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Booking direct: How much value does IHG status provide?

June 10, 2020
11 min read
InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso
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Selecting a hotel for any trip requires a lot of research and planning. Even once you’ve made a choice, you still need to determine how to book your stay. You could simply book the least expensive rate you can find through a hotel booking app, but you may not earn points or get elite benefits for booking directly. These benefits and earnings may be worth more than you'd expect, especially if you hold elite status with a hotel loyalty program.

Before coronavirus concerns essentially halted leisure travel, I’d always consider point earnings and elite status benefits when booking directly with programs like Marriott Bonvoy status, Hilton Honors status and World of Hyatt status. Today I’ll conclude this mini-series by reviewing the perks offered to IHG Rewards Club members for direct bookings.

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Kimpton Seafire Resort on Grand Cayman (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

IHG status levels

Requirements for status per calendar yearEarning rate on stays based on status (return Based on TPG valuations)Standout benefits that start at this status level
ClubNone2.5x at IHG Residence properties (1.25% return based on TPG's valuations)

3x at IHG Army Hotels (1.5% return)

5x at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (2.5% return)

2,000 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas

10x at all other IHG properties (5% return)

Standard internet access at no additional cost

Reward nights count toward elite status

Gold Elite10 nights or 10,000 elite qualifying points

2020 only: 7 nights or 7,000 elite qualifying points

2.75x at IHG Residence properties (1.375% return)

3.3x at IHG Army Hotels (1.65% return)

5.5x at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (2.75% return)

2,200 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas

11x at all other IHG properties (5.5% return)

Extended check-out

Points don't expire

Priority check-in

Welcome amenity (Raid the Bar at Kimpton hotels)

Platinum Elite40 nights or 40,000 elite qualifying points

2020 only: 30 nights or 30,000 elite qualifying points

3.75x at IHG Residence properties (1.875% return)

4.5x at IHG Army Hotels (2.25% return)

7.5x at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (3.75% return)

3,000 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas

15x at all other IHG properties (7.5% return)

Elite rollover nights

Complimentary room upgrades

Spire Elite75 nights or 75,000 elite qualifying points

2020 only: 55 nights or 55,000 elite qualifying points

5x at IHG Residence properties (2.5% return)

6x at IHG Army Hotels (3% return)

10x at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (5% return)

4,000 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas

20x at all other IHG properties (10% return)

Early check-in

Exclusive choice benefit (25,000 annual point bonus or gift Platinum Elite status to a family member or friend) upon receiving status

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star upgrade upon receiving status

The IHG Rewards status levels described in the above table can be earned based on nights stayed or elite-qualifying points earned each calendar year. But, there are also a few other status levels in the IHG Rewards program that are either paid memberships or require an invite.

Related reading: Battle of the hotels: Why I stay most often with IHG

How to get IHG Rewards status

InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

In addition to earning IHG elite status, you can purchase InterContinental Ambassador status, which provides benefits at InterContinental brand hotels as well as automatic IHG Platinum Elite status. This paid status level provides automatic IHG Platinum Elite status, benefits at InterContinental hotels, and a complimentary weekend night each membership year.

If you stay at InterContinental brand hotels at least a few times each year and take advantage of the Ambassador complimentary weekend night rate, then it may be worth purchasing InterContinental Ambassador status. Currently, it costs $200 or 40,000 points per membership year.

Select Ambassadors are invited to InterContinental Royal Ambassador membership based on their activity during the previous year. Royal Ambassadors receive added benefits, including IHG Spire Elite status.

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The Kimpton brand also offers its own high-end status level. If you earn IHG Spire Elite status and stay frequently at Kimpton hotels, you may be invited into Kimpton Inner Circle. Kimpton Inner Circle provides guaranteed benefits at Kimpton properties, including one-category room upgrades, 10 a.m. check-in, 4 p.m. check-out and waived amenity/destination fees

IHG status via credit cards

Another way to get IHG Rewards status, which I use personally, is through the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card. As a cardholder, you'll get automatic IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status for as long as your card is open. You'll also get an anniversary free night each year that's valid for hotels costing 40,000 IHG points or less. And, you'll get the fourth reward night free each time you redeem IHG points for a stay of three or more nights. With all these perks, I'm happy to pay the annual fee on the IHG Premier Card.

