120,000 points with no annual fee: IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card review
IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card overview
The IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card is IHG’s no-annual-fee card option. With this card, 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 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 One Rewards credit card, the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is a better option for most people. 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 its best-ever bonus.
So, let’s take a closer look at the IHG Traveler Card so you can decide whether it is right for you.
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.
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.
Related: Earn extra points at your favorite restaurants with IHG Rewards Dining
Sign-up bonus: Worth $600
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. That matches its best-ever welcome bonus.
Related: The best time to apply for these popular Chase credit cards based on offer history
While IHG points are some of the least valuable points in TPG’s monthly valuations (worth just 0.5 cents per point), this sign-up bonus is worth $600 — 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 a personal (not business) IHG Rewards card.
- Haven’t earned a sign-up bonus on a personal IHG card in the last 24 months.
- Are under Chase’s 5/24 rule.
Related: The ultimate guide to credit card application restrictions
Main benefits and perks
As is the case with even the best no-annual-fee cards, the IHG Traveler Card doesn’t offer many luxury perks. Here’s a quick overview of the card’s main benefits and perks.
Fourth reward night benefit
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 eligible stays.
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 other promotions, such as when IHG points are on sale. 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)
IHG Traveler cardholders will enjoy automatic Silver Elite status in the refreshed IHG One Rewards program This tier includes a 20% bonus on hotel stays, priority check-in and points that don't expire.
In addition, you can buy your way to Gold Elite status when you spend $20,000 on your card each calendar year. This tier includes a 40% bonus on hotel stays and rollover elite nights for status in the following year.
Related: What is IHG One Rewards elite status worth?
No foreign transaction fees
Many credit cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees; however, there are few cards on that list without an annual fee. 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
When you use your IHG Traveler Card to make purchases, you’ll 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 with numerous purchases using 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, plus a 1% return on other purchases. Several simple, cash-back credit cards offer a 2% return on all purchases. For example, you can earn 2 points per dollar on all purchases — 1 point 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
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 has dynamic award pricing, but there are some good deals to be found. 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 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. Conversely, I tend to use cash when IHG is offering a lucrative hotel promotion.
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 also can 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.
On a Points + Cash booking, you’re essentially buying the extra 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. However, 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
For IHG loyalists, you may not be enticed by hotel credit cards from other chains. However, there are two other cards worth considering as alternatives to the IHG Traveler card.
Chase also issues the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card, which has a $99 annual fee and provides automatic Platinum Elite status, a free night award each account anniversary (worth up to 40,000 points), $50 of United TravelBank credit each year and reimbursement for your application fee to Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or Nexus (available every four years). Cardholders also enjoy the fourth-night-free benefit when redeeming points for IHG hotel stays. With the Premier card, you'll earn 10 points per dollar at IHG properties, 5 points per dollar on travel, 5 points per dollar on dining and gas and 3 points per dollar on other purchases.
It's also worth considering the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This card has a $95 annual fee and earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which you can transfer to IHG 1:1 for redemptions — plus use them with other airline and hotel programs. In fact, many of those other options provide better value than using your Chase points with IHG. With the Sapphire Preferred, you'll earn 5 points per dollar on travel booked with the Chase travel portal, 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2025), 3 points per dollar on streaming services and online grocery purchases, 3 points per dollar on dining, 2 points per dollar on travel and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. Other key perks include a 10% anniversary points bonus and up to $50 in annual hotel spending credits.
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. For travelers who infrequently visit IHG properties but want access to the fourth-night-free benefit, this is a solid addition to your wallet. However, if you're looking for extra perks during your stays, this card lacks premium benefits.
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 may be drawing you to the IHG Traveler card in the first place. The current bonus matches its best-ever offer, so now may be the right time to apply if you're considering this card.
Official application link: IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card
Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor, Christina Ly and Ryan Smith.