Which IHG-Branded Credit Card Is Best for You? [Detailed Comparison]

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The Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) has always been innovative. They were the first hotel group to ever franchise their brand and also the first to receive an online hotel booking.

Their worldwide footprint is diversified with everything from basic accommodations to unique specialty hotels and high-end luxury resorts. With their collection of nearly 5,800 properties and 865,000 guest rooms, it’s easy to find a hotel room that fits both your style and your budget.

You don’t have to stay frequently or be an IHG loyalist, however, to appreciate the value of an IHG co-branded credit card. These Chase-issued cards are packed with robust rewards earning possibilities, easy free hotel night redemption options, and benefits such as elite status and cell phone protection.

IHG-branded credit cards also provide an added dimension to membership in the IHG Rewards Club program. You’ll find that having an IHG-branded card enhances your IHG Rewards Club membership and vice versa.

In this article we’ll discuss 2 IHG-branded cards — the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and the IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card. We’ll talk about how each card earns rewards, your redemption options, how the cards work in harmony with the IHG Rewards Club program, and look at card-provided benefits.

We’ll also let you know which of these 2 cards we recommend.

The Value of a Welcome Bonus

The IHG cards we’re featuring here each offer a welcome bonus once you are approved for the card and complete minimum spending requirements within the first 3 months after approval. The amount of the welcome bonus varies greatly but it could be anywhere from 60,000 to 125,000 points.

We value these points at approximately 0.5 cents each — that’s $300 to $625 in value. However, free hotel nights start at just 10,000 points for a Category 1 property, so you can see that your points have the potential to give you considerably more value.

IHG also offers PointBreaks promotions where free hotel nights can be purchased for as few as 5,000 points. That’s possibly 12 free hotel nights for a 60,000 point welcome bonus!

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card

IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card
  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn up to 15 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 2x points on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; then 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
  • No Annual Fee
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
  • Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn up to 25 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 2x points on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; then 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, $89 thereafter
Holiday Inn Dead Sea
Redeem the points earned on your IHG-branded credit card for free hotel nights. Image Credit: Holiday Inn Dead Sea

Earning Rewards With IHG Credit Cards

IHG-branded cards offer elevated earnings at IHG properties but also reward those everyday purchases you make at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants.

In fact, every purchase you make on your IHG-branded card earns rewards points.

CardEarning
IHG Club Premier card
  • 10x points per dollar spent at IHG properties
  • 2x points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants
  • 1x point per dollar spent on all other purchases
IHG Traveler card
  • 5x points per dollar spent at IHG properties
  • 2x points per dollar spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants
  • 1x point per dollar spent on all other purchases

Earning on IHG-branded credit cards is enhanced by your membership in the IHG Rewards Club program.

You will receive up to 25x earnings at IHG properties with the IHG Premier card and 15x earnings on the IHG Traveler card. We’ll cover more shortly on how membership and having an IHG credit card work together to deliver these elevated earnings.

If you want to learn more about how to earn lots of IHG Rewards Club points, we can help you with that.

Bottom Line: Both the IHG Premier card and IHG Traveler card each come with a generous welcome bonus worth several free hotel nights. Both cards also earn elevated rewards points at IHG properties and on everyday purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. 

Redeeming IHG Rewards Club Points

Although there are nearly endless ways to redeem your points, the best value for your rewards is redeeming for free hotel nights and using points combined with cash to purchase free hotel nights.

Also, watch for promotions such as PointBreaks when free hotel nights can be purchased for as little as 5,000 points.

Here are your options for redeeming points:

  • Free hotel nights
  • Use Points & Cash for hotel nights
  • Gift certificates and gift cards
  • Airline miles
  • Merchandise
  • Intercontinental® Ambassador Membership
  • Digital rewards
  • IHG Foundation
  • Rewards Concierge
  • TSA PreCheck

Wondering which IHG hotels might be good value choices for redeeming your rewards points? We’ve put together a great list of IHG redemption ideas for maximizing the value of your points.

Bottom Line: The best points earning and redemption options are using your card to pay at IHG properties and redeeming your points for free hotel nights. 

How the IHG Credit Card and the IHG Rewards Club Work Harmoniously Together

Holiday Inn Resort Bali
The combination of having an IHG-branded credit card and being a member of the IHG Rewards Club ensures you’ll get all the benefits you deserve. Image Credit: Holiday Inn Resort Benoa Bali

The combination of having an IHG credit card and being a member of the IHG Rewards Club creates the best scenario for earning, redeeming, and receiving elite benefits. Before applying for an IHG-branded credit card, you’ll want to sign up with the IHG Rewards Club.

This is because the points you earn on your IHG credit card will be deposited into your IHG Rewards Club program account each month when your credit card statement closes. The points will then be ready for you to redeem.

