Not worth the 5/24 slot: IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card review
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The IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card is IHG’s no-annual-fee cobranded card option, offering a solid bonus plus 5x on IHG purchases and 2x on gas, groceries and restaurants. While it can be a decent addition to your existing credit card strategy, you should seriously consider whether or not it’s worth a 5/24 slot. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐1/2
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
IHG offers two cobranded Chase cards to help customers rack up more points and maximize their stays. The card has more to offer than other no-annual-fee hotel cards, but overall I’m not impressed with the current offer. Unfortunately, the no-annual-fee IHG Traveler Card can’t compete with the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which offers more perks in exchange for a low annual fee.
Who is this card for?
The IHG Rewards Club Traveler Card is for those who want a way to earn IHG points on stays without incurring another annual fee. In my opinion, this card is best for travelers who stay with IHG a decent amount throughout the year (but not exclusively) who want to pair this card with an existing Chase Ultimate Rewards card (which has IHG as a transfer partner). Anyone who wants automatic elite status with IHG should go for its big brother, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which comes with automatic Platinum elite status and a slew of other perks. The information for the IHG Premier card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Keep in mind that this is a cobranded Chase card, meaning it is restricted by Chase’s 5/24 rule. Your application will likely be denied if you’ve gotten five or more new cards across issuers in the last two years. This card also takes a slot, so if you have other Chase cards you want to add to your wallet, you’ll need to strategize whether this card is truly worth it for you.
Further reading: The best ways to use your 5/24 slots
Unimpressive bonus worth $300
Currently, you’ll earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months. It’s an easy target to hit, but remember that IHG points are some of the least valuable according to TPG valuations. You’re getting just 0.5 cents of value from each point, which puts this bonus at $300. It’s nowhere near some of the flashier bonuses we’ve seen as of late, but it does beat out comparable cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card‘s bonus (30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months), currently only worth $240 based on TPG valuations.
Even though the IHG bonus isn’t anything special, you can get value from it by taking advantage of PointBreaks promotions. If you find a listed hotel that you fancy, this bonus is enough to get you five nights at any of the 15,000-point redemption options thanks to the fourth-award-night-free benefit.
Earlier this year, eight InterContinental hotels were available for either 10k or 15k per night.
Main perks and benefits
As is the case with most no-annual-fee cards, the IHG Rewards Club Traveler doesn’t offer a ton of luxury perks. However, you do get a few benefits that will help you maximize your IHG rewards points and upgrade your stays.
Fourth Reward Night Free. When you redeem points for four or more nights, your fourth night will be discounted from your total. The process for using this perk is very easy. Simply book your stay and the perk will be applied to your fourth night automatically.
Save 20% on Point Purchases. You’ll get a 20% bonus whenever you buy IHG points with your card. While it almost never makes sense to buy points outright as opposed to earning them through card spend and hotel stays, this perk can come in handy when you need to top off your account in order to hit a certain redemption.
Path to Gold elite status. You can buy your way to Gold elite status after you spend $10,000 on the card in a calendar year. Gold status comes with a 10% earning bonus on hotel stays (meaning you’ll earn 16x on IHG stays), late checkout, priority check-in and a small welcome amenity (usually a minibar credit). We only value Gold status at $60 a year, so it’s not worth going out of your way to spend $10,000 a year with the card. And if you’re spending $10,000 on IHG stays every year, you’ll be getting much more overall value from the IHG Premier card (which comes with complimentary Platinum elite status).
Further reading: What is IHG elite status worth in 2019?
How to earn points
You’ll earn 5x on IHG stays, plus 2x on gas, groceries and restaurants. When you combine this card with the base points earned through the IHG Rewards Club, you’re actually earning 15x on hotel stays. You’re getting a decent return on hotel stays at 7.5% back. It doesn’t quite measure up to the IHG Rewards Club Premier, which offers 25x on IHG hotel stays (when you factor in base Rewards Club points and the complimentary elite status bonus), a 12.5% return. But it’s still a better return than you’ll get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (4% return) or even other cobranded hotel cards like the Marriott Bold (2.4% return).
I wouldn’t suggest using this card on gas, groceries or restaurant spending. You’re only getting 2x, which is a measly 1% return. There are other cards (including other no-annual-fee cards) that offer better rates on those purchases.
How to redeem points
You have multiple redemption options, including using IHG points for plane tickets, car rentals, the IHG online store and more. However, you’ll still get the best value out of hotel stays. TPG values points at a low 0.5 cents each, but there are a few ways to get more out of your points.
Throughout the year, IHG releases PointBreaks redemption options that start as low as 5,000 points per night. Award rooms get booked relatively fast, so you have to time your search right in order to find the best redemptions through this program. IHG breaks down its PointsBreaks options into three tiers: 5,000-, 10,000- and 15,000-point nightly rates. While you won’t find many (if any) of IHG’s best-ranked properties on these lists, you can luck out with affordable award rates in great locations. For example, August 2019’s list included InterContinental properties in SanFrancisco, Sao Paulo and Hanoi.
You can also use a combination of Points + Cash to book stays. For a given room, you’ll typically see a chart with discounts from the full nightly award rate in increments of 5,000 points. You’re essentially using cash to buy the added points needed to complete a redemption — if you cancel your room you’ll be refunded fully in points. You’re not always getting the best value this way, but the more cash you use to complete a redemption, typically the better value you’re getting.
Also remember to utilize the free fourth night whenever possible. The free night is automatically applied whenever you book four or more consecutive award night stays, and it can greatly increase the value of your overall redemptions.
Further reading: How to redeem points with the IHG Rewards Club program
IHG Traveler vs IHG Premier: Which is better?
The IHG Premier is Chase’s other cobranded IHG card options. It features 25x on IHG hotel stays and 2x on gas, groceries and restaurants. While it does come with an $89 annual fee, you’ll also get automatic Platinum elite status, an anniversary night free and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit. You’re also getting 80,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Platinum status will get you the same benefits as Gold, but also complimentary room upgrades when available and guaranteed availability on paid stays with 72 hours notice.
For frequent IHG customers, the Premier is almost always worth the $89 annual fee and the more beneficial of the two IHG cards. Platinum Elite status (worth $880 annually) and the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit will cover that annual fee alone. Even without those two perks, you only have to spend $712 on IHG stays each year in order to earn enough points to offset the value of the annual fee.
To be entirely honest, if you aren’t staying with IHG often enough to justify the $89 annual fee on the Premier, you’ll likely not get enough value out of even the Traveler to warrant the 5/24 slot with Chase.
Further reading: The IHG Premier card review
Out of context, the IHG Traveler Card isn’t a bad option. For no annual fee, you’re getting a solid return on IHG spending and a few nice perks to help upgrade your stays. However, you have to consider that this card takes up one of those valuable slots for Chase 5/24 while also being beholden to the same rule. If you’re not staying with IHG often enough to justify the annual fee on the Premier, I’m not sure this card would be worth it either way.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
- No Annual Fee
- Earn 15 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Fourth Reward Night Free
- IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®