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Now offering a 120,000-point bonus: IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card review

March 29, 2022
14 min read
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IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card overview

The IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card is IHG’s no-annual-fee cobranded card option. You can earn an elevated 120,000-point sign-up bonus after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months. And, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels and resorts as well as 3 points per dollar at gas stations, monthly bills and restaurants with this card. While the IHG Traveler Card offers some useful IHG-related perks, it may not be the best choice for you. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐1/2

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

IHG offers two personal cobranded Chase cards to help customers rack up more points and maximize their stays. One of these cards is the no-annual-fee IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card. The IHG Traveler Card certainly has more to offer to IHG loyalists than most no-annual-fee hotel cards, but it may not be your best choice.

In particular, if you’re going to use one of your Chase 5/24 slots on an IHG Rewards Club credit card, the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card will usually be a better option. However, if you already have the IHG Premier Card and want to earn another sign-up bonus, or you refuse to pay any annual fees, you might want to snag the IHG Traveler Card while it has an elevated sign-up bonus.

So, let’s take a closer look at the IHG Traveler Card so you can decide whether it is right for you.

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Who is this card for?

The IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card is for travelers who want a way to earn IHG points on their purchases without incurring an annual fee. Specifically, this card is best if you stay with IHG frequently and will use the card’s fourth reward night benefit.

But, if you want automatic elite status with IHG, you may be better off with the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card. The IHG Premier Card comes with Platinum elite status and a slew of other perks. Plus, the IHG Premier Card’s anniversary night can easily justify the card’s $99 annual fee. (Existing cardholders who applied prior to March 24, 2022 will still pay $89 through the end of 2022 before the fee increases to $99 on your 2023 renewal.)

Like most Chase credit cards, the IHG Traveler Card is restricted by Chase’s 5/24 rule. So, Chase will reject your application if you’ve opened five or more new cards across all issuers in the last two years. Plus, if you get this card, it will take up one of your 5/24 slots. So, if you have other Chase cards you want to add to your wallet, you may not want to apply for the IHG Traveler Card now.

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Related: Earn extra points at your favorite restaurants with IHG Rewards Dining

Sign-up bonus: Estimated $600 value

You can get at least two nights at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa from the card’s 120,000-point sign-up bonus. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Currently, the IHG Traveler Card offers a sign-up bonus of 120,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. While IHG points are some of the least valuable rewards according to TPG’s monthly valuations at just 0.5 cents per point, a sign-up bonus is worth about $600 is very solid for a card with no annual fee.

You may be eligible for the IHG Traveler Card (and its sign-up bonus) if you satisfy all of the following requirements:

  • Don’t currently have an IHG Rewards card.
  • Haven’t earned a sign-up bonus on an IHG card in the last 24 months.
  • Are under Chase’s 5/24 rule.

Related: Maximizing IHG Rewards for family travel

Main benefits and perks

As is the case with even the best no-annual-fee cards, the IHG Traveler Card doesn’t offer a ton of luxury perks. Here’s a quick overview of the card’s main benefits and perks.

Fourth reward night benefit

I used the fourth reward night perk when I stayed at the Hotel Indigo Birmingham for four nights. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Each time you redeem points for a stay of four or more nights, every fourth night will cost zero points. Once you’re a cardholder, this discount will be automatically applied when you redeem IHG points for stays of four nights or more.

Related: How to maximize longer hotel stays by using a free night benefit

Save 20% on point purchases

You’ll get a 20% bonus whenever you buy IHG points with your card. But you can’t combine this discount with any other promotion. And, IHG sometimes offers a much better 100% bonus when you purchase points. So, although I often buy IHG points when the 100% bonus drops the purchase price to 0.5 cents per point, I don’t find the 20% discount appealing.

Related: When does it make sense to buy points and miles?

Automatic Silver status (with a path to Gold) — starting April 2022

IHG Traveler cardholders will enjoy automatic Silver Elite status — once the refreshed program starts next month (this was originally set for March 2022, but an IHG spokesperson recently told TPG that it was delayed until April). This tier will include a 20% bonus on hotel stays, and your points won't expire.

In addition, you can buy your way to the program's new Gold elite status when you spend $20,000 on your card each calendar year. As of now, we know that this tier will include 50% bonus points on IHG stays — though the additional perks haven't been announced.

Related: 6 ways IHG Rewards should improve its loyalty program

No foreign transaction fees

Many credit cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees. But, there are fewer no-annual-fee cards without foreign transaction fees. So, especially if you travel abroad frequently, it’s worth having at least one credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Related: Here’s why you still earn points on purchases made in a foreign currency

How to earn points

Earn 5 points per dollar spent on purchases at IHG hotels and resorts, including the Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown-University. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

When you use your IHG Traveler Card to make purchases, you’ll now earn:

  • 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels and resorts (2.5% return based on TPG’s valuations).
  • 3 points per dollar at gas stations, monthly bills, and restaurants (1.5% return).
  • 2 points per dollar on everything else (1% return).

These returns aren’t great even for a no-annual-fee card.

