Beginners’ guide to IHG Rewards Club – updated 2019

 

IHG RC CMYK

Last updated: 11th January 2019

Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) consists of 12 brands covering just over 5500 hotels globally.

All the IHG brands

They are:

  • Holiday Inn – and their related Holiday Inn Club Vacations and Holiday Inn Resort
  • Holiday Inn Express,
  • Intercontinental Hotels,
  • Crowne Plaza,
  • Hotel Indigo,
  • Kimpton
  • Staybridge Suites,
  • Candlewood Suites,
  • Avid (currently just one hotel in the world!)
  • Even Hotels,
  • Hualuxe.

IHG is an odd programme because they operate two distinct but parallel programmes, the IHG Rewards Club and the Intercontinental Ambassador programmes valid only at Intercontinental hotels, the latter being a paid membership. Whatever your status on the IHG Rewards Club, it will not be recognised at Intercontinentals, and vice versa.  However, you can still earn points on all your stays at all IHG brand hotels.

IHG makes it clear they have no requirement to honour any membership benefits on reward nights, with the exception of free internet. But if you get any upgrade then you should count yourself lucky. This rule is especially annoying if you are an Ambassador or Royal Ambassador because those are the ones with the best perks!

Membership levels:

The membership tiers for IHG Rewards club are:

  • Club (basic level) — 0 nights / 0 stays per year
  • Gold  — 10 nights / 10 000 Elite qualifying points /
  • Platinum — 40 nights / 40 000 Elite qualifying points. If you stay above 40 nights but fail to qualify for platinum then the surplus nights will be rolled over and count towards status for the following year.
  • Spire — 75 nights / 75 000 Elite qualifying points. Nights above the 75 required to qualify will roll over to count towards status for the next year.

More details of the benefits for each tier are published here. (or click on the chart above)

But in a special category of its own, Intercontinental Hotels have a distinct loyalty programme, and has two levels

  • Ambassador — This costs $200 to join for the first year and $150 per year to renew or you can pay with 40000 IHG points. It also comes with a complimentary weekend night voucher redeemable at any Intercontinental Hotel property, guaranteed upgrade and a 4pm late checkout facility.
  • Royal Ambassador — This invitation-only level is given to the ‘top 1%' of guests. It is rumoured that around $10k minimum spend per year is required to obtain/maintain this status though this is not published nor confirmed by IHG.

Be warned though that there are changes in benefits for Royal Ambassador on 1st February 2019 and Ambassadors on 1st March 2019. See here for details of the changes.

Do award nights count towards elite status?

Yes.

Shortcuts to higher levels

  • If you hold middle or highest tier with competing chains, IHG offers Gold or Platinum status for the remainder of the calendar year by a status match.
  • Occasionally there are codes which give you
  • If you buy Ambassador status from Intercontinental then you will also be automatically upgraded to IHG Gold. (though there are rumours this could change for the better. Time will tell.)
  • It is also possible ask around nicely for Royal Ambassador referrals, or try to befriend a high-spending, frequent Intercontinental Hotel stayer. They might have a spare referral certificate they'd be willing to give you!
  • If you live in the UK, Creation offer a basic and premium IHG-branded credit card which also gives Platinum status for as long as you hold the card. There is a £99 annual fee, and the Platinum status is not a published benefit, so be prepared if they one day rescind this!

Lifetime status

There isn't a lifetime status on IHG Rewards club unfortunately.

Earning points:

Staying at hotels (the normal way!)

The base rate is 10 points per USD on your room rate, so your billing currency is something other than USD will need to do a currency conversion. Gold members earn a 10% bonus, and Platinum members earn 50% bonus and Spire members earn 100% on top of the base rate.

The $35 per 5 000 points trick.

IHG lets you buy points at effectively 5000 points for $35 USD, pro rata up to 15 000 points for $105USD. This is particularly handy if you are just short of points for a reward night. An advantage here is it is possible to do this over and over again.

