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The award travelers guide to IHG Rewards

Feb. 03, 2022
28 min read
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Holiday Inn may not be the buzziest brand in the hotel industry, and the InterContinental Hotels Group – better known as IHG – may not have the flashiest hotel loyalty program. However, it's still one of my go-to programs as it has multiple attractive elements.

First, it's relatively easy to get good value redeeming IHG points. Second, the program actually has luxury brands as well as more mainstream brands. And third, even the least-prestigious IHG brands usually provide acceptable quality.

Earlier this year, IHG Rewards announced it would change its elite status tiers, including requirements and bonus earnings, this March. Then a few weeks later, IHG Rewards unveiled several changes to its credit cards that will also occur this March.

In short, IHG Rewards is currently undergoing a self-proclaimed evolution. So, amid these changes, here's what you need to know about the IHG Rewards program.

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IHG Rewards elite status

IHG's Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

IHG currently offers four membership levels within its IHG Rewards loyalty program and will add a fifth tier this March. In truth, IHG actually also offers two additional membership programs: InterContinental Ambassador and Kimpton Inner Circle.

Here's what this all means and what you should know about each of the membership levels.

IHG Rewards Club member

You'll become a club member simply by signing up for the IHG Rewards program. Club members get the following benefits:

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  • Complimentary internet access.
  • Reward nights count toward elite status.

Club members earn base points as follows when paying a qualifying rate:

  • 2.5 points per dollar spent at IHG Residence properties (a 1.25% return based on TPG's valuations).
  • 3 points per dollar spent at IHG Army Hotels (1.5% return).
  • 5 points per dollar spent at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (2.5% return).
  • 2,000 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas (worth $10).
  • 10 points per dollar spent at all other IHG properties (5% return).

IHG Rewards Silver Elite member

The Silver Elite member tier doesn't currently exist. But, once the new IHG Rewards program launches in March, this tier will require 10 qualifying nights in a calendar year. We don't have any details about the perks members will get at the Silver Elite tier except that this tier gives a 20% bonus on top of base points.

Starting March 24, members with the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card will automatically get Silver Elite status.

IHG Rewards Gold Elite member

Until the new program launches in March, you can become a Gold Elite member after seven qualifying nights or 7,000 qualifying points. But you'll need to get all of these nights or points before the new program launches.

If you hold Gold Elite status when the new program launches in March, you'll keep Gold Elite status until your status expiration date. However, once the new program starts in March, you'll need 20 nights or 40,000 points to qualify for Gold Elite status.

If you spend $10,000 on purchases with the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card before March 24, you'll become a Gold Elite member through the end of the next calendar year. But if you don't meet this spending threshold before March 24, the threshold will jump to $20,000 on purchases each calendar year plus one additional purchase.

On top of the benefits available to all IHG Rewards members, Gold Elite members also currently get the following perks:

  • Extended checkout.
  • Points don't expire.
  • 10% bonus earnings on top of base points (will jump to 40% when the new program launches in March).
  • Priority check-in.
  • Welcome amenity (Raid the Bar at Kimpton hotels and wellness platter at Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas).

TPG currently values IHG Gold Elite status at $60 per year due to late checkout, welcome amenities and bonus points.

IHG Rewards Platinum Elite member

Suite upgrade at the Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown-University. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Until the new program launches in March, you can become a Platinum Elite member after 30 qualifying nights or 30,000 qualifying points. But you'll need to get all of these nights or points before the new program launches.

If you hold Platinum Elite status when the new program launches in March, you'll keep Platinum Elite status until your status expiration date. However, once the new program starts in March, you'll need 40 nights or 60,000 points to qualify for Platinum Elite status.

You can also get Platinum Elite status simply by being a cardholder of the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card or joining the InterContinental Ambassador program. It's also a new benefit available to those who have the United Infinite Card.

On top of the benefits available to Gold Elite members, Platinum Elite members also get the following perks:

  • Elite rollover nights.
  • Complimentary room upgrades.
  • 50% bonus earnings on top of base points (will jump to 60% when the new program launches in March).

TPG currently values IHG Platinum Elite status at $880 per year primarily due to room upgrades and bonus points.

IHG Rewards Spire Elite member

Until the new program launches in March, you can become a Spire Elite member after 55 qualifying nights or 55,000 qualifying points. But you'll need to get all of these nights or points before the new program launches. Otherwise, you'll need to qualify for status under the new program's requirements.

