How can you get IHG Rewards Club status quickly, and possibly for free?

IHG Rewards Club (the loyalty scheme for InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Indigo etc) status is not hugely rewarding, to be honest.

The benefits are very modest – almost nothing is guaranteed – and you certainly won’t get anything as crazy as free breakfast or guaranteed club lounge access.  The programme is for people who like earning lots of points because, with their regular promos, earning and spending IHG Rewards Club points is very easy.  The trade off is that the hotels do not invest much in status benefits.

That said, most European hotels now offer status members some bonus points (500-600 at the mid and upper scale hotels) or a free drink or some other benefit.  Taking the free drink, assuming that you are not on an expense account, does get you a few £ of value.

The good news is that it is possible to get IHG Rewards Club status for free:

Gold status comes as a benefit with the free IHG Rewards Club MasterCard (review here)

Platinum status comes as a benefit with the £99 fee IHG Rewards Club Premier MasterCard (review here)

If you want the new top tier Spire Elite, however, you need to earn it.  Spire Elite will require you to earn 75,000 base points or stay 75 nights in a calendar year.

Spire Elite doesn’t have a lot of benefits over Platinum.  What you do get, though, is 25,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points as soon as you reach or requalify for Spire Elite.  If you are close to the threshold to qualify, the lure of these 25,000 points should make you put some effort into making it.  You will also get a 100% points bonus on every stay compared to a 50% bonus as a Platinum member.

IHG has been making various changes over the last couple of years as to what counts as a ‘base point’.  If you are interested in pushing for Spire Elite, this is what you need to know:

Spire Elite card

Let’s look at the various scenarios you have for earning points, and see if they do or do not count as ‘base points’ towards the 75,000 you need:

ROOM SPEND yes, it counts

You earn 10 base points per $1 on your bill at IHG hotels, as long as your room was booked directly (not via Expedia etc) and was not heavily discounted (a rule of thumb is more than 30% from the Best Available Rate).

STATUS BONUSES – no, they don’t count

Gold members receive a 10% bonus on base points.  Platinum members receive a 50% bonus.  The new top tier Spire Elite members receive a 100% bonus.  These are not treated as base points.

AMENITY BONUSES – no, they don’t count

Platinum members in Europe and some other regions are offered a choice of a free drink or snack or a few hundred points (500 at a Holiday Inn).  If you take the points, they do not count for status.

POINTS FROM A ‘BONUS POINTS’ PACKAGEyes, they count

Some hotels offer room rates which offer bonus points if you are prepared to spend more.  These bonuses can be as high as 5,000 points per night or more.  Sometimes it works out cheaper than buying points directly, sometimes it doesn’t.  However, as these points DO count as base points, these rates are now more attractive if you are chasing status.  You can find hotels which offer these rates here.

Note that this must be advertised on ihg.com as a ‘Bonus Points’ package.  If you book any other package which just happens to come with additional points, these will not count for status.

CREDIT CARD SIGN-UP BONUSES – no, they don’t count

Any bonus you get for signing up to the IHG Rewards Club credit card will no longer be treated as base points.  This is a shame as the UK Premium card offers 20,000 points for signing up, whilst the free card offers 10,000 points.

CREDIT CARD POINTS FOR SPENDING yes, they count

Whilst sign up bonuses no longer count, points from your day to day spend DO qualify.  A heavy credit card spender could achieve the new top tier by spending £37,500 on the IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard without setting foot in a hotel.  I managed to retain my Spire Elite status last year primarily through credit card spend.

BONUS POINTS RECEIVED FROM AN IHG PROMOTION – no, they don’t count

If IHG sends you a code for 1,000 bonus points on your next stay, or if they offer a global points promotion, those points are not treated as base points.  The 5,000 bonus points you receive when joining the InterContinental Ambassador programme are also not treated as base points.

BUYING POINTS – no, they don’t count

These definitely don’t count towards status.  That would be too easy!

TRANSFERS FROM VIRGIN ATLANTICyes, they count

This is, for many people, the best way of getting IHG Spire Elite status quickly.  If you are based outside the UK and cannot get status via a credit card, it is also a good way to hit Gold or Platinum.

