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Award travel enthusiasts often focus on redeeming for first-class flights and stays at five-star hotels, but sometimes the best value can be found further down the award chart. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen shares his favorite redemptions for lower-tier properties in the IHG Rewards program.
The top awards tend to be the most expensive, but that doesn’t mean they offer the best value. While premium flights and hotels are memorable, many travelers aren’t interested in these “aspirational” redemptions, and focus instead on keeping cash in their pockets. Over the past few months I’ve looked at SPG’s best Category 1-4 properties, Hyatt’s top Category 1-3 properties, Hilton’s top Category 1-2 properties and Marriott’s best Category 1-3 properties. Today I’ll continue this series with a look at IHG Rewards and its best Category 1-3 properties for award stays.
In compiling this list, I considered a number of factors to determine which lower-tier IHG properties offer the “best” value:
- Typical revenue rates
- Uniqueness (amenities, location, etc.)
Remember that you can extend the value of your award stays even further simply by holding the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, which offers automatic Platinum Elite status (in addition to the current sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months). This gives you bonus points, late checkout and some on-property discounts. The card also gives you an annual free night certificate, which can be used at any property worldwide (though you’re probably better off redeeming it at a higher category property like those on my list of awesome IHG award redemptions). In addition, as of last July, IHG Rewards gives all members free internet at all properties worldwide.
Note that the values below include room rates plus all taxes and fees that are covered on an award reservation. I chose to focus on the lowest flexible rates (rather than prepaid, nonrefundable rates) for an “apples-to-apples” comparison, since award nights can also be canceled without penalty. If you tend to book rooms with discounted advance purchase rates (or have access to other discounts such as AAA, AARP or government rates), the redemption value for each property may be slightly lower.
Of course, you likely have a different way of defining what makes a redemption valuable, so feel free to include your favorite low-tier IHG properties in the comments below! These are my picks:
China has its fair share of low-tier IHG properties, and Shanghai alone boasts 25 Category 1-3 hotels. My personal pick from this lot is the Holiday Inn in the center of Pudong New District. Located just 25 minutes from both of Shanghai’s international airports, the property boasts 386 contemporary guest rooms with modern amenities like 37″ LCD TVs, bathrobes and minibars. You can choose from two on-site restaurants or dine in your room with 24-hour room service, and complimentary shuttle service within a 10-kilometer radius of the hotel gives you easy access to all of the city’s major sights. Finally, be sure to check out the unique glass-bottom pool that juts out from the building 24 stories up, clearly not for the faint-of-heart!
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 15,000 points for a free night. Rates in July start at ¥746 ($120) per night, giving you a value of 0.8 cents per point.
San Antonio is (in my opinion) a terrific city to visit, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better hotel location than that of the Hotel Indigo Downtown. Situated across the street from the Alamo, the property is actually housed in a historic building that once held a tattoo parlor and the sheriff’s poker nights. The 91 guest rooms are appointed with dark wood furnishings and hardwood floors, and you can take advantage of the on-site fitness center, sauna and business center (all of which are open 24/7). The 1909 Bar and Bistro serves contemporary American food all day with sweeping views of the Alamo, though you’ll probably want to check out the dining options on the famed Riverwalk as well, which is just a short stroll away.
This is a Category 3 property, requiring 20,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in July start at $158 per night, giving you a value of 0.79 cents per point.
Another low-tier IHG property in a historic building is the Holiday Inn Krakow City Centre. Occupying the Parenskich Palace — the 19th-century residence of a Polish nobleman — the hotel is ideally situated in the heart of Old Krakow, and just a short walk from popular attractions like the Market Square, Jewish Quarter and Wawel Castle. Despite the old-world surroundings, the accommodations are modern, and include amenities like minibars and elegant dark wood furnishings. Other services include a fitness center and two restaurants.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 15,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in July start at 430 PLN ($114) per night, giving you a value of 0.76 cents per point.
Like Shanghai, Beijing has several low-tier IHG properties to choose from, but one of the best values is found at the Holiday Inn Beijing Haidian. Situated in the Haidian district in the northwest part of the Chinese capital, the variety of guest rooms all include flat-screen televisions, minibars and separate sitting areas with sofabeds. Guests also have access to the modern fitness center and indoor swimming pool, which includes a sauna and steam room. Choose from three on-site restaurants, including Chinese and Indian cuisine, or if you want to explore the major tourist sites, the Wudaokou subway station is just over a kilometer away.
This is a Category 1 property, requiring just 10,000 points for a free night. Rates in July start at ¥757 ($122) per night, giving you a value of 1.2 cents per point.
If staying close to the action matters to you, look no further than this property for your next visit to Georgia’s capital. The major attractions within five blocks of the hotel are too numerous to list here, but include the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola and CNN Center. The rest of the city is easily accessible with the Peachtree Center MARTA station just three blocks away. The rooms and amenities fit the standard Holiday Inn Express model: simple furnishings, standard decor and complimentary breakfast every morning.
This is a Category 3 property, requiring 20,000 points for a free night. Rates in July start at $161 per night, giving you a value of 0.81 cents per point.
If relaxing on a beach and making the most of your IHG points sounds like a great combination to you, then consider a stay at the Holiday Inn Phuket Mai Khao Beach Resort. Situated on the west coast of the island just 15 minutes from the international airport, the property’s white sand beach is part of a national park (and thus free of the vendors and crowds that get in the way of true relaxation). Each room includes an iPod docking station and rain shower, and you can dine at two on-property restaurants. The list of on-site amenities is massive, including an infinity pool (with swim-up bar), Kid’s Club, Tea Tree Spa and both yoga and cooking classes.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 15,000 points for a free night. Rates in July start at 3,884 THB ($115) per night, giving you a value of 0.77 cents per point.
The final hotel on this list is another centrally located city property: the Holiday Inn Express Cape Town City Centre. Set on a tree-lined street filled with bars and restaurants, the hotel provides beautiful views of iconic Table Mountain and easy access to the local area. Kick-start your day with the brand’s buffet breakfast, or grab a glass of chilled South African wine to enjoy on the hotel’s terrace after a day of sightseeing. Be sure to visit the V&A Waterfront as well, just a short drive away.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 15,000 points for a free night. Rates in July start at 1,169 ZAR ($95) per night, giving you a value of 0.63 cents per point.
In addition to these properties that offer year-round value for your IHG Rewards points, keep in mind that the program offers its heavily discounted PointBreaks hotels on a rotating basis every few months. At just 5,000 points per night, these properties can offer some incredible value if you can find availability. The current list of PointBreaks hotels (valid for stays through July 31, 2015) includes properties like the InterContinental Nha Trang in Vietnam and the Crowne Plaza Panama, so be sure to check regularly for updated lists.
IHG Rewards isn’t generally viewed as the best hotel loyalty program out there for aspirational redemptions (the category changes announced in April certainly didn’t help). However, there are still some values to be had on both ends of the category spectrum. Don’t forget about the current promotion for Points & Cash stays that runs through the end of September. I hope this post has given you some inspiration for how to make the most of your IHG Rewards points!
What are your favorite lower-tier IHG properties for award redemptions? Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.