Note that if you hold Spire Elite status when the new program begins, your status will become Diamond Elite until its expiration date. And once the new program launches, Diamond Elite will require 70 nights or 120,000 points in a calendar year. However, starting March 24, IHG Premier cardholders will be able to earn Diamond Elite status by spending $40,000 on purchases and making one additional purchase each calendar year.

On top of the benefits available to Platinum Elite members, Spire Elite members currently get the following perks:

TPG currently values IHG Spire Elite status at $2,185 per year primarily due to room upgrades and bonus points.

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

InterContinental Ambassador

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

As mentioned above, you can pay to join the InterContinental Ambassador program. To do so, you must pay $200 or 40,000 IHG Rewards points for a 12-month membership. In return, you get extra perks at InterContinental- and Regent-branded hotels and resorts, including a guaranteed one-category room upgrade, extended 4 p.m. checkout and a complimentary weekend night.

Even if you already have Platinum Elite status or Spire Elite status, it can be worth purchasing InterContinental Ambassador status if you frequently stay at InterContinental- and Regent-branded hotels. It can also make sense if you get more than $200 of value from your complimentary weekend night. Occasionally, InterContinental offers enrollment or renewal offers that can provide extra points or award night certificates as incentives.

IHG invites select InterContinental Ambassadors to become Royal Ambassadors based on their qualifying activity at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Regent Hotels & Resorts and participating Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas. Royal Ambassadors get even more perks, including Club InterContinental or Regent Club lounge access.

Related: On the hamster wheel of chasing hotel elite status? Buy it instead

Kimpton Inner Circle

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

If you're a Spire Elite member and show loyalty to Kimpton, IHG may invite you to Kimpton's Inner Circle. However, there aren't any published requirements regarding how loyalty is measured.

If IHG invites you, you'll get the following benefits at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants:

  • Personalized Inner Circle amenity each stay.
  • "Chef's Taste" when you have dinner at a Kimpton restaurant.
  • Free hotel night at a newly opened Kimpton hotel.
  • Complimentary highest-speed internet available.
  • Inner Circle phone line and agents.
  • Guaranteed one-category upgrade.
  • Guaranteed 10 a.m. check-in and 4 p.m. checkout.
  • Waived guest amenity fee and destination fee (but not resort fee).

Which bookings are eligible for IHG elite benefits and earnings?

You normally have to book directly with IHG to get elite benefits and earnings. Specifically, IHG's terms and conditions note that bookings through IHG's website, app and central reservations office are all eligible. Bookings made at an IHG hotel's front desk are also eligible.

But IHG's terms and conditions state that you won't get elite benefits or earnings when you book through an online travel agency or through "unauthorized travel agents on online vertical travel portals."

Related: Why to consider booking your next hotel stay through an online travel agency

How to earn IHG points

Kimpton Goodland Hotel. (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)

From hotel stays to IHG Rewards partners, there are many ways to earn IHG Rewards points. Here's a quick overview of some popular ways to earn IHG points.

Hotel stays

One of the primary ways to earn IHG points is through hotel stays. Specifically, all IHG Rewards members earn base points as follows when paying a qualifying rate:

  • 2.5 points per dollar spent at IHG Residence properties (a 1.25% return based on TPG's valuations).
  • 3 points per dollar spent at IHG Army Hotels (1.5% return).
  • 5 points per dollar spent at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites (2.5% return).
  • 2,000 points per stay at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas (worth $10).
  • 10 points per dollar spent at all other IHG properties (5% return).

Elite members get bonus earnings on top of these base points. Currently, Gold Elite members get a 10% bonus, Platinum Elite members get a 50% bonus and Spire Elite members get a 100% bonus. However, once the new IHG Rewards program launches in March, Silver Elite members will get a 20% bonus, Gold Elite members will get a 40% bonus, Platinum Elite members will get a 60% bonus and Diamond Elite members will get a 100% bonus.

Finally, IHG offers frequent promotions that allow you to earn bonus points on stays. Currently, you can earn double base points on IHG stays between Feb. 1 and March 31.

Related: Booking directly: How much value does IHG status provide?

Credit cards

There are two IHG Rewards credit cards currently accepting applications: the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card and the IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card. These cards currently earn bonus points at IHG hotels, grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants. However, both IHG cards will be refreshed in March, including new perks and bonus categories.

You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG Rewards. Although the transfer should process immediately, points transfer at a 1:1 ratio. Based on TPG's valuations, for each Ultimate Rewards point transferred, you'd be giving up 2 cents of value in an Ultimate Rewards point for 0.5 cents of value in IHG Rewards points. So, you'll only want to transfer Ultimate Rewards points for high-value redemptions or to top up your balance for a specific redemption if you have no other options.

