Maximising redemptions with the IHG Rewards Club programme

Mar 29, 2020

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IHG Rewards Club is an underdog of the hotel points world. The programme may not have the footprint of Marriott Bonvoy or the flashy elite benefits of World of Hyatt, but the programme does have some nifty tricks up its sleeve. Just take a look at IHG’s redemption rates — IHG reward nights start at just 10,000 points per night, and all redemptions are priced based on a standard award chart.

With this in mind, even IHG’s most premium hotels can have solid redemption rates. For example, the InterContinental London Park Lane costs 70,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night. This same hotel often costs £431 per night over the summer months, so you’re saving a good chunk of change.

But not all IHG Rewards Club redemptions are this valuable, so it’s important that you know how to make the most of them. We’ll walk you through how to get the most value for your hard-earned IHG Rewards Club points.

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In This Post

Simple award pricing

In an age where many airlines and hotel groups are moving away from standard award charts, IHG Rewards Club offers a refreshing breath of predictability. The hotel company has opted to keep standard award pricing without peak pricing, so award pricing stays predictable no matter when you travel. As we noted earlier, award nights start at just 10,000 points per night and work their way up to 70,000 points per night based on the category of hotel you book.

You can use 70,000 IHG for a free night at the InterContinental Hong Kong. (Image Credit: InterContinental Hong Kong)
You can use 70,000 IHG points for a free night at the InterContinental Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of InterContinental Hong Kong.)

We’ve found that higher-end hotels in more expensive cities are usually assigned higher-priced categories and vice-versa. However, as you’ll see in this article, there are plenty of sweet spots to take advantage of. Strangely enough, IHG doesn’t formally publish its award chart, but after performing numerous searches and sifting through previous award pricing changes, we were able to pull together the following table that shows how much each award category costs.

Category Points per night
Category 1 10,000
Category 2 15,000
Category 3 20,000
Category 4 25,000
Category 5 30,000
Category 6 35,000
Category 7 40,000
Category 8 45,000
Category 9 50,000
Category 10 55,000
Category 11 60,000
Category 12 65,000
Category 13 70,000

 

There are a handful of properties that price higher than this award chart, though. These include select properties in Macau and the Maldives like the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort. Regardless, it can be difficult to find award space at this property, so we recommend using your IHG points for stays elsewhere for better pricing and more options.

There’s really something to be said for the predictability of a standard award chart. With programmes like Hilton, you have to hope that you’re not booking a date with an incredibly high award price. But with IHG, you can rest assured that your bookings will never be more expensive than 70,000 IHG points (minus the exceptions above), making it easier to plan how you want to use your points.

Points & Cash rewards stretch your points further

Alternatively, you can use IHG points towards Points & Cash bookings. As the name suggests, this redemption lets you combine IHG points and money to stretch your redemptions further. You can opt to redeem your IHG points for a Points & Cash redemption at checkout — just select the number of points and cash you want to use for your booking. You can use miles in 5,000 point increments, and redemptions start at 20,000 miles below the standard redemption rate.

For example, if you wanted to make a Points & Cash redemption towards a Category 13 hotel (70,000 points), you’d need at least 50,000 points available per night. The cash required is determined based on the nightly price of the hotel.

These aren’t always the best use of points though. A stay at the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile in July 2020 is 50,000 IHG points or $191.30 (£154). Alternatively, you can use 30,000 points and $115 (£93) on a Points & Cash stay. This gives you a mere 0.25 cents per point in value for the Cash & Points redemption, half of TPG’s valuation of 0.5 cents per point.

Using IHG Points & Cash
Using Points & Cash can make sense when cash rates are high — for example, New Year’s Eve in New York City.

But there are some cases where it makes sense to use Points & Cash bookings. A night at the Crowne Plaza: Times Square Manhattan on New Year’s Eve is a whopping $2,992.03 (£2,411). Alternatively, you can use 60,000 points for a free night, giving you a redemption value of 4.98 cents per point. You bump this cent per point value even higher by using 40,000 IHG points and just $139 (£112) for an incredible redemption value of 7.13 cents per point.

Our rule of thumb is to always check Points & Cash bookings when cash rates are high. Compare if the points saved is worth the added cash cost for you — in the case of the Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan example above, I’d personally do the Points & Cash rate due to the massive points savings.

Automatic Platinum Elite status

IHG has two cobranded credit cards in the U.K. The more premium IHG Rewards Club Premium Credit Card comes with an automatic upgrade to IHG Platinum Elite status, though the card comes with a £99 annual fee. This is IHG’s mid-tier status, but it includes benefits that frequent IHG customers will undoubtedly enjoy. The no-annual-fee IHG Rewards Club Credit Card comes with complimentary Gold status, which includes such benefits as 10% bonus points for hotel stays, priority check-in, extended checkout and more.

Related: Credit card review: IHG Rewards Club Credit Card UK

Hefty welcome bonuses

The IHG Rewards Premium card also includes a solid welcome bonus of 20,000 points after you spend £200 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. The no-annual-fee card comes with a welcome bonus of 10,000 points after you spend £200 in the first three months.

Buying IHG points can actually make sense

At TPG, we don’t usually advocate for buying points and miles without a bonus, but we sometimes make an exception for IHG points.

You can buy IHG points for as low as 1.0 cents per point when you purchase 27,000 IHG points or more. This isn’t a particularly great deal unless you have a very specific and super-valuable redemption in mind. However, IHG sometimes runs promotions that let you buy points at 0.5 to 0.6 cents per point. This is right in line with the TPG valuation for IHG points, and lets you stay at high-end hotels on the cheap.

The key here is to buy points for lower than the price of a standard hotel stay. Remember the Crowne Royal: Times Square Manhattan example from above? If you can purchase 60,000 IHG points at 0.6 cents per point during a promo, you’ll pay just $360 for the same $2,992.03 stay we discussed earlier. Even purchasing points at a standard rate of 1.0 cents per point would make sense for this stay.

Bottom line

While IHG Rewards Club may not have the allure of some of the other hotel points programmes, it does have its place. IHG’s predictable award pricing and outstanding Points & Cash redemptions can come in handy when booking rooms during major holidays and events. These are times when we see Marriott Bonvoy switch to more expensive peak pricing and Hilton’s dynamic award chart make stays impractically expensive. So even if you’re not an IHG loyalist, it can make sense to keep a stash of IHG points on hand.

The easiest way to earn IHG points is through the cobranded credit cards. The benefits can help you maximise your IHG points even if you only stay at IHG properties a few times per year.

Featured photo courtesy of Hotel InterContinental Chicago, Magnificent Mile.

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.

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