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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 – June 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.

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.

  • ashic says:

    How do the cards compare to simply dropping 200 dollars for ambassador? I never stayed at an IHG before, but needed to for my current trip. Signed up to Ambassador and they gave me 2 upgrades as the next room wasn’t available. Just that is worth more than 700 dollars because of the price difference over 7 nights, and I get platinum, 20 dollars credit, and a weekend night. Sure, the card would let me get Spire at 37k spend, but for zero spend, Ambassador seems a pretty good deal.

    • John says:

      Ambassador only applies at ICs (and maybe kimptons?). It is a paid program with specific benefits.

      Spire is a loyalty status, which applies at all IHG properties, but there aren’t really any benefits.

      • Magarathea says:

        I am an IHG spire elite member and stayed in a Staybridge in Abu Dhabi and a Crowne Plaza in Dubai in November. I booked basic rooms on reward points and at both I was upgraded to a one bedroom suite. Although not guaranteed, sounds like a benefit to me.

        • DK says:

          I am an IHG Spire Elite member and stayed in Staybridge in Dubai and an Intercontinental in Abu Dhabi in December. I booked basic rooms and I received basic rooms at both. At Staybridge, I didn’t even receive a welcome drink.

  • johnny5a says:

    I thought the ability to apply for any IHG card stopped the day they sent out all the letters giving notice of termination.

  • John says:

    As IHG has stopped doing lucrative points promotions, if creation leaves the UK market I will be leaving the IHG market. I haven’t paid for an IHG hotel since 2018 and given the lack of status benefits I don’t intend to start paying again.

    I have under 15000 points now so my last stay will probably be in a disappointing HIX, which is a fitting end to a disappointing card company and a disappointing loyalty program.

    • RonnieB says:

      Some of the newer or refurbished HiEx properties are pretty good, okay lack of hotel amenities, but the rooms can be as good as those in an IC, with new and modern bathrooms and similar or the same beds. And IHG usually much cheaper for points redemptions in the US than Hilton.

    • Rob says:

      You don’t sound like the sort of customer to get IHG worried though 🙂

      • Mikeact says:

        So what sort of customer would/are they worried about ?

        • Rob says:

          Someone who paid cash for a stay in 2019, 2020 and/or 2021 🙂

          • Michael Jennings says:

            I paid cash for stays in 2019 and 2021, so I guess I am okay. I don’t think I paid cash for any stays at IHG in 2020, but that was more just I wasn’t staying in hotels at all.

  • Mark says:

    Creation was/is an absolute shambles of a credit card, it was only tolerated as some of their oversights were beneficial to us.

    As Creation have caused so much problems to the readership here, I’m surprised that Rob is glossing over the whole Curve, NS&I, card closures issues that have impacted many of us.

    • Harrier25 says:

      There’s only about a paragraph to read after you’ve skipped passed the reems of benefits of two cards that no longer exist!

    • Rob says:

      Let me repeat – I had readers literally begging us not to write about Creation and Curve in the past and we can’t suddenly turn around and change stance now, leaving the other 49,000 regular readers to realise we’ve not helped them into this deal while it lasted.

      • Geoff 1977 says:

        Out of interest why didn’t you tell these readers to sod off?

        (Not saying you should have, just interested in your reasons)

        • Rob says:

          Every time we write about something on HfP which is even slightly exploitative, we get huge piles of complaining emails. HfP is not a site with 500 ‘gamer’ readers. It is a site with around 50,000 regular readers of which about 500 may be classed as ‘gamers’. The other 49,500 readers have zero interest in anything which is not 100% above board. It is also a bad look to potential advertisers.

          • Geoff 1977 says:

            Fair enough. Also, if someone wants to get in on the “gaming” it’s easy enough by reading the comments.

            (Despite the super duper clever codes that no one can decipher, except anyone who wants to 🤣)

          • TGLoyalty says:

            They aren’t meant to be super clever or hard to decode yet the comments told you people struggled.

            Those that decided to talk about it in the open killed it for everyone.

          • Geoff 1977 says:

            So the codes were pointless then as people were talking about them opening anyway?

          • TGLoyalty says:

            Code word or not it was being discussed far too often in public!

  • Alan says:

    Just put my FOS complaint in against Creation this past week. Am sure many others have too – the way they just closed accounts and refused to refund fees/honour vouchers was appalling. It’s going to cost them a lot in FOS referrals though!

    • SharonC says:

      Agree Alan!
      I have just come off the phone with them this morning after they closed my IHG Premier Card account and was told that the reason my account had been closed was that I “hadn’t opted into the changes in interest”! WTAF!
      I don’t even remember being offered an opt in or an opt out on that topic! Unbelievable. Thank goodness my status has been extended through to Feb 2023, I might actually get to travel this year, but what a shambles and a very, very poor excuse.

