IHG Rewards: The Complete Guide

The IHG program can offer a lot of value for the right type of traveler.

Sally FrenchMarch 29, 2021
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IHG Rewards Club, the loyalty program attached to the InterContinental Hotels Group, might pique your fancy if you’re eyeing a night at the ritzy InterContinental London Park Lane in the heart of London or you dream of escaping to a private island at the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort. But the IHG Rewards club encompasses more than just the luxurious InterContinental hotels.

With a family of 16 brands, including more affordable hotels like Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites, IHG Rewards is actually one of the best hotel loyalty programs for the frugal traveler who wants options. After all, IHG has about 6,000 open hotels in more than 100 countries, not to mention it is still rapidly growing — 1,800 more IHG properties are due to open over the next five years.

Here’s what you need to know about the IHG Rewards club program:

A lagoon pool villa at the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort. Photo courtesy of IHG

How to get elite status in the IHG Rewards Club

There are three tiers of IHG elite status (plus Club status, which you automatically get just for signing up for the IHG Rewards program).

How to earn status

Points earned per stay

Some of the best perks

Club

Just sign up.

10 base points per dollar spent on qualifying hotel rates at most IHG hotels (5 points at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites)

Complimentary internet, exclusive member rates, no blackout dates for reward nights

Gold Elite

10 elite qualifying nights or 10,000 elite qualifying points, per calendar year, or hold the IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card

10% bonus earnings on top of base points

All of the above, plus extended checkout, priority check-in and a minibar credit at Kimpton hotels

Platinum Elite

40 elite qualifying nights or 40,000 elite qualifying points, per calendar year, or hold the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

50% bonus earnings on top of base points

All of the above, plus complimentary room upgrades and guaranteed room availability

Spire Elite

75 elite qualifying nights or 75,000 elite qualifying points, per calendar year

100% bonus earnings on top of base points

All of the above, plus early check-in and a 25,000 annual point bonus

Ultimately, IHG Gold Elite status is nothing to write home about. But given the huge points bonuses and room upgrades, Platinum and Spire Elite status can turn out to be pretty valuable.

NerdWallet conducted a comprehensive analysis of the value of the major hotel elite status tiers and concluded that IHG’s Spire Elite status is worth about $1,000 annually.

Gold

Platinum

Spire

$13

$260

$1,088

IHG Ambassador: The elite status tier that you have to pay for

IHG is fairly unique in that it offers one more elite status tier of sorts — but no amount of frequent traveling will earn you this one. IHG Ambassador status is attained through paying a $200 membership fee (or 40,000 points). With it comes benefits ranging from small conveniences like complimentary mineral water to potential money-making freebies (like a free weekend night certificate at any InterContinental Hotels & Resorts property worldwide).

Other benefits of the InterContinental Ambassador program include:

  • Guaranteed one category room upgrade.

  • Automatic IHG Platinum Elite status.

  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout.

  • Complimentary internet.

  • Single room rate for double occupancy.

If you stay at International hotels on weekends anyway, the free night certificate can easily be worth the $200 membership fee.

What are my IHG points worth?

Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values IHG points at 0.9 cent apiece. You can use our IHG rewards points calculator to determine the value of your stash of IHG points with NerdWallet valuations.

To determine the value of reward points, we compared cash prices versus reward redemptions for hotel stays across several destinations and dates. We divided the cost in cash by the cost in points to determine a “cent per point” value for each room, then averaged this value across several searches. Read more about how we arrived at these figures.

To determine whether it’s a better deal to book a specific room in cash versus points, divide the cash value by the number of points required. Make sure you account for all costs, including taxes and pesky resort fees. From there, aim for award bookings that offer 0.9 cent or more in value from your IHG points.

How to earn IHG points

From stays at IHG hotels to ordering food via Grubhub, there are a myriad of ways to earn IHG points.

Stay at IHG hotels

IHG Rewards Club members earn points on qualifying stays at IHG properties. You typically earn 10 points for every $1 spent at most IHG hotels, though you earn only 5 points per $1 spent at Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites.

Yet it doesn’t stop there. You earn bonus points based on your level of IHG elite status too. Spire Elite members earn a whopping 100% bonus on base points, so don’t overlook the power of holding status as the key to fast-tracked IHG points-earning.

IHG credit cards earn bonus points, plus other IHG perks

Chase offers two co-branded IHG credit cards, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card ($89 annual fee) and the IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card ($0 annual fee).

While both earn oodles of extra points for spending at IHG hotels, if you stay at IHG even just once a year, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is almost always better given its benefits like automatic Platinum Elite status, a Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit and — perhaps best of all — a free night certificate after each account anniversary year.

Here’s how those two cards compare:

Annual fee

$0

$89

Points earned for hotel stays at IHG Hotels and Resorts worldwide

Up to 15x total points at when you combine IHG Card benefits with existing IHG Rewards Club member benefits

Up to 25x total points at when you combine IHG Card benefits with existing IHG Rewards Club member benefits

Welcome offer

Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening

Earn 125,000 bonus points plus a Reward Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening

Free nights when you book using points

Get a free reward night when you redeem points for any stay of four or more nights.

Get a free reward night when you redeem points for any stay of four or more nights.

Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit

None

Receive a statement credit of up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card.

