Which sort of IHG Rewards Club points count towards elite status, and which don’t?

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It’s January, and your hotel status points will have reset to zero.  Qualification, or requalification, for a higher status tier feels a long way away.  Luckily, for IHG Rewards Club members there are ways of earning STATUS points without staying in their hotels.

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

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 Premium Mastercard (review here)

The Ambassador loyalty programme, which covers InterContinental hotels, also gives Platinum status in IHG Rewards Club.  See this HFP article for details.  There is a $200 fee for Ambassador.

If you want top tier Spire Elite status, 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’.  The biggest recent change was stopping transfers of Virgin Flying Club miles from counting.  If you are interested in pushing for Spire Elite in 2020, 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:

IHG Rewards Club transactions which DO count towards status:

ROOM SPEND – yes, it counts

You earn 10 base points per $1 on your bill at most 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).

POINTS FROM A ‘BONUS POINTS’ PACKAGE – yes, 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 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 for 2018 primarily through credit card spend.

CREDITING A CAR RENTAL – yes, they count

IHG Trip Extras lets you book Hertz car rentals.  The points from these count towards status.

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

I wrote about Travelling Connect here and you can register 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.

RESTAURANT BOOKINGS – yes, they count

IHG has a partnership with OpenTable for restaurant bookings which I wrote about here.  In the majority of cases, you earn 150 points per booking, boosted to 500 on your first booking.  These points count for elite status.  Note that, in my experience, the IHG booking page has less availability than the main OpenTable site.

IHG Rewards Club transactions which DO NOT count towards status:

STATUS BONUSES – no, they don’t count

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

AMENITY BONUSES – no, they don’t count

Gold, Platinum and Spire 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) at check-in.  If you take the points, they do 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.  Your points from day-to-spending DO count, however, which means that putting £37,500 through the £99 credit card gets you Spire Elite without having to go near a hotel.

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.

BUYING POINTS – no, they don’t count

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

TRANSFERS FROM VIRGIN ATLANTIC – no, they don’t count as of mid-2018

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.   Now that the points no longer count towards status, this is a bad deal as I only value an IHG point at 0.4p.

TRANSFERS FROM FINNAIR – no, they don’t count

You can also transfer points from Finnair into IHG Rewards Club – see here.  There are very few reports from people who have done this, but the last one I saw said that it did not count for status.

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.  Four 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

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.

Conclusion

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) or booking ‘Bonus Point’ packages when you stay – both methods will make it easier to get to 75,000 points

For non-UK residents who want Gold, Platinum or Spire Elite status, you should focus on booking ‘Bonus Point’ packages or, for Platinum status, joining InterContinental Ambassador

(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. Benilyn says:

    OT but IHG: What are people’s favourite IHG hotels? I have 2x free night, and trying to work towards 2x more, and whatever points that brings along over 2 years via the paid IHG card, but can’t find any amazing redemptions, even the IC Maldives has very limited availability???

    • memesweeper says:

      My favourites have been the Kimpton Fitzroy, Eventi Kimpton NYC and IC Marseille. All tips from this site IIRC!

      • Gin and Tonic Please says:

        +1 for Kimpton Eventi NYC. Great hotel

      • memesweeper says:

        IC’s in Lyon and Bordeaux are on my hitlist now. If you want a beach there’s always IC Danag, but I’d not fly that far for a free hotel night personally.

    • We used our free nights at the IC in Malta.

      The area could be much more glamorous, but we were upgraded to a nice highline suite with club access and it’s one of the better club lounges that I’ve experienced over the years.

      Did the job for a long weekend.

    • Neil Donoghue says:

      IC Malta or Bangkok

    • We like the IC Le Grand in Paris. The IC Amstel in Amsterdam and IC Porto are on our wish list after Rob’s review of the Amstel and comments from several readers on both of them.. All a lot more accessible than the Maldives for a weekend break.

      • Genghis says:

        IC Porto is excellent. We’re returning there in August. Six Senses Douro Valley needs to come onboard IHG so I can cancel my currently booked alternative (villa with private pool and River View but ££££).

      • Genghis says:

        And IC Amstel good but not amazing. We’ve stayed once a year for the last four years or so now and our last visit in Sep (with young’un) wasn’t as special: multiple service failures.

        • Benilyn says:

          Thanks Genghis and all. I was looking for more non-city break type ones, so could use 4 free nights and maybe whatever points I have to make it 5 or 6 nights.I guess we really need those Mr & Mrs Smith / Six Senses to come live… will be a while though.

      • Harry T says:

        @Lyn I stayed at the Amstel the week before last. I enjoyed the stay; lots of little extra touches. The cocktails are good in the bar. Sadly the pool was undergoing maintenance work but they taxied me to the Okura to use their facilities. Treated well as IC Ambassador – upgraded from a King room with city view to a top floor junior suite with a beautiful view of the canal.

