IHG planning a new extra-premium credit card, with extra-premium benefits

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Regular readers of Head for Points will know that I am a strong believer in the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard.

For an annual fee of £99, I think the benefits package is unbeatable:

Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards Club (no spend target required, you keep it for as long as you keep the card)

2 IHG Rewards Club points for every £1 you spend, which is doubled for spending in IHG hotels or overseas (I value an IHG point at 0.4p, so this is a 0.8% return on spend and 1.6% in IHG properties)

The points you earn from spending count for status – this is the ONLY UK travel credit card where you can earn top tier status, in this case Spire Elite, purely from card spend

A free night voucher each year when you spend £10,000 – this is valid at ANY IHG property that is showing standard reward availability, and is worth £250+ if used at a top InterContinental at peak times

On top of all this, there is a sign-up bonus of 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points.  What’s not to like?  It is £99 well spent in my mind.  Even if you can’t spend £10,000 per year for the free night voucher, you can justify the £99 fee purely for Platinum Elite status if you’re averaging just one stay per month at an IHG hotel.

(Note that the 20,000 points sign-up bonus does NOT count towards status.  Representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.)

My full review of the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard is here if you want to find out more.

IHG planning a new Premium UK credit card

The credit card consultancy Auriemma is working with IHG on plans for a new super-premium card.  What is not clear at the moment is whether this would replace, or accompany, the existing £99 Premium card.

A survey is currently doing the rounds with a number of options attached to it.

(For what it’s worth, the image that accompanies the survey is of the current Premium card, so the new card may be a direct replacement for this rather than a third IHG card.)

In essence, the existing £99 Premium card benefits (2 points per £1, Platinum Elite status, free night at £10,000 of spending) remain.

There would be ADDITIONAL benefits on top, which could include some of the following:

Free airport lounge access via Priority Pass or similar

Free access to the Executive Lounge if your hotel has one

Top tier Hertz status if you have top tier IHG status

A 2nd annual free night after spending £25,000

20% discount on purchasing IHG Rewards Club points

‘4 nights for the points of 3’ on reward stays

2-level room upgrades on stays

Boingo wi-fi

Free travel insurance

Free breakfast on all your IHG stays

8 points per £1 spent at IHG hotels and 6 points per £1 spent at ‘selected merchants’

No FX fees when spending at IHG hotels outside the UK

The new card would have two or three of the above features and would have an annual fee of between £149 and £199.

Here are my thoughts on what is being proposed:

Category 1:  Fantastic idea but IHG Head Office will never agree to it

Free access to the Executive Lounge if your hotel has one

Free breakfast on all your IHG stays

Category 2:  A good idea which I can see IHG Head Office buying into

A 2nd annual free night when you spend £25,000 (although there is a caveat here – if you spend £25,000 on a Mastercard it makes more sense for your partner to get the £99 card and get their own free night through that at £10,000 of spend, rather than you spending £25,000)

4 nights for the points of 3 on reward stays (this is already a US IHG credit card benefit so is very likely to be included in any new package)

No FX fees when spending at IHG hotels outside the UK (but, you know, this should have been a feature from Day 1)

8 points per £1 spent at IHG hotels and 6 points per £1 spent at ‘selected merchants’

Category 3:  A good idea on paper but it will only lead to trouble for IHG

2-level room upgrades on stays (I mean, you’re having a laugh.  I have, literally, been given a non-upgraded standard room overlooking the bins – see the photo below – as a top-tier IHG Rewards Club member.  Even getting a one-level upgrade is unlikely in practice, and of course Holiday Inn Express hotels rarely have bigger rooms anyway.  The idea that you’d get a two level upgrade is laughable.  Whoever thought of this one has never stayed at an IHG hotel as a status member.)

Category 4:  Good idea but likely to be counter-productive, since most people will have the same benefit via other cards or bank accounts and won’t want to pay twice

Free airport lounge access via Priority Pass or similar

Free travel insurance

Category 5:  Ideas which have no value at all

Top tier Hertz status if you have top tier IHG status (there are many ways of getting Hertz status for free and it has minimal value anyway)

20% discount on purchasing IHG Rewards Club points (points are regularly discounted by 50%)

Boingo wi-fi (can’t remember the last time I was somewhere where the only wi-fi option was a paid one via Boingo)

So, in conclusion ….

If the credit card people can persuade IHG Rewards Club to sign off on either of the two benefits in Category 1 (free breakfast, free lounge access) then this will become a fantastic credit card.  However, I just don’t see it.

InterContinental LeGrand in Paris, for example, charges €150 per night for lounge access if you buy it separately.  Who would reimburse them for the cost of giving it to me for free?  The same hotel charges €45 per person for breakfast – who is refunding that?