If you're looking for a no annual fee credit card, the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card provides Gold Elite status when you spend $10,000 on purchases with your card each calendar year. But, the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card will be a better choice for most travelers due to its benefits and modest annual fee.

Finally, the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer accepting applications) also provides automatic IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status for as long as your card is open. If you have this card, you should think twice before upgrading to the Chase IHG Premier Card. Personally, I find value in having both the IHG Premier and the Select card.

Related reading: The best hotel credit cards that come with an annual free night

What value does IHG Rewards status provide?

Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Like most hotel chains, IHG Rewards generally won't provide elite benefits or earning on bookings that aren't made directly with IHG or other approved channels. So, don't expect to get elite benefits or bonus points when you book through an online travel agent or credit card portal. As such, I almost always book directly to ensure access to elite benefits and earning.

As with most hotel elite status tiers, IHG status provides benefits in two primary areas: earnings and on-site perks. It's difficult to estimate how much value you'll get from on-site perks. But, TPG Senior Editor Nick Ewen estimated the following values based on earning status organically, while spending an average of $150 per night on eligible charges:

  • Gold Elite: $5 per night
  • Platinum Elite: $18 per night
  • Spire Elite: $24 per night

At first glance, you may not agree with these valuations. But let's consider the valuation of IHG Platinum Elite elite status at about $18 per night. As a Platinum Elite member, the primary benefits you'll get are an upgraded room based on availability, late check-out in select regions based on availability, elevated earnings, and a welcome amenity.

Hotel Indigo Birmingham Five Points South (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

These benefits, and their value, will vary by property and stay. As a Platinum Elite myself, I've found that most properties will assign me a room located on a high floor based on my profile preferences. But, more substantial upgrades to a larger or elevated room type aren't usually proactively offered, especially when traveling within the U.S. in fact, Spire Elite members don't even get complimentary breakfast as a perk at hotels that don't provide breakfast to all guests. This is a pretty standard perk other rewards programs offer their top-tier elites.

However, you may value your particular status level differently. You can check out Nick Ewen's guide to What is IHG Rewards elite status worth to see his methodology and use it to calculate your own value per stay.

Value of IHG points earned by each elite status level

Now, let's consider the points each level of elite status would earn on bookings with IHG at most brands, as well as the value of these points based on TPG's valuation of IHG points at 0.5 cents each.

IHG Status levelPoints earning rate (return based on TPG'S VALUATIONS)Points on $100 of qualifying chargesPoints on $150 of qualifying chargesPoints on $200 of qualifying chargesPoints on $500 of qualifying chargesPoints on $1,000 of qualifying charges
Club10x (5%)1,000 ($5)1,500 ($8)2,000 ($10)5,000 ($25)10,000 ($50)
Gold Elite11x (5.5%)1,100 ($6)1,650 ($8)2,200 ($11)5,500 ($28)11,000 ($55)
Platinum Elite15x (7.5%)1,500 ($8)2,250 ($11)3,000 ($15)7,500 ($38)15,000 ($75)
Spire Elite20x (10%)2,000 ($10)3,000 ($15)4,000 ($20)10,000 ($50)20,000 ($100)

Ignoring the value of other benefits, the above table shows the tangible value of the points you’ll receive for a range of qualifying charges when booking directly at each elite level. This allows you to estimate — based on your qualifying charges and elite level — how much value you’d be giving up in points alone (based on TPG’s valuation of IHG points) when booking through a non-qualifying method.

Of course, you may receive more points on select stays if you select points as your welcome amenity or if you enroll in a promotion.

Related reading: Maximizing redemptions with the IHG Rewards Club program

Bottom line

Hopefully, this article helps illustrate the value you may miss when you don't book directly with a hotel brand – especially if you have elite status with the hotel. This doesn't mean you should never book through an online travel agency or a credit card travel portal. Instead, you'll simply want to compare the full picture and not just the price difference when deciding how to book your next IHG hotel stay.

Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.

Featured image by (Photo by JT Genter/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.