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

This is the third of our overview series of the main hotel loyalty schemes. Each scheme will be covered over two articles over two days. 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 5,000 hotels globally.  They operate primarily 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 IHG Rewards Club home page 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 my preferred hotel rewards programme.  It allows me to earn points quickly at mid-market hotels via their regular bonus promotions such as Accelerate, and then redeem them for luxury properties.

Whilst status benefits are admittedly weak, I get around that by buying InterContinental Ambassador status each year which has guaranteed benefits such as 4pm check-out.  InterContinental has high quality hotels in the big cities I tend to use most – London, Paris (photo below), New York, Hong Kong (I was there two days ago), Berlin, Boston, Dusseldorf etc.

If they could rebuild the Frankfurt one and open a beach resort in the Middle East (there is a 3rd Dubai IC on the way, but this one isn’t on the beach either!) it would be almost perfect.  I am currently holding out great hopes for the forthcoming Venice property.

Elite membership levels

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

The three elite tiers in IHG Rewards Club are:

Gold Elite – 10 nights or earn 10,000 base points.  Only major benefit is a 10% bonus on base points and a welcome gift. You can also receive Gold status for taking out the free IHG MasterCard credit card.

Platinum Elite – 40 nights or earn 40,000 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 Premium MasterCard credit card.

Spire Elite –  70 nights or earn 75,000 base points. Benefits are a 25,000 point bonus for reaching or retaining Spire (or a free Platinum card for a friend), 100% bonus on base points and a non-guaranteed upgrade to a ‘better’ room.

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

In most hotels, elite members receive a welcome gift.  It is usually the underwhelming choice of a few hundred points depending on brand, or a free drink and snack from the hotel bar.  In Hong Kong last, the InterContinental gave me a HK$135 (£13) food and beverage credit as a Spire Elite member.  They also gave me two free drink vouchers for being an Ambassador.

All guests at IHG hotels receive free internet – it is not 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 but it is not guaranteed.

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.

InterContinental Paris Le Grand

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.

Bonus points do NOT count towards elite status.  Points earned via partners may or may count.  We know that:

eRewards transfers no longer count for status as of February 2017

Virgin Flying Club points transfers DO count for status

IHG credit card points earned from spending DO count for status

IHG credit card points earned from sign-up bonuses DO NOT count for status

It isn’t clear if the handful of points earned from crediting car rentals to IHG still count for status or not.

IHG Rewards Club is generally very aggressive with bonus point promotions, especially the recent ‘Accelerate’ offers. 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 60,000 points in Category 6 (the higher end InterContinental properties in London, New York, Bali etc).

You receive substantially better value by redeeming for more expensive hotels – in London, a Holiday Inn Express may be 35,000 points whilst the InterContinental on Park Lane is only 60,000 points.   Most of the ‘freak’ valuations, such as 10,000 points per night for the fully refurbished Holiday Inn Wembley in London, have now gone.

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 once stayed in a Crowne Plaza beach resort, 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 expire if a) you do not have elite status and b) you have no activity on your account for 12 months.  Simply making and cancelling a redemption will count as ‘activity’ and reset your expiry date.

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. ‘Cash and points’ is ALWAYS available as an option.

In most cases 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.

If you did not want to use your points for hotel stays, you may get better value cashing out for UK retailer gift cards. 4,500 points gets you a £5 online e-code for Amazon etc.  You will never get better than 0.16p per point this way compared with 0.5p per point if redeemed smartly for hotel rooms.

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 MasterCard (£99 fee, see my review) gives you automatic Platinum status. The free IHG Rewards Club MasterCard (see my review) gives you automatic Gold status.

Is IHG Rewards Club an Amex Membership Rewards partner?  No.  You could transfer your Amex points to Virgin Atlantic and then on to IHG Rewards Club.  This is poor value – one IHG point per Amex point is not good – but on the upside the transferred points would count towards elite status.

Purchasing and transferring points

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

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.  These transfer count towards elite status.

Because you receive 25,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points for reaching or retaining Spire Elite status, it would make sense to do a transfer from Virgin Atlantic late in the calendar year if you were only a few thousand points short of Spire.

My opinion

Part two of this article here covers my personal opinion of IHG Rewards Club.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

How was Etihad's A380 First Apartment the second time around?
Bits: BA long haul buy-on-board confusion, interesting Accor / Economist deal
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Comments

  1. how does a $1,700 spend net 50,000 points at 10+1points per $ if gold?

  2. I don’t see any free breakfast at any level, is this correct?

    • Genghis says:

      No breakfast is guaranteed. You may get it at certain brands but you may not. If you get lounge access you’ll get breakfast. If hotel has a lounge contact them in advance and say you’ll book if you get lounge access

    • flibbly says:

      Crowne Plaza hotels usually give me free breakfast as a Spire.

