Is The IHG Rewards Club Card Too Good To Be True?

Filed Under: Credit Cards, IHG Rewards
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“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

I don’t think there’s a subject where that phrase applies more than in our hobby. In this game we always uncover amazing values and sweet spots, and over time things always “normalize.”

The Club Carlson devaluation we’ve seen

We saw something along these lines recently with the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card. It was unsustainably rewarding. The most compelling benefit was that as long as you had the credit card the second night of every award redemption was free. That meant if you were maximizing your points, you were essentially getting a 50% rebate on award redemptions.

Unfortunately that perk is being discontinued as of June 1, 2015. On top of that, Club Carlson is adjusting their award chart as of June 1, 2015, which is also a big hit for those that were maximizing their points primarily for stays in Europe.


Nonetheless, I do still firmly believe that the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card is worth holding onto. It has a $75 annual fee and you get 40,000 points upon your account anniversary each year, plus Gold status for as long as you have the card, which more than justifies the annual fee, in my opinion.

So the Club Carlson Card has literally gone from being the single most rewarding hotel credit card to being much more average.

Which raises the next logical question — which hotel credit card will get a cut in benefits next?

What’s the most rewarding hotel credit card now?

At the moment I’d argue the single most compelling hotel credit card is the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. Not only only are you able to earn 125,000 point welcome bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening, but it can actually be valuable long term thanks to the recurring benefits it offers just for holding onto the card.

What makes this card so lucrative?


Are the benefits at risk of changing?

I do think the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is by far the most rewarding hotel card out there. Not for actual everyday spend, but rather just to pay the annual fee on for the recurring benefits. That being said, I don’t necessarily see the benefits changing. Why?

  • There’s no cap on the annual free night certificate, though in practice I’m guessing that’s not really necessary, given that a vast majority of IHG properties are limited service; the number of people redeeming at “premium” InterContinental properties is minimal
  • Platinum status will soon be mid-tier status, and ultimately there’s not much marginal cost to having more Platinum guests
  • The 10% rebate on redemptions actually incentivizes people to earn more IHG Rewards Club points, so I don’t see them eliminating it; it encourages spend on the card


That being said, the one change I could potentially see them making long term (and this is me speculating) is putting the annual fee more in line with Chase’s other hotel credit cards out there, closer to ~$100. I think the card would still totally be worth it, though not quite as much of a no brainer as it is now.

Bottom line

I do think the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is the most rewarding hotel credit card out there, though not in an unsustainable way, unlike the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card. Of course I could be wrong, but if I had to speculate I’d say the only major thing that is likely to change at some point is the annual fee.

Do you agree that IHG Rewards Club has the most lucrative hotel credit card to hold onto long term, and if so, do you think the benefits are too good to last at the current price point?

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  1. I have and love the card, but the “benefit/cost” ratio is probably unsustainable and will be changed at some point in the future. In fact, about 10 months ago I was surveyed by Chase via a 3rd party research firm about a whole series of “benefit packages” that the card might have. Some involved capping the free night voucher value by limiting it to only certain property lines, some involved elimination of the anniversary night and substitution of anniversary points, some involved increased annual fees, and some were variations on all of those themes. I think the hand writing is on the wall. This is not if – but when and how.

  2. You generally do a very good job -though I think you just spend to much time talking about mid-east airlines — gets to be too much for me- mid east is not the center of earth!

    Bad enough many in the game love to brag how they……… and reveal to ANYONE who can read—- just to much info is revealed

    Now you almost advocate that IHG is under priced and double would be ok —

    Guess you think you MUST post everyday and sometimes more than once plus promoting credit card sign up is good for your wallet- that is why you gently try to scare people to get the IHG card now before the price goes up ( and you can use the income )

    Your a businessman — be a SMART one — take care of your readers – they are the ones who feed you

  3. If it is devalued, they would need to up the points earned on the card for non-IHG spend. 1 point per dollar at most places (2 at a couple categories) means one of the worst rates of return of any loyalty card at 0.7% or less.

  4. Platinum status isn’t worth anything unless the cardholder actually stays at Holiday Inns. I haven’t stayed at one in at least 4 years.

    That fee is going to be harder to raise than you seem to think. I’m sure it is contractually obligated by IHG. If Chase wants to raise it, they have to wait until the contract is up for renewal, then they have to come up with some bone to throw IHG in exchange for a higher AF.

