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When Chase launched the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card to succeed the old IHG Select card, it replaced a card that had the unique distinction of appealing to free agent travelers who not only weren’t loyal to IHG, but also might have held elite status with a competing hotel chain. However, at the same time that the issuer narrowed the audience of interested applicants, it also doubled down on new perks and bonus categories that are more rewarding for IHG customers. With the Premier card now offering an all-time high sign-up bonus of up to 125,000 points, this may be the perfect time to take a deep dive through this newer card offering. Let’s take a look at the details to see if the IHG Premier Card is a good choice for you.
Who Is This Card For?
The IHG Premier card is best suited to loyal IHG travelers who will be able to take full advantage of the card’s complimentary Platinum elite status, fourth night free on reward stays, 25x points on IHG purchases during the first year and more. It does also feature 4 points per dollar spent on all purchases in the first 12 months, but unlike its predecessor, the IHG Premier card is restricted by Chase’s 5/24 rule, which prevents you from opening essentially any Chase card once you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months. This means that adding it to your wallet is a tougher decision, and as such, you’ll likely want to be sure you’ll use the IHG benefits regularly if you’re going to apply for it.
Right now, the IHG Premier is offering an all-time high sign-up bonus that follows a major trend we’re seeing where, in addition to bonus points, the card offers elevated earning rates for the first year.
New applicants will start off by earning 125,000 bonus IHG points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. At 0.5 cents per point, IHG points rank among the least valuable rewards currencies in TPG’s points valuations, barely beating out Radisson Rewards and Spirit miles at 0.4 cents each. As such, the full 125,000 point bonus is only worth $625, less than half the value you can get from some other popular head-turning 100,000-point welcome bonuses.
However, in addition to the points, new applicants will get a number of elevated bonus categories. For the first 12 months of cardmembership, you’ll earn at the following rates:
|Bonus category||First 12 months||Subsequent years|
|Gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants||4x||2x|
|All other purchases||4x||1x|
Since this card is restricted by Chase’s 5/24 rule, you’ll want to double check your records before applying as you’ll be automatically rejected if you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months. This bonus also isn’t available to current IHG Premier cardholders or customers who’ve received a bonus on this card in the last 24 months, so if you’re eyeing an upgrade offer on your old IHG Select card, you might want to hold off and apply directly for the Premier instead.
Cobranded hotel credit cards tend not to shine very brightly in the earnings department, but for the first 12 months you have the card, the IHG Premier is pretty impressive. During that time, if you frequently pay for IHG stays (especially if you’re a business traveler who gets to book reimbursable travel), that 25x will add up very quickly. The 12.5% return you’ll earn on IHG purchases is one of the best of any hotel credit card, while the 2% (4x) on everyday spending is respectable as well.
After your first year, however, it’s important not to get distracted by the large number of points, and instead focus on how much they’re actually worth. While 10x points might sound like a great multiplier, remember that at 0.5 cents each, that’s only a 5% return. If you booked your IHG stays with a Chase Sapphire Reserve instead, you’d “only” earn 3x points per dollar, but Chase Ultimate Rewards points are much more flexible and valuable, as you can transfer them to various travel partners — including IHG — and end up with a 6% return based on TPG’s valuations.
While at least one major hotel chain has been subtly undercutting its no-blackout dates policy, IHG’s policy has always been one of the weaker ones out there. The terms and conditions of the IHG Rewards Club program note the following:
“There are no blackout dates for Reward Nights; however, room inventory is limited and subject to prior sale. In addition, Members may not be able to redeem Points for Reward Nights at InterContinental Residences.”
So while there are no blackout dates per se, hotels can limit the number of rooms they make available for award bookings. IHG has also confirmed plans to move to a variable award pricing system in 2019, but for now, the program operates in a much more conventional sense, with hotels costing anywhere from 10,000 to 70,000 points for a free night (though you may see some higher prices start to sneak in as IHG transitions to a variable system).
You’ll also have the option to mix points and cash for your award stays, and the rates are fairly decent. When you book this way, IHG actually sells you the extra points at the price listed, and then debits your account the full number of points. In the example below at the InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin, points + cash bookings value IHG points at about 0.6-0.7 cents each. IHG frequently sells points at this price (or cheaper), which can be another good way to top up your account.
IHG also runs a promotion several times a year called PointBreaks that discounts award nights at select properties. The quality of the list and the amount of the discount have both eroded over the years (don’t expect to see any InterContinental hotels for 5,000 points a night), but you can still find some decent values around the world with this deal. Just remember the (limited) award space at these hotels goes quickly, so don’t wait to book!
The IHG Premier card comes with a relatively modest annual fee of $89 a year and no foreign transaction fees. It offers a number of perks to offset that cost:
Anniversary Free Night — Card holders receive a free night certificate worth up to 40,000 points each year starting on their first year account anniversary. This is a far cry from the uncapped free night of the old IHG Select card, but you’ll find a small number of luxurious InterContinental hotels available for 40,000 points or less.
Complimentary IHG Platinum Elite Status — Platinum elites enjoy a 50% bonus on paid stays, room upgrades (excluding suites), a welcome amenity and a number of other perks.
Fourth Night Free on Award Stays — If you can find four nights of consecutive award space at a property you like, this can be a great way to get a 25% discount and stretch your points even further. If you use this even once a year, it should more than recoup your annual fee.
10,000 Bonus Points After Spending $20,0000 — You’ll earn 10,000 bonus points (worth $50) after spending $20,000 and making one additional purchase each account year.
20% Off When Buying IHG Points — Save 20% on your purchase of IHG points when you pay with your Premier card. However, this discount doesn’t stack onto other discounts when IHG puts points on sale, so the value of this perk may be minimal.
In addition, IHG Premier card holders will also enjoy the (now ubiquitous) Global Entry/ TSA PreCheck application fee credit, baggage delay and loss insurance and trip delay/interruption coverage.
Which Cards Compete With the IHG Premier?
If you’re loyal to IHG, another hotel’s credit card won’t be a direct competitor. Instead, the IHG Premier card’s biggest competition is from other cards that might be more deserving of your limited 5/24 slots with Chase.
For instance, if you’re under 5/24 and don’t already have it in your wallet, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card might be a better value for you. Its $95 annual fee is comparable to the $89 annual fee on the IHG Premier, and in exchange, you get double points on travel and dining. The Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Sapphire Preferred are much more valuable than IHG points since you can redeem them for a host of different flight or hotel options instead of limiting yourself to a single chain.
Even though it’s offering an all-time high sign-up bonus of 125,000 points, the IHG Premier could be a tough sell for one of your valuable 5/24 slots with Chase unless you’re an IHG loyalist. Between the 40,000-point limit on the anniversary free night certificate and the fact that 125,000 points are only worth $625, folks who are hotel “free agents” can probably do better. Still, if you’re a loyal IHG traveler looking for a shortcut to Platinum elite status, a fourth night free on award stays and a large bonus multiplier for IHG stays, you might find room for the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card in your wallet.
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With this card you'll get IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status which more than negates the value of the $89 annual fee.
- Earn 125,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
- Enjoy a Free Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a free reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
- Earn 40 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel for the first 12 months - after that, 25X points.
- Earn 4X points on all other purchases for the first 12 months – after that, 2X points at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
- Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
- Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
- IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®