Selecting the Correct IHG Rewards Credit Card
With two credit cards offered by IHG Rewards, we take a look at the various differences between the free IHG Rewards Club MasterCard and £99 pa IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard and hopefully help you decide which may be best for you!
Let's break this post down...
The IHG Credit Cards UK
Let’s start with the boring bits. The cards are issued by Creation Financial Services on behalf of IHG as a MasterCard. The interest rate on the IHG Rewards credit card is 18.9% APR with a high rate of 41.5% APR offered on the IHG Premium credit card.
Both IHG credit cards offer the ability to earn IHG Rewards Club points and either Gold or Platinum elite status in the IHG Rewards Club (the benefits of which we’ll cover in detail later on in this review). The loyalty programme IHG Rewards Club provides access to over 5,300 hotels with key brands including InterContinental, Kimpton, Regent, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites, Voco, Indigo, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express to name a few.
What are the costs of the IHG Rewards cards?
IHG Rewards Club Credit Card – Free
IHG Rewards Club Premium Credit Card – £99 pa
Read on to find out why for high spenders the £99 pa fee is likely to be offset by the perks offered on the premium card.
IHG Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses Compared
The free IHG Rewards credit card comes with a reasonable sign-up bonus of 10,000 IHG reward club points when you spend £200 in the first 3 months.
To put this bonus into perspective, 10,000 points would get you a free night’s stay in an entry-level IHG hotel such as the Holiday Inn Ipswich. There are a number of alternative methods of redeeming points, however as you’ll see later on in this review, redeeming for stays at IHG-branded hotels provides significantly better value.
The IHG Premium credit card provides an enhanced sign-up bonus of 20,000 IHG reward club points when you spend £200 in the first 3 months. Whilst still unlikely to make the perfect romantic weekend getaway, for 20,000 IHG reward club points you’d be able to spend a night at the Crowne Plaza Solihull.
One other key point to note here is that IHG offer discount “points breaks” via the PointsBreaks section of their website (found here). Unfortunately if you’re planning to travel to either Brazil, Turkey or China, there’s limited availability at 5,000 points, with UK redemptions only appearing at 15,000 points.
How do these bonuses compare to other IHG Rewards Club points earning cards? With the ability to transfer Virgin Flying Club points to IHG at a rate of 1 to 1, this opens up the option of being able to use other credit cards to earn IHG points.
The free version of the Virgin Atlantic Credit Card (reviewed here) provides a relatively poor sign-up bonus of 5,000 points which would transfer across to equate to 5,000 IHG reward points. The premium version of the card (reviewed here) comes with an enhanced sign-up bonus of 25,000 as well as a higher annual fee of £160 pa.
An alternative free card which we’d recommend considering is the American Express Gold Card (reviewed here). The card is free for the first year and provides a generous sign-up bonus of 20,000 reward points when you spend £2,000 in the first 3 months. Whilst IHG are not a partner of American Express Rewards points, you’re able to transfer to Virgin Flyer Club at a rate of 1 to 1 and then subsequently on to IHG Rewards Club. The card also comes with free annual travel insurance and 2 free airport lounges. You can increase the sign-up bonus to 22,000 points if you use this link.
Comparing the Other Benefits of the IHG Credit Card
Free IHG Rewards Credit Card
You’ll continue to earn points when you spend money on the IHG Rewards card at the following rates:
- 1 IHG Rewards Club point for every £1 you spend on the card
- 2 IHG Rewards Club points for every £1 spent abroad
- 2 IHG Rewards Club points for every £1 spent at an IHG hotel
The free version of the card also comes with IHG Gold elite status. What does this mean? Well not a lot, I’m afraid. You’ll earn a 10% bonus on all stays and a choice of either 500 bonus points or a free drink and snack at European IHG properties.
Premium IHG Rewards Credit Card
An enhanced earnings rate is available with the IHG Premium credit card.
- 2 IHG Rewards Club points for every £1 you spend on the card
- 4 IHG Rewards Club points for every £1 spent abroad
- 4 IHG Rewards Club points for every £1 spent at an IHG hotel
An upgrade from Gold to Platinum elite status is offered with the premium card. This level of status offers a 50% points bonus on all stays and more importantly an (unguaranteed) upgrade to a superior room.
There is one more benefit that you should be aware of and in fact this one has the potential to provide real value! If you’re able to spend £5,000 on the card in a 12-month period you’ll receive a voucher for a free night’s stay at any IHG-branded hotel. This can be worth a considerable amount if used correctly!