The IHG Premier card comes with automatic Platinum Elite status in the IHG Rewards Club Program so you will realize more benefits immediately over the IHG Traveler card that does not offer automatic elite status. Here’s how the cards and the rewards program work together:

IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite Status

You normally need to stay 40 nights or earn 40,000 base rewards points to achieve Platinum Elite status each calendar year, but this status is automatically included with your IHG Premier card. With Platinum Elite status you can expect the following benefits:

  • Bonus point earnings on IHG stays
  • Room upgrades
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Spa, minibar, or dining credits
  • Priority check-in
  • Late check out
  • Welcome amenity

Hot Tip: Need more info? We’ve put together an overview of all the benefits of IHG Rewards Club elite status.

Elevated Earnings at IHG Properties

You’ll receive base earnings when paying for your IHG hotel stay with your IHG-branded card. You earn 10 points per dollar spent with the IHG Premier card and 5 points per dollar spent with the IHG Traveler card.

However, Platinum Elite status that comes with the IHG Premier card earns you an additional 15 points per dollar, for a total of 25 points per dollar spent. The IHG Traveler card does not come with elite status but being an IHG Rewards Club member earns you an additional 10 points per dollar for a total of 15 points per dollar spent.

Hot Tip: IHG has a new partnership with Mr and Mrs Smith, a curated selection of some of the world’s best hotels, and select properties are now eligible for members to earn and redeem IHG Rewards Club points.

Fourth Reward Night Free

Book 4 consecutive reward nights at the same property and receive the fourth night free. There is no limit on the number of times you can use this benefit, even during the same hotel visit. If you were to book 12 consecutive award nights, for example, you would receive the fourth, eighth, and twelfth nights free.

Rewards Nights Count Towards Elite Status

Both paid and reward stays count toward earning elite status with IHG Rewards Club. With the IHG Premier card, you’ll have Platinum Elite status as long as you have the card but the IHG Traveler card does not come with any status.

You can spend $10,000 on the IHG Traveler card to receive Gold Elite status, stay a total of 10 nights (either paid or reward nights), or earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points.

Promotions

The IHG Rewards Club program runs frequent promotions that include additional bonus rewards incentives for using your IHG credit card to pay for your hotel room. These bonus points are in addition to the points you earn on your card and for being an IHG Rewards Club member.

20% Point Purchase Discount

When you use your IHG Premier card or IHG Traveler card to purchase IHG Rewards Club points, you receive a 20% discount off the price of the points.

Card Anniversary Free Night

The IHG Premier card comes with a free hotel night at each card anniversary. This free night can be redeemed via your IHG Rewards Club account.

Bottom Line: Your IHG-branded credit card works harmoniously with your IHG Rewards Club membership to deliver elevated earnings, on-site benefits, additional redemption options, and member discounts.

Travel and Shopping Benefits and Protections

flight delay board
With an IHG-branded credit card, you’ll receive travel and shopping protections you can actually use. Image Credit: Ciurea Adrian via Shutterstock

Travel Benefits and Protections

When it comes to travel benefits and protections, both cards will serve you well.

Here is a sampling of what you can expect with either card.

  • Trip Interruption/Cancellation — Receive up to $5,000 per covered trip, per person if your trip (paid for with your IHG-branded card), is canceled or interrupted by a covered event. There is a maximum of $10,000 per trip and $20,000 per 12 month period for each coverage.
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver — Complimentary secondary car rental insurance is provided for rentals 31 days or less for damage and theft.
  • Lost Luggage Reimbursement/Baggage Delay — Luggage lost, damaged, or stolen during your trip is covered, up to $3,000. Coverage is also provided for luggage delayed more than 6 hours at $100 per day for up to 5 days.
  • Travel Accident Insurance — Receive up to $500,000 if there is a covered serious injury or death involving a common carrier.
  • Travel and Emergency Assistance Services — Get help when you need it while traveling with 24/7 emergency referral assistance. Receive referrals for English-speaking doctors, emergency transportation, and more. The cardholder pays for the actual cost of services provided.

Shopping Protections

Both IHG-branded credit cards come with these useful shopping protections:

  • Cell Phone Protection — If your cell phone is damaged or stolen, you could receive up to $800 when your monthly cell phone service is paid for with your IHG Premier card. The IHG Traveler card offers up to $600 in coverage. Coverage on both cards is limited to 2 claims per 12-month period, up to $1,000 total. There is also a $50 deductible per claim.
  • Purchase Protection — Pay for your eligible item with your IHG Premier card or IHG Traveler card and receive 120 days of coverage from the date of purchase for damage or theft. Coverage is limited to $500 per claim, $50,000 per account.
  • Extended Warranty — Purchase an eligible item with either card and the manufacturer’s warranty of 3 years or less will be extended for 1 additional year.

There are plenty of travel and shopping benefits on IHG-branded cards but please note that in this article we have abbreviated coverage descriptions. You can find full coverage terms and conditions in the specific card’s Guide to Benefits.

