How to Use the Free IHG Rewards Club Program to Save on Hotel Stays

A photo to accompany a guide to IHG rewards Rosemarie/Adobe Stock

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When you think of hotel loyalty programs, Marriott and Hilton may be the first that come to mind. But you’d be remiss if you overlooked IHG, or InterContinental Hotels Group, while planning your next trip.

IHG’s loyalty program, IHG Rewards Club, is free to join and can provide a lot of value to travelers of every stripe. Even with the CDC still recommending against non-essential travel, now is a great time to familiarize yourself with the program so you’re a seasoned pro when it’s time to book.

Pros and Cons of IHG Rewards Program

IHG operates around 6,000  hotels across its portfolio, including the InterContinental, Kimpton, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn brands. From luxury to budget, the chain caters to virtually every type of traveler.

The IHG Rewards program really shines when it comes to  redeeming points. It’s also a partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, with a 1:1 transfer ratio — meaning that for every 1 Chase credit card point you transfer, you’ll get 1 IHG Rewards Club point. There also are no blackout dates for award nights when you redeem your points. That means you can use points to book whenever you want, as long as there is availability.

If you don’t have enough IHG points in your account to redeem for a stay, or want to save some of them for another occasion, you can take advantage of the chain’s Points & Cash option when booking. This will allow you to book your stay using a combination of both points and cash, helping you save money on what could otherwise be an all-cash stay. Just know that if you cancel the stay, you won’t be refunded for the cash portion of your Points & Cash booking.

A notable perk of the IHG Rewards Club program is its “Raid the Bar” benefit at Kimpton Hotels. With it, elite members can get a $10 credit either at the restaurant bar or the in-room mini bar during every qualified stay. This is an easy way to save a bit of cash here and there on food and drinks, especially if you were planning on spending that money anyway.

Note however that IHG Rewards features “dynamic pricing,” meaning that the number of points you’ll need to redeem for any given hotel on any night may fluctuate. In addition, some of its properties, such as Sixth Senses and Mr. and Mrs. Smith hotels, aren’t eligible to be booked with points.

The IHG rewards program lags behind some competitors when it comes to the perks given to members who have elite status, too. If you have elite status, you won’t receive free breakfast or even guaranteed late checkout, no matter what level of status you have. This is a far cry from competitors such as Marriott and Hilton, which offer these and more perks to many of their elite members.

How to Earn IHG Rewards Club Points

Like with other major hotel chains, there are several ways to earn IHG points. Let’s take a closer look.

Hotel Stays

This is the traditional way of earning IHG points. All IHG Rewards Club members will earn points on their stays at the following rates:

  • IHG Residence: 2.5 points per dollar
  • IHG Army Hotels: 3 points per dollar
  • Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites: 5 points per dollar
  • The Venetian Resort Las Vegas: 2,000 points per stay
  • All other IHG properties: 10 points per dollar

If you’re an elite member, you’ll earn even more points. Gold Elite members will get a 10% bonus, Platinum Elite members will get a 50% bonus, and top-tier Spire Elite members will get a 100% bonus.

Credit Cards

Using a co-branded credit card from your favorite hotel chain or airline is a great way to earn bonus points or miles on your everyday spend, or on spend with that travel provider. IHG is no exception.

The hotel chain has two credit cards open for new applications right now: the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and the IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card.

The IHG Premier card has an $89 annual fee and  earns 25 points per dollar at IHG properties, plus 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. It earns 1 point per dollar on everything else. You’ll also get a reward night each year on your cardmember anniversary (worth up to 40,000 points). The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 125,000 points + 1 reward night (worth up to 40,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening.

The IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card on the other hand does not carry an annual fee. It earns up to 15 points per dollar at IHG properties — 5x as a cardmember, plus an additional 10x if you’re also a Rewards Club member. It also earns 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. You can also earn Gold elite status when you spend $10,000 on purchases with your card every calendar year. The card is not currently offering a welcome bonus.

With both of these cards, you’ll be eligible to receive a fourth night free on qualifying award stays, as well.

