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IHG Rewards cheat sheet for using your points

by on Wed June 8, 2016 • 11 Comments
While InterContinental Hotels Group doesn’t have one of the best hotel programs for high-value, luxury redemptions, it does offer some good value in the low to mid-tier hotel range along with a handful of good luxury redemptions. Read on to learn what you need to know to make the most of your IHG points.


What hotels can you book with IHG points?

IHG has over 4,900 hotels across over 100 countries. IHG has eight brands total where you can earn points and redeem points. The easiest way to understand each of these brands is to categorize them:

  • Premium: InterContinental, Crowne Plaza
  • Lifestyle: Hotel Indigo, Even Hotels, Hualuxe
  • Mid-Range: Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express
  • Limited Service: Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites

In addition to the brands listed above, another grouping of brands that fall under the IHG Umbrella are Kimpton hotels. Currently, points earning and redemptions are not applicable to Kimpton hotels, but at some point in the future that may change. Up to date information on the IHG/Kimpton merger is available here.

How many points does a free night cost?

The cost of a free night at an IHG hotel ranges from 5,000 points per night for a PointBreaks promotional hotel (more on this later) up to 60,000 points per night for a Category 9 hotel. IHG has many hotels that fall well within the middle of the redemption range. Unless you are staying city center or at at an InterContinental brand hotel, you will most likely be looking to pay between 20,000 and 40,000 points per night.

Tip: One downside to IHG Rewards is that reward nights are capacity controlled. This is the most noticeable with PointBreaks hotels which will often sell-out at the promotional rate of 5,000 points within the first day of being offered. In practice, you often will only run into problems with this capacity control when booking very popular hotels or at very popular times.

What are Points + Cash awards?

IHG also has Points + Cash awards, that are somewhat unique in their execution. For $40 you can get a 5,000 point discount on an award and for $70 you can get a 10,000 point discount on an award. Unlike other hotels that offer Points + Cash options, with IHG you are actually buying the additional points for that dollar amount.

This means that if you cancel a Point + Cash award night, you will not be refunded the dollar amount you spent, but rather you will have the additional 5,000 or 10,000 points returned to your account. This presents a unique ability to purchase points at a discounted rate which we will elaborate on later. If you find yourself short on points, Points + Cash awards are a great option.

How much does an upgrade cost?

Upgrades with points are not available in the IHG program, however you may be able to upgrade by paying a cash surcharge at time of check in, subject to availability and the policies of the hotel.

Good Deal Redemptions

IHG has a lot of great hotels all over the world and you really won’t run into all that many places where there isn’t an IHG hotel option.

A few of the best resorts to redeem your IHG points at are the InterContinental Paris Le Grand, InterContinental Amsterdam Amstel, and InterContinental Bora Bora & Thalasso Spa. All of these hotels regularly cost over $500 per night for weekend rates and can have rates closer to, or even over, $1,000 per night.

The InterContiental Paris LeGrand and InterContinental Bora Bora both cost 60,000 points per night while the InterContinental Amsterdam Amstel will run you 50,000 points per night. Even at the low end of the spectrum, you are looking to get about 1 cent per point in value ($500.00/50,000 points = $0.01).

Interested in staying in an all-inclusive resort on points? IHG has a couple of options that will work for you in Jamaica and Mexico. IHG all-inclusives generally cost between 30,000 and 50,000 points per night for two people. Redeeming points for all-inclusives is great because not only do you have a free hotel room, but you also receive food and drinks for no additional cost. The only additional cost you need to consider is getting to the hotel. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, some activities, and more is included in your rate. For this reason it is difficult to determine an exact value per point, but it could easily reach into the multiple cents per point range.

You can check out some of our other favorite redemptions here.

How IHG PointBreaks work

IHG PointBreaks hotels are hands down one of the best parts of the program. Every couple of months IHG releases a list of PointBreaks hotels, a group of hotels that offer a promotional redemption rate of only 5,000 points per night for the next two (or so) month period.

It is impossible to predict what hotels will be included during each period, and generally it is filled with lower end properties, but if the hotels on the list coincide with your travel plans it’s hard to beat 5,000 points per night.

Every once in awhile there will be a real gem on the list like the InterContinental Tahiti which made it onto the PointBreaks list in 2013.

What is the cancellation policy for an award night?