Best IHG Cards Summary

We’ve covered a lot of information thus far, so let’s pause and review with a snapshot of the core IHG credit card benefits. We think you’ll find that there’s a clear winner as to the card we recommend.

Although it has an $89 annual fee, the IHG Premier card offers tremendous value far beyond the cost of the fee, even if you stay only occasionally at IHG properties.

Here’s how the cards compare.

BenefitIHG Premier CardIHG Traveler Card
Earnings
  • Up to 25x per dollar spent at IHG properties (10x for spending on the card, plus 10x for being an IHG member, plus 5x for Platinum Elite status)
  • 2x gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants
  • 1x on all other purchases
  • Up to 15x per dollar spent at IHG properties (5x for spending on the card, plus 10x for being an IHG member)
  • 2x gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants
  • 1x on all other purchases
Annual Free Hotel Night
  • 1 free hotel night per card year anniversary
  • None
Gold Elite Status with IHG Rewards Club
  • N/A
  • After spending $10,000 on the card in a calendar year
Platinum Elite Status with IHG Rewards Club
  • Automatic IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status as long as you hold the card
  • N/A
Fourth Reward Night Free
  • Yes
  • Yes
Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
  • After spending $20,000 in an account anniversary year
  • N/A
20% Points Purchase Discount
  • Yes
  • Yes
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • Up to $100 once every 4 years
  • None
Travel and Shopping Protections/Benefits
  • Yes
  • Yes
Foreign Transaction Fees
  • None
  • None
Annual Fee
  • $89
  • $0

Bottom Line: The IHG Premier card is a clear winner if you’re looking for a hotel rewards card. Although it has an annual fee, you’ll receive a free hotel night each card anniversary, up to 25x earnings at IHG properties, automatic Platinum Elite status, and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit.

Everything Else You Need to Know

IHG-branded credit cards are subject to Chase’s 5/24 Rule so you’ll want to review the rule before applying for any Chase credit card.

To be sure you’ll earn maximum rewards and receive on-site elite benefits, you’ll want to book all of your stays directly with IHG. Third-party bookings such as those with online travel agencies will cause you to miss out on these perks.

Some IHG property brands earn fewer points per dollar spent. These include Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites which earn 5 base points per dollar versus 10 points per dollar spent at all other IHG properties.

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that an IHG Rewards Club credit card can be extremely useful and provide bottom-line economic value. We recommend the IHG Premier card because of its annual anniversary free hotel night, 25x earnings at IHG properties, and automatic complimentary Platinum Elite status with IHG Rewards Club.

If you stay at an IHG property just a few times each year, you’ll benefit from having the card. Points are easy to earn, simple to redeem for good value, and you’ll receive benefits you can actually use, like cell phone protection and trip interruption/cancellation.

Whether you’re a road warrior, day tripper, world traveler, or family vacationer, the IHG Premier card is a hotel-branded credit card that offers value for nearly everyone.


Frequently asked questions

Which is the best IHG credit card?

The best IHG credit card is the one that fits your lifestyle. If you stay at IHG properties often, however, you’ll find tremendous value with the IHG Premier card as it offers a free hotel night at each card anniversary, Platinum Elite status with IHG Rewards Club, earnings of up to 25x at IHG properties, trip interruption/cancellation coverage, and $800 in cell phone protection.

The IHG Premier card does have an $89 annual fee, however. If you are uncomfortable paying an annual fee you can always opt for the IHG Traveler card which still allows you to earn up to 15x points at IHG properties but it does not offer as much value as the IHG Premier card.

How many IHG points does it take for a free night?

You can purchase a free hotel room for as little as 5,000 points.

IHG regularly runs special PointBreaks promotions that offer several of their properties for just 5,000, 10,000, and 15,0000 points per night.

Normally free hotel nights start at 10,000 points and up.

How does the IHG credit card cell phone protection work?

Your IHG-branded credit card comes with cell phone protection coverage via the Mastercard network.

The IHG Premier card, which is a World Elite Mastercard, offers $800 of cell phone coverage for damage or theft.

The IHG Traveler card, which is a World Mastercard, offers $600 of cell phone coverage for damage or theft.

Each card has a limit of 2 claims per 12-month period, up to a total of $1,000 in coverage, and each claim is subject to a $50 deductible.

How does the IHG fourth night free work?

When you book 4 consecutive hotel nights at the same property using your points, you will receive the fourth night free.

There is no limit as to how many times you can use this benefit and you can even use it on the same visit. For example, if you book 8 consecutive rewards nights at a hotel, you would receive the fourth and eighth nights free.

Do IHG Rewards points expire?

IHG Rewards Club points expire after 12 months of inactivity.

You can keep points from expiring by earning points, redeeming points, or purchasing points.

Christine Krzyszton

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine, who lives in Northern Michigan, travels about 300,000 miles a year despite her remote location. Her expertise is traveling the world on a weekend with no pre-determined destination in mind, letting the cost of the airfare determine where she will go. She has over four million flown miles and elite status on all three major domestic carriers.

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