Events and Meetings

An underrated way to earn IHG points is by booking an event or company meeting at one of the chain’s properties through the IHG Business Rewards program. All you’ll need to do is register on the website, and you’ll earn 3x points on rooms, meetings, and events. This includes guest rooms booked for others, meetings and events costs, conference room costs, food and beverage services for events and meetings, and all-inclusive meeting packages. Note that there is a 60,000-point maximum earning potential per event or meeting.

Dining Program

Like its competitors, IHG also has a dining program, where Rewards Club members can earn points when dining out at eligible restaurants. You’ll need to create a free account and link it to your Rewards Club account, as well as register a debit or credit card. You’ll then earn IHG points when you use that card at eligible establishments.

Depending on your status level within the dining program, you’ll earn a certain amount of points: VIP members earn 8 points per dollar; Select members earn 5 points per dollar; and Basic members earn 1 point per dollar.

To maximize your rewards, we recommend using a card that earns bonus points on restaurants, such as the American Express® Gold Card, so you can earn credit card points as well as IHG points. 

Buying Apple Products

You can also earn 4 points per dollar when purchasing Apple products through the IHG Apple rewards portal. Keep in mind, though, that not all products are eligible to earn bonus points, so you’ll want to take a look at what is excluded beforehand.

Buying Points

You can also buy IHG points to boost your account. The standard price is 1 cent per point for purchases of 26,000 points or more.

That said, IHG often hosts promotions where you can buy points with a 100% bonus, meaning you can get points for 0.5 cents each, a far better value. Typically, you can purchase up to 150,000 IHG points per year, although this limit is occasionally raised during promotions.

Pro Tip

Transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG to boost your account balance if needed. For every 1 Chase point you transfer, you’ll get 1 IHG point in return.

How to Redeem Points

Now that we’ve got the basics down for how to earn IHG points, let’s take a look at how to redeem them. 

You’ll first want to log in to your IHG Rewards Club account. From there, you can enter dates in your desired destination, and search for available properties.

Once you have determined the property you want to book, click on “Select Hotel.” From there, you’ll have the option to pay in points, cash, or points and cash.

IHG does not publish an award chart, meaning that award rates when redeeming points are not fixed and can fluctuate depending on property and date.

We did a quick search to compare rates at properties on both ends of the spectrum. For example, at the InterContinental Maldives, a 5-star resort in a luxurious setting in the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, we found rates from 120,000 points per night.

At the Holiday Inn in New York City’s Times Square, on the other hand, rates hover around 25,000 points per night.

Earning Elite Status

IHG has three levels of elite status: Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, and Spire Elite. Here’s how they break down.

Gold Elite

Gold elites qualify after spending 10 nights or earning 10,000 elite qualifying points in a calendar year — although these requirements dropped to 7 and 7,000 respectively for 2021, due to the pandemic.

With it, you’ll get an extended check-out time (pending availability), priority check-in, and the aforementioned 10% bonus on award bookings. You’ll get a welcome amenity at check-in, as well. Typically, IHG points expire in 12 months if you have no qualifying account activity, but they do not expire for Gold elites.

Platinum Elite

Platinum elites will qualify for their status after staying 40 nights or earning 40,000 elite qualifying points. This year, these requirements have been lowered to 30 nights or 30,000 elite qualifying points.

Platinum elites get all the same perks as Gold elites, plus elite rollover nights, complimentary room upgrades (depending on availability) and the aforementioned 50% bonus on award bookings. Points do not expire for Platinum elites, as well.

Spire Elite

Top-tier Spire elites earn their status after 75 nights or earning 75,000 elite qualifying points in a calendar year. For this year, these requirements have dropped to 55 nights or 55,000 elite qualifying points.

They get all the same benefits as Platinum elites, plus early check-in, exclusive choice benefit (such as 25,000 annual point bonus or the chance to gift Platinum status), and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star upgrade. They’ll also get a 100% points bonus on rewards stays, as mentioned earlier.