If all of the benefits of Category 2 are thrown in, there MAY be something in it.  Would any of the ideas justify a fee hike from £99 to £199 though?:

  • How many people can spend £25,000 per year on a Mastercard to trigger a 2nd free night?
  • ‘4 for 3’ on reward stays has some value, but IHG doesn’t have many resort properties that encourage four night stays in the first place
  • Similarly, you need to spend a lot of your own money at overseas IHG hotels before ‘no FX fees’ becomes valuable – and if you are travelling on business with your expenses repaid, you don’t care if there is an FX fee.

Why not waive FX fees entirely? You are cutting off a major source of profit, but IHG would have the ONLY UK travel credit card which was worth using when travelling!

Category 3 …. just forget about it.

The benefits of Category 4 are good, but a lot of people will have them anyway.  I would personally value a lounge club card and travel insurance at nil as I get them via Amex Platinum AND HSBC Premier today.  Unless, of course, IHG wants to be very aggressive and try to persuade Amex Platinum cardholders to cancel and move across.

Category 5 … just forget it.  You’re making extra noise but everyone can see through the lack of value here.

Let’s see where we end up.  If IHG wants my honest opinion, I think the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard is perfect just as it is.  £99 is seen as acceptable by a lot of people and the benefits are fantastic.  IHG shouldn’t mess with this unless they can really throw in something special.  But how many consultants are ever brave enough to say ‘this works, you shouldn’t mess with it, we won’t take your money’ …..?

(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.)

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Comments

  1. Surely a guaranteed 2-cat upgrade at IC properties is not to be sniffed at.

  2. Harry Hv says:

    Head office at Hilton and Marriott have no problem offering free breakfast to all Gold and Platinum members so why shouldn’t IHG offer it at least to its creditcard elites?

    Although that might start a sort of Glass Ceiling effect like at Accor where there’s never going to be free breakfast for elites, no significant benefits at all really because they’re selling a card (Accor Plus) where you have to pay for those benefits such as a 50% discount for breakfast and a “free” offpeak award night.

  3. Ismael says:

    I have the free IHG mastercard. If I cancel this and apply for the premium version, will I still be eligible for the bonus and if not, how long should I wait between cancelling and reapplying? Thank you.

  4. melonfarmer says:

    Boingo is a benefit on the Virgin fee card and is, frankly, next to useless. I now challenge it to see where it won’t connect (so far England, USA, Germany). My 3 mifi is much better and I can use my allowance overseas.

    Oddly enough IHG promoted their card in their app, declined my application for a premium card, but accepted the standard 1. Do cc companies usually turn away paying punters with (dare I say) good records? No skin off my nose, but won’t use it as much.

    • Lady London says:

      Why not query it with IHG and tell them you’d rather have the expensive card with same credit limit?

  5. For me, I would pay £199.00 for any of the following options:

    Option 1

    Free access to the Executive Lounge if your hotel has one

    For me this wins out. I always stay at the Hilton because of my lounge access. If they gave this I would seriously consider switching my 60+ stays, which would give them further income.

    Option 2

    4 nights for the points of 3 on reward stays

    Free breakfast on all your IHG stays

    I would be quite happy with this but would not cause me to switch stays as much.

    Option 3

    No FX fees when spending at IHG hotels outside the UK

    8 points per £1 spent at IHG hotels and 6 points per £1 spent at ‘selected merchants’

    Free Breakfast

    This would also be acceptable but I would not be running out to change my stays.

    Outside of that, I am not interested. The only other one is the hotel night for £25k but for me that is not really worth it as I would like to have consentrate too much spend onto the card and the extra £100 fee would be covering a lot of the cost anyway.

    • I’ll go with your option 2 – 4 for 3 redemptions, and free breakfast for Platinum (or if paying atvthe hotel with the Credit Card), plus a second free night at £20,000. Those three would (a) shift more of my hotel business to IHG, and (b) keep me spending on the card above the current £10,000 threshold (at which point, like for many others, it goes into a drawer and I switch to the VS MC).

      Generally speaking, no FX fees would be a good feature for a UK ‘premium’ rewards card, but I don’t see the market requiring that.

  6. Hardy Makkar says:

    Ok – so I have spent 10k on my BAPP, I cannot apply any MR card until Oct 2019 because of new Amex rules. What is the best way for me to earn most avios along with sign-ups? Any recommendations?

  7. Free breakfast or hotel lounge access would be a top benefit, as even Spire doesn’t get that. But I agree, unlikely yo happen.

    As for the current £99 IHG card, I think that the free night for spending £10k is only given after you pay the annual fee for the following year. So even if you signup for the card, send 10k in the first month, you still have to wait another 11-12 months and then pay the annual fee for the next year before you get the free night voucher. Makes it slightly less valuable, esp for churning.

    • No, you can still cancel. We have an article explaining how to do it, dictated to me by a Creation Manager.

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