This article was updated in September 2016 and is correct as of that date.
This is my review of the IHG Rewards Club MasterCard credit card.
It is part of my series of articles 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.
If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Equifax credit report and score. Your first 30 days are free then it’s £14.95 per month. You can cancel at anytime.
As with all rewards cards, this is not a suitable product for you if you do not clear your balance in full every month. You should focus on a credit card with a low interest rate such as the AA Low Rate Card. This has a very attractive representative APR of 6.4% variable on purchases and balance transfers.
Key links: IHG Rewards Club MasterCard application form
Key facts: No annual fee
The representative APR is 18.9% variable.
About the card
The IHG Rewards Club MasterCard card is issued by Creation Financial Services (part of French bank BNP Paribas) and earns points in IHG Rewards Club. IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty scheme for Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, InterContinental, Indigo, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.
Creation also runs the Marriott card although this is currently unavailable to new applicants.
There is also a second version of this card, the IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard, which carries a £99 fee. This will be reviewed tomorrow.
What is the sign-up bonus?
You will receive 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points when you spend £200 within your first three months. This is worth 2,000 Avios or other airline miles if converted directly although you will get more value using them for hotel stays.
There are some IHG Rewards Club hotels where you can get a room for as low as 10,000 points, although most big city properties will be 25,000+. However, IHG Rewards Club runs regular PointBreaks promotions where 150 hotels around the world are reduced to just 5,000 points per night.
The bonus compares poorly with the Hilton card where the sign-up bonus gets you a free night ANYWHERE, even the most expensive Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria property.
What are the conditions of applying?
There is a minimum income requirement of £10,000.
Any other benefits?
You will receive free IHG Rewards Club Gold status for as long as you hold the card.
You can see the benefits of being a Gold member here. It is not worth much in theory (no free breakfast, no room upgrade, 10% points bonus) but some hotels do give holders some recognition and it should give you some priority when the hotel decides who gets the room overlooking the bins. Status members also receive a choice of 500 bonus points or a free drink and snack at European IHG properties.
The sign-up bonus does NOT count towards IHG Rewards Club status so it will not put you 20,000 points closer to Platinum or Spire Elite.
Your on-going points from using the card WILL count towards IHG Rewards Club status and thus your progression from Gold to Platinum.
What is the annual fee?
There is no annual fee.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?
The earnings rate on the card is 1 point per £1 for general spending and 2 points per £1 for spending in IHG Rewards Club properties. You also earn 2 points per £1 for overseas spend.
Unlike the Premium version of the card there is NO free night voucher to work towards.
Remember that the IHG card has an FX fee of almost 3% for foreign currency transactions. You may want to consider getting a separate card to use abroad which charges no foreign exchange fees. I recommend the Lloyds Avios Rewards card which also earns Avios points – even on your 0% FX transactions! It comes with a 4,500 Avios sign-up bonus if I refer you. My review of the Lloyds Avios Rewards card is here.
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 0.4p – 0.5p based on a 50,000 – 60,000 point redemption for a room in an InterContinental in a major city.
IHG Rewards Club changed their pricing structure in 2014, 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 – 60,000 points on an 5-star InterContinental, and has reduced the value you can get from your points.
On this basis, 1 point per £1 charged to your card is equivalent to a 0.4% rebate on your spend. This is attractive compared to the rewards you would get from, say, the Tesco or Lloyds Avios Rewards MasterCard.
How does this compare to a cashback credit card?
The best cashback card on the market which offers a) a MasterCard or Visa, b) no annual fee and c) unlimited cashback is the ASDA Money card, which pays 0.5% in ASDA vouchers.
This is line with the value of the points offered by the IHG card. However, cash is substantially more flexible – and less susceptible to devaluation – than a hotel loyalty point!
The sign-up bonus is worth having – roughly £40 of free hotels stays. You may want to keep the card in a drawer, unused, to continue to benefit from the free IHG Gold status.
You may also value the fact that the points count towards status with IHG Rewards Club – although, if this was important, you should pay £99 for the IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard which comes with Platinum status as a benefit and earns 2 points per £1.
Other points to note
American Express Membership Rewards stopped being an IHG Rewards Club partner in 2012. This means that, if you need to top-off an 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.
It is worth noting that you can also transfer Virgin Flying Club miles into IHG Rewards Club points at a 1:1 ratio. These transfers DO count for status unlike the sign-up bonus on the credit card.
As a sign-up incentive, 10,000 points may get you a free night in a cheap hotel in a small city (worth at least £50) or 2,000 airline miles. If you got two PointBreaks nights out of it then you would have got a great result.
An on-going earnings rate of 1 point per £1 is not hugely attractive. If you value IHG points at 0.4p then you would be better off with the ASDA cashback card.
The application for the IHG Rewards Club MasterCard card can be found here.
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. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.