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Despite being one of the largest hotel chains in the world, the IHG Rewards program is often overlooked. However, with premium Intercontinental and Crowne Plaza properties worldwide, there’s plenty of value to be found there. Today, TPG Senior Point & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele looks at a new offer for the co-branded IHG credit card, and explains what it has to offer.
How can you tell if a credit card is worth getting? Most of us will look at the rewards, benefits, and sign-up bonus, and compare them to other competing offers. In addition, its worth taking a closer look at how a card compares to previous offers for the same product, since benefits and bonuses change frequently.
For a limited time, Chase is offering the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card with a sign-up bonus of 70,000 points (after you spend $1,000 in the first three months). That’s an increase from the standard offer of 60,000 points. There have been 80,000 point offers floating around for years, but the 70,000 point offer is the best one that’s publicly available.
So let’s take a look at what this card offers, and see how it compares to other co-branded hotel cards:
These are the published benefits on the IHG Rewards Card:
- Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. This bonus offer is available to you as long as you have not received a new cardmember bonus for this product in the past 24 months.
- Earn 5 points per $1 spent when you stay at our hotels.
- Earn 2 points per $1 on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores & restaurants.
- Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Annual free night
- Platinum Elite status as long as you’re a Select cardmember.
- Automatic 10% points rebate.
- No foreign transaction fees when you use your card for purchases abroad.
- $0 Introductory annual fee for the first year, then $49.
Comparison with Other Co-branded Hotel Cards
According to TPG’s most recent monthly valuations, IHG Rewards points are worth 0.7 cents each, making the sign-up bonus worth $490. However, since cardholders receive a 10% rebate on points redeemed, I’ll value it at $540. Here’s how sign-up bonuses for some competing hotel cards compare.
Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express: Sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints (10,000 after your first purchase on the card, and 15,000 after $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months). At 2.4 cents apiece, the bonus is worth $600. Annual fee is $65, and is waived the first year.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase: Sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening. Annual fee is $85, and is currently waived for the first year.
Chase Hyatt Credit Card: Sign-up bonus of two free nights at any Hyatt Property after making $2,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. This bonus can be worth anything from a few hundred to over $2,000, depending on where and when you use it. Annual fee is $75.
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card: Sign-up bonus of 2 Weekend Night Certificates each good for 1 weekend night (standard room, double occupancy) after you make $2,500 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening. This bonus can be worth a few hundred dollars to over $1,000, depending on how you use it. Annual fee is $95.
Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express. Sign-up bonus of 60,000 Hilton Honors points after you make $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of card membership. At 0.5 cents apiece, the bonus is worth $300. Annual fee is $75. Terms apply.
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card: Sign-up bonus of 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, and 35,000 additional Points after spending $2,500 within 90 days of account opening. At 0.6 cents apiece, the total 85,000 point bonus is worth $510. Annual fee is $75.
What I Like About the IHG Card
It’s great that this card offers customers top tier Platinum Elite status from day one, which includes 50% bonus earnings on base points, complimentary room upgrades, and guaranteed room availability. I also think that a sign-up bonus worth over $500 puts it in the top tier of offers currently available, especially ones that waive the annual fee the first year.
It’s also important to consider the value of the rewards earned from this card through everyday spending at IHG hotels. I looked wrote about the best hotel rewards programs for business travelers, and quantified the total value of the points earned at a hotel when using the chain’s co-branded credit card, taking into account any elite status bonuses offered to cardholders. IHG guests receive a total of 14 cents in value per dollar spent at the hotels, which is competitive with other programs.
Also, IHG has an excellent selection of properties, including Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and other brands, such as these seven great IHG hotels in the United States. IHG recently acquired Kimpton hotels, and while the rewards programs haven’t yet merged, bring those properties into the fold definitely improves the portfolio. Finally, IHG offers great value with its PointBreaks awards, which cost just 5,000 points per night at a rotating selection of properties worldwide.
What I Don’t Like About the Card
Top tier IHG status sounds great, but it lacks the free breakfast benefit offered by top tier status in other programs such as Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood. That said, most hotel credit cards don’t offer top tier status, and the two that do (the Citi Hilton Reserve and Amex Hilton Surpass) impose considerable spending thresholds to earn that status.
The IHG Rewards program boasts “No Blackout Dates for Reward Nights”, but the fine print of the member terms says: “There are no blackout dates for Reward Nights, however, room inventory is limited and subject to prior sale.” What this means is that IHG properties can limit the number of rooms available for award nights, much like airlines limit the availability of award seats at the saver level, albeit not nearly as restrictive in most cases.
The result is that you might not be able to book an award night during peak periods even when standard rooms are available for sale. Although Marriott imposes similar capacity controls, other programs like Hyatt, Starwood, Hilton, and Club Carlson advertise no blackout dates or capacity controls, and allow guests to book any unsold standard room as a free night award.
When you add up the value of the sign-up bonus and the annual free night award, IHG Rewards Club Select cardholders can expect to receive between $500 and $1,000 in value from this card during the first year alone, while enjoying preferential treatment during each stay at IHG properties. This potential value is great enough to overlook the capacity controls imposed by the IHG Rewards program. When you consider that the $49 annual fee is waived for the first year, you have little to lose by trying it out.
Know before you go.
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