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IHG Rewards Program: Get Maximum Value from Your Points

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, Grand Cayman (Photo credit: IHG)

No matter how you like to travel, you probably stay in hotels at least some of the time. So why not rack up points for your stays? Every time your head hits that plush hotel pillow, you can rest easier knowing you're getting rewarded while you sleep.

Whether you regularly jet off to exotic locales, take the whole crew on fun family vacations or fly around the globe on business, you can likely benefit from joining the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) rewards program.

It's free to join this hotel loyalty program, which can help you leverage your travel spending to earn free hotel stays and other perks. You'll also maximize your earnings when you use the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

An intro to the IHG rewards program

The IHG Rewards Club® Loyalty Program allows you to earn points for staying at IHG properties, which include 15 brands that range from affordable hotel chains to extended-stay properties to international luxury resorts. IHG properties include over 5,200 destinations in more than 100 countries.

How to earn IHG rewards points: Get 10 points for every U.S. dollar you spend at most IHG brand hotels and resorts, or get five points for every U.S. dollar you spend at Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites, IHG's two extended-stay hotel brands. Earnings vary by brand.

The variety of lodging brands makes it easy to opt for an IHG property for any type of travel on almost any budget. For example, you might catch up on sleep at an Avid Hotel in Oklahoma City while taking a road trip with a pal, spend a week in the sun with your family at a Holiday Inn Resort in Orlando and then book your next big business meeting at the Crowne Plaza in Paris.

As an IHG rewards program member, you can earn points when you stay at IHG properties, get free hotel nights, and score special deals on activities and car rentals during your travels.

What can you get with IHG rewards program points?

Savvy Traveler Tip: If you've got a good eye for deals, keep the IHG Best Price Guarantee in mind. IHG promises the best rate online when booking directly with the hotel. If you find a better price somewhere else, IHG will match it and give you five times the IHG Rewards Club Points for your stay, up to 40,000 points.

IHG offers reward nights starting at 10,000 points for budget-friendly properties and up to 70,000 points for luxury hotels and resorts. While using your points for rewards nights offers the best value by far, you can also purchase gift cards, download entertainment, get airline miles or help a charity through IHG's online catalog.

What hotels fall under IHG?

It makes sense to join the IHG rewards program if you frequently stay, or would be willing to become a regular guest, at one or more hotels and resorts in IHG's group of brands. Here is an IHG brands list so you can get an idea of which properties may appeal to you:

IHG Hotels & Resorts brandsOverview of IHG brand
Avid HotelsIHG's newest brand, designed to appeal to millennials with fresh, modern community spaces and "everyday travel at a fair price"
Candlewood SuitesA casual extended-stay hotel chain
Crowne Plaza Hotels & ResortsAn upscale brand aimed at business travelers
Even HotelsA lifestyle hotel brand built around "best in class" fitness, healthy meals and wellness
Holiday InnA classic affordable hotel chain founded in the 1950s
Holiday Inn ExpressA midpriced chain that appeals to budget-savvy business travelers on the go
Holiday Inn ResortAn affordable resort brand that offers activities with the whole family in mind
Holiday Inn Club VacationsA brand that offers villas catering to families on vacation
Hotel IndigoA chain of stylish boutique hotels in which each property is unique
Hualuxe Hotels and ResortsAn upscale brand that caters to Chinese guests through design, etiquette and values
InterContinental Hotels & ResortsAn international luxury hotel brand that dates back to the 1970s
Kimpton Hotels & RestaurantsA boutique brand that features bold design and "thoughtful perks and amenities"
Regent Hotels & ResortsA "modern" collection that dates back to the 1970s and offers a "legacy of luxury"
Staybridge SuitesAn extended-stay brand built around comfort and convenience
VocoA lifestyle brand that offers "unstuffy" hotels for business and personal getaways
Crowne Plaza in Australia
Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia (Photo credit: IHG)
Savvy Traveler Tip: It typically costs at least 10,000 points to book a reward night, but you can get one at some properties for only 5,000 points with the IHG Rewards Club PointsBreaks program, which provides special IHG offers.

How to join the IHG rewards program

It's quick, easy and free to join the IHG rewards program. Just complete the IHG Rewards Club application, and you will start earning points on your next stay.

Once you have joined, go to the IHG homepage. Click the "Sign in" link at the top right of the page. You will be prompted to enter your email or member number and your PIN. Note that if you joined the program during a stay at a hotel, you may need to click the "create a PIN" link first. After you log in to your account, you'll be able to view your account activity, book stays and redeem points.

Do IHG Rewards Club points expire?

