points when you book rooms, meetings and events for others. Specifically, you’ll earn 3x points on the following:

  • Guest rooms booked for others
  • Meeting and event costs
  • Conference room costs
  • Food and beverage service linked to meetings and conferences
  • All-inclusive meeting packages

However, you generally can’t earn more than 60,000 points on a single meeting or event.

IHG Trip Extras

(Photo by tupungato/Getty Images)
You may be able to earn IHG points on trip extras, such as a car rental. (Photo by tupungato/Getty Images)

IHG Trip Extras is a booking platform that allows you to earn IHG points on select bookings. Specifically, you’ll earn IHG Rewards Club points as follows when you book through the IHG Trip Extras portal:

  • Hertz car rentals: Earn 1,500 points per rental plus 500 points per day for Elite members and 125 points per day for Club members
  • Dollar and Thrifty car rentals: Earn 125 points per day
  • Viator tours and activities: Earn 1,000 points per activity booking
  • OpenTable reservations: Earn up to 500 points when you make an OpenTable restaurant reservation
  • GrubHub food delivery to select U.S. IHG hotels: Earn 500 points for your first Grubhub order placed through IHG’s food delivery page and 250 points for every subsequent order
  • Viator transport services: Earn up to 1,000 points per transportation booking

However, most of these bounties are relatively small. So, you’ll generally only want to book through the IHG Trip Extras portal when it matches or beats the lowest competitor.

Buying points

Finally, you can boost your account balance by buying IHG points. Assuming you purchase at least 26,000 points, the standard price is one cent per point.

But, there are often promotions that offer bonuses of up to 100%. So, you can periodically buy points during these promotions for as little as 0.5 cents apiece. You generally can’t purchase more than 150,000 IHG points per calendar year, but this limit is sometimes increased during promotions.

Since I can usually get more than 0.5 cents of value per IHG point, I often take advantage of the 100% bonus when it’s offered.

Which points are elite-qualifying?

Some of the above activities produce elite qualifying IHG points while others provide non-elite qualifying points. Both types of points are redeemable, but only elite qualifying points count toward earning elite status.

Based on IHG’s terms and conditions, the following activities produce points that are redeemable and elite-qualifying:

  • Hotel stays
  • Spend on IHG credit cards
  • Spend on select partner activity
  • IHG Rewards Club bonus points packages
  • Spend through IHG Business Rewards

On the other hand, the following are redeemable but not elite-qualifying:

  • Points earned from promotions
  • Elite status bonuses
  • Activation bonuses or select promotions offered through IHG credit cards
  • Select partner promotions
  • Point vouchers, purchases, transfers or deposits

But, if you aren’t looking to earn IHG elite status through elite-qualifying points, then you don’t need to worry about which points are elite-qualifying.

How to redeem IHG points

You’ll generally get the most value when you redeem IHG points for hotel stays. But, there are other options. So, in this section, we’ll consider several ways to use IHG points.

Reward nights

InterContinental Phu Quoc
I used IHG points to stay at the InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Earlier this year, IHG gradually switched most of its properties to dynamic pricing. So, now the number of points required to book a reward night at a particular property may vary from night to night and may change at any point.

You can use points to book a reward night at most IHG properties. However, IHG Army Hotels aren’t bookable with points. And, so far, most (if not all) Sixth Senses and Mr. and Mrs. Smith properties aren’t bookable with points.

There isn’t a stated cap when it comes to how many points may be charged for a reward night. But, my searches have found reward nights ranging from 7,500 to 100,000 points. Based on TPG’s valuations, 7,500 points are worth £30 while 100,000 points are worth £400.

Based on TPG’s valuation of IHG points at 0.4p each, you’ll generally want to get at least this value when redeeming. But, in practice, I find it relatively easy to find opportunities to redeem IHG points for at least 0.4p per point.

For example, consider the InterContinental Hotels Presidente Cancun Resort. For a stay in February 2021, you could pay 35,000 points per night or £230 per night for a rate with free cancellation. In this case, you’d be getting a value of 0.66p per point.

Points and cash IHG award booking Cancun
(Image courtesy of IHG)

And, getting this type of value for IHG rewards nights isn’t uncommon. However, I suspect that once the coronavirus pandemic is over and travel picks back up, we won’t be getting quite as good of value from IHG points. So, I’m making bookings now for 2021 trips and periodically check my reward night bookings for price drops.

