What is the best hotel scheme? – IHG Rewards Club – The Facts

This is the fourth of our overview series of the main hotel loyalty schemes.  Each scheme will be covered over two posts.  One will list the basic facts of the scheme, the other will be my subjective view of what is of particular merit.

IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty programme for over 4,600 hotels globally.  They operate under the InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites brands.  The rewards programme was renamed from Priority Club in 2013 – the UK credit card is still branded as the Priority Club credit card.  The IHG Rewards Club homepage is here.

What is the geographic spread?  Excellent.  IHG is the largest chain in the UK, with a huge number of Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express properties.  They also have excellent coverage across much of Europe, and there are few places in the world where you will not find one of their hotels.

Do I use them?  Heavily.  For me, IHG is the perfect rewards programme.  It allows me to earn points quickly at mid-market hotels via their regular bonus promotions, and then redeem them for luxury properties.  InterContinental has high quality hotels in the big cities I tend to use most – London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Berlin, Boston, Dusseldorf.  If they could rebuild the Frankfurt one and open a beach property in Dubai it would be almost perfect!

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Elite membership levels

It is worth noting that IHG actually runs TWO loyalty schemes.  There is a fee-based loyalty programme for InterContinental properties called Ambassador.  I reviewed the benefits of it here.  This means that IHG Rewards Club benefits are NOT great at InterContinental hotels as they favour Ambassador members.

The two elite tiers in IHG Rewards Club are:

Gold – 15 nights or 10 nights across 3 brands or earn 20,000 base points or pay $50 for immediate Gold.  Only major benefit is a 10% bonus on base points.  You can also receive Gold status for taking out the free IHG credit card.

Platinum – 50 nights or 40 nights across 4 brands or earn 60,000 base points.  Benefits are 50% bonus on base points and a non-guaranteed upgrade to a ‘better’ room.  You can also receive Platinum status for free by taking out the £99 IHG Black credit card.

These benefits are undoubtedly weak.  In reality, only at Crowne Plaza hotels – where a Platinum may receive lounge access (but also may not) – are you likely to receive anything worthwhile.

In Europe, Gold and Platinum members receive a welcome gift.  This is usually the choice of a few hundred points depending on brand, or a free drink and snack from the hotel bar.

Until July 2014, Gold and Platinum members receive free internet access in Europe.  From July, all guests will receive free internet – as they already do outside Europe – so it will cease to be an elite benefit.

Platinum members can roll over their additional elite nights into the following year to aid requalification.  Gold and Platinum members can request late check-in and check-out.

Suite upgrades are NOT an elite benefit.

Rewards nights DO count towards renewing elite status.

The full table of elite benefits is here.

IHG Rewards Club does not offer lifetime status.

Earning points

Most brands earn 10 base points per $1 spent.  It is only base points that count towards elite status renewal.

Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites give a reduced 5 points per $1.

IHG Rewards Club is generally very aggressive with bonus point promotions.  These are either through formal promotions like “The Big Win” or by circulating codes (available on Head for Points and elsewhere) for additional bonus points on future stays.  Our ‘Hotel Promos‘ page contains details of current promotions.

Spending points

Redemption rates for hotels run from 10,000 points in Category 1 (the cheapest Holiday Inn Express properties) to 50,000 points in Category 6 (the higher end InterContinental properties in London, New York, Bali etc).

There are no discounts for extended stays.

IHG runs regular ‘PointBreaks’ offers.  Every two months, 100 or so properties globally are offered for just 5,000 points per night, a discount of up to 95% on the usual rate.  If you can be flexible with your holiday plans, there some excellent deals here.  A friend stayed in a Crowne Plaza, with free club lounge access due to his status, for a whole month for just 150,000 points!

IHG does NOT have ‘last room availability’.  Hotels are required to make 5% of their rooms available for redemption each night, but do not need to offer more when that quota is booked.

A 5-star 50,000 point redemption would typically require a Gold member to spend $1,700.  However, because of the heavy number of IHG bonus point promotions, the actual spend required would be substantially less.