IHG Rewards Club points expire only if you go into "set it and forget it" mode with your account. If your account has no activity for 12 months and you haven't earned elite status, your membership points expire. To avoid losing your points, you'll simply need to keep your account active by earning or redeeming points once a year at any IHG brand hotel or with one of IHG's partners. This doesn't have to mean booking a vacation. You can keep IHG points from expiring by downloading a game, buying a gift card or going out to dinner.

And once you earn elite member status at any level, your rewards club points will never expire as long as you keep your status.

Benefits of IHG Rewards Club elite status

The elite status tiers within the program offer extra rewards to travelers who stay frequently at IHG hotels. One of the big benefits of earning elite status is that you get a percentage boost on the points you earn for your stays.

Depending on the tier, elite status can increase your points bonuses from 10% to 100% on all points earned from qualifying stays. Once you reach Platinum Elite status, you'll get extra perks such as guaranteed room availability and complimentary upgrades.

Savvy Traveler Tip: Book your stay directly with the hotel or through IHG reservations to ensure you get your points toward elite status. Booking through a third-party travel site such as Expedia, Orbitz or Booking.com could disqualify you from earning rewards for that stay.

How do you earn elite status in the IHG program?

In order to get IHG elite status, you'll need to book qualifying nights and earn qualifying points, which can include bonus points. Once you've earned elite status, you'll get to keep your status for the rest of the current year and the next calendar year.

Here's how qualifying nights, qualifying points and bonus points work together to allow you to earn IHG elite status:

  • Qualifying nights: A night stay counts toward elite status when you pay a qualifying room rate, which includes most business and leisure rates, and you book your stay through IHG's central reservations, an IHG hotel website, a travel agent or directly at the hotel.
  • Qualifying points: IHG Rewards Club Points are classified as either elite-qualifying or nonelite-qualifying points. Elite-qualifying points include those you earn for: qualified stays, purchases on an IHG Rewards Club credit card, bonus points packages and business rewards.
  • Bonus points: You can get 1,000 to 5,000 bonus points per stay by adding available packages at participating hotels. These bonus points count toward earning and maintaining elite status.

Tier
Qualifying nightsQualifying points
Club (nonelite)00
Gold Elite1010,000
Platinum Elite4040,000
Spire Elite7575,000

IHG Rewards Club Program Tiers

Wondering if getting IHG elite status is worth the effort? Here are the perks IHG members get at each level:

Club

To get Club level, which is nonelite, you'll simply fill out the enrollment form to join the IHG rewards program, and you're in. As an IHG Club member, you'll get:

  • 10 points at most hotels and resorts and five points on extended-stay properties for every dollar spent on stays.
  • Exclusive guaranteed best rate.
  • Dedicated customer service phone assistance.
  • No blackout dates for reward nights.
  • Free standard internet during stays.

Gold Elite

As an IHG Gold Elite member, you'll get all of the benefits of Club level, plus:

  • No expiration date on points.
  • Priority check-in.
  • Welcome amenity/raid the bar at Kimpton Hotels.
  • 10% bonus earning on top of base points.

Platinum Elite

As an IHG Platinum Elite member, you'll get all of the benefits of Gold Elite level, plus:

  • 50% bonus earning (rather than 10%) on top of base points.
  • Elite rollover nights, meaning if you have earned extra elite-qualifying nights in a calendar year, you may roll them over into the next year.
  • Guaranteed room availability for reservations made at least 72 hours before arrival.
  • Complimentary room upgrades, as determined by the hotel, which may include rooms on higher floors, corner rooms, newly renovated rooms or rooms with better views.

Spire Elite

As an IHG Spire Elite member, you'll get all of the benefits of Platinum Elite level, plus: 100% bonus earning (rather than 50%) on top of base points.

  • Choice of an annual 25,000-point bonus or the ability to give Platinum Elite status to a family member or friend.
  • Exclusive Hertz Gold Plus Rewards upgrade, which offers special discounts and perks when renting a car with Hertz.

