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The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is one of our favorite hotel credit cards, but given the $99 annual fee, you’ll likely want to give it an extra look before applying. After all, the rewards rate on spending outside of IHG hotels is a solid “meh,” and you might not want to be juggling more than one or two credit cards.
So is the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card one worthy of making the cut, and is it worth the annual fee? Here’s what you need to know.
Our IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card review
We'll give you the tl;dr: If you stay at an IHG hotel — be it a Holiday Inn, an InterContinental, a Kimpton or one of its several other brands — at least once a year, you can easily justify the card’s $99 annual fee.
What’s more, NerdWallet’s detailed analysis of the card’s rates, fees, rewards and other features yielded a swoon-worthy 5 out of 5 star rating. Read the full review of the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card to learn more.
The most valuable benefits of the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is one of two IHG branded credit cards (the other is the IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card, which has a $0 annual fee).
Here are some of its best benefits.
Earn 26 points per dollar spent at IHG hotels
When you pay for an IHG stay with this card, you’ll earn 26 total points per $1 spent. Here’s how that breaks down:
10 points for paying with the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card.
10 points from your free IHG One Rewards Club membership — you'll be automatically enrolled when approved for the card if you previously weren't a member.
6 points from Platinum Elite Status, an automatic benefit of card ownership.
Then, there’s another opportunity for bonus points: You’ll earn an additional 10,000 bonus points and $100 statement credit each account anniversary year during which you spent at least $20,000 and an additional purchase at least one day after you reach the spend threshold.
Multiple opportunities for free nights
For starters, you’ll get a certificate for a free night at an IHG property priced at 40,000 points or less, each account anniversary year. Then, when you book on points, you’ll get a fourth reward night free when you redeem points for a stay of four nights or more.
Receive automatic elite status
Holding the card could get you sweet room upgrades to make your vacation a little more luxurious, and it can get guaranteed reservations in otherwise sold-out rooms if you need to make a last-minute trip. That’s because holding this card gets you automatic IHG Platinum Elite status. Platinum Elite status benefits include:
Complimentary room upgrades when available.
Guaranteed room availability for reservations made at least 72 hours before the date of arrival.
$30 In-Room Spa Credit.
NerdWallet calculated the value of the benefits offered by the major hotel elite status tiers and found that IHG Platinum Elite delivers $1,710 in value.
Travel benefits outside IHG
Most of the benefits of holding this card make your time at an IHG hotel better, but there are benefits that extend to other aspects of your travels, including a Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit and other travel and purchase protections. Those include baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase protection and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.
Check out our running list with tons more reasons to apply for the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card.
How it compares with other hotel credit cards
In general, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card’s $99 annual fee is relatively low compared with other hotel credit cards.
Here are some of the most popular hotel credit cards and their annual fees:
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: $450 annual fee. Terms apply.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: $95 annual fee. Terms apply.
Hilton Honors American Express Card: $0 annual fee. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: $0 annual fee.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: $95 annual fee.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: $650 annual fee.
World of Hyatt Credit Card: $95 annual fee.
The IHG card sits pretty much in the middle. While Marriott and Hilton both offer cards with annual fees well over the $100-threshold, IHG doesn't.
Based on annual fee alone, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card most closely compares with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card and the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
If you’re ready to commit to a hotel credit card with an annual fee, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is a solid pick. It offers tons of benefits that easily outweigh its cost. But how does it stack up against the other, similarly-priced cards from other hotel brands?
If you’re married to one of those other brands — say, your company’s headquarters are next door to a Hyatt — then your decision is fairly easy. Go with the hotel credit card you’ll actually use. But if you just want free hotel room nights and elite status and don’t really mind which hotel company it’s from, then your decision is a bit more complicated. Here’s how they compare on a few of the most useful benefits:
Complimentary night certificate
IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
One at IHG hotels with redemption level of 40,000 points or less.
Earn 140,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Automatic Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
One if you spend $15,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year. Terms apply.
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.
Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status, or Honors Diamond status if you spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
One award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after your account anniversary.
Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card!
Automatic Silver Elite status.
World of Hyatt Credit Card
One at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort every year after your cardmember anniversary.
Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.
Automatic World of Hyatt Discoverist status.
In a lot of ways, the cards are similar. Most offer free anniversary night certificates (though Hilton’s card also requires a hefty minimum spend requirement). Each offers elite status, though what you get per tier of status varies. For example, Hilton Honors Gold members get free breakfast at most hotels, but IHG Platinum Elite members don’t. Perhaps a status benefit like free breakfast is a dealbreaker (and it very well could be if you have a large family, making a free hotel breakfast the exact time and headache-saver you needed).
