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IHG Rewards cheat sheet for using your points

IHG Rewards cheat sheet for using your points

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This article was last updated Jun 08, 2016, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

While InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG®) doesn’t have one of the best hotel programs for high-value, luxury redemptions, it does offer some good value in the low to mid-tier hotel range along with a handful of good luxury redemptions. Read on to learn what you need to know to make the most of your IHG points.

What hotels can you book with IHG points?

IHG has over 5,200 hotels across over 100 countries. IHG has eight brands total where you can earn points and redeem points. The easiest way to understand each of these brands is to categorize them:

  • Premium: InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®
  • Lifestyle: Hotel Indigo®, EVEN® Hotels, Hualuxe
  • Mid-Range: Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express®
  • Limited Service: Staybridge Suites®, Candlewood Suites®

In addition to the brands listed above, another grouping of brands that fall under the IHG Umbrella are Kimpton hotels. Currently, points earning and redemptions are not applicable to Kimpton hotels, but at some point in the future that may change. Up to date information on the IHG/Kimpton merger is available here.

How many points does a free night cost?

The cost of a free night at an IHG hotel ranges from 5,000 points per night for a PointBreaks® promotional hotel (more on this later) up to 40,000 points per night for a Category 9 hotel. IHG has many hotels that fall well within the middle of the redemption range. Unless you are staying city center or at at an InterContinental brand hotel, you will most likely be looking to pay between 20,000 and 40,000 points per night.

Tip: One downside to IHG® Rewards is that reward nights are capacity controlled. This is the most noticeable with PointBreaks® hotels which will often sell-out at the promotional rate of 5,000 points within the first day of being offered. In practice, you often will only run into problems with this capacity control when booking very popular hotels or at very popular times.

What are Points + Cash awards?

IHG also has Points + Cash awards, that are somewhat unique in their execution. For $40 you can get a 5,000 point discount on an award and for $70 you can get a 10,000 point discount on an award. Unlike other hotels that offer Points + Cash options, with IHG you are actually buying the additional points for that dollar amount.

This means that if you cancel a Point + Cash award night, you will not be refunded the dollar amount you spent, but rather you will have the additional 5,000 or 10,000 points returned to your account. This presents a unique ability to purchase points at a discounted rate which we will elaborate on later. If you find yourself short on points, Points + Cash awards are a great option.

How much does an upgrade cost?

Upgrades with points are not available in the IHG program, however you may be able to upgrade by paying a cash surcharge at time of check in, subject to availability and the policies of the hotel.

Good Deal Redemptions

IHG has a lot of great hotels all over the world and you really won’t run into all that many places where there isn’t an IHG hotel option.

A few of the best resorts to redeem your IHG points at are the InterContinental Paris Le Grand, InterContinental Amsterdam Amstel, and InterContinental Bora Bora & Thalasso Spa. All of these hotels regularly cost over $500 per night for weekend rates and can have rates closer to, or even over, $1,000 per night.

The InterContiental Paris LeGrand and InterContinental Bora Bora both cost 60,000 points per night while the InterContinental Amsterdam Amstel will run you 50,000 points per night. Even at the low end of the spectrum, you are looking to get about 1 cent per point in value ($500.00/50,000 points = $0.01).

Interested in staying in an all-inclusive resort on points? IHG has a couple of options that will work for you in Jamaica and Mexico. IHG all-inclusives generally cost between 30,000 and 50,000 points per night for two people. Redeeming points for all-inclusives is great because not only do you have a free hotel room, but you also receive food and drinks for no additional cost. The only additional cost you need to consider is getting to the hotel. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, some activities, and more is included in your rate. For this reason it is difficult to determine an exact value per point, but it could easily reach into the multiple cents per point range.

How IHG PointBreaks work

IHG® PointBreaks® hotels are hands down one of the best parts of the program. Every couple of months IHG releases a list of PointBreaks® hotels, a group of hotels that offer a promotional redemption rate of only 5,000 points per night for the next two (or so) month period.

