EDIT: Card earning rates have been updated since it was initially pointed out that I jacked up the base credit card earning rates. You actually need to spend $75,000 non-IHG or a minimum or $7,500 IHG spend to qualify for top tier status.
If I were to rank my favorite hotel programs, I would place IHG Rewards in the middle of the pack. Starwood would be at the top, and Club Carlson would have been second before the huge devaluation where they removed the bonus free night benefit for credit card holders.
I find value in IHG because:
- Points are pretty easy to earn, and their two most recent promotions have been very good (Into The Nights and Set Your Sights ).
- The annual benefit for keeping the co-branded card has what I consider the highest ROI on the market (a title previously held by the Club Carlson card).
- Their quarterly PointBreaks list allows for ridiculously cheap nights starting at 5,000 points (4,500 for cardholders) if your travel plans align with the discounted rooms.
A few days ago IHG announced big changes to their rewards program. Among them was that points would have an expiration date (the master list of Miles and Points Expiration Policies has been updated!) of 12 months, unless there was activity on the account in that period.
Another big change was with their elite status levels. Previously there were two status levels (aside from the Ambassador statuses, which I won’t describe here): Gold and Platinum. You earned Platinum status by staying 50 nights or earning 60,000 points in a year, or simply by holding the co-branded credit card, and that was the top status you could earn without paying an additional fee.
Well, it appears that there will be a brand new higher level status, yet unnamed.
The new status will give some extra benefits including:
- 100% base points bonus
- 25,000 annual points bonus or gifting Platinum status to someone else
- Presumably, upgrades will be easier to come by at the new level; right now as a Platinum they are spotty at best (fingers crossed)
And IHG, if you’re reading this, fingers seriously crossed on adding free breakfast, because that’s something every top-level status should have.
One more thing: if the current method of crediting points holds, cardholders will able to earn this status based on credit card spend alone . We’ll also be able to redeem points towards status ; I’ll explain.
Spending Your Way To Status
The IHG co-branded credit card currently gives you 1 points per dollar on non-IHG spend, 2x on travel, dining and restaurants, and 5 points per dollar on IHG spend (plus 5-10 points per dollar depending on brand). This includes the points portion of a cash and points redemption. All of this spend currently counts toward your yearly base points total, which currently means nothing because everyone that had the card has Platinum status. However, with the addition of this new status level and with the current setup of credited points, you’ll be able to spend your way toward the top status for between $7,500 and $75,000 on the card. In contrast, it takes $30,000 worth of spend on the SPG Amex to get Gold (mid-level status) at Starwood, and $40,000 on the Hilton Reserve to earn top-level Diamond status.
Redeeming Your Way To Status
One of the oft-forgotten perks of having the IHG credit card is that you earn 10% of redeemed points back each time you make an award reservation. I’d previously written that these points count toward your yearly base points , but back then it meant very little.
Now, every redemption you make will bring you closer to the top IHG status. Redeeming 10 Pointsbreaks nights for 50,000 points? That’s 5,000 points towards status, thank you very much.
It’s definitely too early to tell whether going for top-level elite status is worth it, but having an easy option is definitely nice.