Credit Card Reviews 2013 (13): Priority Club Rewards Black Visa (IHG Reward Club card)

(EDIT:  July 2014.  This card is about to be relaunched under IHG Rewards Club branding, but it is not yet available again to new cardholders.)

This is the 13th of my series of posts looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether of not they are worth applying for.  These posts will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page.  My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.

Link:  Priority Club Rewards Black Visa official page

About the card

The Priority Club Rewards Black Visa card is issued by Barclaycard and earns points in IHG Rewards Club.   IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty scheme for Holiday Inn, HI Express, Crowne Plaza, InterContinental, Indigo, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.

Barclaycard also runs the Hilton HHonors card, as well as their own card brands.  Holding any other card from Barclays may impact your ability to get this card.

There are two versions of this card.  I reviewed the free card, which is poor, yesterday.  This card is a far more interesting proposition.

Priority Club Black

What is the sign-up bonus?

20,000 Priority Club points, when you make your first purchase.  This is worth 4,000 Avios or other airline miles if converted directly.

However, you can do better than this!   This offer here is being advertised in hotel receptions and offers 30,000 points. This link brings up a 40,000 points offer.  It was still working as of February 2014.

20,000 points is enough for a free night in a provincial city, although most big city properties will be 25,000+.  However, IHG Rewards Club runs regular PointBreaks promotions where rooms are reduced to 5,000 points per night.

Even at the 40,000 point level, the bonus remains weaker than the Hilton card, where the sign-up bonus gets you a free night ANYWHERE, even the most expensive Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria property.  The Hilton card is also free, whereas Priority Club Black carries a £99 fee.

Any other benefits?

Priority Club Black gives you a voucher for a free night at any IHG Rewards Club property when you reach £10,000 of spending per card year.

This is a very impressive benefit.  Use your voucher at an InterContinental in London, Paris or New York and you will be getting a £250+ room.  However, you need to offset the value of this against the £99 card fee.

The points from the sign-up bonus – and indeed all of your on-going points from using the card – count towards Priority Club status.

You will receive IHG Rewards Club Platinum status for as long as you hold the card.  This is NOT a publicised benefit, though.   There are no guaranteed benefits (no free breakfast, no room upgrade) but some hotels do give holders decent recognition, including upgrades and late check-out.  You also receive a 50% points bonus on your stays.

What is the annual fee?

There is a £99 annual fee.

What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?

The earnings rate on the card is 2 poinst per £1 for general spending and 4 points per £1 for spending in IHG Rewards Club properties.  You also receive 4 points per £1 on foreign currency spend.

What is an IHG Rewards Club point worth?

Whilst this is always hypothetical, I tend to work on the basis on a top-category hotel costing £250 – what you would pay in New York, Paris or London inc tax.  On that basis, an IHG Rewards Club point is worth about 0.5p based on a 50,000 point redemption for a room in an InterContinental in a major city.

IHG Rewards Club changed their pricing structure this year, increasing the cost of the 2-, 3- and 4-star chains (HI Express, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza) in big cities.  These redemptions are now poor value compared with spending 50,000 points on an 5-star InterContinental, and has reduced the value you can get from your points.

On this basis, 2 points per £1 is equivalent to a 1% rebate on your spend.  This is OK.

The 4 points per £1 on foreign spend is equivalent to 2% cashback, and is a very good deal.  I have this card, and I have been trying to put £10,000 of foreign spend through it to trigger the free night voucher.  I do not put domestic spending on the card.

Done this way, £10,000 of foreign currency spending gets you the free night voucher plus 40,000 points for your spend.  This is (almost) enough for 2 nights at an InterContinental, which is a decent short break.

How does this compare to a cashback credit card?

There are currently no cashback cards on the market which offer a) a MasterCard or Visa, b) no annual fee and c) unlimited cashback.  The best ‘pseudo cashback’ card is probably the House of Fraser MasterCard, which offers 1% of your spend in House of Fraser gift vouchers.

For an average spender, the card offers acceptable value, although you are paying an annual fee.  For foreign spend, the Priority Club Black Visa is a good deal.

Other points to note

American Express Membership Rewards stopped being an IHG Rewards Club partner last year.  This means that, if you need to top-off your IHG Rewards Club account to get to a suitable level for a redemption, the credit card may offer an easy way to get the points you need.

The Head for Points Verdict:

Score for the sign-up bonus – 8/10.  This assumes you use the 40,000 points link I show you above.

Score for on-going earning – 8/10.  This assumes that you put a lot of foreign spend through the card and manage to trigger the free night voucher.  For someone who was just planning to spend less than £10,000 per year (and so missed the voucher), I would rate it at 5/10.

(Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.)

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Comments

  1. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    I think that there’s a false economy here – you need to pay a 2.99% forex fee to get the 4pts/£. Using your per-point valuation, you’re paying £99 a year to be able to spend 2.99p to get 2p of value. In your best-case-scenario example, you spend £10k abroad to get 40k points and a free night. This would cost £99 of annual fee and £299 of forex charges – a total of £398 for two nights. It’s not bad, but it’s far from a great deal that deserves a 8/10 score. I’d actually say that this card works best if you can get through 10k of non-Amex spend per year.

    • In Year 1 – assuming all FX spend – you pay £99 to get the 40k sign-up bonus plus 40k for the £10k spend plus the free night.

      The points are worth max $70 per 1,000 (because you can buy them for that) and I value them at £5 per 1000 anyway. 80,000 points = £400 plus £250 for the free night, so £650 of value for £400 cost, plus the Platinum status.

      After year 1, I agree, it doesn’t stack up too well.

      If you spend the £10k in the UK, you’d be getting 40k sign-up plus 20k for the spend plus the free night (£250 if used well) so £550 of value for £99, clearly more attractive.

      However, if you don’t have an FX no-fee card, as I don’t, then this is not a bad place to stick your foreign spend. Even ignoring the free night, the points get you back 2% of the 2.99% fee, so your net cost is only 0.99%. I can’t be bothered getting ANOTHER credit card just to save 0.99% of my FX spend.

      Or look at it another way. Spend £10,000 abroad on the Post Office card and you pay no fee and get no miles.

      Spend £10,000 on PC Black and you pay £99 fee plus £299 in FX fees to get 40,000 points (lets ignore the sign-up deal) plus the free night. You will come out quits on this basis, possibly a little ahead, with the PC Platinum card effectively being free on top.

  2. momomo says:

    How many points would you get for spend at a PC property in a foreign currency? 4x, 8x, another amount…?

    This might make the 3% FX fee that Andrew highlighted more palatable.

  3. trickster says:

    Getting the free night certificate for me was not straightforward. I never received an email, or any notification in my PC account. It’s taken a few calls to Barclaycard on which I was assured that I am on the ‘spreadsheet’. A tip off on flyertalk gave me a phone number (0871 226 1111 – Priority Club), and they confirmed it was available to use, and how to use it – phone up and book basically.

  4. I already have the free card, do you know if I upgrade to the Black card, I would also get upgraded to Platinum?

    • Yes, you should do. I know that some people got letters offering them 20,000 points if they upgraded … you clearly didn’t!

  5. Hi,

    I had a PC Visa Black last year, got 40k pts and then cancelled in May. How long should I reasonably have to leave it before applying and collecting another 40k?

    Thanks