Unless you require paying cash to trigger promotions or for elite membership, this infers that you should not pay more than the following for rooms in following in following categories:

  • Category 1 — $70
  • Category 2 — $105
  • Category 3 — $140
  • Category 4 — $175
  • Category 5 — $210
  • Category 6 — $245
  • Category 7 — $280
  • Category 8 — $315
  • Category 9 — $350
  • Category 10 — $385
  • Category 11 — $420
  • Category 12 — $455
  • Category 13 — $490
  • Category 14 — $525

Here's how to do it:

Step 0: (Only required if you have fewer than 10000 points in your account. If you have more, then skip this step) You need to have at least 5000 points in your account. You'll have to buy them at rack rate of $13.50USD per 1000 points from here. Make sure you take this cost into account when considering whether it's worth doing this route.

 

Step 1: Find a cheap IHG property (A Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express will do) and look for a date in the distant future. You need to find one where the full points rate is precisely 25 000 points, like this room in Holiday Inn Slough, UK.

Select the rate of 10000 points plus $105USD (or equivalent local currency). In 99% of cases the rates are cancellable without penalty. Check the final booking screen to check for cancellation terms…I'm saying this as a disclaimer if one day someone screws this up. I won't be held liable! Go ahead and purchase the rate.

 

Step 2: Cancel your booking after it's been confirmed. You are in effect buying 15 000 points for $105USD. That's three nights at the cheapest Points Break rates. When you cancel you won't get your $70 back, but your account will be 10 000 points richer.

 

Step 3: Find your desired Points Break room and you'll see that it costs only 5000 points. I've taken an example from an old Points Break room (Holiday Inn Nicosia, Cyprus). Be sure to choose one that's on the current list though.

Holiday Inn points break Nicosia

 

And once it's booked, you can sit back, relax and enjoy your room when the day comes. If you play it right, you'll have booked a room at 10-20% of its rack rate. You won't be earning any points on these reward nights, but this is a case where cash is king.

Big Promotions

Once in a while IHG runs large promotions, such as the recent “Rewards Nights. Faster” promotion (formerly known as Accelerate). These are great opportunities for some to net over 30 000 – 60 000 points in a single promotion. You will need to do the sums, check the value proposition and assess whether it's right for you.

Spending points

IHG points are not recommended to be spent for anything other IHG hotel nights, because of the poor conversions to other partners.

Normal Reward nights

As mentioned in an above table, rooms are priced anywhere between 10000 – 70000 points. As you might expect, the most expensive properties (Intercontinental Hotels) in the major cities will be at the top end of the spectrum.

PointBreaks

PointBreaks was one of IHG’s brightest ideas introduced a couple of years ago. Every couple of months a range of hotels across the world have their rewards nights discounted to between 5000-15000 points per night. Given how ridiculously easy it is to earn that number, it can make staying at an Intercontinental hotel (normally 50000 – 70000 points per night) a very cheap affair. If you use the $105 per 15 000 points trick above, you effectively get a room for $35-$105.

Here is the link of the latest hotels on offer under the Points Break promotion.

 

Discounted Rates:

Friends and Family discount

Friends and family members of IHG employees get offered discounted rates, typically 30% off the standard price, but sadly are not eligible for points. But hey, we're all friends of former IHG Sourcing Manager Doug Castor right?

(Just to be clear, this is not an abuse of privilege. IHG are actually happy for people to use the Friends and Family vouchers so you will have absolutely no problem presenting yourself as a friend of Doug. You just won't earn any points for it and IHG will enforce the zero earning!)

Conclusion:

IHG Rewards Club is if you are just getting into loyalty programmes and travel hacking. The barrier to entry is very low and you can have a ‘quick win' very easily through the Accelerate-style bonuses, all without having to take time off work to fly like which an airline programme probably would.

It can really be worth your time spending at least one night per year in an IHG property to trigger these bonuses.

 

Other parts of the Beginners' Guide to Hotel Points

Beginners' guide to Hilton Honors

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Comments

  1. Do you know if I can combine my wife’s and my PC points at the time of booking? I have 120,000 points and wife has 80,000 points and we would like book an IC hotel for 50,000 points per night.