      Also a few weeks ago I was staying in the HI at Bristol Airport and got confused between IHG Spire and Hilton Diamond and queried why I wasn’t being given free breakfast. I wasn’t entitled to it but they gave it me anyway – a pay off from my mini-DYWKIA moment !

      • Peter K says:

        DYWKIA?? 😀
        Reminds me of a friend of mine who keeps calling the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency the DLVA! Ha ha :-)

  3. Breakfast is free at HIX I thought. Also when I stayed in Reading West a few weeks ago Breakfast was included. Can’t remember if I booked it with it. I must have.

    • Genghis says:

      It’s been free for me recently at HIX as a SE. Not great though

    • flibbly says:

      Breakfast is free for everyone at HIX. Historically its been pretty dire, but on my last couple of HIX stays I have seen some slight improvement (at Edinburgh and Southampton). I don’t know if I’ve been lucky or if it is being generally improved.

      • Not just everyone but anyone…. at a nameless London HIX I occasionally see a certain homeless person coming in for breakfast

        I would say it is dire in most mainland Europe HIX, but in the UK it depends. Unofrtunately difficult to know before visiting yourself since nobody on FT seems to be interested in taking photos of HIX breakfasts…

        The best HIX breakfasts in the UK are in Northern Ireland

        • I remember a stand up comedian using the line that he walks past a HIX every morning and so nips in for a free breakfast. I always thought it stretching the truth a bit until my work started using a HIX conference room and my esteemed colleagues all help themselves to breakfast without being challenged. They also worked out how to turn the coffee machine back on for mid morning break.

        • Janeyferr says:

          I’m usually hungover when waking in a HIX, so a few of those bready sausages in a few of those doughy dinner rolls with ample ketchup is my go-to.

    • Free breakfast is a core part of HIX offering – it’s not the best ofc…

      • As the Advertising Standards Authority made clear in its ruling against HIE, the breakfast is NOT free! It is ‘included’. They are not allowed to advertise it as ‘free’ since no-one pays for it ….

        • LOL 😛

        • Peter K says:

          That’s why BA started buy on board then, so they can call the food in CE “free” as those in economy have to pay! It’s just a convoluted way around ASA rulings 😀

  4. HIX in Florida tend to give a free breakfast, fine for a coffee and a bowl of cereal, wouldn’t recommend anything cooked, totally processed cr4p.

    • HIX in Florida. I actually like the burger shaped sausage, I put 2 in an English muffin with loads of butter.

      • Genghis says:

        :) a healthy way to start another day of eating…

        • We need to look at onsite gyms more given the national pastime for frequent travelers is being eligible for free nosh and drinks! Nearly everyone I saw in the Lounge this weekend looked like they could do with loosing a few kilos if I’m honest.

      • RussellH says:

        HIX in Reno NV just had coffee and doughnuts / sweet rolls / pancakes etc. Just sugar basicly. No bacon / sausage etc. No crockery either – just paper plates and cups. Plastic knives too.

        Rooms huge, though, and comfortable, good free shuttle service too.

        No bar though, so no free drinks for elite members. Choice of points or a “goody bag” – I took a look insie and went for my 200 points as the btter value by far!

  5. Just after Xmas had a stay at the Edinburgh City Centre HIX. Excellent breakfast there and great choice.
    Last weekend a stay at the HIX Hamilton the staff told me a new breakfast format introduced very soon with bacon and other items. They said the Edinburgh location was one of the trial locations.

    • Peter K says:

      I had bacon at HIX Exeter last Dec on an Accelerate trip. It was nice to have the option but it was rock hard.

  6. MrFlump says:

    Had a so-so experience at HIX Excel London this weekend. 2 nights for £193. Room spotless but breakfast a fiasco. Nowhere near enough seats, tables, cutlery, crockery. Sitting amongst other peoples used plates, etc while eating sausage and egg off a paper plate with knife and spoon (no clean forks) didn’t make me want to rush back… Emailed customer services on my return, no reply 48 hours later.

    • Wally1976 says:

      I was actually at this hotel myself at the weekend. We got lucky finding a table for breakfast and yes it was a bit of a bunfight getting cutlery, crockery etc but I thought the breakfast itself wasn’t too bad and was constantly replenished. I requested some vegetarian sausages from one of the very hard-pressed staff and they brought them to in about 5 minutes. Maybe it was slightly less busy when we were at breakfast than when you were there.

      As I paid £58 for 4 of us for a Saturday night in London including breakfast I thought it was superb value all-in-all.

  7. I must say for travelling to a destination and I need a stopover hotel, the IHG points work for me; I generally get a decent room or upgrade.

  8. Hi Rob,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your website daily, for the past year or so. In fact, I managed to book 6 seats in business class on American Airlines last May, for travel in August, CDG-DFW-HNL-ORD-MAN for £1075 each, thanks to an article you published.