Finally, you can also transfer Bilt Rewards to IHG Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. This transfer usually occurs instantly.

Related: Why I'm happy to pay the annual fee on the IHG Premier Card

Meetings and events

The IHG Business Rewards program allows you to earn IHG points when planning a meeting or event at select IHG properties.

First, you'll need to register for IHG Business Rewards on IHG's website. Then, you can earn 3 points per dollar spent when you book rooms, meetings and events for others. Specifically, you'll earn 3 points per dollar spent on the following:

  • Guest rooms booked for others.
  • Meeting and event costs.
  • Conference room costs.
  • Food and beverage service linked to meetings and conferences.
  • All-inclusive meeting packages.

However, you generally can't earn more than 60,000 points on a single meeting or event.

IHG Trip Extras

You may be able to earn IHG points on trip extras, such as a car rental. (Photo by Tupungato/Getty Images)

IHG Trip Extras is a booking platform that allows you to earn IHG points on select bookings. Specifically, you'll earn IHG Rewards points as follows when you book through the IHG Trip Extras portal:

  • Hertz car rentals: Earn 1,500 points per rental plus 500 points per day for Elite members and 125 points per day for members.
  • Dollar and Thrifty car rentals: Earn 125 points per day.
  • Viator tours and activities: Earn 1,000 points per activity booking.
  • OpenTable reservations: Earn up to 500 points when you make an OpenTable restaurant reservation.
  • Grubhub food delivery to select U.S. IHG hotels: Earn 500 points for your first Grubhub order placed through IHG's food delivery page and 250 points for every subsequent order.
  • Viator transport services: Earn up to 1,000 points per transportation booking.

However, most of these bounties are relatively small. You'll generally only want to book through the IHG Trip Extras portal when it matches or beats the lowest competitor.

IHG Rewards Dine & Earn

(Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

The IHG Rewards Dine & Earn program lets you earn IHG points on dining. To do so, you'll need to join the program and enroll at least one credit or debit card. You'll then earn IHG points when you use an enrolled card to pay at participating restaurants, bars and clubs.

Specifically, your earning rate will depend on your elite status level within the IHG Rewards Dine & Earn program:

  • VIP members earn 8 points per dollar spent (a 4% return based on TPG's valuations).
  • Select members earn 5 points per dollar spent (2.5% return).
  • Basic members earn 1 point per dollar spent (0.5% return).

To earn Select status, simply opt in to receive emails. You'll earn VIP status when you opt in to receive emails and complete 11 qualified transactions in a calendar year. Once you've earned VIP status, you'll keep it for the rest of the current year as well as the following calendar year.

This earning is on top of what you'll earn through your credit card. So, you'll maximize your earnings by enrolling and using a card that earns bonus points on dining.

Currently, there's a 1,000-point bonus available to new IHG Rewards Dine & Earn members. To earn this bonus, join the program, spend $30 or more at a participating restaurant within 90 days, pay with an enrolled card and then complete an online review within 30 days of your visit.

However, you can only enroll each card in one dining rewards program at a time. So, if you use another program, such as AAdvantage Dining or Hilton Honors Dining, you'll need to decide whether the IHG Rewards Dine & Earn program will provide more value.

Related: Hungry for miles? Use these tips to maximize earnings on your next food delivery order

Buying Apple products

IHG Rewards doesn't have a formal online shopping portal, but you can earn 4 points per dollar spent on select Apple products. To do so, just click through the IHG Apple rewards portal before you make a purchase.

Select items are excluded from earning IHG points, so be sure to read the exclusions before making a purchase.

Other online shopping portals also offer bonus rewards on Apple purchases, so it's worth checking a shopping portal aggregator such as Cashback Monitor to see whether you can get a higher return.

Buying points

Last but not least, you can boost your account balance by buying IHG points. Assuming you purchase at least 26,000 points, the standard price is 1 cent per point.

But there are often promotions that offer bonuses of up to 100%. You can periodically buy points during these promotions for as little as 0.5 cents apiece. You generally can't purchase more than 150,000 IHG points per calendar year, but IHG sometimes increases this limit during promotions.

Related: When does it make sense to buy points and miles?

Which points qualify for elite status?

Some of the above activities produce elite qualifying IHG points, while others provide non-elite qualifying points. Both types of points are redeemable, but only elite qualifying points count toward earning elite status.

