The 5 Best Credit Cards for IHG Rewards Loyalists [2021]

Kimpton EPIC Hotel Pool

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Whether you’re a road warrior or frequent flyer, chances are there’s an IHG Hotels & Resorts property at your destination city.

That’s because the hotel group has over 5,600 properties worldwide. Its footprint is also diverse in that it offers a wide selection of brands that deliver every type of lodging, including budget accommodations, boutique hotels, and even elite high-end properties.

Additionally, the IHG Rewards program makes it easy to earn free hotel nights and receive elite benefits during all your stays, even at its budget brand properties. One reason IHG-branded credit cards are popular is that they work in harmony with the IHG Rewards program. Anyone who has an IHG-branded card and frequents IHG properties knows the value that this partnership provides.

If you are an IHG loyalist but don’t have an IHG-branded credit card, we’re happy to share a lot of reasons why you’d want to consider partnering a card with your IHG Rewards membership.

Let’s look at how cards from IHG, Chase, and American Express can elevate earnings, provide valuable redemption options, and deliver additional benefits you can use.

Spoiler Alert: It’s going to be really easy for you to decide which card is the best for those of you who are avid IHG patrons.

The Best IHG Cards for IHG Loyalists

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

The best IHG-branded credit card is the IHG Premier card. We can say this with great enthusiasm because although it charges an annual fee, it delivers value for the IHG loyalist that can far exceed that annual outlay.

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)
  • Earn 150,000 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.
  • Enjoy a Reward Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
  • Good to Excellent Credit Recommend (670-850)
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, $89 thereafter

Let’s look at the earnings, redemption options, and how the card works well with the IHG Rewards program.

Generous Welcome Bonus

Welcome credit card bonus offerings change but you can generally expect to receive 80,000 IHG Rewards points after spending $2,000 within the 3 months after card approval.

That’s a bonus that could be worth several free hotel nights as we generally value IHG points at 0.5 cents each, giving you a $400 value for those 80,000 points.

We’ll talk about benefits shortly, but if IHG is your brand of choice and you have an upcoming visit, securing the IHG Premier card before your hotel stay could be a smart move. Paying for the stay with your new card could help you meet the minimum spending requirement while you also enjoy the benefits of elite status that come with the card and elevated earnings (up to 25x) for those IHG purchases.

Elevated Earnings

Purchases you make at IHG properties (including Mr & Mrs Smith properties) will earn the most rewards points per dollar spent. However, the IHG Premier card earns points on every purchase you make including 2x earnings on everyday bonus category purchases.

If you want to learn more ways to earn IHG Rewards points, we have lots of ideas to share but here’s a look at the basic earnings on the IHG Premier card:

  • Earnings at IHG Properties — earn 10x IHG Rewards points per dollar spent
  • Everyday Earnings2x points at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants
  • Earn on Every Purchase — all other purchases receive 1x earnings

This is not the whole story when it comes to earning IHG Rewards points, however. Combining the IHG Premier card with your IHG Rewards membership allows you to earn much more.

Let’s look at how the combination increases your earnings at IHG properties.

IHG Rewards Platinum Elite Status

Intercontinental Bali
Earn up to 25x points per dollar spent when paying for your IHG stay with your IHG-branded credit card. InterContinental Bali Resort. Image Credit: IHG

To achieve IHG Rewards Platinum Elite level status in 2021 normally requires you to stay 30 nights in a calendar year or earning 30,000 rewards points. Complimentary Platinum Elite status comes with the IHG Premier card.

Here are some of the benefits you can expect with Platinum Elite status:

  • Bonus points earnings on IHG stays
  • Room upgrades when available
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Spa, dining, or minibar credits
  • Priority check-in and late checkout
  • A welcome amenity at check-in

As an IHG Rewards member, you’ll earn 10x points per dollar spent at IHG properties. You’ll earn an additional 10x points per dollar spent by paying for your stay with your IHG Premier card and an additional bonus of 5x points per dollar spent for having Platinum elite status.

