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TPG Reader Micah tweeted to ask about how to make use of a large bank of rewards.
@ThePointsGuy — “What should I do with over 1.1 million IHG points?”
One of my cardinal rules of award travel is that you should earn points and miles with a plan to use them. Because of the risk of devaluation, travel rewards make a bad long-term investment, so it’s better to keep a short redemption horizon than to hoard them indefinitely.
That said, sometimes you earn rewards faster than you can spend them (especially if you travel for business), or plans change and the points you were going to spend wind up unused. Micah is sitting on a huge stash of IHG Rewards, and needs some suggestions on what to do with them. I list IHG points at 0.7 cents apiece in my latest valuations, so 1.1 million points could reasonably get you about $7,700 worth of travel. Of course, you might get more or less depending on how you redeem them.
The most obvious choice is to spend those points on hotel stays. At 50,000 points per night, you could get more than three weeks at IHG Category 9 properties, like the Intercontinental Hotels in Bora Bora, Hong Kong or London Park Lane. Of course, you could stretch your points further at lower-tier properties like the Holiday Inn Krakow City Centre or the Holiday Inn Express Cape Town City Centre, both of which are Category 2 and cost just 15,000 points per night. You could spend a week in either location and barely make a dent in your IHG Rewards account.
To really maximize those points, you could check out the rotating list of IHG PointBreaks hotels, which are bookable for just 5,000 points per night over a period of roughly three months. If you found a destination you liked, you could theoretically book a room for the full promotion, since there’s no limit to the number of nights in a PointsBreak reservation. For more ideas about booking award nights, check out Nick Ewen’s list of 10 IHG Properties that Make for Awesome Award Redemptions.
One much less efficient option would be to transfer points to your frequent flyer program of choice. IHG allows transfers to a pretty respectable list of airlines, including American, Delta, United and Alaska. The transfer ratio is 5:1 (10,000 points to 2,000 miles), so I don’t recommend it unless you have a specific redemption in mind that gives you excellent value (like Emirates first class awards). For example, you could redeem one million IHG points to get 200,000 Alaska miles — enough for a first class, round-trip award on Emirates between the US and Europe. I recommend you steer clear of other redemptions like gift cards and merchandise, because the return just isn’t good enough.
The one thing you definitely should do is get the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, which has a $49 annual fee (waived for the first year) but gives you a 10% rebate on all redemptions (up to 100,000 rebated points per year). That benefit is a footnote for many cardholders, but can be highly lucrative if you’re redeeming points in large quantities. The rebate applies to airline transfers as well as hotel redemptions, which slightly improves the transfer ratio. With perks like automatic Platinum Elite status and an annual free night at any IHG property, this card is already worth keeping for the long term. If you’re heavily invested in IHG Rewards, it’s a no-brainer.
As you can see, there are plenty of options. Ultimately, while some redemptions offer greater value than others, you should spend those rewards however you’ll enjoy them most. The key is to spend them rather than continue to stockpile them — it’s more fun that way!
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at email@example.com. 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.