Anniversary night

None

Receive an anniversary night certificate good for a night at any eligible IHG hotel each year after your card anniversary.

Elite status

Receive Gold Elite benefits when you spend $10,000 on purchases with your card each calendar year.

Receive automatic Platinum Elite status.

Transfer points to IHG through other Chase credit cards

Chase credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points allow you to transfer those points to IHG Rewards at a 1:1 ratio (i.e., 10,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points equals 10,000 IHG points). Those include the following cards:

If you also have the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Chase Freedom Unlimited®, points earned through those cards can be combined with any of the above cards and also transferred to IHG.

One note: NerdWallet values IHG points at just 0.9 cent, so you’re generally devaluing your Chase points when going that route.

Unless you need more points in your IHG account to take advantage of another offer that nets out to be a better deal (such as the fourth-night-free benefit that IHG credit card holders redeem when booking on points) or you’ve found an incredible IHG sweet spot redemption, this is not necessarily the best use of your points.

Shop with IHG’s partner programs

IHG has partnerships with other travel (or travel-adjacent) companies, including Hertz rental cars and food delivery company Grubhub. Book a Hertz rental car through IHG to receive a 1,500 point bonus and an additional 500 points per day. Order from Grubhub via IHG to earn up to 500 points.

How to redeem IHG points

In general, the best use of your IHG points is using them to book actual hotel rooms. NerdWallet values IHG points redeemed for IHG hotel stays at 0.9 cent each, which is far more than their value when redeemed for airline miles or gift cards.

The InterContinental Hanoi Landmark72 offers up impressive views of the Central Business District in Hanoi, Vietnam. We’ve spotted room rates as low as just 12,500 points. Photo courtesy of IHG

Best IHG redemption option: Book free IHG hotel rooms

Standard award nights typically start at 10,000, though we’ve seen them go as high as 100,000 points (you’ll see those kinds of rates for something like that overwater pool villa at the InterContinental Maldives).

You know you’ve landed an especially good deal if the cash price is expensive compared with the points price.

  • A $250 room for 25,000 points is a good deal when paying with points ($250/25,000 points = 1 cent per point).

  • A $100 room for 25,000 points is generally a worse deal when paying with points ($100/25,000 points = 0.4 cent per point). You might be better off paying in cash in this instance.

Plus, when you book on points and hold an IHG-branded credit card, you’ll get your fourth award night free — an effective 25% savings on four-night bookings.

Paying for a hotel stay with a combination of points and money can also be a high-value choice.

OK IHG redemption options: Transferring to airline partners

IHG has partnerships with over 40 airlines, allowing you to exchange IHG points for airline miles in frequent flyer programs including United, American, Delta, British Airways and Qantas. The process to transfer points is fairly cumbersome, and often converting IHG points to airline currencies causes them to lose their value, so we don’t really recommend this option unless you’re desperate to offload IHG points (or really need a few more airline miles).

Here are IHG’s airline partners:

Bad IHG redemption options: online shopping, gift cards and more

You can use IHG points to shop at IHG’s online catalog of brand-name products, jewelry, electronics, and gift cards from major retailers and restaurants, including Uber, Walgreens, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks and Home Depot. Then there’s the option to use your points to get magazine subscriptions, or for digital downloads of e-books, games, music and movies.

These are almost always pitifully bad redemptions, so we don’t recommend them. But if you really don’t anticipate traveling before your IHG points expire, redeeming points this way can at least keep your account active.

Frequently asked questions

IHG points typically expire after 12 months of inactivity, unless you have Gold or higher status. To keep up your activity, earn or redeem points at least once every year, such as through an IHG credit card, using one of IHG’s partner programs (like ordering food delivery via Grubhub) or actually staying at an IHG hotel.

Free reward nights start at 10,000 IHG points. There are no blackout dates on award nights.

You can gift IHG points to anyone by purchasing them. You’ll need their IHG Rewards Club membership number to make it happen. Alternatively, you can also transfer points from your own account, but at a cost. The member authorizing the transfer must pay $5 USD per 1,000 points transferred (and payment can only be made through an accepted credit card).

You can view your IHG points balance by logging into your IHG account and checking the top right corner. If you’ve forgotten your IHG membership number, call the IHG Rewards Club Service Center at 1-888-211-9874 (for U.S. and Canada) to retrieve your membership number.

IHG is a family of 16 hotel brands spanning about 6,000 open hotels in more than 100 countries. IHG brands include Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Regent Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.

Spire Elite is the highest IHG level of status that you can earn through frequent stays (the two other lesser tiers are Platinum Elite and Gold Elite). However, you can pay for IHG Ambassador status, which typically costs $200.

The bottom line

If you want to join a hotel loyalty program but are on the fence about which one to join, IHG is quite possibly the one for you. IHG came in No. 1 in NerdWallet’s ranking of the best hotel rewards programs of 2021, thanks largely to its low fees and solid rewards on hotel stays. Throw in its good response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we also chose it as the best hotel rewards program for families.

That said, IHG Rewards Club’s elite status is not as rewarding as what you’ll likely find through other loyalty programs. If you’re a road warrior who sleeps in hotels more often than your own bed, you might find other elite status programs more rewarding — especially when you get into the super-high status tiers.

But for people who like to travel for pleasure a few times a year and take the occasional business trip, the IHG Rewards program is well worth pursuing.

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: