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The free IHG Rewards credit card is closed to new applicants – what now?

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The UK rewards credit card market took another hit yesterday when applications were halted for the free IHG Rewards credit card.

If you look at its website, Creation – the issuer – has removed all of its remaining UK credit cards from the market. It also appears to have closed its personal loans business. The bottom line is that Creation is, apparently, no longer accepting new business for any directly sold product.

This is what is showing online:

Creation credit cards closed

We rated the IHG Rewards credit cards highly

The IHG Rewards Premium credit card – the version with the £99 annual fee – was closed in April 2020.

We liked the card so much that we gave it an ‘Editor’s Choice’ award in the Head for Points 2019 Travel & Loyalty Awards. The headline features of this card were:

  • £99 annual fee
  • 20,000 IHG Rewards points for joining and spending £200 in the first three months – these were worth about £80 of free hotel rooms or transferable to 4,000 Avios points or other airline miles
  • Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards for as long as you held the card
  • 4 IHG Rewards points per £1 when you paid at IHG hotels.  This would be roughly a 1.6% return which is very good.
  • 4 IHG Rewards points per £1 when you used the card abroad
  • A free night voucher for any IHG hotel for spending £10,000.  Used at the InterContinental Paris, London, New York etc, you could be looking at £250+ of value.

It is important to note that points from day-to-day spend counted 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.

IHG Rewards Club mastercard closed

The free IHG Rewards credit card wasn’t as good

Whilst the £99 card closed in April 2020, the free card continued to be offered.

We were less excited about the free IHG Rewards credit card, to be honest. That said, it was actually one of the most generous Visa or Mastercard credit cards on the market for travel rewards or any other reward.

It only earned 1 IHG Rewards point per £1 spent, half the rate of the paid card. However, as we value an IHG Rewards point at 0.4p, this meant a 0.4% return on your spending. It is very difficult to beat this with a free cashback or pseudo-cashback (ie store vouchers) Mastercard or Visa.

You didn’t get a free night voucher, unfortunately. You did get IHG Rewards Gold Elite status for as long as you held the card, which was a decent benefit for a free card.

The points you earned DID count towards IHG Rewards status. As hitting Spire Elite status at 75,000 base points (currently 55,000 base points) earns you a bonus of 25,000 IHG Rewards points, the card could be more lucrative than it looked.

Let’s imagine that you averaged 50,000 IHG Rewards base points per year from hotel stays. Spending £25,000 on the free IHG Rewards credit card would give you the extra 25,000 base points needed to trigger Spire Elite status at 75,000 points, and thus the bonus 25,000 IHG Rewards points.

Suddenly your average return on your card spend would double to an average of two points per £1. You’d also have a higher level of status next year than you would have otherwise achieved. It was an attractive package.

IHG Rewards credit card closed

What next?

Good question.

Hilton Honors hasn’t managed to launch a replacement credit card, almost four years after their Barclaycard-issued product was closed to new applicants. It doesn’t bode well for IHG in finding a new issuer.

That said, the market is changing. The environment is now better for small card issuers to enter the market with digital-only or digital-first products, and a low cost base would hopefully allow enough margin to fund rewards.

The hotel companies also have more flexibility than airlines in being able to offer status as a card benefit. The cost of giving out status is low, since it is down to the independently owned hotels to fund your benefits, but it is valued by cardholders.

IHG led the way in counting the points you earn from card spend towards status, which was smart.

The only notable Visa or Mastercard with travel rewards now available is the Virgin Atlantic Rewards Mastercard. This is a very generous card, made possible because Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Money have a genuine partnership. Virgin Money doesn’t buy Virgin Points at arms length – the two companies have set up a joint venture company to run the card, allowing the airline to share in card fees, interest payments, FX fees etc. This allows it to sell Virgin Points into the joint venture at a low cost, allowing a generous earning rate.

For clarity, IHG has confirmed to me that existing IHG Rewards credit cards will remain open. You don’t have to rush to find a replacement.

