IHG Rewards Club Optimization for Beginners

IHG's global offering of hotels makes it easy to redeem points at a high value at the beach and other destinations.

Rand Shoaf, Sally FrenchNovember 18, 2020
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IHG Rewards Club Optimization for Beginners

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IHG hotels range from the lavish InterContinental and Regent Hotels down to the more budget-minded Holiday Inn Express. And no matter what kind of traveler you are, IHG Rewards Club membership can earn you rewards toward future stays — plus upgrades on your existing stays. Adopt the right IHG optimization strategy, and you can not only rake in rewards at a faster rate, but claim those rewards for maximum value.

NerdWallet’s current valuation of IHG Rewards Club points sits at 0.9 cent per point, which is a solid value when it comes to hotel points.

This beginner’s guide to IHG optimization will show you where and how you can redeem your IHG points for reward nights — and how to make sure you get the highest value. It also includes a few of our favorite sweet spot redemptions.

Which hotels can you stay at with your IHG points?

The IHG Rewards Club is one of the world’s largest hotel loyalty programs with more than 5,900 properties worldwide (in comparison, hotel giant Marriott has more than 7,000 properties worldwide). While not the absolute biggest, IHG still has a hefty global footprint, which makes IHG Rewards points incredibly versatile and easy to use.

There are 17 brands within the IHG Rewards loyalty program, so you can find a hotel that fits your travel style — from aspirational one-of-a-kind luxury properties to budget brand hotels. This also means you have lots of options when it comes to using your IHG points for reward nights.

Avid. Atwell Suites (coming soon). Candlewood Suites. Crowne Plaza. Even Hotels. Holiday Inn. Holiday Inn Club Vacations. Holiday Inn Express. Holiday Inn Resorts. Hotel Indigo. Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts. InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Regent Hotels & Resorts. Six Senses Hotels & Resorts. Staybridge Suites. Voco.

How to get started using your IHG points

The easiest way to use your IHG points to book free nights is online through IHG.com or through its mobile app. Here’s a quick overview of booking reward nights using your IHG Rewards Club points:

Booking reward nights online

To book a reward night, sign in to your IHG Rewards Club account at IHG.com.

To search for reward night availability, enter a destination and check-in and check-out dates, then set the “Rate Preference” to “Reward Nights.”

The search results will display as a list of all available hotel options for the entered dates. You can sort hotel properties by brand, location and nightly points rates.

Click “Select Hotel” to view the room type options. Unlike other hotel programs, IHG lets you book only standard rooms. Alas, you can’t use your points for premium rooms or suites.

One thing to note: Read your specific hotel's cancellation policy around reward night bookings. While the policy is typically the same as the policy for normal cash rates, it can vary at some hotels.

What to consider when redeeming points

While there’s no public IHG award chart, the cost to book IHG hotels on points typically ranges from 10,000 to 100,000 points per night.

As is the case when redeeming points with any hotel chain, look at the nightly cash rate compared to the nightly "cost" in points to determine whether you’re getting a good value. To do that, simply divide the cash rate by the points rate to calculate the value you are receiving per point.

In this example, a night at the Kimpton Hotel Born in Denver runs $231.83 or 50,000 IHG points per night.

So a stay at the Kimpton Hotel Born works out to 0.46 cent per point ($231.83 / 50,000 = $0.0046). But since NerdWallet currently values IHG points at 0.9 cent each, that’s a pretty bad redemption.

In most cases, aim for redemptions at or above 0.9 cent in value per IHG point.

A few program sweet spots

Whether you prefer luxuriating in lavish hotels or stretching your points further at budget properties, using your IHG points to book free reward nights often nets you the highest value (as opposed to other redemptions like online shopping or transferring them to airline partners).

While you should aim to get at least 0.9 cent of value per point, you can often do way better than that.

Here are some of the best IHG properties to book with points:

Beach resorts

Photo courtesy of IHG.

Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa

Location: Cayman Islands.

As one of the newer hotels on Grand Cayman (which is the largest of the Cayman Islands), the boutique resort has a contemporary design with open-air architecture that complements the ocean views. The big downfall is that, even if you book on points, you’re on the hook for a $75 nightly amenity fee. Though, it does cover a lot of good stuff including free kayak and raft rentals, snorkel gear, fitness classes including paddleboard yoga, and use of GoPro cameras.

Typical nightly rate: $1,044.

Typical points rate: 70,000.

Points redemption value: 1.49 cents.

*Both booking options exclude a $75 nightly amenity fee and 10% service charge (if applicable on cash and cash + points bookings).

Big cities

Photo courtesy of IHG.

Hotel Indigo Williamsburg - Brooklyn

Location: Brooklyn, New York.

New York can certainly be expensive, but you can find IHG reward deals there, like at the Hotel Indigo Williamsburg - Brooklyn, where you’ll find views of Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline across the East River.

Typical nightly rate: $289.

Typical points rate: 30,000.

Points redemption value: 0.96 cent.

California’s beaches

Photo courtesy of IHG.

Holiday Inn Laguna Beach

Location: Laguna Beach, California.

The Holiday Inn might feel like a budget brand, but not always. That’s the case at the Holiday Inn Laguna Beach, which is located just across the Pacific Coast Highway from the ocean and walkable to the city’s many art galleries and events, like the famous Pageant of the Masters.

Typical nightly rate: $257.

Typical points rate: 27,500.

Points redemption value: 0.93 cent.

Holiday Inn Express Newport Beach

Location: Newport Beach, California.

Make it a beach vacation on a budget by following up your Laguna trip with heading just a bit further north to the Holiday Inn Express Newport Beach. On top of free breakfast and Wi-Fi, the hotel’s real draw is its location within walking distance to a variety of shops and dining on the Balboa Peninsula and Newport’s famous beaches.

Typical nightly rate: $233.

Typical points rate: 25,000.

Points redemption value: 0.93 cent.

For budget travelers

Candlewood Suites Sierra Vista

Location: Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Whether you’re road-tripping and want a no-frills place to rest, or you’re on vacation and don’t mind if your hotel is a bit more off the beaten path in the name of saving money, don’t overlook the lowest-cost, 10,000-point redemption options. Candlewood Suites, which offers a fully equipped kitchen and more spacious rooms, often goes for 10,000 points, despite often commanding room rates over $100. Booking one of these rooms means you win at IHG optimization.

Typical nightly rate: $143.

Typical points rate: 10,000.

Points redemption value: 1.4 cents.

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