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.
EDIT: The IHG Rewards Club Premium credit card was withdrawn from the market in April 2020. I have kept this review available for reference purposes but you can no longer apply.
If you want to check your credit record before applying for a new card, click here to get your free Experian Credit Score.
Key facts: £99 annual fee
The representative APR is 45.1% variable, including the annual fee, based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.
About the IHG Premium credit 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, Kimpton, Hotel Indigo, Regent, voco, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.
There are two versions of this card. I reviewed the free IHG Rewards Club credit card here. The Premium card is a far more interesting proposition, especially if you are a high spender.
What is the IHG Premium credit card 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+.
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. You get this every 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 only receive the voucher at the end of your card year irrespective of how quickly you hit the £10,000 target. This article explains the process for cancelling the card if you do not want to renew for another year but are still owed a voucher.
You will receive IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status for as long as you hold the card.
Platinum Elite 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 Elite benefits here.
Some hotels – especially Crowne Plaza hotels – do choose to give Platinum Elite 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 – but not the sign-up bonus – count towards IHG Rewards Club status.
This will help your progression from Platinum Elite to the top tier Spire Elite status. Note that 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 IHG Premium credit card 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.
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 including tax. On that basis, an IHG Rewards Club point is worth about 0.4p based on a 60,000 or 70,000 point redemption for a room in an InterContinental in a major city.
2 points per £1, using my valuation, is equivalent to a 0.8% – 1% rebate on your spend. This is very good for a Visa or Mastercard product.
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 0.5% cashback in vouchers. The representative APR is 18.9% variable.
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 IHG Premium card 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 – £100 of free hotel stays – is not to be scoffed at but is worth no more than the annual fee. Even if you don’t want to spend on the card, you may want to keep it in a drawer, unused, to continue to benefit from IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status for just £99 per year.
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.
Is IHG Premium a good card to use when travelling?
Yes, to the extent that you earn double points (4 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 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.
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 £160 Virgin Atlantic credit card and transfer the points from Virgin Flying Club into IHG Rewards Club. There are four big downsides to this, however:
- you would not receive IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status
- you would not receive the free night voucher for spending £10,000
- the earning rate is lower (1.5 per £1 on the free Virgin Atlantic card vs 2 per £1 on the IHG Premium card)
- points transferred from Virgin Atlantic do NOT count towards IHG status, whereas points earned on the IHG Premium card do
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.
As a sign-up bonus, 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points is worth around £80 of free hotel stays. You will also benefit from your Platinum Elite 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 want the Platinum Elite status, but any regular guest at IHG hotels would value this. My personal view is that this is arguably the best Visa or Mastercard on the market for high spenders who will trigger the free night each year.
For some people, the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ card may be more attractive, since it effectively allows you to earn Virgin Flying Club miles or IHG Rewards Club points or Hilton Honors points. However, you would be missing out on the free night voucher and Platinum Elite status and the earning rate is lower.
The application for the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard 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.