As you can see from this page of the Virgin Atlantic website, you can transfer your Flying Club miles – minimum 10,000 – into IHG Rewards Club on a 1:1 basis.  And they count for status.

As I value an IHG point at 0.4p to 0.5p, this is a bad deal purely from the point of view of getting free hotel nights.  However, the equation changes if you get a free hotel night AND IHG status.

The equation changes even more if, say, you are 20,000 base points short of Spire Elite.  Transfer in 20,000 Virgin miles and you would get 45,000 IHG points – because of the 25,000 point bonus for hitting Spire Elite.  This means you’re getting over 1p per Virgin mile of value and benefitting from top tier IHG status for up to 23 months.

(To get 23 months, you would need to transfer 75,000 Virgin miles in January. That would get you all of the current year and all the following year.)

TRANSERS FROM FINNAIR – yes, they count (I think)

You can also transfer points from Finnair into IHG Rewards Club – see here.  I have never met anyone who did this but I would imagine they count for status in the same way as Virgin Atlantic transfers.

CREDITING A CAR RENTAL – good question (comments below say ‘Yes’)

IHG is a partner with Hertz, Avis and Budget, as well as airport transfer group Groundlink.  You can earn points by crediting your rentals to IHG Rewards Club instead of to an airline loyalty scheme.  My gut feeling is that these would count for status.  Note that the earning rate is very poor, however, and you are better off crediting your car rentals to an airline programme instead.

POINTS.COM CONVERSIONS – no, they don’t count

I wrote about points.com here.  It is a website which allows you to transfer points from some airline and hotel programmes into some other airline and hotel programmes.  I don’t mention it much because neither Avios or Virgin Atlantic are partners.  IHG is a partner.  Two years ago I converted some unwanted Virgin America miles into 7,500 IHG points.  These did not count as base points.

E-REWARDS – no, they don’t count

As of February 2017, transfers from the e-rewards market research scheme (invitation only, you need to be opted in to marketing email from IHG partners to get an invite) no longer count towards status.

TRAVELLING CONNECT (points from mobile calls)yes, they count (I think)

I wrote about Travelling Connect here.  You earn points in various airline and hotel programmes when your mobile phone is used on specific networks outside the UK.  It is no-brainer to register your mobile for this if you travel.  Travelling Connect would prefer you to manually change your mobile network when abroad in order to pick one that earns points – I don’t do this, but if my phone just happens to connect to a TC partner then I get some points for absolutely no work whatsoever.

Note that I have not had any points from Travelling Connect in the last couple of months.  E-Rewards points (see above) stopped counting for status in February 2017.  Did Travelling Connect go the same way?  Let me know if you have any recent examples.

I hope you found this useful.  In summary:

For UK residents who want Gold or Platinum status, I would focus on getting the relevant IHG credit cards with their free status

For UK residents who want Spire Elite, look at moving spend to the IHG Rewards Club credit cards (2 points per £1 on the Premium MasterCard is generous), booking ‘Bonus Point’ packages and transferring Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles

For non-UK residents who want Gold, Platinum or Spire Elite status, you should focus on booking ‘Bonus Point’ packages and transferring Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles as these are easy way to earn base points

The British Airways 'On Business' programme explained (Part 2, 2017 edition)
Bits: great Qatar Airways / HFP competition coming, 1200 Avios for £15 & FREE Now TV!
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Colin mackinnon says:

    If I have free gold, how many base points do I need for Spire Elite?

  2. Jonathan says:

    I earn my spire elite from the premium credit card and spending at HMRC for tax/vat etc exclusively. The IHG MasterCard has the cheapest fee with HMRC I’ve found without using a debit card.

    Then if you’re short, transfer some Virgin miles over. Once you hit spire elite you get 25,000 bonus points.

  3. Genghis says:

    Trouble with SE is that nothing is guaranteed. But recently I’ve had a decent room upgrade at Indigo Tel Aviv and lounge access and upgrade at CP Jerusalem. It’s helped in the past negotiating compensation at a hotel.

