Advanced Tips for Optimizing Your IHG One Rewards Points

These tips can help you get the maximum value from your IHG points when you're redeeming, buying or earning.
Erin Hurd
By Erin Hurd 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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With nearly 5,200 hotel properties around the world, IHG has something for everyone. You can find the luxurious brands of Six Senses, Regent and InterContinental in dozens of major cities. There are also mid-tier brands like the classic Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza and loads of economy options like Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites and Avid. There are even some fun boutique brands like Kimpton and Hotel Indigo that ooze personality and charm.

IHG no longer publishes an award chart, and the costs of reward nights vary by hotel property and category. The best way to see how many points you’ll need for the trip you want to take is to search the site for the city and dates you’re looking for. You’ll be able to easily see all the options in that city and how much each will cost.

Here are a few ways to optimize your IHG One Rewards points for your next trip.

Get the 4th night free, as many times as you want

One of the great perks of the Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors programs is that when you redeem your points, you’ll get the fifth night of your stay free. But if you hold an IHG co-branded credit card, you can do one better and get every fourth night free.

When you book four or more consecutive reward nights at the same property, you’ll be charged the point redemption rate for the first three nights, and then zero points for the fourth night. It’s that easy.

When you hold the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card, you’ll also earn an annual free night certificate. You can’t use this certificate as part of the fourth night free benefit, but you could use it for a fifth night if you’re having a longer stay. This way, you’d only pay the points necessary for three nights, but you’d be able to enjoy a five-night stay.

Use points and cash (sometimes)

If you don’t have enough IHG One Rewards points in your account when you want to make a booking, or if you simply want to save some of your points for another trip, IHG offers an option to pay with a combination of points and cash.

Make sure you do the math though, because not all points and cash bookings are created equal. When you’re using points and cash, you’re essentially buying the rest of the points you need to complete the booking.

In this example, the full points cost of the room is 70,000 points, or you can use 65,000 points and buy the remaining 5,000 points for a cost of $30 cash. That means you’re paying 0.6 cent per point.

Here, you could choose to pay the full 40,000 points, or 35,000 points and cash. You’re also essentially buying 5,000 points to complete the booking, just like in the instance above. But in this example, 5,000 points would cost $42. That’s a cost of 0.84 cent each compared to the 0.6 cent per point in the prior example (NerdWallet values IHG One Rewards points at 0.8 cent apiece, making this a less-than-ideal purchase price).

When you choose the points and cash option, your card is charged for the cash portion, and the points you’ve bought are deposited in your account to complete the booking. Then, the reservation is treated just like a full points booking.

If you need to cancel your reservation later on, you’ll get refunded in points — not cash. So if you’ve gotten a great deal on the “purchase” price of the points, as in the example above where you could pay 0.6 cent per point, you’ll get those points back in your account to be used later. You could potentially get greater value from them.

Eat your way to extra points

Though the best ways to earn IHG One Rewards points are staying at IHG properties and using the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card, you can earn even more points easily for something you already do anyway: eat.

If you’re an IHG Platinum elite member (or higher), you’ll be able to earn extra points when you dine. But don’t worry, IHG status isn’t hard to get. If you hold the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card or the IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, you get automatic Platinum status.

Here are three ways you can rack up extra IHG One Rewards points by eating:

  • OpenTable: Chances are you’ve used this service to make dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant. Next time you make an OpenTable reservation, just go through the IHG website or app to get there instead. You’ll earn 500 points for your first reservation, and up to 300 points for each reservation after that.

  • Grubhub: Earn up to 500 IHG One Rewards points when you order food delivery from Grubhub through the IHG site.

  • IHG’s Dine & Earn: Join IHG’s dining rewards program and you can earn up to 8 points per $1 spent at more than 10,000 restaurants around the country. New members can earn 1,000 bonus points when they spend at least $30 at any participating restaurant in the first 30 days and complete an online review.

Get your food and drinks with these all-inclusives

OK, it’s not the Ritz. But did you know that there are a few Holiday Inn properties that include all your food and drinks for prices in the same ballpark as normal nights, and that you can book them with points? Points pricing at these all-inclusives may also include children at no additional cost. These rules can vary by hotel and occupancy limits so it is best to check with the hotel directly for their policy.

  • Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay All-Inclusive: Choose a one- or two-bed ocean view room for 50,000 points per night. Room bookings here specifically state that up to two children under the age of 12 are included at no additional cost.

  • Holiday Inn Resort Los Cabos All-Inclusive: A garden or pool view room with either one or two beds will run you 40,000 points per night. Two-bed rooms will allow you up to four people in them, which means your kids are good to go as long as you don't exceed four people total in the room.

  • Holiday Inn Resort Ixtapa All-Inclusive: A standard, all-inclusive room will cost 50,000 points per night but comes with a two-person occupancy limit, including children.

If you’re looking to take a trip on points and shell out little to no extra cash, these can be great options.

The bottom line

The IHG One Rewards program can be a great loyalty program for families and other travelers to find great value. When you have the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card, you can unlock the ability to earn the fourth night free on rewards stays, plus earn a free anniversary night certificate each year. The value of those perks can far outweigh the $99 annual fee for some IHG travelers, really allowing you to maximize your points.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

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