    Anyway, my question is about points earning on IHG for multiple room bookings.
    I have, in previous years booked multiple rooms for both family and business reasons, and have been awarded points for all rooms. This year, I have made several bookings at various IHG properties, and in spite of the reservation confirmation indicating that the points for all rooms will be awarded, my account has started showing up as ‘overlapping stay’ with 0 points allocated.

    I asked IHG to clarify the position and they wrote back stating that points for multiple rooms are only awarded for stays at properties in the US.
    I can’t find reference to this on their website, and wondered whether you had come across this before?
    I don’t think it’s fair, particularly when I am paying personally for rooms, that I don’t receive the points.
    Look forward to hearing from you.
    Regards
    Mark

    • IHG is correct and it should never have posted in the first place.

      Different chains have different policies. Hilton lets you get points from 2 rooms (but only 1 night stay credit) IF – and only if – both rooms are merged onto one bill. Starwood, on the other hand, gives night credit for up to 3 rooms on the same night which is handy if doing a mattress run for status – you can book 3 nights at a time at a suitably cheap place!

      Given the generous Accelerate offers, which tends to have a ‘5000 points on your first stay during this period’ offer, it is worth signing up your family for their own accounts anyway. In Hong Kong this week we did one room in my wifes name and one in mine (adult and child in each room).

      • Genghis says:

        How did that affect any AMB benefits?

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Little list I have – let me know if it needs updating

        SPG and Marriot – 3 nights all give you stay/night credit
        Hyatt – 3 rooms (only 1 gives elite nights/credit)
        Wyndham Rewards – 3 Rooms
        Club Carlson – 3 Rooms
        Hilton – 2 Rooms (elite stay/night for 1) – but I’ve never had them post the 2nd room without asking even if they are on one folio
        Melia – 2 rooms
        IHG – 1 room (9 rooms in U.S. and Canada, except InterContinental Hotels) – why I generally don’t use them except points stays
        Best Western – 1 room but ask at time of booking as seems to be at hotels discretion

  9. Optimus Prime says:

    if I get Elite Spire by IHG spending – will other hotel chains with Elite Gold provided by Amex match it? It’s been mentioned here than Hilton will do. How about Melia and Club Carlson??

    BTW has anyone been to Intercontinental or Hilton in Athens? Would you recommend either?

    We’re also considering Meliá Athens since Gold status would give us free breakfast too and rates are much cheaper than Hilton/IC for September – then use these savings to reserve some nice property in Santorini. Any recommendations for this location?

    • Optimus Prime says:

      I mean by IHG credit card spending.

    • Genghis says:

      Have a look on http://www.statusmatcher.com.
      Hilton will ‘challenge’ IHG Platinum to Diamond I believe – you just have to do the Hilton stays.
      I stayed in Melia Athens quite a few years ago. It’s very ‘wooden’. Nice pool area though.
      My advice is to avoid Athens completely – a right dump – and get straight to the islands. We stayed in apartments on the beach on both Santorini and Mykonos. There was a great beach on Mykonos at Platis Gialos, I liked Rethmyno on Crete – great food.

      • Sorry Ghengis but Athens is fantastic city! I would certainly recommend it, lots to do and see and great food. I wouldn’t recommend the Hilton but it has a good “skybar”. I’ve never tried the IC there. Grand Bretagne is okay – a bit old fashioned for me. I’ve been going to Greece every year since 1986. As for Mykonos where I have a lot of friends living and I go most years – it’s extremely expensive for what it is now – and Santorini is almost as bad. Neither are great for points use but I think a couple of chains are making there way there. The best beach on Mykonos is not Platis Gialos it is wall to wall sunbeds. The best quiet beach if you do go I think is Lia – or maybe Panormos. Both islands are beset by cruise ships – possibly Santorini more so.

        • Genghis says:

          Let’s agree to disagree. The richness of opinion on here is great as we all experience different things and then draw different conclusions. We were at Platis Gialos mid Sep and it was almost deserted, hence why we really liked it. Loved Greek food. I’ve noted your beach recommendations for future trips – cheers.

          • Optimus Prime says:

            Thanks for your answers, Genghis and Leo.

            Will check out both Mykonos and Crete.

  10. RussellH says:

    Rob,

    I entirely agree with you about the IC in Frankfurt. I have only been there once, but my room was tiny – about half the size of the HI room in Walsall I am sitting in just now.

    However, this was two days after flights recommenced following the Icelandic volcano; we had travelled out by coach, arriving at the Hyatt in Mainz around 0300, so discovering that we would be able to fly home instead of another coach journey meant that we were in a pretty good mood!

  11. “If they could rebuild the Frankfurt one and open a beach resort in the Middle East”. Intercontinental Doha is a beach resort in the Middle East.