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Note: In January 2022, IHG announced an upcoming overhaul of its rewards program, including changes to elite status tiers and earning rates. The changes won't be rolled out until March 2022, but you can read more about it here in the meantime.
You may know the InterContinental Hotels Group from its popular hotel brands like Holiday Inn, Kimpton and Crowne Plaza. If you stay at IHG properties frequently or have the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you may be interested in their elite status benefits.
Here, we break down how the IHG elite status program works, how to earn the three different status tiers and how this program compares to other hotel elite programs. IHG’s program is fairly simple compared to some others, but there’s still plenty to cover.
Note that if you held IHG elite status as of Nov. 3, 2021, that status will extend through February 2023 without having to take any action.
How to earn IHG elite status
You can earn IHG elite status in one of three ways:
Complete enough elite qualifying nights within a calendar year.
Accumulate enough elite qualifying points within a calendar year.
Have the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which comes with IHG Platinum elite status, or the IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card, which comes with Gold elite status.
Purchase InterContinental Ambassador membership ($200 annually), which comes with automatic IHG Platinum Elite status.
In general, option 1 is the best route for those who spend a lot of nights in low-cost rooms, and option 2 applies to those who stay at high-end properties. If you mostly stay at InterContinental hotels, option 4 — while pricey — could even turn out to be a major money-maker.
If you're planning to earn IHG elite status through qualifying nights or points, here's how much you need to get to each status tier:
Elite qualifying nights required
Elite qualifying points required
What are elite qualifying nights?
Elite qualifying nights are generally non-discounted or corporate rates booked directly through IHG. Award nights (booked with points), nights booked through a third party like Hotels.com and other promotional nights do not count toward elite status.
What are elite qualifying points?
Elite qualifying points are a little more complicated. They include:
Points earned through qualifying nights (per the criteria above).
Points earned through spending on IHG-branded credit cards.
Bonus point packages.
Spending through IHG Business Rewards.
Examples of activity that doesn’t earn elite qualifying points include the following:
Elite status bonus points (explained below).
Co-branded credit card welcome bonuses.
Points that were purchased or transferred.
Points earned through IHG promotions.
How does IHG credit card holder elite status work?
Becoming an IHG credit card holder is generally the simplest (and lowest-cost) method of obtaining IHG elite status. The IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card comes with Gold elite status, while the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card offers Platinum elite status. That’s all there is to it.
Unfortunately, status earned in this way does not get you any closer to the higher tier levels. That is, if you want to get to Spire elite status from the Platinum status earned through the Premier card, you have to start from the bottom.
» Learn more: IHG Rewards: More value for the frugal traveler
Benefits of each status tier
Each tier offers its own benefits, with Platinum offering all the benefits of Gold, plus more, and Spire offering all the benefits of Platinum, plus more. Here are the most important benefits from each status level:
10% bonus on base points.
Points don’t expire.
Welcome amenity (e.g., bottles of water, a free alcoholic drink at the bar or — at Six Senses properties, a "wellness platter.").
50% bonus on base points.
Free room upgrades when available.
Late check-out when available.
Points don’t expire.
100% bonus on base points.
Exclusive choice benefit when status is achieved.
Free room upgrades when available.
Late checkout and early check-in when available.
Extra nights rollover to next year’s qualification.
Points don’t expire.
Free minibar credit at participating hotels.
The InterContinental Ambassador program
IHG offers a unique membership level for those who stay frequently at InterContinental properties, called the InterContinental Ambassador program. It’s really more of a paid membership program with elite status perks. Membership costs $200, and benefits of the InterContinental Ambassador program include:
Guaranteed room upgrade.
Guaranteed late checkout.
IHG Platinum elite status.
$20 restaurant and bar credit per stay.
Complimentary weekend night when booking a paid weekend night.
The InterContinental Ambassador program is especially worth it for stays at Six Senses properties. Additional Ambassador benefits exclusive to stays at those properties include:
Complimentary breakfast for two in the main restaurant each day.
Signature amenity of either a complimentary 50-minute Six Senses Spa massage for two or a local experience, redeemable once per stay.
Early check-in of 10 a.m., though this benefit is subject to availability for Ambassador members.
This status tier is unique because it's something you pay for, rather than something you can earn through extreme loyalty. But if you really want elite status, but don't want to spend the many nights and hundreds of dollars to get there, joining the InterContinental Ambassador program is an intriguing option to quickly buy your way into VIP status.
How much is IHG elite status worth?
IHG’s three tiers of elite status range in value from $13 to more than $1,000.
To determine the value of IHG elite status, we performed a comprehensive analysis across all hotel brands, factoring in aspects of hotel elite status that offer fairly quantifiable benefits, like welcome amenities (hello, bottle of water!), room upgrades and benefits like free breakfast (at some other hotel brands).
By our estimates:
IHG Gold status is worth $13.
IHG Platinum status is worth $260.
IHG Spire status is worth $1,088.
You also need to consider the cost to earn those benefits — or as we call it, the “elite earning rate.” By dividing the benefits by the cost, you can determine that elite earning rate for each level.
Value of benefits
Cost to earn
Elite earning rate
The bottom line
Is IHG elite status worth it? IHG generally isn’t known for high-end properties, and its elite status program certainly isn’t the most luxurious out there. Sure, you’ll earn a few bonus points and get nice perks like late checkout, but even the highest Spire status lacks really valuable perks like free breakfast and suite upgrades.
For most IHG loyalists, the Platinum status provided by the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card offers enough perks without the hassle of tracking elite qualifying nights and stays. Or, if you anticipate staying mostly at InterContinental hotels, you'll likely find that joining the InterContinental Ambassador program is worth the cost given not just the automatic Platinum status, but additional perks like that free weekend night certificate.
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 2022, 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