IHG Extends Free Night Awards, Makes Earning Elite Status Easier in 2021

IHG has reduced the number of points and nights needed to earn elite status by 25% or more.

JT GenterJanuary 13, 2021
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IHG Rewards recently scored the top spot in NerdWallet’s rankings for Best Hotel Rewards Program for 2021. Now, IHG is rolling out even more traveler-friendly policies — both for those who are getting back on the road and for those staying home during the pandemic.

IHG is making it easier to earn elite status in 2021 through reduced requirements, rollover elite nights from 2020 and a new promotion for stays through March 2021. There’s also good news for those who aren’t traveling yet: IHG is further extending the validity of free night certificates and extending the pause on point expirations.

Here’s what you need to know about these changes.

Reduced elite qualifications for 2021

IHG is reducing the requirements for earning IHG Rewards elite status in 2021 by 25% or more. This matches the lowered elite status requirements that IHG put in place for 2020 due to COVID-19.

In 2021, IHG Rewards members will need to meet one of the following thresholds to earn elite status:

Elite Status

Qualifying Nights

Qualifying Points

Gold Elite



Platinum Elite



Spire Elite



In addition to lowering requirements, IHG is helping members reach these thresholds in two ways: Earning rollover elite nights from 2020 and earning bonus elite qualifying points for stays in early 2021.

Rollover elite nights from 2020

In 2020, several hotel loyalty programs announced that hotel elite nights earned in 2020 would roll over to 2021. IHG Rewards wasn’t one of these programs. However, in today’s announcement, IHG surprised elite members by announcing that their 2020 elite nights will also count toward 2021 elite status. IHG said that these rollover nights will be automatically applied.

It’s worth noting that IHG typically offers a different form of rollover nights to elite members. In a normal year, only excess elite night credits carry over to the next year. That means if a member stayed 55 nights in a typical year, they’d earn Platinum Elite status (normally 40 nights) and roll over the 15 excess nights. But for 2021, this member would start the year with 55 elite nights — and automatically qualify for Spire Elite status under the reduced requirements.

Bonus elite qualifying points promotion

For nights stayed between Jan. 20 and March 31, 2021, IHG Rewards members will earn 2,000 bonus elite qualifying points for every two nights spent.

To qualify, IHG Rewards members will need to register here before completing a stay. Enter promotion code 42050 if requested when registering.

These 2,000 bonus points are in addition to the elite qualifying nights that members otherwise earn from a stay. At most brands, you’ll earn 10 elite qualifying points for each dollar you pay before taxes. So if the room rate is $200 before taxes for a two-night stay, you’ll earn 2,000 elite qualifying points at most brands. This promotion would tack on 2,000 bonus elite qualifying points for the two-night stay, effectively doubling how fast you earn elite status.

Nerd tip: It is important to point out that these bonus points are both elite qualifying bonus points and regular IHG Rewards Club points that can be used for reward nights.

Extension of free night certificates

IHG is also extending the validity of free night certificates that have an original expiration date in 2021 through Dec. 31, 2021. However, it is key to note that this policy change doesn’t extend the expiration on all active free night certificates.

Certificates originally set to expire in 2020

In early 2020, IHG paused the expiration of free night certificates. Any certificates set to expire after March 1, 2020 were originally extended through Dec. 31, 2020. Then, in December, IHG further extended all free night certificates that were set to expire on Dec. 31 to be valid until Aug. 31, 2021. That means all certificates that were originally set to expire after March 1, 2020 have been extended at least to Aug. 31, 2021.

Certificates originally issued in 2020

In addition, all certificates issued in 2020 were valid for 18 months. With the new requirements, that means any certificates issued in 2020 have a validity of at least 18 months and now won’t expire before Dec. 31, 2021.

IHG Rewards point expiration pause

IHG Rewards previously announced — and reiterated today — that IHG Rewards points expiration is paused through June 30, 2021. For members that haven’t been traveling, this gives you more than five months to find a way to generate activity to extend the validity of your points.

As a reminder, IHG points typically expire if a member doesn’t have earn or redeem activity in the past 12 months. You can generate activity by transferring points in from another program (such as Chase Ultimate RewardsⓇ), buying as few as 1,000 points, transferring points to airlines or redeeming points through one of many other options.

IHG points never expire for elite status members. So, if you carry the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you won’t have to worry about your IHG Rewards points expiring. That’s because cardholders are granted Platinum Elite status just for having the card.

The bottom line

Through these changes, IHG is helping both travelers who are back on the road and those staying put during the pandemic. Members who earned elite nights in 2020 are being rewarded with rollover elite nights, and those hitting the road in the next few months will get bonus elite qualifying points toward elite status. Plus, IHG has lowered the threshold for re-earning status.

If you’re waiting to get a COVID vaccine before traveling again, the good news is that free night certificates should be valid at least through Aug. 31, 2021. Plus, IHG Rewards point expiration is on pause through June 30, 2021.

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 2021, including those best for:

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