Points expiry

IHG Rewards Club points do not expire.  (EDIT:  IHG announced a new policy on expiry rules in May 2015.  Your points WILL now expire after a year of no activity on your account.  I wrote more about this here.)

Can you upgrade using points?

No.

Some hotels put multiple room categories up for redemption on quiet nights, for example Standard and Deluxe Rooms.  There is no additional points cost if you choose a Deluxe Room even though it would be more expensive if bought for cash.

Are ‘cash and points’ redemptions available?

Yes.  IHG is, I think, the only chain where ‘cash and points’ is ALWAYS available as an option.

You can use $70 to reduce the number of points required by 10,000 points, or $40 by 5,000 points.  This is not necessarily worth doing, however, since you can buy points at the same price at any time in the future if you need them (see ‘Purchasing & Transferring Points’ below).

Airline redemption options

IHG Rewards Club point can be transferred to a large number of airlines including Avios.  The ratio is a weak 5:1, however.

If you did not want to use your points for hotel stays, you may get better value cashing out for UK retailer gift cards.  15,000 points gets you a £25 shopping voucher.

Can I earn Avios directly without collecting points?

Yes, see ba.com here.  You can earn Avios by showing your British Airways Executive Club card at check-in – the amount will depend on which IHG brand you are staying with.  You will not earn any IHG Rewards Club points.  However, you must still be a member of IHG Rewards Club in order to do this.

Credit card partnerships

Can you get elite status with a UK credit card?   Yes, the IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa (£99 fee, see my review) gives you automatic Platinum status.  The free IHG Rewards Club Visa (see my review) gives you automatic Gold status.

Is IHG Rewards Club an Amex Membership Rewards partner?  No

Purchasing and transferring points

You can buy IHG Rewards Club points for $13.50 per 1,000 via this link (scroll down for IHG).

As long as you have a 5,000 point balance, however, you can buy points for $7 per 1,000 in a roundabout way.  You need to book a redemption night at a 15,000 point per night hotel, choosing to pay using 5,000 points and $70.  After booking, cancel the reservation.  Your $70 is not returned – instead you receive 15,000 points back into your account.  You are $70 out of pocket but 10,000 points better off.

Points can be transferred to other members at a cost of $5 per 1,000.  This is reasonable and I have done it in the past to move very small amounts for ‘nearly empty’ family members.

You can transfer Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles into IHG Rewards Club points at a ratio of 1:1.  You can also transfer Finnair miles to IHG Rewards Club at a ratio of 2:1.

My opinion

Read my other post today for my overall opinion of IHG Rewards Club.

One of the best Avios redemptions gets twice as easy to find!
What is the best hotel scheme? - IHG Rewards Club - The Opinion
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Comments

  1. I agree that the platinum benefits are generally weak but you can score good deals with it outside the CP brand. We have had some great experiences at Indigo including an amazing suite upgrade on a week long redemption in San Diego. Even HIX stateside sometimes have large or feature suites they will bump you to.

  2. My Plat status expired at the end of January even though I got the Priority Club Black Visa card in mid January (as part of the big win promo). How long does it take for Plat status from the Visa card to be updated to my account . I ask as most ongoing promo codes seem to be targeted at Plat elites, as a Gold my last 2 low cost HI stays have yielded only 476 and 393 points.

    • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

      Good question.

      I’ve also signed up last month due to the Big Win.
      However, I couldn’t see any mention of the card officially granting Platinum status.

      Does the benefit still exist, and what is the process to activate it?

    • I took out the Black Visa a few weeks ago. I’d had Platinum status for a few years but missed out at the end of last year when they stopped allowing bonus points to contribute towards gaining Platinum status.

      I sent an e-mail to IHG; they replied saying upgrading would take “7 business days after enrollment”. My first transaction on the new card was 29th Jan so this morning I called and explained the situation. The upgrade was carried out whilst I was on the phone and 2 mins later I logged in and was back to Platinum.