Based on IHG's terms and conditions, the following activities produce points that are redeemable and qualify for elite status:

  • Hotel stays.
  • Spending on IHG credit cards.
  • Spending on select partner activity.
  • IHG Rewards bonus points packages.
  • Spending through IHG Business Rewards.
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers to IHG Rewards.

On the other hand, the following are redeemable but do not qualify for elite status:

  • Points earned from promotions.
  • Elite status bonuses.
  • Activation bonuses or select promotions offered through IHG credit cards.
  • Select partner promotions.
  • Point vouchers, purchases, transfers (unless otherwise indicated) or deposits.

But, if you aren't looking to earn IHG elite status through elite qualifying points, then you don't need to worry about which points qualify.

How to redeem IHG points

You'll generally get the most value when redeeming IHG points for hotel stays, but there are other options. In this section, we'll consider several ways to use IHG points.

Reward nights

InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

In 2020, IHG gradually switched most of its properties to dynamic pricing. The number of points required to book a reward night at a particular property may vary from night to night and may change at any point.

You can use points to book a reward night at most IHG properties. However, you may not be able to redeem points at InterContinental Residences, IHG Army Hotels, select Sixth Senses and select Mr and Mrs Smith properties. The least I've found any IHG property bookable for recently is 5,000 points per night.

Based on TPG's valuation of IHG points at 0.5 cents each, you'll generally want to get at least this value when redeeming. In practice, I find it relatively easy to find opportunities to redeem IHG points for at least 0.5 cents per point.

For example, consider the InterContinental Presidente Cancun Resort. For a stay in September, you could pay 29,000 points per night or $223 per night for a rate with free cancellation. In this case, you'd be getting a value of 0.77 cents per point.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Getting this type of value for IHG rewards nights isn't uncommon. If you have an eligible IHG Rewards credit card, you can even get a fourth-night reward when redeeming IHG points. This fourth-night reward allows you to effectively pay zero points for every fourth night when you redeem points for a stay of four nights or longer.

Related: How to maximize redemptions with the IHG Rewards program

Points + Cash

If you're looking to conserve points, you may want to book using Points + Cash. As the name implies, on a Points + Cash booking you'll pay partially with points and partially with cash.

The cost to pay partially with cash through Points + Cash bookings varies, so carefully consider whether the rate at which you'd be purchasing points provides good value.

And there's one additional caveat to know about Points + Cash bookings: You don't get the cash portion back if you cancel the stay. Instead, IHG refunds the cash copay as points deposited to your IHG Rewards account.

IHG Rewards Access

IHG Rewards Access is an auction platform where you can normally bid on experiences, including member-only access to concerts and dream vacations. However, there are currently no experiences available on the platform.

IHG Digital Rewards

You can redeem IHG points for a wide selection of e-magazines, movies, e-books, games and software through IHG's Digital Rewards program. Magazine prices start at 300 points for a single issue, while most movie rentals cost between 1,250 and 1,900 points. E-books generally cost between 300 and 6,000 points. Games and software vary widely in price but typically provide a very low redemption rate.

Related: Use these cards to maximize your entertainment spending

IHG Rewards Catalog

You can use your points to shop in the IHG Rewards Catalog. The catalog offers many items, including gift cards, magazine subscriptions and the ability to donate your points. However, you'll usually get a very low redemption rate when redeeming points for items in this catalog.

Related: Not traveling for now? How to maximize your rewards points on other redemptions

Redeem for airline miles

Finally, you can redeem IHG points for airline miles with select airline partners. You can see the current partners and redemption rates in our IHG partner redemption guide.

But you'll quickly see that this isn't a good value redemption. In particular, based on TPG's valuations, you'll generally slash the value of your IHG points by almost half.

You can only redeem in increments of 10,000 IHG points, and it will usually take 14 to 21 days for the miles to post to your airline loyalty account. But, if you still want to redeem your IHG points for airline miles, you can do so by calling the IHG Rewards Customer Care Center.

How to book an IHG award

Booking award nights through the IHG website is easy. From the homepage, type in your destination, dates, number of guests and number of rooms. But, before clicking "Search," click the "Rate Preference" drop-down and select "Reward Nights." Once you click "Search," you'll see options bookable within a set radius of your destination.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

You can filter these options by brand and amenities. And you can sort your results by distance, price, rating or availability.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

You can also choose to see your results on a map if you prefer.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Click "Select Hotel" to see award rates for each room type.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Then, click on a room type to also see paid rates. Doing so will let you quickly decide if redeeming points is worthwhile. I usually click on "Refundable" to compare rates that offer free cancellation.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

In this case, you could pay 58,000 IHG points or $446 for a two-night stay with free cancellation. So, you'd be getting 0.77 cents per point if you redeem points for this stay.