That said, if Creation does intend to leave the UK entirely (it is a French business) it is likely that it will look to exit its existing loan book. This could mean:

  • your IHG Rewards credit card is closed down and you pay down your balance over time
  • your card account is sold to a new issuer, who may or may not continue to give you IHG Rewards points on your spending
  • your card account is transferred to someone else who has agreed to launch a new IHG Rewards credit card

Let’s see.

IHG One Rewards update – May 2022:

Get bonus points: IHG One Rewards is offering bonus base points on all cash stays between 18th May and 31st August.  You earn double points on your 2nd to 5th nights, triple points on your 6th to 14th nights and quadruple base points from your 15th night. Our full article is here. Click here to register.

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

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

You will receive an 80% bonus when you buy IHG One Rewards points by 10th June 2022.

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 (169)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Boi says:

    I think curve will take over 🤣

  • Chrisasaurus says:

    I think you’re giving IHG a lot of credit for the points counting for status; their IT is second only to Accor’s in its horrificness and I’d say it’s at least as likely a glitch that was never resolved…

    • Ian says:

      I agree about their hopeless IT. The ‘security’ implemented for online purchases was shocking and basically rendered my card unusable. Then, carrying a zero balance on the account, it still took two months of constant chasing and nagging before they actually closed it. A company that is beyond dreadful.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It’s not a glitch it’s advertised with the card/rewards programme.

    • Paasan69 says:

      BNP Paribas (Creation Financial Services) and Accor are both …… companies. Someone able to replace the dots? I’ll give you a hint, the country was one of the first to prohibit UK citizens from entering their country after the Omicron Covid-19 variant was discovered recently.

      • Supergers49 says:

        What has Accor got to do with this? What has the country from which either company is HQ’d got to do with this? This is some strange level of confused paranoid xenophobia I fear.

        • Lady London says:

          Not really, sadly. It’s a reasonable speculation as to put it politely the poor standard of customer service generally in France is often commented on by Anglos when they encounter it.

        • Paasan69 says:

          “confused paranoid xenophobia”? Did I touch a nerve? I’ll tell you why I find customer service bad with several French companies and their IT systems inadequate.

          5-6 years ago I signed up for the Accor Business Program as I had quite a bit of business travel and liked what Ibis, Mercure and some Novotel’s had to offer and they were present where I went to. All good hotels at a decent price. However, more then 80% of my stays credited wrong (not in my favour), promos that never credited etc. Contacting customer service felt in more than one way like a “masochistic” exercise. Status recognition at the higher-level hotels (mostly Sofitel’s) at the time was also a hit and miss, mostly miss so I decided to drop them. Never looked back.

          I’ve been in IT for more than 30 years and had the privilege of working with plenty of large vendors and suppliers of IT systems from around the world. But working with French vendors/suppliers/integrators always proved difficult and time consuming. They were never able to commit or to deliver anything at within the agreed time frame. Bull/Sopra Steria/Atos/Thales/Orange, yes I’m looking at you.

          BNP Paribas/Creation and other financial corporations, don’t get me started. Comments here on HfP speak for themselves.

          When that’s said, Air France/KLM I have no issues with. Even CDG, which many people enjoy giving a good bash, I don’t have any issues with. Even more, French cars nowadays I have good experiences with. So, with these experiences in mind, I am sceptic to deal with companies based in France. However, giving them a chance I’m willing to, hoping that my negative experiences can be put to shame.

          Xenophobic? Perhaps but then with quite a bit of experience to base this on.


  • NigelthePensioner says:

    Creation should never have been created. Im surprised the regulator hasn’t shut them down for excelling at incompetence. The latest gaff was failing to issue statements (on line or by post) a couple of months ago and then charging interest and £12 late payment fee when no bill was ehmm “created”!! Still I got it all back + £20 compensation.
    Useless financial institution. They were no better with the Fly(may)Be card.

  • Paul says:

    Creation’s customer service was appalling, particularly for a fee based card and on that basis alone I gave it up some time ago.

    I have spire elite till the end of 2022 despite not having spent a paid night in an IHG hotel since 2018. My ambassador status that year seems to have triggered an extension then the pandemic hit and it just keeps being extended. That’s nice but the reality is that I value Hilton diamond more highly and try to stay with them whenever possible.

