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With over 6,000 hotels and resorts worldwide, IHG is among the largest hotel programs in the world — giving you plenty of opportunities to redeem hotel points for free night stays. Its diverse hotel portfolio and extensive footprint makes IHG One Rewards a valuable loyalty program for many travelers, whether you’re staying at a Holiday Inn, the InterContinental, the Kimpton or one of the several other IHG hotel brands.
And should you be so inclined, you don’t necessarily need to redeem IHG points for hotel night stays. Other ways to use IHG points include transferring them to partner airlines, redeeming them for gift cards, and more. But not all redemptions are created equal.
Some IHG hotels will give you better value for the same amount of points than others. Redeeming IHG points for hotels almost always gives you a better value than redeeming them for stuff, other non-IHG travel or gift cards. So with that, here are six ways to redeem your IHG points, sorted from best to worst.
What are IHG points worth?
Before we jump into the best ways to redeem IHG points for maximum value, let's cover what IHG points are worth. We currently value IHG One Rewards points at 0.8 cent each.
Of course, everyone's “best use” depends on their own travel goals, but you can use this as a baseline value for what you should expect to get from your points.
» Learn more: IHG One Rewards: More value for the frugal traveler
6 ways to maximize IHG points
1. Redeem IHG points for free nights
Whether you're looking to stay in overwater bungalows or budget hotels, redeeming IHG points for award nights (almost always) provides the best value. Award nights start at just 10,000 points (and typically run up anywhere as high as 100,000 points per night). And, there are no blackout dates, meaning you can even use them on otherwise-popular nights, such as holidays.
However, IHG does cap reward night inventory, so book early. Even if rooms are available at cash rates, they might not necessarily still be available for reward redemptions.
So how do you know if redeeming IHG points for free nights is better than paying the cash rate? Because there’s no public IHG award chart, you’ll have to do some legwork yourself. Find out the cash rate for a room (including all other taxes and fees), and then run the search again and compare it against the points rate.
Once you have that, you’ll have to understand what an IHG point is worth. As a rough guideline, you should aim to get at least 0.8 cent in value per point. If you have IHG points to burn, it might make sense to redeem the points even if your points value nets out to be slightly less, just because we typically don’t recommend sitting on too many points (hotel points inflation is real). But if the cash value is significantly better, then you might want to save your points for a better hotel redemption.
And yes, some IHG redemptions are far better than others. Certain international IHG properties turn out to be especially impressive redemptions. Check out these IHG sweet spots to find the best deals on IHG point redemptions.
» Learn more: Your guide to booking award nights with IHG hotels
2. Top off free anniversary night certificate redemptions
When you hold the IHG® One Rewards Premier Credit Card, you'll get a free night certificate each cardmember year valid toward a hotel night costing up to 40,000 points per night.
But what happens when the hotel you want is 42,000 points? The IHG One Rewards program is pretty generous when it comes to redeeming these things.
As of 2022, IHG lets cardmembers add unlimited points from their IHG One Rewards account to redeem the Anniversary Free Night at hotels above the 40,000 point level. Previously, if you used your certificate for a property that was only 38,000 points, that was 2,000 points of lost opportunity cost. Now, you can max out the certificate's value. And while you might not book something exactly at 40,000 points, you can book something that's more and use your remaining points to cover the rest — ensuring no point value is left on the table.
By the way, considering 40,000 IHG points are worth about $320, maxing out that value can easily justify the IHG® One Rewards Premier Credit Card card’s $99 right there.
3. Book stays of at least four nights
Here’s another redemption hack that’s essentially a 25% discount for booking on points.
When you book a rewards stay of four or more consecutive nights, the price of the fourth night is free for some travelers. The key word is “some.” To qualify for this fourth-night free deal, you’ll have to hold an IHG credit card. Both the IHG® One Rewards Traveler Credit Card and the IHG® One Rewards Premier Credit Card can qualify for the deal.
What’s more, you can use this benefit an unlimited number of times annually. The more you stay, the more you benefit. The benefit also holds true whether you are redeeming points for an otherwise $50 budget hotel or a fancy $500 per night resort.
Keep in mind that you’re still on the hook for other incidental charges like parking fees or mandatory resort fees, should they apply to your stay (including the fourth free night).
Still, IHG's fourth night free is also far more generous than competitors like Hilton and Marriott. For example, the Hilton Honors program offers a similar benefit for booking on points, but rather than fourth, it's fifth night free. Thus, you're only getting a 20% (versus 25%) discount when booking Hilton award nights, and your trip is less flexible as you'll have to stay at least five nights to take advantage of the deal.
4. Convert IHG points to airline miles
IHG has partnerships with about 40 airlines, allowing you to exchange your IHG points for airline miles. In most cases, the transfer ratio is 10,000 IHG points for 2,000 airline miles. Just like the value of hotel points, airline miles also have their own values which can vary widely by value. But in almost all cases, your IHG points lose a lot of value when you convert them to miles — no matter what airline.
If you must convert IHG points to miles, just check the value of the miles corresponding with the airline you want to transfer to, as you’ll find some deals are far better than others. For example, you can convert 10,000 IHG points (worth about $80) into 2,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points, which NerdWallet values at about $40. Similarly, you can convert 10,000 IHG points to 2,000 United MileagePlus miles. But NerdWallet values 2,000 United miles at just $20.
Both currency conversions are pretty bad deals, but the United conversion is twice as bad as the Air Canada one.
Plus, it usually takes an annoyingly long two to three weeks for the conversion to go through, so — if you go this route — don’t plan on booking the flight the same day you send your IHG points to your airline’s frequent flyer program.
And yet another headache with this redemption: You have to get on the phone. To transfer IHG points to airline miles, you’ll have to call the IHG One Rewards Service Center (sorry, you can’t do it over the web). Those phone numbers are:
In the U.S. and Canada: 888-211-9874.
In Mexico: 001 800-272-9273.
5. Donate IHG points to charity
This redemption doesn’t necessarily mean the highest dollar value, but might have the highest feel-good value: donating your points to charity. IHG partners with a handful of charities including the American Red Cross, JA Worldwide, WRAP and OzHarvest.
You can make donations starting at 2,500 (otherwise worth about $20). Oddly though, IHG doesn't disclose how many dollars the charity you choose will receive for your points donation.
6. Buy stuff in the IHG catalog
Here’s another redemption we usually caution against, but it can occasionally make sense: buying stuff in the IHG catalog. This is IHG’s own online shopping portal where, instead of paying cash for items (which include shoes, jewelry, electronics, kitchen tools and more), you pay with points.
Just beware, this tends to be a horrible value for your points. For example, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Forever Eau de Parfum that sells for $68 at Sephora would cost 36,000 IHG points, which we believe are worth $288 when used to pay for hotels.
Unless you seriously never intend on using your IHG points on hotel rooms, skip this redemption.
Other important notes when redeeming IHG points
Points expire after 12 months of account inactivity. IHG membership points typically expire if your account becomes inactive for 12 months — which means a year of neither earning nor redeeming rewards. If you don’t stay at an IHG property at least one year (and you don’t have an IHG credit card), it might feel tough to keep your account active.
But it doesn’t have to be. You can earn IHG points without even staying at an IHG property or holding an IHG credit card by participating in IHG’s dining rewards program. If earning IHG points feels impossible, this is where some of those subpar redemptions (like donating points or buying a low-cost item from the IHG catalog) can make sense.
Understand the value: In general, we recommend that you’re getting at least 0.8 cent per point in value.
If the cost to buy a hotel room (or some Dolce & Gabbana perfume) in cash is more than its point value, then you’ve found yourself a good IHG redemption.
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