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The IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card has long been a popular option for points collectors. But that card is no more. Instead, Chase is splitting many of the features of the old card across two brand-new options — the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and the IHG Rewards Club Traveler Card — and also adding some intriguing new perks. Unfortunately, it’s also made a major change to one of the most popular features of the old card, one that will leave some people unhappy.
A lot of old features have been scrambled up between the two new cards, so let’s take a trip through all of them and see what’s ended up where, what’s intriguing and new, and what’s not as good as it used to be.
We’ll start with the sign-up bonuses. The new IHG Traveler card features the same 60,000-point sign-up bonus as the old IHG Select, though you’ll now need to spend $2,000 in the first three months instead of $1,000. But for $3,000 spent in three months, you’ll get up to 120,000 points on the new higher-tier IHG Premier (80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, worth $400 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
A cool brand-new feature of both cards is the 4th Night Free benefit. If you redeem points for 4 consecutive nights, you’ll only pay points for 3 of them. That’s better than any other hotel rewards program, most of which only offer a fifth night free, and it improves the value of IHG points for those who have one of the new cards.
Each card also now comes with a 20% discount on point purchases. However, missing from both cards is any rebate on point redemptions — the old IHG Select provided a 10% rebate on all redemptions up to 100,000 points a year. For folks who make longer stays at IHG properties, the new 4th Night Free option should more than offset that loss since it effectively provides a 25% discount on 4 night redemptions, but those who tend toward shorter stays will lose out.
The IHG Premier in particular comes with some decent new higher-end perks. You’ll get a $100 Global Entry credit, and when you spend $20,000 in a calendar year, you’ll receive 10,000 bonus points on your cardmember anniversary. And while you’ll continue to earn 5x points at IHG hotels with the Traveler, you’ll now get a whopping 10x points on all spending at IHG properties with the IHG Premier.
Finally, the annual fees on both cards are different from the old IHG Select. You’ll now pay just $29 a year for the IHG Traveler, and $89 a year for the higher-tier IHG Premier.
What’s the Same?
There will continue to be no foreign transaction fees for overseas purchases on either card, and aside from IHG spend, you’ll still earn 2x points on gas, grocery and dining purchases, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
Automatic IHG Platinum elite status, which was previously a feature of the Select card, has now been assigned solely to the IHG Premier, while you’ll be able to earn IHG Gold with $10,000 in spend in one calendar year on the IHG Traveler.
The Anniversary Free Night
Now the bad news. One of the most popular features of the old IHG Select card was the free night certificate that you’d earn at each cardmember anniversary, which could be used at any IHG property in the world. That will still be a feature of the IHG Premier, but it’s now been restricted to IHG properties with a standard redemption rate of 40,000 points or less, which translates to IHG hotels in categories 1-7.
That’s a major negative change, especially since back in January, IHG raised the prices on its highest-end properties to as much as 70,000 points per night. Chase and IHG note that a majority of IHG hotels fall within the 40,000-point restriction, and the free night perk will still be less restricted than most other hotel card anniversary free nights. Even so, it’s a significant downgrade, as the old anniversary night perk was both valuable and simple since you didn’t have to concern yourself with award chart prices when using it.
If you have the old IHG Select card, any future free night certificates you earn after May 1, 2019, will also be capped at 40,000 points, but you’ll get at least one more unrestricted certificate at your card anniversary between now and then, and then restricted certificates thereafter.
Comparison of Old and New Cards
So here’s how it all breaks down when you compare the old IHG Select and the new IHG Traveler and IHG Premier cards…
|IHG Traveler||IHG Premier|
|Sign-Up Bonus||60,000 points||60,000 points||80,000 points|
|Minimum Spend||$1,000 in 3 months||$2,000 in 3 months||$2,000 in 3 months|
|Bonus Categories||5x on IHG spend,
2x gas, grocery and dining
|5x on IHG spend,
2x gas, grocery and dining
|10x on IHG spend,
2x gas, grocery and dining
|Foreign Transaction Fees||None||None||None|
|Mastercard Travel Benefits Level||World||World||World Elite|
|4th Night Free on Award Redemptions||No||Yes||Yes|
|10% Rebate on Award Redemptions||Yes||No||No|
|20% Discount on Point Purchases||No||Yes||Yes|
|$100 Global Entry Credit||No||No||Yes|
|10,000 Bonus Points for $20,000 Annual Spend||No||No||Yes|
|Free Night at Card Anniversary||Yes, unrestricted||No||Yes, restricted to 40,000-point hotels or lower (Category 1-7)|
|IHG Elite Status||Complimentary Platinum status||Gold status with $10,000 spend in one calendar year||Complimentary Platinum status|
Should You Get This Card Now?
Whether one of these two new cards is right for you depends on your hotel travel patterns…
- If you’re an IHG regular, you’ll likely want the higher-tier IHG Premier to get the larger sign-up bonus, the Platinum status and free night anniversary perk for a low- or mid-tier IHG property.
- If you only stay at IHG occasionally but for award stays of 4 nights or longer, you can get either the IHG Premier or the cheaper IHG Traveler in order to take advantage of the 4th Night Free discount.
- If your only interest in the IHG credit card was using the free anniversary night for a high-end hotel stay, neither of these cards will be right for you.
There’s no getting around the fact that the loss of the unrestricted anniversary night hurts. The old IHG Select card was a no-brainer since the free night perk was easy to use, easy to maximize and made it easy to justify the $49 annual fee of the old card. While you should still be able to find decent properties that fall under the new 40,000-point restriction, it’ll be tougher to get outsized value, especially since you’ll be paying a higher annual fee of $89 for it.
That being said, most other hotel co-branded credit cards that offer an anniversary free night are also category restricted, such as the Category 1-4 night on the Hyatt Credit Card and the Category 1-5 night on the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. The one major exception is the free weekend night you get each year with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
On the other hand, the new 4th Night Free benefit is great for those who make longer stays at IHG hotels, many of which are family-friendly properties. And the features of the higher-tier IHG Premier may very well be worth the extra annual fee for IHG fans, since you can get good value from the 20% rebate on point purchases as IHG regularly has sales on points, and earning 10x points on IHG spend can add up quickly for those who stay at IHG hotels often. So while the best features of the IHG cards may have changed, there’s still value to them at the end of the day.
This story has been updated to reflect that Chase has now extended issuing unrestricted free anniversary night certificates for existing IHG Select cardholders to May 1, 2019.
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