Points & Cash

If you’re looking to conserve points, you may want to book using Points & Cash. As the name implies, on a Points & Cash booking you’ll pay partially with points and partially with cash.

Points and cash IHG award booking Fiji
(Image courtesy of IHG)

Unfortunately, the cost to pay partially with cash through Points & Cash bookings varies across properties. To illustrate this, let’s consider a few New York City properties that cost 20,000 points for a stay on 12 January 2021:

20k IHG property Best flexible member rate Cost for 5,000 points Cost for 10,000 points
Holiday Inn Manhattan 6th Ave Chelsea $129 $30 $60
Holiday Inn Express Manhattan Midtown West $150 $30 $60
Holiday Inn L.I. City Manhattan View $152 $31 $62
Holiday Inn Express Queens Maspeth $170 $34 $66
Holiday Inn Express Bronx NYC Stadium Area $174 $43 $84
Candlewood Suites New York City Times Square $199 $35 $70
EVEN Hotels New York Midtown East $228 $41 $79
Candlewood Suites Jersey City Harborside $232 $47 $79

As you can see, the cost to purchase points through Points & Cash bookings varies greatly. Indeed, across the hotels considered in the table above, the cost varies from 0.4p to 0.7p per point.

There is one additional caveat to know about Points & Cash bookings. Specifically, you don’t get the cash portion back if you cancel the stay. Instead, the cash copay is refunded as points deposited to your IHG Rewards Club account. So, during some promotions you can effectively purchase IHG points through cancelled Points & Cash bookings for as little as 0.4p per point.

IHG Rewards Club Access

IHG Rewards Club Access is an auction platform similar to Marriott Bonvoy Moments. So, you can normally bid on experiences including member-only access to concerts and dream holidays. However, there are currently no experiences available on the platform due to coronavirus concerns.

IHG digital rewards

You can redeem IHG points for a wide selection of e-magazines, movies, music, e-books, games and software through IHG’s digital rewards programme. Magazine prices start at 300 points for a single issue while most movie rentals cost between 900 and 1,250 points. Music generally costs 300- 400 points per song, while e-books generally cost between 300-6,000 points. And, games and software vary widely in price.

Out of curiosity, I checked prices on a few items. Airline Tycoon 2 for Windows costs 2,950 IHG points (worth £12), while the game is currently available for $9.99 on Steam. Live in the Moment by Julie Clark Robinson is available for 4,150 IHG points (worth £17) but the Kindle version can be purchased for $9.99 on Amazon. The redemption rates are vastly different for these two digital media examples, but neither gets close to TPG’s valuation of 0.4p per point.

IHG Rewards Club Catalog

You can use your points to shop in the IHG Rewards Club Catalog. The catalog offers many items as well as magazine subscriptions and the ability to donate your points.

Redeem for airline miles

Finally, you can redeem IHG points for airline miles with select airline partners. But, you’ll quickly see that this isn’t a good value redemption. In particular, based on TPG’s valuations, you’ll generally slash the value of your IHG points by almost half.

You can only redeem in increments of 10,000 IHG points. And, it may take up to six weeks for the miles to post to your airline loyalty account. But, if you still want to redeem your IHG points for airline miles, you can do so by calling the IHG Rewards Club Customer Care Center.

Award booking process

Booking award nights through the IHG website is easy. From the homepage, type in your destination, dates, number of guests, number of rooms. But, before clicking “Search,” click the “Rate Preference” drop-down and select “Reward Nights.”

IHG award booking process
(Image courtesy of IHG)

Once you click “Search,”, you’ll see options bookable within a set radius of your destination.

IHG award booking process
(Image courtesy of IHG)

You can filter these options by brand and amenities. And, you can sort your results by distance, price, rating or availability.

IHG award booking process
(Image courtesy of IHG)

You can also choose to see your results on a map if you prefer.

IHG booking process map
(Image courtesy of IHG)

Click “Select hotel” to see award rates and other rates for each room type. This allows you to quickly decide if it’s worth redeeming points.

IHG award booking process
(Image courtesy of IHG)

In this case, you could pay 60,000 IHG points or $691 including taxes for a two-night stay with free cancellation. Even if you’re willing to book a non-refundable rate, you’d still need to pay $622 including taxes for the two-night stay.