Within the UK, the best value redemption in February would be the InterContinental London Park Lane, providing a saving of £405.72. Even if you were to redeem at the vast majority of London Holiday Inn Expresses (IHG’s budget brand) you’d be saving more than £100 and as such offsetting the annual cost of the card.
Anything Else I should know?
There is a minimum income requirement for both IHG Rewards Club credit cards of £10,000.
Ways to Spend Your IHG Rewards Points
Whilst we touched upon ways to spend IHG Rewards points briefly in this IHG credit card UK review, I thought it would be useful to provide a slightly more extended overview of ways you can spend your IHG Rewards points and what’s likely to provide best value.
Let’s start by calculating the value of an IHG Rewards Club point. 99% of the time the best and highest use for reward points is through free night stay redemptions. Whilst the exact value is dependent on the type of hotel you’re redeeming your points for, I’ve provided three examples below to give a range.
Example 1 – Redeeming your 10,000 points for a night’s stay at the Holiday Inn Ipswich (mentioned earlier). Prices for two dates in February range from £76 to £86. As such in this particular instance the value of your points will equate to roughly 0.8p per point. Actually not a bad redemption purely on a value basis!
Example 2 – Redeeming points for a mid-market city-centre hotel. A night’s stay at the Crowne Plaza Manchester City Centre would require 35,000 points or a cash equivalent of £217.62 for a night’s stay in February. In this instance your points earned with an IHG Rewards card would equate to 0.6p per point.
Example 3 – Redeeming points for luxury IHG hotels. The InterContinental Park Lane Hotel mentioned earlier could be redeemed using 70,000 points. During off-peak times a night’s stay would cost somewhere in the region of £242.06. As such this would provide a points value in the region of 0.3p per point.
Based on the above three examples we can see that the points earned from an IHG credit card offer values ranging from 0.3p to 0.8p per point. The resulting value of the sign-up bonuses offered by the various cards mentioned could range as follows:
IHG Rewards Club Credit Card (free): 10,000 points equals £30 to £80
IHG Rewards Club Premium Credit Card (£99 pa): 20,000 points equals £60 to £160
Virgin Atlantic Credit Card (free): 5,000 points equals £15 to £40
Virgin Atlantic Premium Card (£160 pa): 25,000 points equals £75 to £200
American Express Gold Card (free for the first year): 22,000 points equals £60 to £160
There are a number of other redemption methods for IHG Rewards Club points, nearly all of which offer poor value for money. Redeeming for vouchers provides a value of just 0.125p per point!
Premium vs Free IHG Rewards Credit Card
So the big question that everyone’s been waiting for… Is the £99 pa cost of the premium card really worth it or would you be better off going for the free version of the IHG Rewards credit card?
As we’ve seen above, if you’re able to spend £5,000 in a year on the card, the free night’s stay with the premium IHG Rewards card can have real value if used effectively!
If you plan on staying at an IHG hotel which is likely to cost more than £100 over the next 12 months, I think the answer to this question is a no-brainer. Don’t forget you’ll also receive double the number of points on all your spending, be granted Platinum elite status (possible free upgrades) and also an increased sign-up bonus of 20,000 points. The additional 10,000 points earned here could be worth anywhere between £30 and £80 depending on how they’re redeemed.
However, if you’re after a free card then possibly avoid the free IHG Rewards card. As we’ve seen there are other credit cards on the market which offer higher sign-up bonuses, similar earnings rates and additional benefits. The points earned with these cards can be transferred to IHG or alternatively used for a number of other redemptions (likely to provide a higher redemption value).
Let’s Wrap this Up
With continued competition between credit card companies, we are living in an era with some incredible offers to encourage customers to sign up and spend money with certain credit card providers.
Whilst the benefits offered by the free IHG Rewards Club MasterCard are by no means groundbreaking, they do have a value which ranges in the region of £30 to £80.
Where we perceive there to be real value is with the free night’s stay offered by the IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard. Now you’d need to be able to spend £5,000 in a year to earn this reward, however as we’ve seen this could be worth as much as £400 if used correctly. This would be in addition to the £60-£160 value attributed to the sign-up bonus. Hopefully more than enough to offset the annual cost (£99 pa) of the card.
Should you be looking for a free card which offers a market-leading sign-up bonus and strong, continued earnings bonus then we’d recommend considering an alternative to the IHG Rewards credit card such as the American Express Gold Card which we’ve reviewed in full here. You can also increase the sign-up bonus from 20,000 point to 22,000 points by using this link.
We hope you’ve found this IHG Credit Card UK review useful and, as always, please do reach out with any comments or questions.