That’s a total of 25x points per dollar spent when staying at IHG properties and paying with your IHG Premier card!

Free Annual Hotel Night

Each year at your IHG Premier card anniversary, you will receive a free hotel night certificate that can be redeemed for a hotel night that would normally cost 40,000 points or less.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Statement Credit

Pay for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee or renewal and receive a statement credit, equal to the expense, once every 4 years.

Bottom Line: The IHG Premier card offers up to 25x earnings at IHG properties plus 2x earnings on your everyday purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Add in a free hotel night at each card anniversary and the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit and the card benefits can more than offset the $89 annual fee. 

IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card

When spending at IHG properties, the earnings with the IHG Traveler card are not as stellar as with the IHG Premier card. You’ll earn 5x points per dollar spent at IHG properties plus 10x points per dollar spent for being an IHG Rewards member (15x points total).

You will find the same 2x earnings for everyday purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, plus 1x earnings on all other purchases.

The IHG Traveler card does not offer a free night at card anniversary nor a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck statement credit.

The card’s best feature is that is charges no annual fee yet it offers additional earning opportunities and travel/shopping benefits.

Benefits of IHG-Branded Credit Cards

IHG-Branded Credit Cards and the IHG Rewards Program Partnership

An IHG-branded credit card and the IHG Rewards work harmoniously together to deliver added benefits for the IHG guest.

In addition to those benefits mentioned previously, you can expect the following additional benefits when having an IHG-branded credit card as a member of IHG Rewards:

  • Fourth-Night Free — Book 4 consecutive rewards nights and the fourth night will be free. You can use this benefit more than once during the same stay. For example, book 8 nights and receive the fourth and eighth night free.
  • 20% Discount on Point Purchases — Need some points to top off your account because you’re just short of enough for an award redemption? Receive a 20% discount on your points purchase.

Redeeming Your Points

InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort
Redeem your IHG Rewards points at hotels and resorts worldwide, like the Intercontinental Spa and Resort Moorea. Image Credit: IHG

Regardless of the card on which you earn your IHG Rewards points, you’ll have the same redemption options. The best value for redeeming your IHG points is for free hotel nights but there are additional choices:

  • Free hotel nights (starting at 5,000 points per night)
  • Combine Points & Cash for free hotel nights
  • Purchase gift certificates and gift cards
  • Transfer to airline partners
  • Redeem for TSA PreCheck
  • Use to purchase merchandise
  • Redeem for Intercontinental Ambassador Membership
  • Digital rewards — digital downloads of music/games/software start at 400 points
  • Donate to charity

Not all redemption options are of good value. Those that involve redeeming points for free hotel nights are generally the best deal for your points.

A redemption option that yields just a 1/2 cent per point is poor value and 1 cent per point or more can be considered a good redemption.

For our recommendations on great redemption value for your IHG Rewards points, check out our article on the topic.

Bottom Line: While you’ll have several options for redeeming your IHG Rewards points, you’ll receive the most value by redeeming your points for free hotel nights. 

Travel and Shopping Benefits and Protections

Woman Holding A Broken Cell Phone
Pay your monthly cell phone bill with your IHG-branded card and receive up to $800 in coverage. Image Credit: paulzhuk via Shutterstock

Your IHG-branded card not only makes staying at IHG properties more rewarding, but both cards also come with a long list of useful benefits and protections.

