For the first time in a long time (ever?) IHG Rewards Club is running an enhanced bonus on the FREE IHG Rewards Club Mastercard.
Until 31st March, you will receive 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points for signing up and spending £500 within three months.
The usual bonus is just 10,000 points.
20,000 IHG points converts into 4,000 Avios or other airline miles, or you can put them towards a free hotel room.
This means that BOTH cards – the free one and the £99 Premium version – now have the same sign-up bonus. Nothing has changed on the Premium card.
Which is the best IHG Rewards Club Mastercard? My answer is normally simple (get the Premium version) but does this higher bonus make the free card more attractive?
It’s weird saying you possibly shouldn’t get a free card with a doubled bonus, but ….
This is a tricky call to make.
I think the £99 IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard – which is not the one we’re talking about in this article – is a fantastic product. That’s why we gave it an ‘Editor’s Choice’ award in the Head for Points 2019 Travel & Loyalty Awards. Here is the IHG and Creation team collecting it at our winner’s dinner:
I am NOT so excited by the free version, but only because I think the Premium version is better. To my mind, why bother with the free card when the £99 Premium card offers such great benefits?
This is what I recommend you do:
if you don’t want the credit card for long term use, feel free to sign up for the free IHG Rewards Club Mastercard and get your 20,000 bonus points. The points are worth around £80 of free hotel nights based on my 0.4p per point valuation, or convert them to 4,000 Avios.
if you are an active IHG Rewards Club member, I would ignore this offer and go for the Premium card at £99 with the standard bonus of 20,000 points. The additional benefits are well worth the fee.
How do the two IHG credit cards differ?
The card issuer is Creation Financial Services. The name may not be familiar to you but they issue a number of co-branded and own-brand credit and store cards, including ASDA Money and the now-closed-to-new-applicants Marriott Mastercard. The company is owned by French bank BNP Paribas.
The free version – IHG Rewards Club Mastercard
The headline features of this card are:
No annual fee
20,000 IHG Rewards Club points for joining and spending £500 in the first three months – these are worth about £80 of free hotel room or transferable to 4,000 Avios points or other airline miles (this is a special offer which runs until 30th March – the standard bonus is 10,000 points)
If you don’t hit £500 of spending (very unlikely!) in three months but do spend over £200 then you will receive the standard bonus of 10,000 points
Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards Club for as long as you hold the card. You won’t get much, frankly, for being Gold Elite – usually a few hundred bonus points or a free drink. However, if you do a few Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza or Indigo stays then it is certainly better than nothing.
1 IHG Rewards Club point per £1 spent. I value IHG points at 0.4p so this is a 0.4% return.
2 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 when you pay at IHG hotels. This would be roughly a 0.8% return which is good.
2 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 when you use the card abroad. As the card has a 2.99% FX fee you would be better off using a card without FX fees instead. You do NOT get 4 points per £1 if you use the card in an IHG hotel abroad – you are capped at 2 per £1.
Representative APR is 22.9% variable
It is important to note that points from day-to-day spend count towards IHG elite status. The sign-up bonus does NOT count towards elite status.
The paid-for version – IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard
The headline features of this card are:
£99 annual fee
20,000 IHG Rewards Club points for joining and spending £200 in the first three months – these are worth about £80 of free hotel rooms or transferable to 4,000 Avios points or other airline miles
Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards Club for as long as you hold the card. This is mid-tier, with Spire Elite being the top level. However, if you do a few Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza or Indigo stays then it is worth having. It is occasionally enough for a Club room upgrade at a Crowne Plaza.
2 IHG Rewards Club point per £1 spent. I value IHG points at 0.4p so this is a 0.8% return.
4 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 when you pay at IHG hotels. This would be roughly a 1.6% return which is very good.
4 IHG Rewards Club points per £1 when you use the card abroad. As the card has a 2.99% FX fee you would be better off using a card without FX fees instead. The only reason to use the card abroad would be to work towards your free night voucher or earn additional IHG elite status points.
A free night voucher for any IHG hotel for spending £10,000. Use it at the InterContinental Paris, London, New York etc and you could be looking at £250 of value.
Representative APR is 45.1% variable including the £99 fee, based on a notional £1200 credit limit
As with the free card, it is important to note that points from day-to-day spend count towards elite status. The sign-up bonus does NOT count towards elite status. A heavy spender could get Spire Elite status – requiring 75,000 points – simply by putting £37,500 of spending through this card.
Note that the free night voucher only appears at the end of your card year, irrespective of how quickly you spend £10,000. If you want to cancel the card without paying for a 2nd year, you need to ensure that NO transactions are made on the card between your anniversary date and the date the voucher appears. You can then call Creation to cancel and the £99 fee will be waived.
There are two minor restrictions on the free night voucher – it can’t be used at the handful of Regent hotels and it can’t be used at the Las Vegas or Macau casino InterContinental Alliance properties.
I like the Premium card, even though the bonus is unchanged
For long term spending Premium is a very good card.
Imagine spending £10,000 on the card in a year. You would get:
20,000 IHG Rewards Club points, worth £80 or so, assuming all spend is in the UK and not at IHG hotels
Those points count towards status, which could be important if you are pushing for Spire Elite
Your free night voucher, worth say £250 if used at an expensive InterContinental
You are getting £330 of benefits for an annual fee of £99. That is a gain of £231 or 2.31% of a £10,000 spend, which is excellent.
You also need to add in whatever value you ascribe to Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards Club.
I would NOT necessarily recommend Premium if you will not spend £10,000 to earn the free night. For low spenders, the higher earnings rate does not justify the £99 fee compared to the free IHG Rewards Club Mastercard – especially as both cards now have the same 20,000 points bonus. The only exception is if you stay enough at IHG hotels to benefit from Platinum Elite status but you don’t stay enough to actually earn it from your stays.
You can pick up an easy 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points (which converts into 4,000 Avios even if you don’t use them for hotel stays) by getting the free IHG Rewards Club Mastercard before 30th March. Remember that you need to spend £500 within three months.
I don’t blame you for jumping in on this if your credit record is in good shape.
However, if you are a regular IHG guest and can easily spend £10,000 per year on the card – and remember it is a Mastercard, so easier than spending £10,000 on an Amex – I think the Premium version has a lot more to offer. Forget the fact that the bonus is unchanged, because in the long run you will be better off.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – May 2022 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards. You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.
The Platinum Card has doubled its sign-up bonus to 60,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 60,000 Avios or other airline miles, if you apply by 1st June 2022.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER) and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
30,000 points bonus (SPECIAL OFFER) and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review
For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.