IHG Rewards Club Premier Card: Is it worth a 5/24 slot?

Oct 4, 2019

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here –  IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card 

The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card offers a solid 125,000-point sign-up bonus and beneficial perks for any frequent IHG traveler, but it may not be worth the Chase 5/24 slot unless you’re staying at IHG hotels consistently throughout the year.  Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

When Chase launched the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card to succeed the old IHG Select card, it replaced a card that, strangely, had appealed to travelers who not only weren’t loyal to IHG but also might have held elite status with a competing hotel chain. With the change, Chase narrowed the audience of interested applicants but 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 through Oct. 9, 2019, it’s worth looking at whether the IHG Premier Card is a good choice for you.

In This Post

Who is this card for?

Although the old IHG Select card appealed to a wider audience, 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. With a solid bonus, great first-year return on IHG spending and plenty of perks, any IHG loyalist would benefit from having the card.

Unlike its predecessor, the IHG Premier card is restricted by Chase’s 5/24 rule, which means you’ll likely be denied for this card if you’ve opened five or more credit cards across all issuers in the last 24 months. Adding this to your wallet will count as one of those five spots, so you’ll want to be sure you’ll use the IHG benefits regularly if you’re going to apply.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
Frequent IHG travelers will get the most out of this card. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy.)

All-time-high sign-up bonus

Right now, the IHG Premier is offering the highest sign-up bonus it has ever offered. Through Oct. 9, 2019, new applicants will earn 125,000 bonus IHG points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three 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. So 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 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
IHG purchases 25x 10x
Gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants 4x 2x
All other purchases 4x 1x

 

That’s a competitive 12.5% return on your IHG purchases within your first year.

Keep in mind that this bonus 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.

Main benefits and perks

The IHG Premier card comes with a relatively modest annual fee of $89 a year, and many of the perks offered by the card offset that cost. The true value of the card hinges on whether or not you’ll use these benefits throughout the year:

Anniversary free night. Cardholders 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 can 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 cardholders will also enjoy the (now ubiquitous) Global Entry/ TSA PreCheck application-fee credit (up to $100), baggage delay and loss insurance and trip delay/interruption coverage. As more cobranded cards drop travel protections (including cobranded Citi and Barclays cards), these benefits could be a serious factor when looking at which travel credit card you use to book airfare and hotel stays.

Further reading: Maximizing IHG Rewards Club for family travel 

How to earn points

Cobranded hotel credit cards tend not to offer great earnings, but this card’s potential is pretty impressive during the first year. Earning 25x points on IHG purchases adds up quickly — especially if you’re a business traveler who gets to book reimbursable travel. The 12.5% return you’ll earn on IHG purchases is one of the best of any cobranded hotel credit card, and the 2% (4x) earning on everyday spending is respectable as well.

Unfortunately, that return drops considerably after the first year. You’re still earning 10x on IHG stays, but that translates to only a 5% return. This isn’t a terrible return, but you’ll be better off switching spending to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Because Chase Ultimate Rewards points are much more flexible and valuable (as you can transfer them to various travel partners — including IHG), you’ll end up with a 6% return, based on TPG’s valuations.

Earn 25x points during the first 12 months at hotels such as Intercontinental Amstel in Amsterdam. (Photo by Danielle Vito/The Points Guy.)

IHG does regularly offer promotions for buying points. Now through Oct. 18, 2019, you can buy IHG points with an 80% bonus. The price per point drops to essentially 0.56 cents each when you buy at least 26,000 points, which is a great value. Considering most top-tier IHG properties only cost 70k points per night, you could book a luxurious stay for under $400 a night.

Further reading: How to score with the new IHG buy points promo 

How to redeem points

IHG’s policy on blackout dates has always made it one of the weaker hotel programs when it comes to award night availability. (It may have company: Marriott has ben undercutting its no-blackout dates policy.) 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 conventional way, with hotels offering rooms for 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).

Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
You can use points for a stay at the InterContinental Phu Quoc. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.)

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. In August 2019, IHG actually released a new list of hotels available for just 5,000 to 15,000 points per night through the end of October. The best properties tend to be booked fast, but you can often find a few hidden gems if you’re willing to dig and keep your travel plans flexible.

Further reading: TPG readers reveal their best IHG rewards redemptions 

Is the IHG Premier card worth a 5/24 slot?

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.

Though the IHG Premier card comes with an array of valuable benefits for frequent IHG travelers, it isn’t necessarily the right card for those who stay with multiple hotel brands throughout the year.

For instance, 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 (2 cents vs .05 cents respectively, according to TPG valuations) since you can redeem them for a host of different flight or hotel options instead of limiting yourself to a single chain. Alternatively, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get a nice 6% return on IHG stays, plus a $300 travel credit and other luxury perks (though admittedly for a considerably higher $450 annual fee).

If you’re staying at IHG properties frequently and are interested in the perks offered by the IHG Premier card, I would say this is worth the 5/24 slot. Just make sure you’ll take advantage of everything the card has to offer before hitting the “apply” button.

Further reading: Ultimate guide to Chase’s 5/24 rule 

Bottom line

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, it makes sense to have the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. There are a number of valuable redemptions you can find through the program, and the card offers some compelling benefits like complimentary elite status.

On the other hand, the IHG Premier could be a tough sell for one of your valuable 5/24 slots with Chase if you are not 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.

If you do decide that the IHG card is worth a spot in your credit card lineup, make sure to apply before this 125,000-point offer ends Oct. 9, 2019. This is the highest bonus IHG has ever offered, so now is the time to take advantage of it.

Official application link: Apply for the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card to earn 125,000 bonus points

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.

Feature 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, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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