  2. Hi Tim, any idea how to find the lowest IHG rate in NL in the coming period. I checked hotelscombined and Kayak, but for every date I need to re-enter that I am only looking for the lowest IHG rate available. So basically looking for the matrix, but not for tickets but for a cheap IHG hotel in the Netherlands 🙂
    Thanks

    • Unfortunately I don’t know of a “matrix” for hotels, though there are so many search engines out there. The ones I use are: opodo, kayak, expedia, hotels.com, laterooms.com and several others.

      Usually that’s enough to go by!

  3. You made the comment, “IHG makes it clear they have no requirement to honour any membership benefits on reward nights. This rule is especially annoying if you are an Ambassador or Royal Ambassador because those are the ones with the best perks!”

    Could you point to their terms or where they make it clear that they don’t honor status on a reward night. Thinking about paying for Ambassador. You get a free night. It seems ridiculous they give you the free night for paying/becoming Ambassador yet won’t consider your Ambassador status when redeeming the free night. This is an outrage, I say!

    • I appear to be wrong about internet access, which they do give free of charge starting 1st July 2013. I’ll update the post for this one.
      From the IHG T&C,

      Under the “IHG® Rewards CLUB GOLD, PLATINUM (“ELITE”) MEMBERSHIPS”:
      4: “…Upgrade benefit will not apply to rooms booked as a Reward Night reservation.”

      Under the “InterContinental Ambassador Benefits”:
      “When staying on Reward Nights, all Ambassador and Royal Ambassador Privileges apply with the exception of upgrades, free Pay TV film per stay, 24 hour guaranteed room availability, 8:00am early check-in and complimentary mini-bar beverages (where a cost for these benefits is applicable).”

      So basically as an Ambassador on Reward Nights, they’ll honour a 4pm late check out and fresh fruit in your room.

  4. Based on this post I submitted my current hotel statuses in order to status match to IHG platinum. I got the match alright, but only for the remaining of 2013. It sucks big time not to have it for the next year, so you should check your facts before writing.

  5. I found the same room $40.00 cheaper per night on LTB.com.
    Will they honor the free room if it’s on a membership travel club? And how do I go about it.

    Thank you,
    Mike

  6. My platinum card has expired in December 2014.
    In December 2014 I spent 13nights in holiday Inn. How can I get new card.

    Muhammad Ifrahim

  7. Hi, I recently signed up as it offered me a discount upon booking a hotel but now I’m panicking that I will be charged for using the membership, I know it states there is no joining fee but is there a monthly fee or anything that I should be aware of? If so, how do I cancel the membership?

    • There shouldn’t be a monthly fee with IHG, as it’s just like any other free loyalty programme. Did you sign up for the “Ambassador” programme by any chance?

  8. Maybe I missed it but just to be sure could you make it clear to readers that since 2014 IHG have been ridiculed by saddo entry level fraudsters who (possibly with inside help) avail themselves to your Reward points and then exchange them for e-vouchers. IHG have not really tackled this and I am just the latest in a long line of punters to have his stash of points raided. I became aware of the situation not because they contacted me (God forbid they should have the courtesy!) but because when I tried to exchange some of my points for a few free nights at a Holiday Inn I discovered that they had “temporarily disabled the account due to a possible conflict with their terms and conditions”. No shit! Perhaps this is why Barclaycard are terminating their partnership in the form of the IHG Rewards Club credit card. IHG’s inability to sort out this High School level of sophistication fraud is no doubt an embarrassment. I am now waiting for their fraud team to get back to me. Hopefully an adult is helping them.

  9. Hi there,

    You’ve mentioned – “Shortcuts to higher levels If you hold middle or highest tier with competing chains, IHG offers Gold or Platinum status for the remainder of the calendar year by a status match.”

    But how do I do that? Do I just simply send them an email or is there another way of doing it?

    • Yes, email them with a copy of your competitor’s loyalty programme card. It’s been a while since this guide was written so they may not offer it anymore but it is worth trying anyway

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