The 2.5% return at IHG hotels and resorts isn’t bad. But, you can do much better on a wider variety of purchases with several sub-$100 annual fee cards. For example, the $95 annual fee Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 2 points per dollar for a 4% return on travel purchases. And, the $95 annual fee Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles per dollar for a 3.7% return on almost all purchases.

The IHG Traveler Card also isn’t a good choice for most other purchases. After all, it only provides a 1.5% return at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, and a 1% return on other purchases. There are a number of simple, cash-back credit cards that offer a 2% return on all purchases. For example, you can earn 2% back on all purchases — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay — with the no-annual-fee Citi® Double Cash Card.

Related: 13 ways to stock up on IHG Rewards points

How to redeem points

I redeemed points to stay at my favorite InterContinental so far, the InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Vietnam. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

There are many options for redeeming IHG Rewards points. Not surprisingly, you’ll get the best value from your points when you redeem for IHG hotel stays.

TPG values IHG points at just 0.5 cents each. However, it’s possible to maximize redemptions with the IHG Rewards program and get much more value from your points. Here are a few ways you can do so.

IHG introduced dynamic award pricing in early 2020. However, the introduction of dynamic pricing has surprisingly resulted in some good deals. It isn’t easy to compare award night pricing before dynamic pricing with current pricing since IHG doesn’t use an award chart. But I’ve found lower award prices at some of my favorite IHG properties since IHG switched to dynamic pricing.

However, one downside to dynamic pricing is that you should more carefully consider when to use your points versus cash for a stay. I tend to use points when if I can get better than 0.5 cents per point of value. And, I almost always use points when I book a stay of four nights or longer to utilize the IHG Traveler Card’s fourth reward night benefit. But, I tend to use cash when IHG is offering a lucrative hotel promotion.

And, IHG Rewards points can go a long way in some regions. Here are some of my favorite IHG properties in the U.S. bookable for 10,000 points. And, if you’re ready to travel internationally, here are some of the best international IHG properties bookable for 10,000 points.

You can also use a combination of Points + Cash to book stays. For a given room, you’ll typically see a chart with discounts from the full nightly award rate in increments of 5,000 points.

A sample Points + Cash booking at the Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown-University. (Image courtesy of IHG)

But, on a Points + Cash booking, you’re essentially using cash to buy the added points needed to complete the redemption. So, if you cancel your room, your refund will be given solely in points. I rarely book Points + Cash rates, since it’s usually a better value to use just points. But, it’s worth checking to see whether the math works out on each booking.

Related: How to earn and redeem points with IHG Rewards partners

IHG Traveler vs IHG Premier: Which is better?

The Kimpton Seafire Resort on Grand Cayman is a popular aspirational IHG redemption that is relatively close to the U.S. (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

The IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is Chase’s other cobranded IHG Rewards card. When you use the IHG Premier Card to make purchases, you’ll now earn:

  • 10 points per dollar at IHG hotels and resorts (5% return based on TPG’s valuations).
  • 5 points per dollar on gas stations, travel, and restaurants (2.5% return).
  • 3 points per dollar on all other purchases (1.5% return).

As you can see, the only difference in earning rates between the IHG Traveler Card and the IHG Premier Card is at IHG hotels and resorts. However, the IHG Premier Card’s 5% return at IHG hotels and resorts still isn’t enough to beat the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s 6% return on all travel purchases (based on TPG valuations). Granted, the Sapphire Reserve does has a much higher annual fee, at $550.

The IHG Premier Card comes with an $99 annual fee but, with the IHG Premier Card you’ll get automatic Platinum elite status, an anniversary night every year and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years. Plus, you’ll get the same fourth reward night benefit as the IHG Traveler Card. And, the IHG Premier Card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 140,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening — which is an additional $100 of value over the Traveler card.

I believe the IHG Premier is worth the annual fee. In particular, I’ve found that the card’s automatic IHG Platinum elite status provides many useful perks and occasionally facilitates a nice upgrade. If you use the anniversary night that is valid for a night costing 40,000 points or less, you should easily be able to recoup the annual fee. In addition, IHG members with the Premier card can now top off their award night with more points to book more expensive properties.

So, it’s worth getting the IHG Premier Card instead of the IHG Traveler Card for most travelers.

Related: Must-have for IHG loyalists, now with new perks: A review of the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card

Bottom line

The IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card isn’t a bad option. For no annual fee, you’ll get a 2.5% return at IHG hotels and resorts and a few IHG-related perks. But, even if you don’t stay with IHG frequently, you’ll likely do better with the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card due to the anniversary night each year.

Of course, adding a new card to your wallet may take up a valuable Chase 5/24 slot. If you don’t have plans to add more than five cards to your wallet within 24 months, you have nothing to worry about. But, if you’re adding cards to your wallet more quickly, you should have a plan for which cards you want.

In general, you’ll want to apply for cards when they offer an elevated sign-up bonus, which is currently the case for the IHG Traveler Card and the IHG Premier Card. So, if either of these cards is on your list, now is an excellent time to apply.

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor and Christina Ly.

Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy

Featured image by (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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