The Best Credit Card for Buying IHG Rewards Points
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Citi Prestige Card
Here at The Points Guy, we see lots of promotions from airlines and hotels for buying points and miles. With up to 100% bonus points or up to 57% off the standard cost, these promotions can sound lucrative. But few promotions are worth taking advantage of — unless you have a particularly high-value redemption opportunity.
However, one of the few “buy points” options where an airline or hotel sells points for less than TPG’s valuation of IHG Rewards points. While the standard buy-points rate can be as high as 1.35 cents per point, IHG Rewards will often run 100% bonus point promotions, dropping the price to just 0.5 cents per point — which is cheaper than TPG’s valuation of 0.6 cents per point.
But which credit card should you use to buy IHG Rewards points? We tested a handful of credit cards to determine once and for all which card is best. Here’s what we found:
Cards Earning a Bonus
Just like in our testing for the best credit credit card to buy Starpoints, Chase’s Ink Business Preferred card earns 3x points on “Travel; Shipping purchases; Internet, cable and phone services; Advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines.” Although we aren’t sure which one, this purchase triggered one of these categories to earn 3x points:
Cards not earning a bonus:
This new IHG credit card launched in April 2018, and I made sure to be one of the first applicants. The card offers excellent benefits, including an annual free night, fourth night free on award stays, IHG Platinum elite status, an 80,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months from account opening plus an additional 40,000 bonus points after spending a total of $5,000 on purchases within 6 months of account opening and a whopping 10x IHG points on IHG stays.
Our hope was that this 10x earning rate would carry over to IHG points purchases through Points.com. For the first test purchase, I selected “MasterCard” as the payment type. Not surprisingly, this purchase only earned 1x points.
But that was just a control. The real test would be if selecting the “IHG Rewards Club Mastercard” would prompt bonus earnings — as it did for buying SPG points. Unfortunately, the answer was still no. The purchase still earned 1x IHG points.
But just as we were going to publish this result, IHG’s Points.com purchase page changed. One of the benefits of the IHG Rewards Club Premier Card is 20% off points purchases. I’d noticed that I hadn’t gotten this discount on my prior two purchases and had reached out to IHG about the matter. Then, when I was grabbing screenshots in early June, I noticed that the Points.com purchase page redirected me to a special landing page for IHG Rewards Club Premier Card cardholders, which offers the 20% discount benefit.
Hopeful that the purchase coding was modified as part of this change, I made one last test purchase. Unfortunately, it still only earned 1x IHG points:
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card [discontinued]: 1x
This card was discontinued in April 2018, but many TPG readers and staff still have the card. So, we wanted to test it to see if IHG points purchases would code as an IHG purchase and earn 5x points. Again, I tested both the generic “MasterCard” card option and the “IHG Rewards Club MasterCard” option. Both only earned 1x points:
The CSR has one of the most generous definitions of travel and earns 3x (excluding $300 travel credit), so we figured it was worth a shot. The purchase coded as “Online, Mail, or Telephone transaction” and only earned 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point per dollar.
Similarly, the CSP has a broad definition of travel and earns 2x points on travel purchases. Just like the Sapphire Reserve, the purchase coded as “Online, Mail, or Telephone transaction” and only earned 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Encouraged by the Points.com purchases coding as 3x on the Ink Business Preferred, we figured we should try out the Ink Business Cash to see if we’d get the same result. After all, the Ink Business Cash earns 5x points “at office supply stores” and “on internet, cable and phone services” — which has some overlap to the Ink Business Preferred‘s 3x points on “Travel; Shipping purchases; Internet, cable and phone services; Advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines.”
Unfortunately, this was a swing and a miss — the IHG Points.com purchase only earned 1x points per dollar spent.
Citi Prestige: 1x
The Citi Prestige has seen a number of devaluations in the last year. Along with scaling back travel protections and its Price Rewind program this upcoming July, Citi removed the Admirals Club access benefit, lowered the airfare redemption value and eliminated the free golf benefit in July 2017. But one thing that’s remained the same is that the card earns 3x on travel, so we made a test purchase of IHG points. The purchase coded as “Business Services, Not Elsewhere Classed” and only earned 1x ThankYou Points.
AT&T Access Card: 1x
The AT&T Access Card doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves as a niche no annual fee card. I picked up this card a couple of years ago when downgrading a Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, as I had multiple of these at the time.
In addition to 2x ThankYou Points on AT&T purchases, this card earns 2x points on “purchases made online at eligible retail and travel websites.” Since the IHG Points.com purchase was online, I figured it was worth a shot. Like the Citi Prestige, this purchase coded as “Business Services, Not Elsewhere Classed” and earned only 1x points.
Which Card to Use
Combining our test results with TPG’s valuations, here are the definitive winners:
- Ink Business Preferred: 6.3% (3x Ultimate Rewards points @ 2.1 cents per point)
- The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express: 3.8% (2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases; up to $50,000 then 1x thereafter, @ 1.9 cents per point)
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: 3.15% (1.5x Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases @ 2.1 cents per point)
The definitive winner here is Chase’s Ink Business Preferred. In addition to getting 3x points, the card earns valuable Ultimate Rewards points, scoring a 6.3% return on your purchase.
Interestingly, two of the top three cards are business cards. So, you might be happy to learn that the bar for getting a business card isn’t as high as you might think. And, if you apply for one of these now, a large IHG points purchase during a discount offer will also help you toward meeting the minimum spending requirement.
Know before you go.
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The Points Guy Appraisal:
The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card launched in October 2016 and it quickly became one of the most popular business credit cards on the market. It has a strong sign up bonus, triple point categories and unique perks. This card earns a respectable 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 in combined spending on travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable and phone services; and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
- Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn
- Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don't expire as long as your account is open
- No foreign transaction fees
- Employee cards at no additional cost
- $95 Annual Fee