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Maximizing redemptions with the IHG Rewards Club program

March 24, 2020
12 min read
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IHG Rewards Club is an underdog of the hotel points world. The program may not have the footprint of Marriott Bonvoy or the flashy elite benefits of World of Hyatt, but the program does have some nifty tricks up its sleeve. Just take a look at IHG's redemption rates — IHG reward nights start at just 10,000 points per night, and all redemptions are priced based on a standard award chart.

With this in mind, even IHG's most premium hotels can have solid redemption rates. For example, the InterContinental London Park Lane costs 70,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night. This same hotel often costs 431 pounds (about $557) per night over the summer months, so you're saving a good chunk of change.

But not all IHG Rewards Club redemptions are this valuable, so it's important that you know how to make the most of them. If you've read our article on the best ways to earn IHG Rewards Club points and want to learn how to maximize your redemptions, you're in the right place. We'll walk you through how to get the most value for your hard-earned IHG Rewards Club points.

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Simple award pricing

In an age where many airlines and hotel groups are moving away from standard award charts (looking at you, Hilton), IHG Rewards Club offers a refreshing breath of predictability. The hotel company has opted to keep standard award pricing without peak pricing, so award pricing stays predictable no matter when you travel. As we noted earlier, award nights start at just 10,000 points per night and work their way up to 70,000 points per night based on the category of hotel you book.

You can use 70,000 IHG points for a free night at the InterContinental Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of InterContinental Hong Kong.)

We've found that higher-end hotels in more expensive cities are usually assigned higher-priced categories and vice-versa. However, as you'll see in this article, there are plenty of sweet spots to take advantage of. Strangely enough, IHG doesn't formally publish its award chart, but after performing numerous searches and sifting through previous award pricing changes, we were able to pull together the following table that shows how much each award category costs.

CategoryPoints per night
Category 110,000
Category 215,000
Category 320,000
Category 425,000
Category 530,000
Category 635,000
Category 740,000
Category 845,000
Category 950,000
Category 1055,000
Category 1160,000
Category 1265,000
Category 1370,000

There are a handful of properties that price higher than this award chart, though. These include select properties in Macau and the Maldives like the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort. Regardless, it can be difficult to find award space at this property, so we recommend using your IHG points for stays elsewhere for better pricing and more options.

There's really something to be said for the predictability of a standard award chart. With programs like Hilton, you have to hope that you're not booking a date with an incredibly high award price. But with IHG, you can rest assured that your bookings will never be more expensive than 70,000 IHG points (minus the exceptions above), making it easier to plan how you want to use your points.

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Related: How to redeem points with the IHG Rewards Club program

Points & Cash rewards stretch your points further

Alternatively, you can use IHG points towards Points & Cash bookings. As the name suggests, this redemption lets you combine IHG points and money to stretch your redemptions further. You can opt to redeem your IHG points for a Points & Cash redemption at checkout — just select the number of points and cash you want to use for your booking. You can use miles in 5,000 point increments, and redemptions start at 20,000 miles below the standard redemption rate.

For example, if you wanted to make a Points & Cash redemption towards a Category 13 hotel (70,000 points), you'd need at least 50,000 points available per night. The cash required is determined based on the nightly price of the hotel.

These aren't always the best use of points though. A stay at the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile in July 2020 is 50,000 IHG points or $191.30. Alternatively, you can use 30,000 points and $115 on a Points & Cash stay. This gives you a mere 0.25 cents per point in value for the Cash & Points redemption, half of TPG's valuation of 0.5 cents per point.

Using Points & Cash can make sense when cash rates are high — for example, New Year's Eve in New York City.

But there are some cases where it makes sense to use Points & Cash bookings. A night at the Crowne Plaza: Times Square Manhattan on New Year's Eve is a whopping $2,992.03. Alternatively, you can use 60,000 points for a free night, giving you a redemption value of 4.98 cents per point. You bump this cent per point value even higher by using 40,000 IHG points and just $139 for an incredible redemption value of 7.13 cents per point.

Our rule of thumb is to always check Points & Cash bookings when cash rates are high. Compare if the points saved is worth the added cash cost for you — in the case of the Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan example above, I'd personally do the Points & Cash rate due to the massive points savings.

Related: Maximizing IHG Rewards Club for family travel

Automatic Platinum Elite status

IHG has a pair of cobranded credit cards with Chase. The more premium of the two cards — the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card — comes with a slew of premium features, with one of the most intriguing being an automatic upgrade to IHG Platinum Elite status. This is IHG's mid-tier status, but it includes $880 worth of benefits based on TPG valuations that frequent IHG customers will undoubtedly enjoy.

IHG Platinum Elite status benefits include complimentary space-available upgrades, a welcome amenity, late checkout and priority check-in. This means you get the red carpet treatment from the moment you walk through the hotel's doors — something that's nice after a flight or a long day of meetings.

