IHG vs. Hilton: Which is Right for You?

Hilton has more properties in almost every budget category: value, midscale and luxury.

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IHG versus Hilton — These two hospitality behemoths are no strangers to frequent travelers. With hotels all around the world, IHG and Hilton are well-known names. But when it comes to comparing IHG One Rewards against Hilton Honors, the two programs may not be as familiar to many readers.

IHG One Rewards is fresh from an overhaul that revamped its elite status categories and upped the perks for members. This means that it might be time for a quick look at both programs to see which one is right for you and your travel patterns. When considering IHG versus Hilton, here's how they stack up.

Where you can find them

Winner for hotel availability: Hilton

Both brands are enormous, but Hilton takes the win with nearly 1,000 additional properties around the world.

IHG

With just over 6,000 properties across 17 brands, IHG One Rewards has a lot of places to stay across various price points and design styles. The hotel company continues to grow but still trails its competitor, Hilton.

Hilton

More than 6,800 hotels worldwide participate in Hilton Honors and its 18 brands. This means not only are there more places to earn and redeem points, but it also has a solid variety of price points and types of hotels in every category. Having more properties gives Hilton Honors a slim lead in this category.

Hotel credit card availability

Winner for best hotel credit card: Hilton

The IHG One Rewards credit card portfolio is not as robust as Hilton Honors', and neither of its cards delivers top-tier elite status instantly the way Hilton's does.

IHG credit cards

These are the two primary cards for IHG One Rewards fans:

  • IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card ($0 annual fee): Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

  • IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee): Earn 140,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Among its many perks is automatic Platinum Elite status, which is the program’s second-highest tier.

Hilton credit cards

One of the top cards on the market is the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which comes with these benefits:

  • An annual free night certificate.

  • 14x points at Hilton Honors properties.

  • $250 annual airline fee credit. Enrollment required.

  • $250 annual Hilton resort credit.

Terms apply.

While the annual fee clocks in at a pricey $450, the annual travel credits more than cover the cost of it. That doesn’t even begin to mention the free night certificate and the savings and benefits that come with having Diamond status. This gives Hilton Honors an edge when it comes to the best hotel credit card. There’s also the welcome bonus: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

  • Hilton Honors American Express Card ($0 annual fee): Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card ($95 annual fee): Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card ($95 annual fee): Limited Time Offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors Business Card in the first 3 Months of Card Membership. Plus you can earn a Free Night Reward after you spend $10,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors Business Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 12/21/22. Terms Apply.

Hotel loyalty programs

Winner for ease of points: IHG

Points-boosting opportunities and revamped elite status tiers give IHG the edge.

Hilton

Hilton Honors was one of the first programs to ditch its award chart and leave members confused about how many points they would need to save for redemption. If you didn't know your travel dates, saving points became more challenging.

The dynamic pricing model ties the points rate more closely with the cash rate for each night, which can reduce the value of redemption at top-tier properties. While there are redemptions that start at only 5,000 points per night, they are not always at the most aspirational properties.

Hilton Honors offers regular bonus point promotions, and you can also transfer points from American Express at a 1:2 ratio.

NerdWallet values Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cent each.

IHG

The IHG One Rewards program has also removed award charts in favor of dynamic pricing, which brings with it a bit of confusion for members who want to plan for redemption. Instead, you'll need your exact dates of travel before knowing how many points to save up.

To the good, IHG Rewards offers numerous points-earning promotions, and its updated elite status program gives more benefits on award stays.

In addition to hotel stays and credit card points earning, you can also transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards® into the program. NerdWallet values IHG One Rewards points at 0.7 cent each giving you slightly more value per point.

Family travel considerations

Best hotel for family travel: Tie

Both IHG and Hilton offer brands catering specifically to family travels.

IHG

With a brand portfolio that skews heavily toward budget-friendly hotels like Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and avid hotels, IHG serves the needs of families well. Not only do all three brands offer complimentary breakfast, but many Staybridge Suites offer suites with living areas and a" happy hour" with appetizers plus wine and beer some nights of the week. This can save families quite a bit of money.

While these properties may not be in the full-service category (the way Embassy Suites is), they are great for families that have more mouths to feed and minds to entertain. IHG also has several hotel brands with club lounges for elite status card holders, like InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Regent, but their footprint is not as significant as Hilton's club lounge network. Still, the value proposition from many IHG hotels allows it to compete heartily with Hilton.

Hilton

Hilton counts several family-friendly brands among its portfolio, but none is more perfectly suited than Embassy Suites, where all its accommodations are suites. In addition, these hotels offer complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast (for all guests, not just elite status members) and an evening cocktail hour with free snacks and drinks. Many hotels have pools and fitness centers, too.

Several other Hilton brands include free breakfast for all guests, including Hampton Inn, Home2 Suites, Homewood Suites and Tru by Hilton, making Hilton stays even more attractive. At other Hilton properties, a food and beverage credit good for breakfast is one of the benefits for those with Hilton Gold status or higher.

Many Hilton Honors family hotels offer club lounges including Hilton, Conrad and Waldorf-Astoria. Those with top elite status are treated to access, which can be beneficial for families. One sure-fire way to get access is by achieving Diamond status from the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

Business travel considerations

Best hotel for business travel: Hilton

IHG can't compete with Hilton's numerous full-service brand options.

IHG

IHG is making significant strides in this area as it grows some of its brands to meet the needs of business travelers and meeting groups. Crowne Plaza and InterContinental are well-poised for these markets. In addition, its extensive network of value-focused hotels like Holiday Inn and avid hotels serve business travelers on a budget well.

Hilton

With numerous full-service brands like Hilton and DoubleTree, plus luxury hotels like Conrad and Waldorf-Astoria, Hilton is poised to meet every price point. Value-focused brands like Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites, which provide more living space and kitchenettes, are also popular. In addition, Signia by Hilton is the brand's new meetings-focused hotel product with large-scale conference spaces. Hilton's size and robust presence in full-service and luxury hotels position it well for the business traveler.

If you're choosing between IHG and Hilton

Both hotel companies are well-suited for every type of traveler with ambitions to even out their roster of brands to provide different price points and lifestyle choices. Hilton wins out simply because of its prevalence in the value, midscale, full-service and luxury sectors, with more properties worldwide than IHG. However, its competition is working hard to match the size and scope and is poised to do so with a new loyalty program in IHG One Rewards.

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


How to maximize your rewards

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