Not every post is going to be about credit cards, but many of the credit card benefits will be serving as a solid leg for our travel plans. Today I’d like to talk about the: IHG Rewards Club Select card.
- $1,000 required spend in 3 months
- $49 annual fee (waived for the first year)
The IHG card is one that flies under a lot of radars, but there’s some great potential here. The bonus spend requirement is much lower than your typical card and the annual fee effectively pays for itself (more on that below).
- 60,000 IHG bonus points
- 5,000 IHG bonus points for adding an authorized user
- 5x points on IHG hotels, 2x on grocery and restaurants, 1x on everything else
- Anniversary free night
- No foreign transaction fees
- Platinum Elite status
- Automatic 10% points rebate
Also, here’s a friendly tip. If you start booking an IHG hotel (brands like Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental, etc.) before you purchase you will likely be prompted with something like this:
That’s the same card as mentioned above (with all the same perks) but this offer has an additional $50 statement credit awarded as a bonus. You don’t have to go through with the reservation, this is just how you could come across the slightly better offer.
IHG points are not worth as much as flexible programs like Chase Ultimate reward points (as we discussed with the previous post). The reason for this is simple: Chase points can be used for all sorts of things with travel partners (hotel and airline), direct bookings, rental cars, etc. On the other hand, IHG points can only be used to book IHG hotels. However, we still see a lot of value.
There are two ways to look at this card: as an average card or potentially a very lucrative one.
Let’s focus on the two most important features: the 60,000 bonus (65,000 when adding an authorized user) and the annual free night benefit.
Here’s what an average use of the card might look like. A run-of-the-mill Holiday Inn might go for 15,000 or 20,000 IHG points per night, allowing you to book 3 or 4 nights. That’s probably a value of ~$300 to ~$400 depending on your lodging alternatives.
The annual free night can be used at any property. Say you use it at a low reward Holiday Inn, bringing your total value up to ~$400 to ~$500. That’s good for low spend requirement and the no annual fee for the first year, but it’s not exceptional.
Here’s what a great use of the card might look like. Every three months or so IHG runs a promotion called PointBreaks. With this promotion you have all sorts of properties around the world (mostly lower end, but also some higher) with a discounted redemption rate of 5,000 IHG points per night. When these deals go live generally the best properties go quickly, but there is ample opportunity to take advantage of the discounted rate.
If you’re not traveling around this may not be useful. However, if you’re doing a road trip or international travel with some flexibility, there’s a great opportunity here. If you could max this out, you’d be looking at 14 hotel nights (65k IHG points, plus you get back 10% each time). This could very well be worth $1,200+ depending on where you stay. Note that you’re limited to two nights at the same hotel using PointBreaks.
And you can maximize the annual free night as well. In the first year the annual fee is waived. In the second year a $49 annual fee kicks in. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it comes with a free night at any IHG property. You’re effectively pre-paying $49 to stay at any IHG hotel in the world.
If you redeem this at a $90 Holiday Inn, that’s still a reasonable savings (presuming you would have stayed somewhere comparable anyway). Yet you can do much better.
Here are some examples:
A $2,000 room at the Crowne Plaza Times Square on New Year’s Eve
An InterContinental in places like Bora Bora, London or Paris
Or here’s a nice “Top 10” List of IHG properties
Even if you were to “only” use the redemption in an expensive city like San Francisco or New York, you can see the benefit.
In our opinion the 65k starting bonus and free annual night alone make the card a great benefit to have in the traveler’s toolkit. Plus, there are a few other things like Platinum status (not as impressive as it sounds) and no foreign transaction fees. It’s a nice complement to some of our other traveling tools and we’re looking forward to taking advantage of its benefits.