The cancellation policy of award nights is dependent on the hotel. Most hotels will only require 24 hour advance notice, while some may have a more strict cancellation policy. Always be sure to double check the cancellation rules before you book. If you cancel, you should see the points deposited back into your account within minutes.

Can you turn IHG points into airline miles?

It is possible to convert IHG Points to airline miles. It will cost you 10,000 IHG points to convert to 2,000 airline miles, and you have many airlines to choose from. In order to convert points to miles, you will need to contact IHG Customer Care.

Tip: It is generally not advisable to transfer IHG points to airline miles because of the poor transfer ratio. If you need to top off an account for a redemption or otherwise would absolutely never use the points, it may be justifiable, but you will receive much higher value by redeeming the points for hotel nights.

What is an IHG point worth?

We value IHG points at 0.5 cents each. For example you can book the Intercontinental Century City near Los Angeles for 50,000 points a night, versus about $275 if you paid in cash, getting about 0.5 cents in value. The Intercontinental in San Francisco costs 60,000 points a night, and often goes for around $300 a night in cash. Searchers on on average get a bit more value than that for awards. And using PointBreaks or saving points for days when cash rates are unusually high can get you substantially more value.

Can you share points?

It is possible to share IHG points by transferring them to another member’s account. Points can be transferred in 1,000 point increments for a cost of $5.00 per 1,000 points.

Can you purchase points?

IHG points can be purchased directly from IHG in 1,000 point increments, up to 60,000 points per year. Point prices depend on how many you are buying:

  • 1,000-10,000 points: $13.50 per 1,000 (1.35 cents per point)
  • 11,000-25,000 points: $12.50 per 1,000 (1.25 cents per point)
  • 26,000-60,000 points: $11.50 per 1,000 (1.15 cents per point)

There is an even less expensive way to purchase points, but it is a less direct method and will require you to have at least 5,000 points already in your account. We mentioned above that when paying for a Point + Cash rate, you are actually purchasing points with the cash part of the rate. As a reminder, you receive the following ‘discounts’ for the cash paid:

  • 5,000 point ‘discount’ – $40.00
  • 10,000 point ‘discount’ – $70.00

What this really means is that you are purchasing 5,000 points for $40.00 (0.8 cents per point) or 10,000 points for $70.00 (0.7 cents per point) when you book a Points + Cash rate. Upon canceling that stay, all points are returned to your account and cash is not refunded. Here’s an example.

The Crowne Plaza: Memphis Downtown can be booked for 25,000 points per night. It also has Points + Cash Rates of 20,000 points + $40.00 and 15,000 points + $70.00. If you book one night for 15,000 points + $70.00, you are really purchasing 10,000 points for $70.00. If you then cancel that hotel night, 25,000 points will be returned to your IHG account. This method of purchasing points costs less than purchasing them directly through the IHG Purchase Points link.

How do you earn points?

You are able to earn points for every stay at an IHG hotel, with the exception of Kimpton hotels. You will earn 10 points per dollar spent at Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and InterContinental Hotels. You will earn 5 points per dollar spent at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites hotels. If you achieve a higher status level with IHG you will earn more points for each stay. Gold members receive a 10% bonus, Platinum members receive a 50% bonus, and Spire members receive a 100% bonus.

IHG runs various promotions throughout the year where you can receive bonus points for staying different numbers of nights at different brands. Promotions usually require registration ahead of time.

Tip: In addition to hotel stays, you can earn points for purchasing goods and services with IHG Partners.

What stays qualify to earn points?

Almost all rates that are booked through receive stay and points credit. If you decide to book through a third party travel site such as, Orbitz, or Expedia then you will not receive any points or stay credit towards your room rate. There have been scattered reports that you may still receive points on eligible dining charges that are posted to your room.

IHG does have a Best Rate Guarantee program that will match a better rate found on third party websites. If you find a better rate elsewhere, you will receive one night of your stay for free.

How can you earn Gold status?

Gold status can be earned by staying at IHG hotels. In order to earn Gold status you must do one of the following within a calendar year:

  • Stay 10 nights
  • Earn 10,000 base points

The additional benefits for having Gold status are:

  • Points don’t expire
  • Priority check in
  • 10% bonus points

How can you earn Platinum Elite Status?