It is impossible to predict what hotels will be included during each period, and generally it is filled with lower end properties, but if the hotels on the list coincide with your travel plans it’s hard to beat 5,000 points per night.

Every once in awhile there will be a real gem on the list like the InterContinental Tahiti which made it onto the PointBreaks® list in 2013.

What is the cancellation policy for an award night?

The cancellation policy of award nights is dependent on the hotel. Most hotels will only require 24 hour advance notice, while some may have a more strict cancellation policy. Always be sure to double check the cancellation rules before you book. If you cancel, you should see the points deposited back into your account within minutes.

Can you turn IHG points into airline miles?

It is possible to convert IHG Points to airline miles. It will cost you 10,000 IHG points to convert to 2,000 airline miles, and you have many airlines to choose from. In order to convert points to miles, you will need to contact IHG® Customer Care.

Tip: It is generally not advisable to transfer IHG points to airline miles because of the poor transfer ratio. If you need to top off an account for a redemption or otherwise would absolutely never use the points, it may be justifiable, but you will receive much higher value by redeeming the points for hotel nights.

What is an IHG point worth?

We value IHG points at 0.5 cents each. For example, you can book the Intercontinental Century City near Los Angeles for 50,000 points a night, versus about $275 if you paid in cash, getting about 0.5 cents in value. The Intercontinental in San Francisco costs 60,000 points a night, and often goes for around $300 a night in cash. Searchers on HotelHustle.com on average get a bit more value than that for awards. And using PointBreaks or saving points for days when cash rates are unusually high can get you substantially more value.

Can you share points?

It is possible to share IHG points by transferring them to another member’s account. Points can be transferred in 1,000 point increments for a cost of $5.00 per 1,000 points.

Can you purchase points?

IHG points can be purchased directly from IHG in 1,000 point increments, up to 60,000 points per year. Point prices depend on how many you are buying:

  • 1,000-10,000 points: $13.50 per 1,000 (1.35 cents per point)
  • 11,000-25,000 points: $12.50 per 1,000 (1.25 cents per point)
  • 26,000-60,000 points: $11.50 per 1,000 (1.15 cents per point)

There is an even less expensive way to purchase points, but it is a less direct method and will require you to have at least 5,000 points already in your account. We mentioned above that when paying for a Point + Cash rate, you are actually purchasing points with the cash part of the rate. As a reminder, you receive the following ‘discounts’ for the cash paid:

  • 5,000 point ‘discount’ – $40.00
  • 10,000 point ‘discount’ – $70.00

What this really means is that you are purchasing 5,000 points for $40.00 (0.8 cents per point) or 10,000 points for $70.00 (0.7 cents per point) when you book a Points + Cash rate. Upon canceling that stay, all points are returned to your account and cash is not refunded. Here’s an example.

The Crowne Plaza: Memphis Downtown can be booked for 25,000 points per night. It also has Points + Cash Rates of 20,000 points + $40.00 and 15,000 points + $70.00. If you book one night for 15,000 points + $70.00, you are really purchasing 10,000 points for $70.00. If you then cancel that hotel night, 25,000 points will be returned to your IHG account. This method of purchasing points costs less than purchasing them directly through the IHG Purchase Points link.

How do you earn points?

You are able to earn points for every stay at an IHG hotel, with the exception of Kimpton hotels. You will earn 10 points per dollar spent at Crowne Plaza®, Hotel Indigo®, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express®, and InterContinental Hotels. You will earn 5 points per dollar spent at Staybridge Suites® and Candlewood Suites® hotels. If you achieve a higher status level with IHG you will earn more points for each stay. Gold members receive 10,000 bonus points after 10 qualifying nights during a calendar year, Platinum members receive 40,000 bonus points after 40 qualifying nights in a calendar year, and Spire members receive 75,000 bonus points after 75 qualifying nights in a calendar year.

