November 21, 2017

IHG Rewards Club Overview

Intercontinental Hotel

The IHG Rewards club is a loyalty program for the following hotel brands:

  • InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
  • Kimpton
  • Hualuxe
  • Holiday Inn
  • Staybridge Suites
  • Hotel Indigo
  • Even Hotels
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Candlewood Suites

Elite Status Levels

IHG offers 4 status levels: Club, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, and Spire Elite.  The following chart highlights the benefits for each status level:

Earning IHG Status
IHG Status Levels

Notable Benefits

The most valuable benefits include Extended Check-out, no blackout dates for reward nights, free internet, and complimentary room upgrades.

IHG Spire vs Platinum Status

The only notable difference between top level Spire status and mid tier platinum status is the Exclusive Choice Benefit, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, and higher points earning bonus (100% vs 50%).  The Exclusive Choice Benefit provides you with the choice of 25,000 bonus points or gifting Platinum status to one other member.

The Hertz Gold Plus Five Star Rewards status benefit provides you with mid level Hertz status.  The most notable benefit is a one car class upgrade when using Hertz.  Represents an ok benefit if you happen to regularly use Hertz when renting cars.

Earning top level status requires 35 additional nights beyond Platinum status or 35,000 additional IHG points.  Based on the current list of benefits, I really don’t believe it makes sense to pursue Spire status unless you already regularly stay at IHG properties.

IHG Platinum vs. Gold Status

Platinum status offers higher points earning bonus (50% vs. 10%), complimentary room upgrades, elite rollover nights, and guaranteed room availability.  In return for those benefits you need to stay 40 nights or earn 40,000 Elite Qualifying Points.

Platinum status does provide good value compared to gold.  In fact, I believe Platinum status provides better value than Spire status.  Late checkouts and complimentary room upgrades are good benefits if you regularly stay at IHG properties.

Shortcuts to Status

The best shortcut to IHG status is with the IHG Rewards Club credit card.  The credit card is issued through Chase and carries a $49 annual fee.  Credit card holders receive Platinum status as long as the card remains open.

The credit card includes one free night after each account anniversary at any hotel in the IHG portfolio.  The best way to use the free night is at the luxury InterContinental hotel which would more than offset your $49 annual fee.

The IHG credit card comes with a signup bonus that ranges around 60,000 points.  In the past, this used to qualify as Elite Qualifying Points, but IHG closed that loop hole.  Points earned from regular credit card spending does qualify towards elite status, but the points generated from the one time sign up bonus do not.

Earning Platinum Status

If you regularly stay at IHG hotels and wanted to pursue top level status, the best way to do it would be through credit spending with the IHG credit card.  The IHG credit card provides a 2x multiple for spending at restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations.  The IHG credit card also provides a 5x spending multiple for spending at IHG hotel stays.

So by staying at an IHG property that earns a base 10x (5x at Staybridge and Candlewood), you earn a combined 15x for each dollar spent when using the IHG credit card.

Assuming each hotel stay averages $250 per night and you also use your credit card for spending at restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations, you could potentially reach elite status by spending just 17 nights in a hotel and spending $10,200 on your IHG credit card.

IHG Platinum Status
Earning IHG Status with Credit Card Spend

Spending just 15 nights to achieve top level status is much more reasonable, especially if you travel regularly for work.  However, as I said before, I don’t believe Spire status provides much benefit beyond Platinum status.

Status Matches / Challenges

IHG used to match status with other hotel brands, but recent reports on statusmatcher.com show IHG declining status match requests.  It never hurts to ask, but expect a low probability of success.

Earning IHG Points

When staying at the Staybridge and Candlewood Suites brand, you earn 5 IHG points for every $1 spent.  You earn 10 IHG points for every $1 of spend when staying at the Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Hualuxe, and Even Hotels.

In order to qualify for status, you have the option of qualifying based on nights or based on Elite Qualifying points.  Elite Qualifying Points are defined as follows:

  • Qualifying rates paid for hotel stays
  • Select Partner Activity
  • Spend on IHG Rewards Club credit cards
  • IHG Rewards Club Bonus Points packages
  • Qualified Spend through IHG Business Rewards spending

Points That Do Not Qualify as Elite Qualifying Points:

  • Points earned from IHG promotions
  • Elite status bonuses
  • Activation bonuses
  • Select promotions offered through IHG Rewards Club credit cards
  • Select partner promotions
  • Point vouchers
  • Point purchases
  • Point transfers
  • Point deposits

Redeeming Points

IHG allows you to redeem points for the following:

