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

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Whilst it may be June, your lack of hotels stays over the past six months probably means that qualification, or requalification, for a higher status tier feels a long way away.

Luckily, for IHG Rewards members there are ways of earning STATUS points without staying in their hotels.

IHG Rewards, the loyalty scheme for InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Indigo etc, status is not hugely rewarding.  We recently published a detailed review of IHG Rewards which you can find here.

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 points has historically been easy.  The trade off is that the hotels do not invest much in status benefits.

How to earn IHG Rewards status without staying

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 status for free.  Gold status comes as a benefit with the free IHG Rewards Mastercard which we review here.

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

If you want Spire Elite status in IHG Rewards, you need to earn it

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 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 few years as to what counts as a ‘base point’.  The most frustrating change was stopping transfers of Virgin Flying Club miles from counting.  Not so long ago, the sign-up bonus from the IHG Rewards credit card also counted towards status – now it doesn’t.

What IHG Rewards Club points count for status?

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 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 DAILY 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 (no longer available) IHG Rewards Premium Mastercard without setting foot in a hotel.  I managed to retain my Spire Elite status for 2018 primarily through credit card spend.  The free IHG Rewards credit card reviewed here – which is still available – only earns 1 point per £1 so you would need to spend £75,000 to earn Spire Elite status from scratch.

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 – restaurants which require a credit card guarantee do not show up. I have used this a number of times in recent weeks and the points have always posted within 24 hours of the meal.

IHG Rewards transactions which DO NOT count towards status

STATUS BONUSES – no, they don’t count

Gold members receive a 10% bonus on base points when they stay in a hotel.  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 credit card are not treated as base points.  This is a shame as the UK free card offers 10,000 points.  Your points from day-to-spending DO count, however, which means that putting £75,500 through the free 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 any longer

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 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 – 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.  Six years ago I converted some unwanted Virgin America miles into 7,500 IHG points.  These did not count as base points and I have heard no other reports to the contrary since then.

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 free IHG Rewards credit card (Gold) or buying Ambassador status for $200 (Platinum)

For UK residents who want Spire Elite, look at moving spend to the IHG Rewards credit card (1 point per £1) 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


IHG Rewards update – August 2021:

Get bonus points: The current IHG Rewards promotion is ‘Triple Your Points’ – our full article is here. It runs from 15th May to 16th August. You receive double base points on your second stay and triple base points on your third and subsequent stays. You can register on this page of ihg.com.

New to IHG Rewards?  Read our overview of IHG Rewards here and our article on points expiry rules here. Our article on ‘What are IHG Rewards points worth?’ is here.

Buy points: If you need additional IHG Rewards points, you can buy them here.

There is a 75% bonus when you buy IHG Rewards points by 13th August.

Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from IHG and the other major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Comments (25)

  • KevMc says:

    My account is showing only 55,000 needed to retain Spire for next year. Is this true for everyone this year, or is it targeted to existing Spire’s?

    I’m already at 30k points, almost entirely thanks to credit card spend, so should comfortably hit 55k before the end of the year.

  • mark2 says:

    I ‘achieved’ Spire Elite status before I set foot in an IHG property. In fact it was very soon after the inauguration of the status and the Holiday Inn in Kingston Ontario had not heard of it. After a major struggle I managed to get them to waive the small extra charge for a river view.
    Having paid for the poor breakfast the first morning, free would have been of zero value. But we discovered an excellent bakery/café (Pan Chancho) a few minutes walk away where we had excellent food at reasonable price.

  • Oz_Traveller says:

    I’ll have about 20k points to achieve by the years end to achieve Spire Elite, which I should hit with a few stays and my new IHG MasterCard. For me the main reason to hit Spire is for the 25k bonus points and the 100% point bonus I will receive when I have no other choice than to stay in an IHG (my first choice is Hilton).

  • Concerto says:

    Should usually hit platinum on nights alone. With the reduced threshold this year I only need 21 more nights. Or is status going to be automatically renewed again this year?

  • SteveJ says:

    Last time I asked, Lounge access with Crowne Plaza (and presumably the free breakfast associated?) seems like possibly the only benefit of Spire Elite.

    Not guaranteed I hear but widely offered. Is that still the consensus?

  • Kevin says:

    Are we still have the benefit of 10% price off for night stay by joining the Ambassador by cash $200 or 40k reward points? I heard that this benefit has been removed but can’t find the article now.

  • Alex Sm says:

    It’s a shame they stopped counting Virgin Points conversions… I still remember a ‘special operation’ which my partner and I undertook by converting Tesco points to Virgin points and then to IHG points with various bonuses on the way and Platinum status at the end of the operation. Not possible anymore…

  • mr_jetlag says:

    Does the IHG card cap points earning by the card limit like Virgin does?

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