  5. WE don’t stay in too many Holiday Inn’s , except for an occasional night on I-95. But I’m adding IHG reward points where I can , in hopes that they may get acquired by SPG some day. SPG points are my favorite, but hard to earn.
    Hey , those Continental miles added to my United balance. Those USAir miles added to my AA balance.
    Stranger things have happened.

  6. And the point of this post is…
    Will you follow up with a top 10 unsustainable credit card benefits. Whose team are you on Lucky 🙂

  7. That’s a good point. If you look at the recent devaluation, they made it impossible to book a two night IC stay with the signing bonus. (Previously it was possible with points+cash.) Unfortunately, they devalued the hotels after I had completed the minimum spend, but before my points posted, so I definitely felt like the deval took some of the shine off the card.

  8. Since I just opened the card last week, I certainly hope it won’t change! Remember that IHG also has a fake “no blackout dates” policy, so if a certain property sees too many free nights, all they need to do is limit capacity across the entire year.

    *cough* IC Bora Bora *cough*

  9. I too have just applied for The card last week, so I hope the don’t change any time soon.

  10. I firmly believe in self fulfilled prophecies. If everybody keeps saying they’re the best and we would still keep the card even if they raised the AF, or took other devaluation steps, THEY WILL raise the AF or take or take other devaluation.

  11. We got our card beginning of last year and as soon as the 80K points hit, we were lucky that we got 4 nights at the IC Bora Bora for this past Janurary 🙂 It was unbelievable! We received our anniversary free night certificates recently and booked 2 nights at the IC Tahiti to spend the Christmas before heading over to Cook Islands, see what this card get us? BTW there are few reward nights available at the IC Bora Bora Feb 2016! Sometimes you need to scroll forward few months and then scroll back to see the availability…maybe it’s a bug?

    I posted tons of pics in my blog: enjoy!

  12. 22 nights at intercontinental for $27.90 a night.. This is the reason for the card.

    The math…

    $49 per year for the card.
    $565 purchase the once a year IHG points deal on US

    Equals $614 per year spend.

    Redeem on pointbreaks at the highest end Intercontinential properties (…clearly this is only for the adventurous people who are willing to travel anywhere the “good” properties are available).

    100K points
    +10k bonus for redeeming

    5k for pointbreaks

    Equals 22 nights at $27.90 per night

    Not a bad deal.

  13. Lucky,

    I disagree that the anniversary night is unsustainable. We all have seen what IHG pays the hotels when rewards nights are redeemed and it is usually between $15 and $30 per night. I did manage to redeem for an Intercontinental recently that was $75 but that is the highest value I have ever seen and that is because the hotel is now sold out.

    In addition, I would not pay an increased annual fee on the card because most IHG properties that I stay at cost $75 or less per night and I am not going to go out of my way to stay 1 night at a premium IHG hotel just to pretend like I am getting $200, $300 or $400 in value because quite frankly my time is valuable and schlepping between hotels for 1 night wastes several hours b/t unpacking, packing, checking out, checking in, waiting for an available room, etc. Even if the hotels I stayed at cost $100 per night I would not pay $75 because I have found that IHG doesn’t always have properties where I am planning to travel and/or their is no availability when I want to go someplace. Unlike you, who has the ultimate flexibility in your travel plans, my work while allowing me some flexibility in schedule and travel doesn’t provide the ability to maximize redemption values like you so to me this card would be worthless. In fact, I have almost a half a million IHG points and with so many recent valuations I am struggling to redeem that for even 1/2 cent per point and often find redemption values equal a 1/4 of a cent per point so having a card that earns 1 point where 1 point doesn’t even earn 1% yet alone 2% is just not worthwhile in my book. Now if they wanted to be like Hilton HHonors and offer 3 points for regular spend while still a terrible earn rate I might actually consider earning points on their card.