  • Goonface says:

    No love lost here. IHG Cards still in operation, but if I eventually get the letter closing my account I would probably celebrate. Unless they try to weasel their way out settling the benefits which I pay an annual fee for. Judging by the comments of how the majority have been treated, looks like I best prepare a FOS just in case!

  • Peter K says:

    Just a little point, it wasn’t yesterday they stopped offering the free card, it was at some point last week. I went to apply and it wasn’t there.

    It doe certainly adds weight to the idea they cancelled the cards of many as part of a leaving the market strategy.

    • Rob says:

      You should have dropped me a note 🙂

    • Damien says:

      I never used a curve card, but was cancelled (unannounced). The reason they gave on the phone was “Business Reasons” and refused to elaborate. Just repeated that under some section or other they were allowed to do it without providing a reason. total BS

      • Lady London says:

        Correct, Damien. But they still have to provide promised benefits up to the date of closure. And that, having given each individual cardholder notice of closure or change, in this case of 60 days. During which they are not allowed to implement change or close.

        • Alan says:

          Totally this, yet for me they closed it a month early and didn’t transfer points, award voucher or refund the fee! Will see how FOS goes but this is going to cost them more than just sorting it initially!

  • Damien says:

    My IHG stopped working right at the start of a 12 days redemption in 6 Senses Laamu. Spent a good hour of my first day in the lounge trying to find out what happened. They said it was cancelled for “Business Reasons”, but would not say what. I had read people say it was being removed because they used it with Curve, but I never had a Curve card. And I never received any prior warning, though they say I was sent a letter (but no email). I’d wanted to put all my food and extras on the card from the Holiday on it. They raised a complaint, which reads like… we’re going to waste 8 weeks then not bothering to raise it with the ombudsman. I’ve also noticed that they haven’t transferred any IHG points for 3 Months, and that I still have 3 months till renewal. I’m sure there’s a thread somewhere that everyone’s been discussing how to best make a proper complaint regarding this. Can someone forward me a link please?

    • Alan says:

      Not sure about a link but I just put it all clearly in my FOS complaint with a timeline and a cash equivalent for my points and vouchers based on buying them from IHG.

    • Sandgrounder says:

      Just remember to put a cash value on your losses, all the ombudsman can do is put you back where you should have been. You can ask for money for your time, but I don’t think they pay this very often.

    • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

      Re FOS claims – have you had a look in the forum thread Damien (‘Payment cards- Other payment cards- Creation bashing’!)? There will probably be all you need there.

      Also, how was Laamu? Hopefully going for a seven night redemption back end of Feb – fingers crossed!

      • Damien says:

        Great snorkelling. Reef is in good shape and saw loads. There’s also some shallower water with long grass between the OWB jetties that have turtles, large stingrays and an eagle ray once. So much footage I haven’t even been able to go through it all, you can see some here.

        Food, drink and activities are expensive. Getting breakfast with Ambassador is defo worth it (there is prosecco at breakfast, just help yourself). We didn’t get an upgrade, but the rooms are all identical as is the depth of water beneath them. Our lagoon villa basically just meant we’d less distance to cycle.

        There are Mosquitos around the “Sip Sip” bar area and managed to get mascaraed one day waiting for the turtle hatching . They do spray, but it didn’t seem to dissuade them from me. Best sit in the swim up to bar… least your legs are protected.

        Transfer wait times can be very long because they use domestic flights to local airport. We’d a 2 hour wait in the crappy domestic lounge. Return flight was also delayed. Just made our main return flight. 6S staff met us at the Domestic terminal on return and took us to the front to catch our flight. Handy.

        It was really good. Though I don’t think I’ll go back. Actually the mosquitos that bother me most. Never got bitten in the Conrad… means I can relax. Just my preference.

        • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

          Thanks for the detailed review Damien! Lots of useful info. Really pleased to hear about the snorkelling – I will pack my kit 🙂

          • Damien says:

            There’s also a couple of nice pinnacles near the house reef. Usually beyond visual range, but the marine biologist usually give a quick tour at 11am. Get your name down and they’ll show you how to line up and swim to them. There’s also a wooden map in the dive centre wall showing them (in case you underwater navigation is good).

    • Lady London says:

      It seems clear from the number of people who’ve suddenly not been able to use their card without warning, that Creation is telling lies and post- their action, trying to claim they sent individuals notice when they didn’t.

      There are just too many people reporting this.

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

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