This article was updated in September 2016 and is correct as of that date.
This is my review of the IHG Rewards Club Premium 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 facts: £99 annual fee
The representative APR is 41.5% variable, including the annual fee, based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.
About the card
The IHG Rewards Club Premium 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 are two versions of this card. I reviewed the free IHG Rewards Club card last week. This card is a far more interesting proposition, especially if you are a high spender.
What is the sign-up bonus?
You will receive 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points when you spend £200 within three months. This is worth 4,000 Avios or other airline miles if converted directly although you are better off using the points for hotel stays.
20,000 points is usually enough for a free night in a Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express in a provincial city, although most big city properties will be 25,000+. In London, the Holiday Inn Wembley is 20,000 points per night.
IHG Rewards Club runs regular PointBreaks promotions where rooms in 150 hotels worldwide are reduced to just 5,000 points per night. The sign-up bonus would get you eight free nights if you redeemed it during one of these promotions.
Purely comparing sign-up bonuses, the Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa is a better deal. You receive a voucher for a free weekend night at ANY Hilton Family hotel worldwide for spending £750 on the card, and it has no annual fee.
Any other benefits?
The IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard 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. You need to offset the value of this against the £99 card fee of course. However, £250 less the £99 fee still represents a 1.5% return on £10,000 of spending – and that is before you factor in the value of the standard points on your spend.
You will receive IHG Rewards Club Platinum status for as long as you hold the card.
Platinum is the middle tier in IHG Rewards Club following the launch of the new Spire Elite card. There are no major guaranteed benefits (no free breakfast, no room upgrade). You can see the list of Platinum benefits here.
Some hotels – especially Crowne Plaza hotels – do choose to give Platinum holders decent recognition, including upgrades, lounge access and late check-out. You also receive a 50% base points bonus on your stays.
Your on-going points earned from using the card count towards IHG Rewards Club status and will help your progression from Platinum to the top tier. The sign-up bonus does not count towards status.
What are the conditions of applying?
There is a minimum income requirement of £10,000.
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 points 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 which makes this card one of the most generous for overseas use.
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 of 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 or 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 (Holiday Inn 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 0.8% rebate on your spend. This is very good for a Visa or MasterCard product.
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 card, which pays 0.5% in ASDA vouchers.
The IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard is roughly twice as generous as this. However, you need to factor in the £99 annual fee. My personal view is that the card, long term, is very good value if you know you will spend £10,000 to trigger the free night but more marginal otherwise.
The sign-up bonus is OK – roughly £80 of free hotels stays is not to be scoffed at – but is worth less than the annual fee. You may want to keep the card in a drawer, unused, to continue to benefit from IHG Rewards Club Platinum status.
You may also value the fact that the points count towards status with IHG Rewards Club. At 2 points per £1 (4 per £1 for foreign charges), a high spender will make a decent dint in the annual 75,000 point requirement for Spire Elite status.
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 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.
You can transfer Virgin Flying Club points to IHG Rewards Club points at a ratio of 1:1. These transfers DO count towards status unlike the sign-up bonus on the credit card.
As a sign-up bonus, 20,000 points is worth around £80 of free hotel stays if used well. You will also benefit from your Platinum status when you redeem your points. This is a good return on the £99 fee.
If you managed to spend £10,000 on the card in a card year, in order to trigger the free night voucher, then the earning rate is attractive.
After the first year, if you felt that you would spend under £10,000, it becomes less attractive unless you value the Platinum status.
The application for the IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard 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.