Last updated: 11th January 2019
Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) consists of 12 brands covering just over 5500 hotels globally.
- Holiday Inn – and their related Holiday Inn Club Vacations and Holiday Inn Resort
- Holiday Inn Express,
- Intercontinental Hotels,
- Crowne Plaza,
- Hotel Indigo,
- Staybridge Suites,
- Candlewood Suites,
- Avid (currently just one hotel in the world!)
- Even Hotels,
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!
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.
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?
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!
There isn't a lifetime status on IHG Rewards club unfortunately.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
Looking for that Friends & Family Discount Rate for IHG's 4600+ hotels worldwide? http://t.co/BjNtXiV0TC Safe Travels!
— Doug (@networkz) November 16, 2013
(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!)
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