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 Card Offers‘ area in the menu bar. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
This article was updated on 1st December 2020, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.
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Key links: IHG Rewards Club Mastercard application form
Key facts: No annual fee
The representative APR is 22.9% variable.
About the IHG Rewards Club credit card
The IHG Rewards Club Mastercard 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, Hotel Indigo, Kimpton, Regent, voco, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.
Until April 2020 there was a second version of this card, the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard, which carried a £99 fee. This card is no longer available to new applicants although you may still see reference to it online.
What is the IHG Rewards Club card 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+.
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 Elite status for as long as you hold the card.
You can see the benefits of being an IHG Rewards Club Gold Elite member here. It is not worth much in theory (no free breakfast, no room upgrade, 10% points bonus) but some hotels do give holders 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.
Your on-going points from using the card count towards IHG Rewards Club status and so will speed up your progression from Gold to Platinum Elite.
The sign-up bonus does NOT count towards IHG Rewards Club status.
What is the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard 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 earn 2 points per £1 for overseas spend.
Note that the IHG and overseas bonuses do not stack – if you pay for an IHG hotel in a foreign currency with the card, you only receive two, and not four, points per £1.
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 based on a 60,000 – 70,000 point redemption for a room in an InterContinental in a major city.
1 point per £1 charged to your card is equivalent, on my numbers, to a 0.4% rebate on your spend. This is attractive compared to the rewards you would get from, say, the Tesco Clubcard Mastercard.
How does this compare to a cashback credit card?
My default comparison card is the John Lewis / Waitrose Mastercard which is free for life and offers 0.25% cashback in vouchers. The representative APR is 18.9% variable.
0.25% cashback is far worse than the value of the points offered by the IHG card, given that I value an IHG Rewards Club point at 0.4p. This means that you are getting a 0.4% return on your spending.
The IHG sign-up bonus is worth having – 10,000 points is worth roughly £40 – £50 of free hotels stays. You may want to keep the card in a drawer, unused, to continue to benefit from the free IHG Rewards Club Gold status.
You may also value the fact that the points you earn from day to day spend count towards status with IHG Rewards Club.
Is the IHG card a good card to use when travelling?
Yes, to the extent that you earn double points (2 per £1) on foreign spend.
However, as Creation adds a 3% foreign exchange fee, you might want to get a separate free credit card to use abroad. Unfortunately there are no travel rewards card without a foreign exchange fee. One option is to get a free Curve Card – see this HFP article – and link it to a miles-earning Visa or Mastercard.
Another option is to open an account with online bank Starling. It comes with a debit card which charges no fees on FX cash withdrawals up to £300 per day and no fees at all on overseas transactions. You can fund Starling by moving money to and from your existing bank account via their app. Our review of Starling Bank is here and you can apply here.
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 free IHG Rewards Club credit card may offer an easy way to get the points you need.
It is worth noting that you can transfer Virgin Flying Club miles into IHG Rewards Club points at a 1:1 ratio.
This means that instead of getting this card, you could get the free Virgin Atlantic credit card and transfer the points from Virgin Flying Club into IHG Rewards Club.
The downside is that you would not receive IHG Rewards Club Gold Elite status, transferred points do not count towards IHG Rewards Club status and the earning rate is lower (0.75 per £1 on the free Virgin Atlantic card vs 1 per £1 on the free IHG card).
The upside is increased flexibility. As well as transfers to IHG, you would have the option of using your points for flights with Virgin Atlantic and its partners. As Virgin Flying Club miles can also be transferred to Hilton Honors at 2:3, you would have Hilton as an alternative hotel transfer option.
There is also a paid version, the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard, with a 15,000 miles sign-up bonus and a better earning rate:
As a sign-up incentive, 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points may get you a free night in a cheap hotel in a small city (worth at least £40) or 2,000 airline miles.
The on-going earnings rate of 1 point per £1 was not hugely attractive 18 months ago but, as other cards have cut their rates, now looks surprisingly good. Most cashback or voucher cards, such as the John Lewis / Waitrose Mastercard, offer just 0.25% cashback or less. Getting 0.4% back in IHG Rewards Club points is very good in comparison.
It is, however, nowhere near as good as the free Virgin Atlantic credit card. 0.75 Virgin Points per £1, worth 0.6p to 0.75p, would be better for you. You can also transfer Virgin Points into IHG Rewards Club and Hilton Honors.
The application for the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard card can be found here.
(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards? Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)
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.