IHG vs. Hilton: Which Is Right for You?

Hilton bests IHG on perks, but IHG shines for budget-conscious travelers and points redemptions.
Lee Huffman
By Lee Huffman 
Updated
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Two of the biggest hotel brands with the largest footprints are IHG and Hilton. Choosing to stay at IHG versus Hilton depends on what matters most to you as a traveler. Both hotels offer loyalty programs with multiple elite status levels, co-branded credit cards and numerous brands within their portfolios.

Hilton and IHG have also both updated their programs in recent years, so the loyalty program that worked for you previously may not be the best choice going forward.

When considering IHG or Hilton, here's how they stack up.

Where you can find them

A hotel brand is only as good as its availability whenever you travel. If the hotel doesn't have a location at your destination or doesn't offer the type of accommodations you need at the right price, then you'll look elsewhere.

Winner for the most brands and locations: Hilton

Having multiple options allows a hotel to cater to a variety of traveler types and offer different experiences based on their purpose for traveling. Both Hilton and IHG offer brands for any price point and thousands of locations, but Hilton pulls ahead with a little more of each.

IHG

IHG has 19 hotel brands and more than 6,200 destinations. While IHG's portfolio offers many budget-friendly accommodations, it has taken major strides to attract premium travelers. It now offers six luxury brands, including Six Senses, Regent, InterContinental, Vignette, Kimpton and Hotel Indigo, plus an exclusive partnership with Iberostar Beachfront Resorts.

Hilton

With 20 brands and more than 6,800 properties, Hilton has slightly more to offer than its competitor. Travelers can book a luxury stay at Waldorf Astoria or LXR Hotels, find budget-friendly rooms at Spark by Hilton or get the comforts of home at Homewood Suites.

Fees

Many hotels charge extra fees beyond the cost of your room: Resort fees, parking, pet fees and other costs add up quickly to balloon what you ultimately pay for your stay. Our analysis looked at hotel fees as a percentage of the overall room rate to enable comparison between higher-end brands and lower-cost hotels.

Winner for the lowest fees: IHG

IHG is the clear winner in our hotel fee analysis. With a score of 2.9 out of 5 versus Hilton's score of 1, IHG was rated third overall out of the seven hotel chains we analyzed.

IHG

To arrive at our scores, we analyzed resort fees, parking costs and pet fees separately. For each type of fee, IHG fared better than Hilton. The average resort fee at IHG is 3.6% of the room rate, while parking fees are 8.3%. If you want to bring your dog on vacation, IHG charges an average of 20% of the room rate for pet fees.

Hilton

Hilton performed poorly in all measures regarding hotel fees. It has the highest overall parking fees, totaling 12.8% of room rates. Resort fees (3.9%) and pet fees (26.79%) were generally in the middle of the pack. On the bright side, Hilton waives resort fees for reservations paid with points or free night certificates provided by Hilton credit cards.

Hotel loyalty programs

Winner for the best rewards rate: IHG

To determine how much each loyalty program’s rewards are worth, NerdWallet has calculated its rewards rate. This helps travelers understand how much value they're getting back in points for each dollar spent at the hotel. IHG is the winner here because spending earns its travelers 8% back, while spending at Hilton earns 5% back in points.

IHG

According to NerdWallet analysis, the IHG One Rewards program offers middle-of-the-road value for your travel dollars. You'll get back an average of 8% in value for the money you spend at IHG properties.

With elite status, you can earn up to a 100% bonus on paid stays. Plus, using an IHG co-branded credit card earns 5x to 10x points. These points are in addition to those earned as an IHG One Rewards member and any elite status you earn.

Hilton

Of the seven hotel brands NerdWallet evaluated, the Hilton Honors program offers the lowest return on your travel dollar. You can increase that rate by using a co-branded credit card, achieving higher Hilton Honors™ elite status or both.

With a Hilton credit card, you'll earn 7x to 14x points on eligible Hilton purchases on top of the points earned as an Honors member. Reaching elite status earns a bonus of up to 100% points on hotel stays.

Winner for the best credit cards: Hilton

Having a co-branded credit card from your preferred hotel chain provides extra earning power, exclusive perks and — at times — automatic elite status. In some cases, you can earn additional benefits based on your annual spending.

Our choice for the best credit card is Hilton because it has more options than IHG. Additionally, you can get automatic top-tier elite status with Hilton’s premium credit card, which is something IHG doesn’t offer.

IHG

IHG has three credit cards — two for consumers and one for businesses. All three cards offer some level of elite status automatically, earn bonus points on everyday spending categories and include the fourth night free when redeeming points.

The IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card has a $0 annual fee and comes with automatic Silver Elite status.

IHG® One Rewards Premier Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

Upgrading to the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card gets you Platinum Elite status, an anniversary night worth up to 40,000 points and up to $50 in United Airlines TravelBank Cash each year. It also offers reimbursement for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS application fees once every four years.

Hilton

Hilton has a similar credit card offering, but its premium Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is unmatched when comparing the two. It includes complimentary Hilton Honors™ Diamond elite status, a $400 annual Hilton resort credit and a $200 annual flight credit.

Cardholders also receive an annual free night award at almost any Hilton property. Plus, you can earn a second free night after spending $30,000 and a third when you spend $60,000 in a calendar year. Terms apply.

Winner for the best value of elite status: Hilton

NerdWallet's analysis for the best return on hotel elite status looks at the value of perks received and the cost to earn that status. Hilton comes out ahead of IHG by a wide margin and is second only to Hyatt in the overall ratings.

IHG

IHG offers four levels of elite status ranging from Silver Elite to Diamond Elite. Reaching Diamond Elite status requires 70 nights or 120,000 qualified points per year, and NerdWallet estimates you’ll spend $10,220 to earn it.

As a Diamond member, you'll receive free breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, discounts on room rates and 100% bonus points on paid stays. Our analysis estimates the value of Diamond benefits at $3,959, which is an elite earning rate of 39%.

Hilton

Hilton's elite status program has three levels, ranging from Hilton Honors™ Silver to Hilton Honors™ Diamond. Members earn Hilton Honors™ Diamond status after staying 60 nights, by holding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card or by spending $40,000 per year on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. Terms apply.

NerdWallet estimates that it costs $8,760 to earn Diamond status. Benefits include a 100% bonus on paid stays, space-available upgrades, premium Wi-Fi, executive lounge access and elite status gifting. These benefits are worth an estimated $4,168, an elite earning rate of 48%.

If you're choosing between IHG and Hilton

IHG and Hilton each have more than 6,000 properties across numerous brands, so in many cases, there's a good chance one of their hotels is nearby. However, when comparing IHG and Hilton across various metrics, Hilton takes the prize, especially when it comes to its credit card and elite status offerings.

That said, IHG has lower fees, so if you tend to travel with your pet or require parking, you’ll likely save by staying at an IHG property. IHG’s loyalty program also tends to have a better return rate on award stays, though picking up a Hilton co-branded credit card can help you earn more points for stays at Hilton properties, too.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

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