Another factor to consider is your existing collection of credit cards. American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to some hotel chains, but not all of them. Same goes for Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. If you already have, say, a Chase Sapphire Reserve®, then the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card should be more appealing than the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card because Chase Ultimate Rewards® points transfer to IHG, but not Hilton.
Here are the following credit card points programs and what hotel programs their points transfer to:
American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards®
American Express Membership Rewards don't transfer directly to IHG. If you’re always booking flights with The Platinum Card® from American Express or you’re always racking up points from buying food at U.S. restaurants and U.S. supermarkets with your American Express® Gold Card, then an IHG-branded card might not be best for you. Then again, if your other cards are already in the Chase ecosystem, that’s another reason to consider the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card.
Smart ways to justify its cost
If you’ve decided you want an IHG-branded credit card, then you’ll still need to justify the cost of the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card over the no-annual-fee IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card. Luckily, it’s not tough to end up in the green, even with the card’s $99 annual fee.
Book a 40,000-point room with the free night certificate
Each year after your card holder anniversary, you'll receive a certificate good for a night at any eligible IHG hotel or resort that otherwise costs 40,000 points or less. Redemptions start at 10,000 points. And sure, you could redeem your free night certificate at the 12,500-point Holiday Inn in Columbia, Missouri, (hey, the pizza at nearby Shakespeare’s is great!), but room rates are usually less than $100 anyway.
It’s far easier to justify the card’s annual fee if you’re staying at an otherwise pricey hotel. Let’s say you were to book a stay at the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, Texas. With cash, you’d have to pay $319 per night on most nights. But since it typically runs for 40,000 points, you could use your free night certificate and save that $319.
Stay at least four nights for rewards bookings
You could use your points to book short getaways for one or two days, but it’s likely more strategic to save your points for trips lasting at least four nights.
That’s because the card allows you to get your fourth night free on consecutive stays of at least that many nights. Simply book a stay of four or more nights with IHG Rewards points, and IHG will automatically set the cost of the fourth night to zero points.
Say you’re spending four nights at the InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort, where rooms often go for 20,000 points per night. If you’ve only got 60,000 points, but have a four-night stay in the cards, you’re in luck. Non-card holders would pay 80,000 points for four nights, but you’ll only owe the cost of three nights or 60,000 points.
Use the Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit (or gift it to someone else)
Global Entry and TSA Precheck are two types of trusted-traveler programs that can get you through airport security and customs more quickly. Application fees cost $100 and $78 respectively, but you’ll receive a credit of up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card.
If you have TSA Precheck but not Global Entry, consider going for Global Entry, as you’ll get the benefits of TSA Precheck plus (if approved) expedited clearance upon arrival in the U.S.
If you already have Global Entry, consider giving this benefit to someone else. As long as you pay the application fee on your card, it doesn’t matter whose name is on the application.
Is the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card worth a 5/24 slot?
Though it's officially unpublished, Chase has a rule called 5/24, where to be approved for a Chase credit card, you must have fewer than five approvals for credit cards over 24 months. When applying for a new Chase credit card (such as this one), Chase counts that card as one of those five approvals.
If you’re someone who applies for a couple of credit cards every year, you’ll have to consider whether the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is worth holding not just because of its annual fee, but because it might potentially take away the opportunity to apply for other credit cards.
Before you make your decision:
Consider the welcome offer
The welcome offer is grand, and higher than that of many other cards: Earn 140,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers newcomers: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Since Chase Ultimate Rewards® points transfer 1:1 to IHG, it would seem that IHG’s offer is "better," and in many ways it is. But all of those IHG points are primarily only good at IHG hotels, while Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can be transferred to many more hotels. You might find the flexibility of fewer points more valuable.
Weigh other credit card benefits you’re potentially leaving on the table
While the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card certainly has good benefits, it doesn’t have them all. The points-earning rate on all purchases besides IHG rooms is a "meh."
If you’re looking for, say, a great dining rewards credit card, this isn't it. If you want airport lounge access, this card can’t help you. Weigh the benefits that matter most to you. If it’s sipping on champagne at an American Express Centurion Lounge, calculate how many cards you already have and if it’s feasible to apply for both this one and, say, The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Factor in long-term value
Some cards are great in their first year thanks to welcome offers, and end up collecting dust every subsequent year. Luckily, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card isn't one of those cards, thanks to the annual free night certificate, ongoing elite status and more.
The bottom line
As long as you’re willing to stay at hotels within the IHG portfolio, including Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Kimpton, EVEN Hotels and Indigo Hotels, then the $99 annual fee usually pays for itself solely based on the card’s premiere benefit — the free reward night.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Between accelerated points earnings on IHG stays, your fourth night free when you book on points, automatic elite status and more, it’s easy to see why the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is one of the best hotel credit cards out there.
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 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card