      I was nervous of calling as I had no written evidence that Platinum was a benefit (other than from HFP). Also; used the “40,000 points” bonus link posted on HFP and they are showing on my first statement. Thanks go to Raffles for this.

      • goglobalnz says:

        Very interesting Gary, I’ll try calling then too. I sent an email to IHG earlier in the week after applying mid-Jan and the reply said it’d be 2-3 statement cycles (approximately 6-8 weeks) after the first use.

        As another data point, I also received 40,000 points on the bonus link. My thanks to you as well Raffles!

        • I received exactly the same reply when I Tweeted them – may try Gary’s example and phone them too, it’s been a couple of weeks since my first points went across.

          Still debating whether to go for the £10k voucher or not!

          • If you use the voucher for a £250 InterCon night, that is 2.5% back on your £10k, plus the base points on the £10k as well. Tempting. Depends if you have any ‘old’ MasterCards (eg BMI, the old Tesco card) which might come close to this. No current card on the market comes close.

          • Haha indeed – you’re a bad influence!! Currently putting the extortionate daily work car parking charge onto it so at least I’ll feel I get something nice back in return! My double MR bonus has now dropped off my Amex Plat so this could be a decent way to keep earnings around 2% – need to hit my SPG target first though, having just done United and VS card bonuses!

      • Hmm I just tried calling – they didn’t seem to know anything about it and then transferred me to Chase (who run the US card)!! Will try emailing IHGCare again – it’s been over 8/52 since the card account was opened now.

        • goglobalnz says:

          I tried calling IHG as suggested and they weren’t budging, in terms of upgrading my status then and there. So I’m waiting until it auto-updates whenever that may be.

          Luckily there’s no pressing need and I won’t need it until Easter.

  3. I once booked a reward stay in a standard room in the Holiday Inn Nice and, as a Platinum member, was upgraded to their suite with a huge amount of space and a terrace overlooking the city. I was also upgraded to a river view room in the Intercontinental Budapest, although I’m not an Ambassador. I agree, though, that in Holiday Inn and Express the benefits are generally negligible.

  4. So far this year I’ve found the Platinum benefits at non-Crowne Plaza hotels to be excellent! Room upgrades at the Intercont Warsaw (a lovely hotel), a HI Exp in Shanghai (an incredible bargain at about £25 with free breakfast (not a very good one though) and upgraded to a suite) and am currently writing this from a very impressive HI in Shanghai where I’ve been upgraded to the exec floor (23rd floor – great view of the fireworks!), lounge access with breakfast and happy ‘hour’, free beer, free soft drinks from mini-bar, free laundry (1 piece), 2 hours meeting room (erm…yeah), secretarial services (I have no idea what these include), daily newspaper, fruit and choccies. I’m impressed, especially as I really like the many IHG hotels I’ve stayed in over the years (and the various promo codes and big win have made accruing tons of points really easy). And the pillows are nice.

  5. Chris1922 says:

    Slightly OT, but I thought it nice to share. A few months ago I took out the free IHG Barclaycard Visa, 15,000 bonus points when you cary out your first transaction and my points finally posted. In theory 15,000 points = 3000 BA Avios, however: the conversion can only be carried out in multiples of 10,000points/2000 Avios, so you’ll only be able to get 2000 Avios using the scheme. With a point per pound, you’ll have spend another £5000 to get the another 5000 points to make a second batch of 10,000 points/2000 Avios.
    To carry out this conversion transaction you have to phone a overseas call centre (Philipino is my guess) at ten pence per minute, I asked if I could transfer 15,000 for 3000 Avios, only to be told no, it was only 10,000 multiples.
    Still, 2000 Avios for the price of a Boots meal deal and my employer paid the phone bill. Not worth the second batch of points though, £5k spend on another card is 5000 Avios !

    • Chris1922 says:

      Further update, the 2000 Avios have posted to my BAEC but with 500 Avios bonus thrown in, no reason as to why, but I’m not complaining !