The easiest way to earn Platinum Elite status is to hold the IHG Rewards Club credit card issued by Chase. In addition to being able to earn Platinum status by holding the credit card, you can also earn it by one of the following:

  • Stay 40 nights
  • Earn 40,000 base points

The benefits of obtaining Platinum Elite status are the same as Gold with the following additions:

  • 50% bonus points (instead of 10%)
  • Elite rollover nights
  • Complimentary upgrades
  • Guaranteed room availability

Receiving Platinum Elite status through the IHG credit card is going to give you the most bang for your buck as IHG status is not really worth very much. The 50% bonus is nice, however, and the Free Night Certificate from the IHG credit card already makes it pay for itself.

How can you earn Spire status?

Spire status can be earned in the following ways:

  • Stay 75 nights
  • Earn 75,000 base points

The benefits of obtaining Spire status are the same as Gold and Platinum with the following additions:

  • 100% bonus points (instead of 50% or 10%)
  • Exclusive choice benefit upon receiving status
  • Exclusive Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star upgrade upon receiving status

What cards earn IHG points?

IHG Points can be earned through a couple of different credit cards. Chase issues the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard which

lets you earn 5 points per $1 spent when you stay at IHG hotels. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores & restaurants. Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases. You also get a free night each year of card membership at over 4,900 hotels worldwide and automatic platinum elite status, as long as you remain a cardmember

The Annual Free Night Certificate is good for one night at an IHG hotel every year upon your cardmember anniversary. This certificate alone can make this credit card worth the $49 annual fee, saving you potentially hundreds of dollars on a hotel night.

IHG is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. As such, any premium Chase credit card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus, could be used to earn IHG points.

Chase offers a few credit cards with no annual fee that earn Ultimate Rewards like the Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited. Having these cards alone will not allow you to transfer to IHG because a premium Chase Card (Sapphire Preferred, Ink) is required in order to transfer points. Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer at a 1:1 ratio to IHG.

In general, this is not the best way to earn IHG points as Ultimate Rewards has a lot of other transfer partners that are even more valuable than IHG, but if you need a few points for a redemption it may make sense.

Do IHG points expire?

If you have elite status with IHG, your points will not expire. If you do not have elite status, you will need to have qualifying activity at least once every 12 months. Qualifying activity counts as any points earning or redemption.

The following two tabs change content below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived


Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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11 thoughts on IHG Rewards cheat sheet for using your points

  1. Melinda Baker

    If a hotel is 20,000 points, do I have to pay anything additional or does this cover the cost of the hotel? Do I have to pay the taxes?

    1. James

      I am only 288 points from getting spire elite. Can I use the trick of booking a room with points plus cash, then canceling to get the points refunded with the cash converted to points? Would this’d be considered qualifying points?


        @James – Unfortunately purchased points (which is what these are) don’t count towards elite qualification.

        If you have an IHG Rewards credit card, earning from that will count but at this point you may want to find a cheap Holiday Inn Express.

        “Points earned from Qualifying Rates paid for hotel stays, spend on IHG® Rewards Club credit cards, select partner activity, IHG® Rewards Club Bonus Points Packages, and Qualified Spend through IHG® Business Rewards are considered Qualifying Points and are counted toward Elite status.”

  2. Kalboz

    SE Asia and especially Thailand have some great resorts at bargain rates using IHG points:

    – ICH Hua Hin Resort & Spa 35K IHG points per night
    – HI Resort Phuket-Patong 30K points
    – HI Resort Phi Phi Islands 35K points
    – HI Resort Mai Khao 25K points
    – HI Resort Krabi Ao Nang Beach 25K points

    And many more …

  3. P.R.E.S.L.E.Y.

    Great cheat sheet. Didn’t know about the Paris LeGrand. And I totally agree with your valuation of . cents per point.

  4. Billy D

    And no mention of Crowne Plaza? I find the Crowne Plaza in Amsterdam in a much better location and a much better value than the intercontinental, even with my ambassador benefits. I dont spend much time in the hotel room when in Amsterdam but when I do IHG’s Crowne Plaza is a terrific choice. Great happy hour specials and the included breakfast spread is phenomenal

    1. Brendan

      The hotel, currently operating as Crowne Plaza® Amsterdam City Centre, will undergo a complete transformation following a full renovation of the lobby, restaurants, facilities and guest rooms. It will open as a 270-room luxury Kimpton hotel in 2017.


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