        • Thanks Harry T, and I’m glad you enjoyed the weekend. A good reminder to check the status of the pool before booking.

          • Harry T says:

            @Lyn
            Very true – haven’t had that problem before. I have only recently started staying in nice hotels too, so I’m learning the ropes.

          • @Harry T – you seem to be learning the ropes very well. We rarely stay at high end hotels and wouldn’t be able to if it weren’t for hotel loyalty programmes. The pool comment was actually that I need to remember to check, rather than you, since having the chance to swim really makes a difference to me.

  2. Stayed at the Crowne Plaza London City (next to Blackfriars station) the weekend before last having got a really good rate. There would have been an automatic upgrade to a Club floor room (possibly a suite) had we not needed a 2 bedded room because of our 18 YO daughter being with us. Club lounge upgrade was given automatically with Spire membership and all in all we were quite happy with the hotel. However I do find benefits getting fewer although basically we generate the points for use on more expensive stays/in conjunction with extending our Ambassador weekend.

  3. Lady London says:

    Some of the above methods, although not qualifying for status, would hopefully still count as activity?

    Having had ridiculous IHG Accelerate targets every time in the past two years I had diverted my stays to other chains. So need activity to keep from expiring. I bought a few points hoping still the case – could not remember if IHG expiry has gone down to 1 year but thought it did.

    • Buying points should have worked to extend your points. I think having any status keeps your points from expiring as well, so a rather more drastic option could be getting the free IHG credit card. This gives Gold status and might even lead to an occasional spend (on an IHG hotel) accelerate target. Perhaps it might even break your unlucky cycle of impossible accelerate targets!

  4. Gin and Tonic Please says:

    ” Note that, in my experience, the IHG booking page has less availability than the main OpenTable site.”

    Rough rule of thumb seems to be that any restaurants requiring a credit card to secure the booking don’t show up on IHG but do on OpenTable direct.

  5. I’d forgotten about Travelling Connect… They seem to have gone backwards in terms of coverage since you wrote about them in 2016 – no coverage in Hong Kong now for example.

    The interesting thing for our upcoming trip to Vietnam… I paid £32 for a 24GB preloaded 3 SIM lasting up to 24 months (a Black Friday deal on Amazon). If I used all 24GB in Vietnam, at 0.2 miles or points per MB that should earn 4,800 points which in some schemes (though not IHG) could be worth more than I paid for the SIM.

    In practice though, the limited range of partners makes that difficult, as do the acceptable use caps for Three roam like at home.

  6. OT: I have a 2-4-1 companion voucher and an 18 month-old son. Is there a significant difference between what my wife and I would have to pay for our son to travel in business under and over 2 years-of-age when using the 2-4-1 voucher? I understand 2 years old is the cut off for ‘cheap’ travel?

    Thanks,
    Marc

    • After 2 years old he will need his own seat. So yes, if the three of you wanted to travel in business class after that point you’d either need to spend the extra avios, taxes and fees for a third redemption seat, or you’d need to buy a cash fare for him.

    • Try and go before he’s 2 – there’s plenty of room for a toddler with 2 J or F seats and you’ll save a lot of avios and cash. He won’t be indulging in the F & B (unless he’s very sophisticated!), so it would be rather a waste paying for a 3rd seat at this stage. (Though my 14 year old won’t eat anything they serve on a plane in any cabin apart from chocolate so that 3rd seat isn’t great value for us even now!)

  7. OT but IHG: Not sure if its useful info for anyone but we stayed at the IC Phu Quoc between Christmas and New Year for 3 nights and got some unexpected benefits. We booked with points and I have IHG platinum status. We were offered a complimentary drink for 2 people as well as complimentary breakfast for 2 for the 3 nights. We had two rooms booked but these benefits only applied to the room I was staying although we then got 20% off the two breakfasts we did pay for. The total value of the drinks and breakfast was over £150 which was a welcome surprise!

  8. AviosNewbie says:

    Do the 15000 points received for renewing Ambassador count?

  9. My status has been downgraded to Gold Elite despite having a IHG Premier MasterCard and have been informed by IHG it’s just an introductory deal for the first year, despite that not being what is stated on their website! Do either it’s very poor customer service or illegal advertising!

  10. pommy ray says:

    I notice never automatically get the green 500 points (no housekeeping) for doing at least 2 nights running. have asked recently but no reply on it. thought they would encourage that sort of trendy thing at the moment!

  11. Slightly OT, but has anyone recently (as in the last month) started getting hit with Interest On Cash charges using their curve (linked to IHG) card to make cash withdrawals. I’ve also been using the card to pay down other CC’s, but I’m struggling to pinpoint if these are being hit with a charge too as the interest charge was just a single line on my monthly statement, and the amounts aren’t the easiest to reverse engineer.

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