  • Reward Nights – free stay at any hotel within the IHG brand with no blackout dates
  • Shopping – An online catalog which allows you to redeem for a range of consumer items.
  • Gift Cards – Online catalog of popular gift card options.
  • Points and Cash – Use a combination of points and cash towards a free hotel stay within the IHG brand.
  • Travel Anywhere – An unusual program that allows you to use IHG points to redeem towards flights, hotels, and car rentals with a variety of different companies including competitors.
  • Digital Rewards – Redeem points towards a variety of ebooks, games, and software.
  • Points to Miles – Convert IHG points into Aeromexico miles at a rate of 10,000 IHG points to 2,000 Aeromexico miles.
  • Donate to the IHG Foundation.
  • Buy, Gift, or Transfer Points – Allows you to purchase additional IHG points or transfer to another member. Points can be purchased at the following rates:
    • 1,000 to 10,000 points for $13.50 per 1,000 points (1.35 cents per point)
    • 11,000 to 25,000 points for $12.50 per 1,000 points (1.25 cents per point)
    • 26,000 to 60,000 points for $11.50 per 1,000 points (1.15 cents per point)

In general, the best ways to redeem IHG points are by using the points towards free hotel stays (Reward Nights) or with a combination of points and cash.  However, if you have a low amount of points and want to use them before they expire (points expire 12 months from the date your status returns to the basic club level), redeeming towards the shopping, gift cards, or digital rewards category can make sense.

Reward Nights Redemptions

Unfortunately, IHG does not provide an award chart to determine the points cost to redeem your points towards a free night.  These charts typically categorize hotels based on various categories and provide a point cost for each category.

This makes comparing points redemptions more challenging.  I did a search for a one night stay in New York Times Square on Friday June, 2 2017 for one night.  The point redemption costs represent the cost for one free night in IHG points.  The cash cost was based on the price listed on the web site and the value per point represents the cash cost divided by the points cost.

IHG Free Night
Free night cost in points.

The general points cost coincides with the perceived quality level of each hotel.  The InterContinental represents IHG’s luxury brand and the Crowne Plaza, Staybridge, and Holiday Inn represent mid tier brands within IHG’s brand portfolio.

The interesting thing to note, is that even though the Intercontinental costs the most in points, the value of your points redemption represents the least value in dollars because on this particular night, some of the mid tier hotel brands actually cost more than the InterContinental.

This could be due to differences in availability or any number of other reasons.  Since IHG doesn’t publish an award chart, it really makes it challenging to draw any conclusions because these points levels are subject to change without notice.

Even though it represents the least value per point, I would still rather use my points at an Intercontinental hotel, which represents IHG’s flagship luxury property.

Intercontinental Ambassador Program

The Intercontinental Ambassador status represents a paid status option that is only applicable at InterContinental Hotel & Resorts properties.  This is an important distinction since there are only 182 InterContinental Hotel properties in the world and just 25 properties in the US.

Intercontinental Ambassador status is available to purchase for $200 or 32,000 IHG points.  Members can renew each year for $150 thereafter.  Intercontinental Ambassador membership includes the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed room upgrade (one category upgrade over the purchased room rate).
  • Complimentary weekend night certificate (valid on 2nd night of a paid weekend stay).
  • Choice of snack or fruit with mineral water upon arrival.
  • 4pm late checkout
  • One complimentary pay TV film per stay
  • In room welcome gift
  • Instant checkout
  • Automatic upgrade to IHG gold status when not staying at Intercontinental Hotel properties.

At first glance, paying $200 for Ambassador status does not seem to represent a compelling offer.  The biggest drawback being the small number of InterContinental properties.  However, if you are someone who stays at Intercontinental properties on a somewhat regular basis, Ambassador status can represent a good value.

By simply utilizing the annual complimentary weekend night certificate, you can frequently cover the cost of maintaining the status.  If you then stay at an Intercontinental hotel on a periodic basis over the course of the year, the complimentary room upgrade and late checkout benefits can represent good value.

Royal Ambassador Status

Royal Ambassador status is available on an invite only basis and is determined based on the member’s activity over the prior 12 months at Intercontinental properties.  Benefits of Royal Ambassador only apply at Intercontinental hotels and include:

  • Two category complimentary room upgrades.
  • Access to the club lounge.
  • Complimentary beverages from the room mini bar.
About First Class Travel Guide 127 Articles
Travel enthusiast that spent years flying in the back of planes and staying at cheaper hotels in order to save a little money. After learning how to leverage airline and hotel loyalty programs, I've developed an interest in luxury travel and write about my experiences with it.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*