This is my review of the IHG Rewards 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 February 2021, and all of the information is correct as of that date. Ignore the original publication date shown.
Key links: IHG Rewards Mastercard application form
Key facts: No annual fee
The representative APR is 22.9% variable.
About the IHG Rewards credit card
The IHG Rewards Mastercard is issued by Creation Financial Services (part of French bank BNP Paribas) and earns points in IHG Rewards. IHG Rewards 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 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 card sign-up bonus?
You will receive 10,000 IHG Rewards 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 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 Gold Elite status for as long as you hold the card.
You can see the benefits of being an IHG Rewards 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 status and so will speed up your progression from Gold to Platinum Elite.
The sign-up bonus does NOT count towards IHG Rewards status.
What is the IHG Rewards 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 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 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 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.
How does a 0.4% return 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.
0.25% cashback is far worse than the value of the points offered by the IHG card, given that I value an IHG Rewards point at 0.4p. This means that you are getting a 0.4% return on your spending.
You may also value the fact that the points you earn from day to day spend count towards status with IHG Rewards.
The Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard is another option for earning IHG points
The most valuable free Visa or Mastercard on the market is the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard. Whilst there is no sign-up bonus, you receive 0.75 Virgin Points for every £1 you spend.
If you value a Virgin Point at 1p (which I do, it should have the same value as an Avios point) then this would represent a 0.75% return on your spending.
There is another quirk though. As well as using Virgin Points for flights, you can transfer Virgin Points into IHG Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio.
This means that instead of getting the IHG card, you could get the free Virgin Atlantic credit card, earn 0.75 points per £1 spent and transfer the points from Virgin Flying Club into IHG Rewards.
There are three downsides to getting the Virgin Atlantic credit card instead:
- you would not receive IHG Rewards Gold Elite status (although you could get the IHG credit card as well and simply not use it)
- transferred points do not count towards IHG Rewards status, unlike points earned directly from the IHG credit card, 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:
Is the IHG card worth getting purely for the sign-up bonus?
The IHG Rewards Mastercard sign-up bonus is worth having. 10,000 points is worth roughly £40 – £50 of free hotels stays.
You may also want to keep the card in a drawer, unused, to continue to benefit from the free IHG Rewards Gold status.
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 get a free card from Currensea. Currensea is a simple but clever idea. You pay abroad with your Currensea Mastercard debit card. Currensea translates the cost to Sterling with just a 0.5% fee (83% less than the IHG card charges) and withdraws the money from your bank account. You can find out more about Currensea by clicking here. Currensea is free so there is no risk in giving it a try.
Other points to note
American Express Membership Rewards stopped being an IHG Rewards partner in 2012. Apart from the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard discussed above, no other credit cards offer a way of earning IHG points.
If you need to top-off an IHG Rewards account to get to a suitable level for a redemption, the free IHG Rewards credit card may offer an easy way to get the points you need.
As a sign-up incentive, 10,000 IHG Rewards 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 IHG point per £1 was not hugely attractive two years 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 or the Amazon Platinum Mastercard, offer just 0.25% cashback or less. Getting 0.4% back in IHG Rewards 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 up to 0.75p, would be better for you. You can also transfer Virgin Points into IHG Rewards and Hilton Honors.
The application for the IHG Rewards 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 Card Offers’ 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.