Unfortunately, IHG doesn't have a calendar view to allow you to search for low-priced nights. And, especially with dynamic pricing, finding low-priced nights can save you a lot of points. So, I'll search for a month at a time and then click on "Rate Details" to see the nightly breakdown.

(Screenshot courtesy of ihg.com)

Occasionally this won't work. Specifically, I've found instances in the past where specific dates will show low reward night costs when searching for a month at a time but not for shorter periods. However, I'm currently not seeing this phenomenon.

Maximizing IHG Rewards

Here are some of the strategies you can use to get the most value from the IHG Rewards program.

Promotions

Long-term IHG Rewards members know that IHG has offered some amazing promotions in the past. Indeed, the quarterly Accelerate promotion caused me to stay at a few IHG hotels even when it wasn't convenient or the best value, and the PointBreaks promotion led me to some hotels and cities I wouldn't have otherwise visited.

IHG hasn't offered either of these promotions recently, but is currently offering a double points promotion that offers double base points.

Related: All of the current hotel promotions worth considering

Fourth-reward-night reward

One way to stretch your points farther is the fourth reward night that comes as a benefit of the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card and IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card. This benefit allows you to pay zero points for every fourth night on stays of four nights or longer when redeeming points for your stay. Best of all, there's no cap on how frequently you can use this benefit each year.

Best price guarantee

IHG offers a best price guarantee when you book directly with IHG. If you find a better price, IHG will match the better price and give you five times the points on your stay, up to a 40,000-point maximum.

However, the best price guarantee isn't available for mainland China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan hotels. And you'll need to submit the online claim form within 24 hours of booking directly with IHG and at least 24 hours before the hotel's check-in time.

Related: It's time for a reckoning of the hotel best rate guarantee policy

Status match and challenge

IHG periodically offers status match and challenge opportunities. However, no status match or challenge offers are currently available.

Related: What are hotel and airline status matches and how do you get one?

Stretch your points with low redemption rates

Now that IHG has switched to dynamic pricing, you can book reward nights for as little as 5,000 points. So, you can stretch your points by seeking out low points redemptions both domestically and internationally. However, make sure to check cash rates to ensure you're getting good value from your redemption.

Related: High-low travel strategy: Mixing luxury and budget travel on the same trip

Frequently asked questions

How much are IHG points worth?

Based on TPG's valuations, IHG points are worth about 0.5 cents each. So, you should generally try to get at least 0.5 cents of value per point when redeeming IHG points.

How many IHG points do you need for a free night?

Before IHG switched to dynamic pricing, you'd generally need between 10,000 and 70,000 IHG points for a free night. Now award night costs vary more widely, but I've found hotels bookable for as little as 5,000 points.

Do IHG points expire?

Points don't expire for elite members, but points expire for members after 12 months of no earning or redeeming activity. So, make sure you earn or redeem at least once each year.

Related: How to keep your points and miles from expiring

Can you use IHG points for flights?

You can transfer IHG points to select airlines. See our guide on redeeming points with IHG Rewards partners for more details.

Are purchased IHG points elite qualifying?

Purchased points are non-elite qualifying. You can obtain elite qualifying points from qualifying rates paid for hotel stays, spending on IHG Rewards credit cards, select partner activity, IHG Rewards bonus points packages and qualified spending through IHG Business Rewards.

Can I transfer my IHG points to someone else?

You can transfer your IHG points to another IHG Rewards member in 1,000-point increments for a fee of $5 per 1,000 points. This means you'll pay a fee of 0.5 cents per point transferred.

However, note that you can sometimes buy IHG points for as little as 0.5 cents each, so it's generally not a good idea to pay to transfer your IHG points.

Bottom line

The IHG Rewards elite member benefits aren't currently all that great. After all, unlike in most other hotel programs, top-tier elites don't even get free hotel breakfast or guaranteed late checkout. But there's still a lot of value to be found in the IHG Rewards program.

Specifically, it's easy to find good value when redeeming IHG points. This is especially true if you're flexible regarding dates and destinations and know when to pay cash instead of points.

And the automatic Platinum Elite status that comes with the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is usually enough to provide solid earnings and occasional upgrades. The card's fourth-reward-night benefit can also provide excellent value if you usually stay in increments of four nights or more.

Featured image by A pool at the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau. (Photo by Katie 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.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023