IHG runs various promotions throughout the year where you can receive bonus points for staying different numbers of nights at different brands. Promotions usually require registration ahead of time.

Tip: In addition to hotel stays, you can earn points for purchasing goods and services with IHG Partners.

What stays qualify to earn points?

Almost all rates that are booked through IHG.com receive stay and points credit. If you decide to book through a third party travel site such as hotels.com, Orbitz, or Expedia then you will not receive any points or stay credit towards your room rate. There have been scattered reports that you may still receive points on eligible dining charges that are posted to your room.

IHG does have a Best Rate Guarantee program that will match a better rate found on third party websites. If you find a better rate elsewhere, you will receive one night of your stay for free.

How can you earn Gold Elite status?

Gold status can be earned by staying at IHG hotels. In order to earn Gold status you must do one of the following within a calendar year:

  • Stay 10 qualifying nights
  • Earn 10,000 base points

The additional benefits for having Gold status are:

  • Points don’t expire
  • Priority check in
  • 10% bonus points

How can you earn Platinum Elite Status?

The easiest way to earn Platinum Elite status is to hold the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card issued by Chase. In addition to being able to earn Platinum Elite status by holding the credit card, you can also earn it by one of the following:

  • Stay 40 nights
  • Earn 40,000 base points

The benefits of obtaining Platinum Elite status are the same as Gold with the following additions:

  • 50% bonus points (instead of 10%)
  • Elite rollover nights
  • Complimentary upgrades
  • Guaranteed room availability

Receiving Platinum Elite status through the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is going to give you the most bang for your buck as IHG status is not really worth very much. The 50% bonus is nice, however, and the Free Night Certificate from IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card already makes it pay for itself.

How can you earn Spire Elite status?

Spire status can be earned in the following ways:

  • Stay 75 nights
  • Earn 75,000 base points

The benefits of obtaining Spire status are the same as Gold and Platinum with the following additions:

  • 100% bonus points (instead of 50% or 10%)
  • Exclusive choice benefit upon receiving status
  • Exclusive Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star upgrade upon receiving status

What cards earn IHG points?

IHG Points can be earned through a couple of different credit cards. Chase issues the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card which lets you earn 10 points per $1 spent when you stay at IHG hotels. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores & restaurants. Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases. You also get a free night each year of card membership at over 5,200 hotels worldwide and platinum elite status, as long as you’re a select credit cardmember.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

 

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Over the Past 60 Days!

Highlights
  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase in the first three months from account opening
  • Enjoy a Free Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a free reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
  • Earn 10 points per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre?® Fee Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
  • IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®

See additional details for IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

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The Annual Free Night Certificate is good for one night at an IHG hotel every year upon your cardmember anniversary. This certificate alone can make this credit card worth the $89 annual fee, saving you potentially hundreds of dollars on a hotel night.

IHG is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards®. As such, any premium Chase credit card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards®, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could be used to earn IHG points.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

 

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  • 50,000 bonus points

  • 2X points on travel and dining

  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

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Chase offers a few credit cards with no annual fee that earn Ultimate Rewards like the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Having these cards alone will not allow you to transfer to IHG because a premium Chase Card (Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card) is required in order to transfer points. Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer at a 1:1 ratio to IHG.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

 

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  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic!

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

  • No minimum to redeem for cash back

Highlights
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

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Chase Freedom®

 

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Over the Past 60 Days!

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

  • 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months

  • 16.74% - 25.49% Variable

Highlights
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

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In general, this is not the best way to earn IHG points as Ultimate Rewards has a lot of other transfer partners that are even more valuable than IHG, but if you need a few points for a redemption it may make sense.

The information related to the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Do IHG points expire?

If you have elite status with IHG, your points will not expire. If you do not have elite status, you will need to have qualifying activity at least once every 12 months. Qualifying activity counts as any points earning or redemption.

Check out this review of the IHG Premier Sign-Up Bonus.


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