IHG award booking process
(Image courtesy of IHG)

Unfortunately, IHG doesn’t have a calendar view to allow you to search for low-priced nights. And, especially with dynamic pricing, finding low-priced nights can save you a lot of points. So, I’ll search for a month at a time and then click on “Rate Details” to see the nightly breakdown.

IHG award booking process
(Image courtesy of IHG)

However, occasionally this won’t work. Specifically, I’ve found instances in the past where specific dates will show low reward night costs when searching for a month at a time but not for shorter periods. However, I’m currently not seeing this phenomenon.

Maximising IHG Rewards Club

Here are some of the strategies you can use to get the most value out of the IHG Rewards Club.

Promotions

Long term IHG Rewards Club members know that IHG has offered some amazing promotions in the past. Indeed, the quarterly Accelerate promotion caused me to stay at a few IHG hotels even when it wasn’t convenient or the best value. And, the PointBreaks promotion led me to some hotels and cities I wouldn’t have otherwise visited.

But, neither of these promotions are currently offered. However, IHG is currently offering a 4x bonus points promotion. This promotion offers tiered bonuses to encourage guests to stay with IHG repeatedly. Specifically, after registering members will earn:

  • 2x bonus points for the first and second stays
  • 3x bonus points for the third stay
  • 4x bonus points for the fourth stay and beyond

However, these bonus points are only on the base points earned. So, you won’t receive this bonus on elite bonuses.

Best price guarantee

IHG offers a best price guarantee when you book directly with IHG. If you find a better price, IHG will match the better price and give you five times the points on your stay up to a 40,000-point maximum.

However, the best price guarantee isn’t available for Mainland China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan hotels. And, you’ll need to submit the online claim form within 24 hours of booking directly with IHG and at least 24 hours before the hotel’s check-in time.

Status match and challenge

IHG periodically offers status match and challenge opportunities. For example, last summer IHG offered guests with elite status in another hotel programme to apply for a 90-day elite status match. Then, during those 90-days, you could complete a set number of nights to keep the status through the end of the next year.

However, a status match and challenge offer isn’t currently available.

Related: What are hotel and airline status matches and how do you get one?

Stretch your points with low redemption rates

Now that IHG has switched to dynamic pricing, you can book reward nights for as little as 7,500 points. So, you can stretch your points by seeking out low points redemptions both domestically and internationally. However, make sure to check cash rates to ensure you’re getting good value from your redemption.

Frequently asked questions

Platinum status comes with upgrades and several other perks, even at luxury properties like the InterContinental Bora Bora. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)
InterContinental Bora Bora (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

How much are IHG points worth?

Based on TPG’s valuations, IHG points are worth about 0.4p each. So, you should generally try to get at least 0.4p of value per point when redeeming IHG points.

How many IHG points do you need for a free night?

Before the recent switch to dynamic pricing, you’d generally need between 10,000 and 70,000 IHG points for a free night. But, now award night costs vary more widely. For example, I’ve found hotels bookable for as little as 7,500. And, I’ve found hotels bookable for as much as 100,000 points.

Do IHG points expire?

Points don’t expire for elite members. But, points expire for Club members after 12 months of no earning or redeeming activity. So, make sure you earn or redeem at least once each year.

Related: How to keep your points and miles from expiring

Can you use IHG points for flights?

You can transfer IHG points to over 30 different airlines.

Are purchased IHG points qualifying?

Purchased points are non-elite qualifying. Elite-qualifying points are obtained from qualifying rates paid for hotel stays, spend on IHG Rewards Club credit cards, spend on select partner activity, IHG Rewards Club bonus points packages and qualified spend through IHG Business Rewards.

Can I transfer my IHG points to someone else?

You can transfer your IHG points to another IHG Rewards Club member in 1,000 point increments for a fee of $5 per 1,000 points.

However, note that you can sometimes buy IHG points for as little as 0.4p each. So, it’s generally not a good idea to pay to transfer your IHG points.

Bottom line

The IHG Rewards Club elite member benefits aren’t great. After all, top-tier elites don’t even get free hotel breakfast or guaranteed late checkout. But, there’s a lot of value to be found in the IHG Rewards Club programme.

Specifically, it’s easy to find good value when redeeming IHG points. This is especially true if you’re flexible regarding dates and destinations, and know when to pay cash instead of points.

Featured image of the Kimpton Seafire Resort by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.