    • I’m not sure if I’m just lucky, but I tend to get an upgrade almost everywhere I go, and extra free drinks coupons if I’m not traveling on my own. For no reason at all I got free breakfast at the IC in Nanjing recently, which would have otherwise been £23 each (and would have been worth it). Side point, the IC Nanjing is very nice for people that like to have a high room, mine was on the 66th floor!

  4. I agree IHG is good for points but there is no recognition at any status level. I too got Spire from credit card spend but then you had the debacle with Barclaycard closing the account.
    I moved to Hilton at the start of last year and via status match got Diamond status. When that expired I asked again and was given a challenge. I have met that easily and have diamond till March 2019 and, thanks to Hilton latest promotions will have almost 200,000 points from a standing start back in January.
    Hilton provide free breakfast, guaranteed lounge access and are generally better than holiday inn or crown plaza. You even get points when staying on a redemption night.
    Accelerate is a good promo from IHG but not as generous as before so for me only worthwhile if there are mattress run rates nearby. I am in Indonesia in August where HIX are available at $25 a night, that’s definite mattress run territory.

  5. Will Hilton Honors Status Match to HonorsDiamond from SE? If so, it becomes really worthwhile…

    • Genghis says:

      From at least Plat I believe. Check out statusmatcher

      • Off topic help required. I booked a revenue flight online with BA yesterday. Is there some rule where you have 24 hours to call the BA desk and cancel or is this only for Avios redemption flights?

    • They matched my SE with Diamond. Twice now.

      • Diamond status match not automatic anymore and only via an 8 stay in 3 months challenge now.

  6. Alter Ego says:

    When I sign up for Amb for the first time, do the $200 I pay for it count towards status?

  7. gourouni says:

    Last year i moved some points from hertz to IHG and they did count for status

    • I did that too last year.

      Directly from the hertz account and not linked to a specific car rental expense.
      The points did count for status.

      I do confirm what gourouni writes.

  8. Dougie Forde says:

    I stayed in a Holiday Inn in Berlin last weekend, paid for with points. As a Gold member through the credit card they upgraded me to an executive room with a free mini bar. As I was on my own and there for a half marathon I didn’t feel the urge to drink the beer and wine in the room alone. Enjoy the water, crisps and coke though!

    • Mister.c. says:

      Was it the one on the East-side? I stayed there just after it opened and the staff were great and I also got an upgrade due to the status from the card. Nice hotel that one.

      • Dougie Forde says:

        It was on the West side, near Siemens global HQ. 10000 points per night. Has a gym, swimming pool and sauna

    • mark E says:

      I’m also interested in knowing which Holiday In this is ,a s I am Spire and will be staying at the Holiday Inn Berlin City East-Landsberger in a couple of months time.

  9. Stewie says:

    How does Ambassador fit into this? I never stay at IHG hotels normally but have a 2 night stay next week at an IC, and vaguely recall some chat about buying ambassador at the desk at checkin can be an excellent deal. What does it get you?

    • Dave R says:

      Room upgrade (guaranteed)
      Free movie
      Late check out (4pm)
      Welcome gift & water
      2for1 weekend night certificate
      Usually discounted lounge access

      I think the logic about buying ambassador at the hotel (rather than online in advance) is that the hotel agent gets some form of commision so may be willing to incentivise you to buy ambassador with a better than usual room upgrade etc.

    • Worth asking, although I tried this at the IC San Francisco and no extra deal at all – very much depends on the hotel, I think.

  10. Thanks for the tip about conversion.
    I shall probably convert to Amtrak next year to pay for tickets from Boston to Toronto in the Fall.

  11. Rob, could you clarify how can we benefit 23 months top tier IHG status based on your virgin miles transfer illustrated example? I thought an elite status is last for only 12 months from Jan to Dec and have to achieve it by end of Dec of the year.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      If you hit spire in month 1 of the CY you would have it for all of the CY you hot it and all of the next one

      • Yes, sorry, I wasn’t too clear. Do a Virgin transfer on 1st January, it would hit by 8th January and you’d be Spire for all of that year plus all of the next year. If you did a Virgin transfer today you would get 18 months.

        • Genghis says:

          Obviously only do that if you’re not currently SE. If you are and you want to ‘top up’ for the next year, better off waiting to the year end to do any Virgin transfers.

