Why I’m happy to pay the annual fee on the IHG Premier

Dec 19, 2019

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Although I rarely put any spending on the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, I happily pay its $89 annual fee. For most cards, I have to consider the value of the points I earn from spending on the card as well as the value of the card’s benefits. Not so with the IHG Premier.

Why? Although the IHG Premier has many valuable benefits, there’s one benefit that provides enough value for me and everyone I know who has the card: the free night you get each year after your account anniversary. Even if you only stay in hotels a few times each year or don’t particularly like IHG properties, this one night can usually justify the card’s annual cost. In this guide, I’ll describe the benefits and perks that make keeping the IHG Premier an obvious choice.

Further reading: Sign up now to get 125,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months through the IHG Rewards Premier Card

Anniversary free night

The IHG Premier’s anniversary free night will justify the annual fee for most cardholders. (Image by TPG staff)

Each year on your account renewal anniversary date, you’ll get a free night. Your night must be redeemed and your stay completed within 12 months from the date of issue. This anniversary reward night is valid at IHG properties with a current point redemption level of 40,000 points or less per night.

Cardmembers with the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, which is no longer open for new applications, will remember when that anniversary reward night could be used at any IHG property. But even with the cap of 40,000 points or less per night on all reward nights issued by the IHG Premier and reward nights issued by the IHG Select after May 1, 2019, you can get a lot of value.

For example, my mother-in-law used her anniversary reward night to stay in downtown Savannah at the Holiday Inn Express Savannah-Historic District one weekend when cash rates were topping $300 per night. The first weekend night I searched at the property showed $330 per night or 40,000 points, so the high cash price she noted was not a fluke.

Perhaps my favorite IHG property yet, the InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort, is just 35,000 points per night and hence eligible for use of your anniversary reward night.

Looking to travel domestically? There are multiple options in New York City bookable for 40,000 points per night or less, including Hotel Indigo Brooklyn, Holiday Inn Express New York City Wall Street, Candlewood Suites New York City Times Square, Holiday Inn NYC Lower East Side and EVEN Hotels Brooklyn.

There are also many appealing options bookable for 40,000 points or less in Orlando that can help you avoid resort fees. For example, the Holiday Inn Orlando-Disney Springs Area and the Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Lake Buena Vista are well located for a Disney World trip.

Regardless of how you use your reward night, you’re likely to get at least $89 worth of value from it. You’re not limited to Candlewood Suites and Holiday Inn Express properties — although I tend to like staying at these brands — as there are plenty of Intercontinental, Hotel Indigo, Kimpton and voco properties bookable for less than 40,000 points per night.

Further reading: Top hotels for redeeming the IHG Premier card’s reward night

Fourth night free on awards

Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
The InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Vietnam was a great place to use the IHG Premier’s fourth-night-free benefit. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

The anniversary reward night should provide enough value to justify the IHG Premier’s $89 annual fee for most cardholders. But, for frequent award travelers who stay for four nights or longer per stay, the fourth night free on award stays may actually provide more value than the anniversary reward night. And unlike the reward night, you can get the fourth-night-free benefit as soon as your card is linked to your IHG account.

This benefit is the most valuable perk of the IHG Premier card for me. In 2019, my husband JT and I used the fourth night free benefit on 11 award stays to save 185,000 IHG points, which TPG values at $925.

Further reading: The incredibly easy way to redeem IHG’s fourth-night-free awards

Other valuable benefits

The IHG Premier offers other benefits that may be useful to travelers. One of these is IHG Platinum Elite status for the primary cardholders. TPG values IHG Platinum Elite status at $880, since the main benefits you’ll get from this mid-tier status are space available room upgrades, bonus points on paid stays, late check-out and a welcome amenity. The 50% point bonus on paid stays lets me earn 15 points per dollar spent on paid stays, and I’ve had fair success asking for upgraded rooms and late check-out onsite as a Platinum elite.

The IHG Premier earns 10 points per dollar spent at IHG hotels and resorts, which is a return of 5% based on TPG’s valuations. Although I usually use the Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for IHG stays, since it earns three Ultimate Rewards points for an effective 6% return, a 5% return is pretty good if you don’t have a better-earning card. You’ll also earn two points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, and one point per dollar spent on everything else.

The IHG Premier also offers the following benefits:

  • Save 20% on point purchases when you purchase points with your card (but not through Points.com)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit of up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for an application fee charged to your card
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after you spend $20,000 on purchases and make one additional purchase each account anniversary year
  • Cell phone protection of $800 per claim and $1,000 per year for phones listed on your monthly cell phone bill when you pay the bill with your card (maximum of two claims in a 12-month period, with a $50 deductible per claim)
  • Shopping protections when you use your card:
    • Purchase protection that covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account
    • Extended warranty protection that extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less
  • Travel protections when you use your card:
    • Trip cancellation / trip interruption insurance that may reimburse you up to $5,000 per person and $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses if your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather or other covered situations
    • Baggage delay insurance that may reimburse you up to $100 a day for three days for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing if your baggage is delayed over six hours by a passenger carrier
    • Lost luggage reimbursement that covers up to $3,000 per passenger if you or an immediate family member’s checked or carry-on luggage is damaged or lost by the carrier
    • Auto rental collision damage waiver when you decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is provided for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad, but in the U.S. coverage is secondary to your personal insurance.

Further reading: IHG Rewards Club Premier Card credit card review

Bottom line

Two benefits of the IHG Premier — the anniversary reward night at a property costing 40,000 points per night or less and the fourth night free on awards benefit — can each easily justify the card’s $89 annual fee for me. However, even infrequent travelers or travelers who are generally loyal to other brands should easily be able to get more than $89 worth of value from the IHG Premier card each year solely due to the card’s anniversary reward night. If you assume you can get more than $89 of value from a night at an IHG property, paying the annual fee and keeping the card for another year should be an easy choice.

Looking to maximize your IHG points? Check out the following posts:

Apply now for the IHG Rewards Club Premier Card.

Featured photo by The Points Guy staff.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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