  • Sandgrounder says:

    What a shock!
    They used an excuse to get rid of the most expensive customers early.
    I would speculate that existing customers will be shut down as soon as they can exit the contract they have with IHG.

    • rich says:

      Expensive customers because they scammed the system and were therefore loss making. I would have found any excuse to close the loop holes but would not have got rid of you.

      • Peter says:

        That maybe so, but the manner in which they were shut down. Ie the 99 fee taken in the days just prior to account closure. People been targeted for clourse in spite of not using the method (ms) you say. Not communicating with complaints. It all mounts uo.

      • John says:

        The cost to a card issuer for manufactured spend should be the same as for non-manufactured spend. If people spending more than £50k per year or whatever causes the card issuer to make a loss that’s a problem with their business model.

        • Rob says:

          Not really. Creation accepted you as a customer based on your declared income level which a reasonable person would expect to have some correlation to spend level.

          Declare a £1m salary and see how keen Creation or Virgin Money is for your business. I reckon £25k of spend is about the level where IHG Premium became loss making for them.

          • The Savage Squirrel says:

            I can confirm this. They didn’t accept me until I considerably reduced my salary in my application (and, alas, I’m not making £1M per year 😀 ). Was I being accurate? Well I might have been “considering” cutting back my hours and then plans change … 😉 .

          • Chrisasaurus says:

            Well let’s find out – I’ll accept a hfp job at 1m and report back 🙂

          • TGLoyalty says:

            Since when is “income” actually related to spending power.

            Especially if you’re an exec with lots of “expenses” or if your income is the interest on a £50m fortune etc etc

          • Rob says:

            Those numbers are factored in, because they average out across the industry. You can also adjust for it due to the occupation that the person states when applying – shop workers are unlikely to have high expenses, company directors are.

          • JerrySignfield says:

            Virgin never had a problem with this when I declared I was to use card for business spend and even matched my highest credit limit this was when the card launched, I know they changed since then.

      • chrism20 says:

        Only problem there is not everyone who was shutdown was dabbling in MS. Numerous people have said they didn’t MS or even have Curve linked to their card.

        If you were a high [genuine] spender on the card and paid it off every month you will have been an expensive customer to Creation as they would have been making next to nada from you.

      • JerrySignfield says:

        No the card lost money for practically everyone’s spend

  • Crafty says:

    And yet we were assured Creation doesn’t want to leave the UK market…

    • aseftel says:

      By whom? BNP have been kicking the tyres on a sale on and off with varying levels of seriousness and formality for much of the past decade.

  • Scallder says:

    If Creation are thinking of leaving the UK market and shut down their legal entities does that cause issues if there are outstanding issues with the financial ombudsman or even small claims court on how they dealt with the closing of Premium cards for a number of us?

  • Harrier25 says:

    Well, it will certainly be busier here today than on the forum! 😂

    • Rob says:

      Except it won’t. Forum will have 3-4x page views of this article.

      • Comrade Chag says:

        Rob 1 – Harrier 0

      • Stephan says:

        Focus seems to be on views, which is quite arbitrary number i.e. is a person clicking into multiple forums multiple views?? Number of comments would be interesting to compare

        • Rhys says:

          Number of comments is roughly similar too.

          • Rob says:

            Doesn’t matter either way, because the quality and usefulness of a forum post should be higher than the quality and usefulness (not to mention longevity) of the old chat posts.

            We have, in the last 30 minutes, rolled out some changes to the forum page. On Windows you may need to do a CTRL with F5 to see them. The main page is now tabbed between the index and Recent Topics.

        • Rob says:

          It’s not arbitrary if your advertising rates are driven by it ….

          • Harrier25 says:

            You’re getting very commercial minded, Rob. Which is fine as long as you don’t lose sight of why you started the business in the first place. Don’t let success blind you.

          • Rob says:

            We have, excluding me, two permanent members of staff who rely on this site to pay their mortgages, a number of freelancers and an office in one of the most iconic buildings in the City. Difficult to fund all that if you’re not commercially minded ….

          • Alex Sm says:

            Rhys already has a mortgage? Well done at his 25! I still don’t have one at 41…

          • Rob says:

            Yes. He just bought a place in Elephant. Bigger than I had at 25!

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