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For frequent travelers who enjoy staying at IHG® hotel properties, being part of the IHG® Rewards Program can help you earn free nights, perks and privileges. One of the best ways to accumulate those points is by getting one of the co-branded IHG® credit cards from Chase: The IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card or the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card. While these cards are similar, the latter has an annual fee but a bigger sign-up bonus and points-earning potential.
Choosing between the two cards really depends on how much traveling you do, and if achieving status in the Rewards Program is important to you.
IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card vs. IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
|Best if ...||You want to earn points toward free nights without a fee.||You want to earn higher-level benefits and status.|
|Earnings Rate||Earn up to 17 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on purchases on monthly bills, gas stations, and restaurants. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases.||Earn up to 26 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel. Earn 5 points per $1 spent on purchases on travel, gas stations, and restaurants. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases.|
|Sign-up Bonus||Earn 120,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening||Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening|
|Annual Bonus||None||10,000 bonus points per year if you spend $20,000 and make one additional purchase; anniversary night at an eligible hotel every year|
|Estimated Sign-up Bonus Value (points x 0.5 estimated point value)||$600||$700|
|Other Benefits||Earn Gold Elite Status when you spend $10,000 per year on the card; fourth night free when you redeem points on a stay of four or more nights.||Platinum Elite Status; Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit of up to $100 every four years; fourth night free when you redeem points on a stay of four or more nights.|
Which IHG® credit card should you choose?
Choosing a hotel credit card should always start by figuring out your needs.
Choose the IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card if …
You want to earn rewards to put toward occasional hotel stays and you have a brand loyalty to IHG® hotels, but don’t want to pay an annual fee.
Choose the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card if …
You want to achieve tier status in IHG®'s Rewards Program, and you plan to do enough travel to take advantage of the extra card benefits and outearn the annual fee.
How do the IHG® credit cards compare?
The best way to describe how the two IHG® cards compare is to think of the IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card as an introductory product, and the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card as an upgrade for luxury perks. For those who plan to get away a few times per year and enjoy IHG® properties, the IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card should suffice. On the other hand, frequent travelers who want to score higher-end VIP travel perks will find the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card well worth the annual fee.
Earning IHG® points
Both IHG® cards award points in the same categories, but their earning rates on IHG® Hotel & Rewards purchases differ. With the IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card, customers Earn up to 17 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on purchases on monthly bills, gas stations, and restaurants. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card holders Earn up to 26 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel. Earn 5 points per $1 spent on purchases on travel, gas stations, and restaurants. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Sign-up bonuses are typically a big draw for co-branded hotel cards. The IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card lets you Earn 120,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening Based on our estimated point value, this bonus is worth approximately $600. That could be worth as much as three free nights depending on the property you choose.
The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card offers nearly double the amount of points, but with a higher-spending threshold: You'll Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. That’s around $700 in value, which can score as many as four free nights depending on a property’s redemption values.
Another perk of hotel cards is often an annual bonus or a free room night certificate. The entry level IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card does not offer any yearly benefits, however. This is where the higher-tier IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card stands out. Cardholders get a free night certificate on their card anniversary each year. The card also offers a 10,000-point bonus if you reach $20,000 of spending on the card each year.
While the IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card does charge $0 annual fee, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card has a $99 annual fee — but that fee could be worthwhile for certain types of spending styles. The free anniversary night on its own practically cancels it out — assuming you will use the certificate.
The card's higher sign-up bonus is also worth more than the IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card, which essentially covers the annual fee for three years. Note that you also need to consider if you can meet a higher spending minimum to activate that bonus.
Deciding if paying the annual fee is worth it really comes down to whether you stay often enough at IHG® hotels to take advantage of the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card's higher earning rate on hotel stays and hotel benefits.
Elite status benefits
The IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card does not offer any status to start, but cardholders can become Gold Elite members once they spend $10,000. Gold status unlocks benefits like extended checkout, points that don’t expire, priority check-in and 10% bonus earnings on points.
Of course, the higher the IHG® elite-status tier, the better the perks and benefits. The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card rewards automatic Platinum Elite status, no spending threshold required. This gives members access to all of the same Gold Elite benefits plus additional perks like complimentary room upgrades and 50% bonus earnings on base points.
Status chasers will be well served by the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card, whereas those who don’t plan on using such benefits might opt for the no-fee IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card.
Both cards offer a fourth night free when you redeem points on a stay of four or more nights. Cardholders of both programs also get travel protections including baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase protection and trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance.
However, only the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card offers a Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit of up to $100 every four years.
Tips for using your IHG® credit cards
To make the most of the IHG® credit cards' benefits, try to do the following:
- Spend the minimum amount required to earn the sign-up bonus for the card you choose, as it’s the biggest upfront reward you can get. Ideally, you should time your card application with a large purchase you were planning to make anyway.
- Use the card to book stays at IHG® hotels and make purchases on the properties.
- If you don’t have other rewards cards with better rates on gas, groceries and restaurants, consider using the card for those purchases as well.
- Take advantage of perks and benefits (such as the anniversary night on the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card, or the fourth night free offer on both).
FAQs about IHG® credit cards
Before you apply for one of the IHG® credit cards, here are some other things to know.
Do IHG® credit cards have foreign transaction fees?
Neither card charges foreign transaction fees.
Is an IHG® credit card worth it?
This is a matter of personal preference. If you are loyal to IHG® hotel brands when you travel, it is worth considering one of the cards. Whether or not you need the higher-level IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card depends on your travel spending. If you’d rather have more flexibility with how you redeem travel points, a general rewards card might be a better option.
Can you have both IHG® credit cards?
There really would be no benefit to having both cards as the rewards structure is the same.
Can you add an authorized user to an IHG® credit card?
You can add up to five additional authorized users to your account.
Do the bonus points from your IHG® credit card expire?
Your IHG® Rewards Club account will not expire as long as there is IHG® Rewards Club program activity within 12 months. You will lose all points that haven’t been transferred to IHG® Rewards Club if you close your card, or if your card account is closed for program misuse, fraudulent activities, failure to pay, bankruptcy or other reasons described in the terms of the Rewards Program Agreement.
To make choosing the right card easier, we've looked at credit cards reviewed on ValuePenguin as well as cards on major issuer sites to compile a list of the best rewards credit cards available right now. Our recommendations are based on the additional value you can earn with the cards — including the rewards value, cost of ownership and value of benefits such as travel and purchase protections, lounge membership and airline companion passes. Our choices are not influenced by our advertisers. Learn more on how we calculate rewards.
The information related to IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.