    • All, thanks for the clarification.

  12. OT, and I’m sorry as I know people hate OT posts.

    Just wanted to, again, say thanks to Rob for his work in the blog. I’ve just booked three weeks in California flying to SJC from Edinburgh. Flying in First using a 241 voucher. So excited! AND when I went to choose seats, I discovered we’re on a new 787-9 with the 8-seat First cabin. Very excited to try this.

    Anyway, once again thank you for your efforts in making the odd bit of luxury travel accessible to people like me who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

    • Sounds a good result, nice one!

      Hope you have a good trip. I like the EDI lounge, Gail on reception is super nice, great advert for BA. It’s a shame I want in the best of moods when last there.

  13. Adrian says:

    All that is missing from the Spire and Ambassador schemes is free breakfast.
    I’m looking at HKG and with Hilton and Marriott chains both guaranteeing free breakfast (gold status) and the IHG properties not, that may turn out to be a deal breaker. Ironic really as I paid (miles) for the IHG Ambassador status and got the others free with Amex Plat. It turns out I am a fan of free breakfast! I stupidly only have one weekend night in HKG so I can’t get great value out of my free weekend voucher as I’ll have to use it in BKK, but I should still just about breakeven.

    One question Rob/guys I didn’t get the 5,000 points on joining AMB. I’ve had the welcome pack with the free amb weekend voucher, should it have been in there? Thank You Adrian

    • Genghis says:

      Yes, it’s in the welcome back. Comes as a voucher and you enter the code to get the points. I recommend the Conrad in Hong Kong – fantastic!

      • +1 re Conrad HK. Exec lounge is superb. Admittedly I haven’t stayed for a few years, since they stopped doing cash+points, which used to be a brilliant deal. Might take another look now that they’ve rejigged the scheme, but last time I looked I found the cost excessive.

    • There should be a code in the letter (at least, there was for me when I renewed – but look closely, I missed it at first). You then redeem via the website to have the points added to your account (URL should be in the letter also).

  14. We’ve been upgraded to suite rooms in all of our many HIX bookings in the USA on this trip except one at the Grand Canyon – most amount of pts and worst service – hotel was jammed full of Germans and Japanese so no upgrades available! Discovered Staybridge Suites on this trip and will be our go to from now on for our road trips – you get welcome pts and free snacks on Mon, Tues, Wed – one we got full meal provided to everyone as a social happy hr – big rooms with fridge, stove, microwave, table, lounge area – got upgraded in one place to a huge 2 bedroom suite!

    • Excellent result, Liz – hope you’re having a fantastic trip!!

      • Brilliant trip – final leg tomorrow to Santa Monica then a couple of days relaxing by the beach then homeward bound next Wed. Currently in a Hampton Inn upgraded to a king suite which is very nice.

        • Brilliant, glad you hear you’ve been enjoying! Santa Monica pier is a nice end to the trip and Beverly Hills is certainly interesting to drive around, rest of LA I’m not such a fan of!

  15. Robert says:

    Crowne plaza Times Square last week as Spire on a $138 rate for the night.
    Ridiculous $32 resort fee waved, room upgrade to 44th floor corner room, 2 drink vouchers worth $15 each (basically covers pretty much any drink or cocktail you would ask for at the bar), and a personal manager’s invite for free breakfast.

    Pretty good if you ask me.

    • How did my get that rate?

      • Robert says:

        Unlike Hilton for instance, IHG rates tend to be very flexible, changing daily. I’ve very often seen the rates at CP TS go from $200-$300 a week or two before to under $200, and down to $130-$140 on the day, so if you are willing to take the risk it’s worthwhile waiting till the very last minute, unless it’s clear the hotel is very busy and rates aren’t dropping in the days before your stay (if rates are circa $400 the hotel is likely very busy that night).

  16. Interested to know of any promo’s or deals anyone has been offered or where to ask about Amb renewal.
    My Accelerate challenge includes renewing my first year of Amb. Purchased last year using points and feel I got the benefits on a few Free Intercontinental stays. Never used my 2 for 1 and renewal date next month.
    Cheers.
    Alan C

Add your comment here:

*