How to buy IHG elite status

Want IHG elite status now? There is a way to get it without taking the time to earn it through hotel stays: Pull out your wallet. You can get IHG Platinum Elite status automatically by paying, with dollars or points, to join the InterContinental Ambassador Program. The program costs $200 or 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points per year. (Before you pay up, though, read on to learn how to get elite status practically for free by getting an IHG credit card.) The perks of this program include:

  • Elite status: Club, Gold, or Platinum Elite members will get Platinum Ambassador membership, which comes with Platinum Elite benefits; members with Spire Elite status will get Spire Ambassador membership and continue to receive Spire Elite benefits.
  • Room upgrades: Guaranteed one-category room upgrade (if not available, you'll get a one-night compensation either as a restaurant and bar credit of $50 or 10,000 points)
  • Late checkout: Guaranteed late 4 p.m. checkout (if not available, you'll get a one-night compensation in the form of either a restaurant and bar credit of $50 or 10,000 points)
  • Lounge access: Club InterContinental lounge access (if not available, you'll get a restaurant and bar credit of $100 per night not to exceed the upgrade supplement value)
  • Better connectivity: Complimentary premium internet access where available for purchase
  • Two for the price of one: Single-room rate for double occupancy
  • Free food and drinks: Complimentary breakfast, free mineral water, and a restaurant and bar credit of up to $20 per stay

How do I become an IHG Royal Ambassador?

This coveted top level of the IHG Ambassador Program comes by invitation only and includes exclusive perks such as a free night at an IHG hotel upon receiving the status and minibar credits of $50 a day and up to $200 per stay.

How credit cards work with the IHG program

If you don't want to pay just to become an elite, you're in luck. A credit card may be the easiest, fastest and best way to gain IHG Platinum Elite status and to grab your first free night.

With two IHG credit card options from Chase, you can earn a welcome bonus that will get you a free night in most of the highest-end IHG properties. In addition, you get to boost your points earnings on your stays by paying with your IHG credit card. Chase partners with IHG, allowing you to transfer your Chase points to IHG at a 1:1 ratio.

Here are your two options for IHG co-branded credit cards:

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has an $89 annual fee and gives you automatic Platinum Elite status with no spending required on your card. The card also offers excellent hotel perks for frequent travelers.

If you're looking for a card with more flexible rewards options, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® allow you to redeem points for different types of rewards or transfer points to several travel partner rewards programs, including the IHG program.

Endota Spa
Endota Spa at Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific (Image credit: IHG)

Ways to earn points in the IHG program

IHG credit card purchases and IHG stays, especially when you combine the two, are the best way to earn IHG points quickly. You can earn five to 10 points per dollar spent on qualifying stays, or turbocharge your earnings to as much as 25 points per dollar when you use your IHG credit card. Plus, the card comes with a generous sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Here are other ways to earn IHG points:

  • Plan business meetings and events. Earn 3 points per dollar when you book a meeting or event at an IHG hotel. Also earn Gold Elite status for booking one event and earn Platinum Elite status for booking two events.
  • Buy from partners. Earn points when you spend with one of IHG's partners, which include more than 10,000 restaurants. Hertz is also an IHG partner, and you can earn 125 points per day on a car rental.
  • Protect the planet. Earn 500 points when you decline housekeeping at an IHG property on a stay of two or more nights.
  • Rack up promotional points. Earn points from limited-time promotions from IHG that offer bonus points and/or partner credits. For example, IHG is offering new members 1,000 points to join and complete a survey. Keep in mind that these are nonelite-qualifying points.
  • Pay for points. You can buy extra points to redeem a reward, up to a maximum of 100,000 points in a calendar year. These points must be purchased in increments of 1,000 and won't qualify you for elite status.
  • Get points from a pal. Do you have a friend or family member who has extra points lying around? They can be transferred between IHG member rewards accounts at a cost of $5 per 1,000 points transferred. These points also won't qualify you for elite status.

Note: IHG has more than 40 airline partners, and you can earn airline miles by designating one of these frequent-flyer programs for your IHG points to get deposited as miles. Airline partners include American Airlines, Delta, Etihad Airways, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Qantas and United.

IHG Rewards redemption chart

IHG Hotel CategoryPoints needed for a one-night stay
Category 110,000
Category 215,000
Category 320,000
Category 425,000
Category 530,000
Category 635,000
Category 740,000
Category 845,000
Category 950,000
Category 1055,000
Category 1160,000
Category 1265,000
Category 1370,000

How to redeem IHG program points for best value

You can redeem your IHG points for many different rewards, including access to exclusive events, airline miles, merchandise, digital downloads, magazine subscriptions and charity donations. These may be great options if you have a small number of points and no travel plans.

However, when it comes to maximizing the value of your IHG rewards points, nothing compares to using your points to get reward nights. After all, that is the purpose of a hotel loyalty program, and IHG offers some excellent values.

Redeeming IHG points for reward nights

You can use your points to stay at IHG brand hotels with reward nights redemptions. The number of points required varies by brand and hotel or resort. Depending on current offers and special deals, you may be able to get one night starting at 5,000 points. The hotels offered at these rates are chosen specifically by IHG and the rates are offered only for a limited time. These options are listed on the IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks page.