The card's annual fee clocks in at just $95 per year and status is valid for as long as your card is open and in good standing. This is significantly easier than organically qualifying for Platinum Elite Status too — doing that requires you to complete 40 nights at an IHG property or earn 40,000 elite-qualifying points.

Related: What is IHG Rewards elite status worth?

Fourth night reward

Another great benefit of the IHG Premier card is that it includes a fourth night reward on award stays of four nights or more. This benefit can be used at all IHG properties worldwide, and there's no cap on how many times you can use the benefit or how many points you can save.

This benefit is especially useful for high-end stays at IHG hotels. If you spend four nights at a Category 13 hotel, you'd save 70,000 points using this benefit. This is worth $350 according to TPG's valuations, meaning that this benefit alone pays for the IHG Premier's card over three times.

The fourth night reward is easy to use too — just book a four-night or longer award stay using the IHG Rewards Club account that's attached to your IHG Premier card. The points for the fourth night will be automatically deducted from the points cost of your stay at checkout.

Related: The incredibly easy way of redeeming IHG’s fourth night reward

Save points with an anniversary reward night

The IHG Premier card's annual fee is further offset by an anniversary reward night that's valid at hotels costing up to 40,000 points per night. This means you can effectively get up to 40,000 IHG points every time you pay the card's annual fee, worth $200 per TPG's valuations.

But you can get much more than $200 in value from this certificate. Take the Holiday Inn Express Manhattan Midtown West for example. It may not be the swankiest New York hotel, but this property usually costs around $330 per night. Or you can stay at the hotel for 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night, meaning that your anniversary reward certificate will give you a night in the middle of the city that never sleeps.

Of course, you can use your anniversary reward night at more luxurious hotels. The InterContinental Hotels Presidente Mexico City costs just 35,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night, meaning that your certificate is good for stays there too. Just make sure to check the nightly rate before you book; sometimes this property is available for under $150 per night, but it can get more expensive during holidays and special events.

Related: Hotel credit cards with an annual free night

Hefty welcome bonuses

The IHG Premier card also includes a solid welcome bonus of 125,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. This offer is worth $700 according to TPG's valuations, but it can be worth more depending on how you use your points.

Two nights at the InterContinental Los Angeles Century City cost 130,000 IHG points. This same stay would cost $837.30 for two nights on most dates, giving you excellent value for the card's welcome bonus.

Or if you want to pay a visit to our neighbors to the north, you can head to the InterContinental Toronto Centre for three nights using your IHG Premier welcome bonus. The property is just 45,000 points per night — much better than the 310 Canadian dollars ($214) cash rate. Better yet, using the card's fourth night reward, you can extend your trip for another night without paying extra.

IHG has over 5,200 hotels worldwide, so you won't have an issue finding a great hotel to redeem your points. Make sure to check out our roundup of our reader's best IHG redemptions for more inspiration.

Related: IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card review

Buying IHG points can actually make sense

At TPG, we don't usually advocate for buying points and miles without a bonus, but we sometimes make an exception for IHG points.

You can buy IHG points for as low as 1.0 cents per point when you purchase 27,000 IHG points or more. This isn't a particularly great deal unless you have a very specific and super-valuable redemption in mind. However, IHG sometimes runs promotions that let you buy points at 0.5 to 0.6 cents per point. This is right in line with the TPG valuation for IHG points, and lets you stay at high-end hotels on the cheap.

The key here is to buy points for lower than the price of a standard hotel stay. Remember the Crowne Royal: Times Square Manhattan example from above? If you can purchase 60,000 IHG points at 0.6 cents per point during a promo, you'll pay just $360 for the same $2,992.03 stay we discussed earlier. Even purchasing points at a standard rate of 1.0 cents per point would make sense for this stay.

Want to make sure you know about the next IHG points sale? Bookmark our permanent page for IHG buy-points promotions — we write about these deals as soon as they're announced.

Related: The best ways to earn points with the IHG Rewards Club program

Bottom line

While IHG Rewards Club may not have the allure of some of the other hotel points programs, it does have its place. IHG's predictable award pricing and outstanding Points & Cash redemptions can come in handy when booking rooms during major holidays and events. These are times when we see Marriott Bonvoy switch to more expensive peak pricing and Hilton's dynamic award chart make stays impractically expensive. So even if you're not an IHG loyalist, it can make sense to keep a stash of IHG points on hand.

The easiest way to earn IHG points is through the IHG Premier card. The card has an excellent welcome bonus of 125,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the account. Plus, the $95 annual fee is easily offset with an annual anniversary reward night, fourth reward night on award stays and complimentary Platinum Elite status. Each of these benefits can help you maximize your IHG points even if you only stay at IHG properties a few times per year.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of the Hotel InterContinental Chicago, Magnificent Mile)
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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