    Think about this, Hilton HHonors is derided as being a terrible rewards program and I agree, yet you praise IHG. Now lets look at the earnings rate of the 2 rewards programs. Hilton HHonors lets you earn 10 points per dollar plus 5 points per dollar if you choose points instead of miles plus as a Gold I believe you earn 2 points per dollar so 17 points per dollar of hotel spend. The credit card allows you to earn a minimum of 3 points per dollar for the Amex products and the Citi Hilton HHonors annual fee card and a max of 10-12 points per dollar.. IHG lets you earn 10 points per dollar plus 5 points per dollar for being platinum. So you earn 15 points per dollar on hotel spend. The credit card allows you to earn a minimum of 1 point per dollar and a max of 5 points per dollar. So on the earn side, Hilton HHonors wins.

    On the redemption side, Hilton HHonors has a lot of properties with redemption rates at 40,000 or 50,000 points a night but if you book 5 nights or more you get the 5th night free. No the aspirational properties are not in this range but the hotels I book are in this range. Now similar hotels at IHG range from 30,000 points to 50,000 points a night and are often 35,000 points a night.

    So the redemption side of things between both program are pretty similar yet the earning side of things is more generous at Hilton and they also offer the 5th night free while IHG only offers a 10% rebate. In addition, the Hilton HHonors card also earns points 3 times faster for regular spend versus the IHG card, and yet you are claiming the IHG card is an average card. In my book the Hilton HHonors card provides far more value from the spend side and the only benefit that IHG really offers is PointsBreaks which typically are few and far between for the destinations I travel to, a 10% rebate on points redemption which isn’t very generous, and the one night free certificate which can be valuable but is really a gimmick to get you to stay at their hotels which are similarly priced to Hiltons and Marriotts or to redeem for points stays. The only reason a lot of people have so many points with IHG is because of the last 3 promos they ran (Big Win, Into the Night, and Set Your Sights) which provided windfalls to infrequent travelers who completed the promo.

    Quite frankly, I have decided that I may dump all of my hotel credit cards because the devaluations have been so extreme over the years that the annual fees just don’t justify the benefits and the IHG rewards mastercard will be one I dump if they increase the annual fee. The only one I will keep is my Hilton HHonors Amex no annual fee card because it keeps my Hilton HHonors balance safe and provides me with silver status which while not really of much value is still something.

  14. @ Joel sez: “Think about this, Hilton HHonors is derided as being a terrible rewards program and I agree.”

    Your math is as wrong as the notion that “Hilton HHonors is a terrible rewards program.” Pretty much anyone who has done the math CORRECTLY has found that, with or without including points from co-branded credit cards, IHG offers the second best “spend per free night” ratio in the business after Club Carlson. In other words, IHG is one of cheapest programs in the business, which, thus, may represent a significant value for folks who play the mile/point game on their own dime or have a limited travel budget.

    For a full and CORRECT comparison of the major hotel loyalty programs, I recommend this blogpost:
    which concluded that “Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott all have award charts that are similarly priced. The fact that Hilton may sometimes charge up to 95,000 points for an award night is compensated for [by] the fact that it can offer 15 points per dollar, while Hyatt offers only 5 points per dollar. Starwood, however, has some incredibly high-priced awards among its top tiers, while IHG Rewards and Club Carlson may offer significant value even after Club Carlson’s recent devaluation.”

    Or if you prefer to see the information crisply presented in glossy charts, I humbly suggest my own post at the following link, in which I’d reached the same conclusion as above:

    The reason for not patronizing IHG is not because of the cost of their awards, which remain some of the cheapest in the business, ESPECIALLY when coupled with their co-branded credit card, which, like nearly co-branded loyalty cards are NOT designed to be good everyday-cards. Rather, IHG is deficient because, unlike Hilton, they offer a subpar loyalty program…

  15. Annual fee is $75 not $50. Maybe they raised I don’t know, but I was just billed 5/1 for my anniversary. Probably still keep the card though.

  16. Hi, I agree the the loyalty program does not have many benefits. With Hilton Amex I get the lounge but Plat. IHG does not. ……but I am writing from the ANA Intercontinental in Tokyo now and the breakfast was ! Assume ! I choose to pay and not to redeem 50000 points for a night. The Hong Kong Intercontinental is a better choice to pay with points. Another plus with IHG is in Asia you will find more possibilities. I think Hilton only has 3 locations in Tokyo. I just think it is good to have them both cards. Best travels to all.

    Traveling with family and enjoying it!

  17. The new tier requires only 75k, of which u cn gt 70k directly from the credit card. U cn buy 5k easily if ur interested.

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