Want some ideas for redeeming IHG points? Here are eight of the best ways to redeem IHG points for maximum value, with the new 2019 IHG rewards chart in mind:

  1. Book a night at the InterContinental Mendoza in Argentina. IHG made changes to the IHG rewards chart in 2019, and the number of points needed for a one-night stay increased at many properties. However, the points decreased to just 20,000 points per night for the InterContinental Mendoza. With this high-value redemption, you can explore Argentina's picturesque and mountainous wine region from a luxury hotel that includes a casino, indoor pool and luxury spa.
  2. Enjoy a weekend getaway at the Crowne Plaza Hawkesbury Valley in Australia. Escape the hustle and bustle of Sydney with an hour drive to the foothills of the Blue Mountains for a few days of exploring antique shops, craft stalls and historical sites and taking advantage of golf, trail riding and other outdoor activities. For just 25,000 points per night, reduced by 5,000 in the new IHG rewards chart, you can stay at a hotel that features a heated indoor pool, two tennis courts, a playground and a day spa.
  3. Take a cheap beach vacation at Holiday Inn Natal in Brazil. If you want a relaxing beach vacation, make an escape to Natal, Brazil, where IHG award chart changes knocked 5,000 points per night off the cost to stay at the Holiday Inn Natal, meaning it now costs just 10,000 points per night. The highly rated hotel offers easy access to all the best area attractions, including historical sites, shopping, and the stunning Ponta Negra beach, Genipabu beach and Maracajau beach.
  4. Relax near the Mediterranean Sea at the Crowne Plaza Montpellier-Corum in France. Take a leisurely vacation in Montpellier, wandering down boulevards, checking out historical buildings and sipping wines from the region. Thanks to award chart changes, a stay at the Crowne Plaza Montpellier-Corum now costs 25,000 points per night, down by 5,000 from 2018.
  5. Take a secluded getaway to Holiday Inn Resort Miyazaki in Japan. Spend a relaxing week at this tranquil resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You can book this award trip for just 15,000 points a night, down by 5,000 points from the 2018 cost. Here, you can savor Japanese-style rooms, landscaped gardens and stunning ocean views at the resort, venturing out to explore the coastline, visit local shrines, and travel to the picturesque island of Aoshima.
  6. Stay in style in Hotel Indigo Cardiff in the United Kingdom. Enjoy a unique hotel designed specifically to reflect the local Welsh heritage of the area when you book a stay for 45,000 points per night, down by 5,000 in the new chart. You'll love the hotel's whimsical design, and it's centrally located to the area's many attractions, including medieval Cardiff Castle, spectacular Cardiff Bay and the local central market.
  7. Savor a romantic weekend at Kimpton Taconic Hotel in Vermont. Get away with your sweetie for some quiet R&R in the Green Mountain National Forest of southern Vermont in the United States. This mini vacay will cost you just 45,000 points per night, down by 5,000 points per night from the previous year. The boutique hotel, named one of the best hotels in Vermont in 2018 by U.S. News & World Report, features cozy guest rooms with specially curated art, in-room spa services,and complimentary coffee and tea by the fireplace in the hotel living room.
  8. Book a PointsBreak deal. These offers change regularly, but they generally offer excellent value for your points. Right now, you can book a night at the Holiday Inn in Montevideo, Uruguay, as well as at the Holiday Inn Gebze-Istanbul Asia, in Turkey, for just 5,000 points per night. That means you could take a 10-day vacation in either location, with the entire cost of lodging ringing up at just 50,000 points, which falls within the sign-up bonus of either IHG credit card.
Savvy Traveler Tip: Check out the IHG blog for inspiration and information about how to best use your IHG rewards program points.

No matter your travel style, there's room for you in IHG's rewards program. The best way to earn and spend points is by booking stays with the IHG brand and using those points to book reward nights. The more nights you stay, the more you will be rewarded and the quicker you will climb the elite ladder. IHG rewards members also earn points on reward nights, which is rare for most hotel brands.

If you use a credit card for travel or expenses, it makes sense to apply for one of the Chase IHG rewards cards to maximize your point-earning potential.

The IHG brand is growing, and IHG recently inked a deal to add a Holiday Inn in the Dubai Deira Islands, a new Holiday Inn Express in downtown Washington, D.C., and two new Kimpton hotels in Mexico City. With new properties always popping up, there will be more places than ever to rest your head—and earn IHG points—on your next big travel adventure.

Comments and Questions

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).