Travel Benefits and Protections

  • Trip Interruption and Trip Cancellation — Pay for your trip with your card and receive up to $5,000 per person, per person, $10,000 per covered trip, for qualifying non-reimbursable prepaid expenses.
  • Auto Rental Car Collision Damage Waiver — Decline the rental car agency’s coverage and receive secondary car rental insurance when your entire rental of 31 days or less is paid for with the card. Secondary coverage requires that you file a claim with your own insurance company first.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees — Take your card traveling and you will not incur fees on your foreign purchases.
  • Lost Luggage/Baggage Delay — Coverage of up to $3,000 is provided if your luggage is lost, stolen, or damaged. Baggage delayed 6 hours or more may qualify for $100 per day reimbursement (up to $500) for incidentals.
  • Travel Accident Insurance — If there is a serious covered injury or death, you could receive a benefit of up to $200,000.
  • Travel and Emergency Assistance Services — Receive referral assistance 24/7 when you’re traveling. Referrals include help finding English-speaking doctors, legal referrals, and assistance replacing a passport, plus more.

Shopping Protections

  • Cell Phone Protection — Pay your monthly cell phone bill with your IHG Premier card and receive up to $800 in coverage if your phone is stolen or damaged. Coverage when paying with the IHG Traveler card is $600. Both cards limit you to 2 claims per 12 month period and a maximum of $1,000. There is a $50 deductible on the coverage.
  • Purchase Protection — With coverage of up to $500 per claim, $50,000 per account, the eligible item purchased with your card will be covered for damage or theft for up to 120 days from the purchase date.
  • Extended Warranty — An eligible item, purchased with your card, will have the manufacturer’s warranty of 3 years or less, extended by 1 year.

Bottom Line: Both IHG-branded cards come with travel and shopping benefits such as cell phone protection, trip interruption/cancellation, and no foreign transaction fees that can save you money or provide help during a travel disruption. 

Summary: Comparing IHG-Branded Cards

While the IHG Premier card is our favorite, it’s always good to have choices. Here’s how the 2 cards stack up against each other when it comes to earnings, free hotel nights, and additional card features.

BenefitIHG Premier CardIHG Traveler Card
Earnings
  • Up to 25x earnings per dollar spent at IHG properties
  • 2x gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants
  • 1x all other purchases
  • Up to 15x earnings per dollar spent at IHG properties
  • 2x gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants
  • 1x all other purchases
Free hotel night each card anniversaryYesNo
Platinum Elite Status with IHG RewardsYes, complimentary as long as you have the cardNo, Gold Elite status granted after spending $10,000 on the card each calendar year
Fourth reward night freeYesYes
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Statement CreditYesNo
Earn 10,000 IHG Rewards bonus pointsYes, after spending $20,000 on the card in a calendar yearNo
20% discount on purchasing IHG pointsYesYes
Annual Fee$89$0

To illustrate the extra value of the IHG Premier card to the IHG loyalist, consider the extra earnings on just $2,000 spent at IHG properties each year. That $2,000 results in a difference of 20,000 additional IHG Rewards points on the IHG Premier card over the IHG Traveler Card. This is more than enough for another free hotel night (or 2).

Bottom Line: Even if you stay occasionally at IHG properties, the IHG Premier card is the winner for maximum earnings, complimentary Platinum Elite status, an annual fee hotel night, and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit. The IHG loyalist staying frequently at IHG properties will receive even higher earnings that can be used for additional free hotel nights. 

IHG Rewards Elite Status

The IHG Premier card comes with complimentary Platinum Elite status as long as you have the card. Cardholders of the IHG Traveler Card can earn Gold Elite status after spending $10,000 on the card each calendar year.

Let’s glance at an overview of what it takes to qualify for IHG Rewards Elite status and what benefits look like at each level.

2021 Update: All elite nights earned in 2020 have been rolled over to 2021 and elite requirements for 2021 have been reduced by 25%.

Benefit Gold Elite — 7 Nights or 7,000 PointsPlatinum Elite— 30 Nights or 30,000 PointsSpire Elite — 55 Nights or 55,000 Points
Bonus Earnings on Top of Base Points10%50%100%
Elite Rollover NightsXX
Room UpgradesXX
Guaranteed Room AvailabilityXX
Exclusive Choice Benefit Upon Receiving StatusX
Exclusive Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star Upgrade Upon Receiving StatusX

In addition to the benefits above, IHG Rewards Elite members receive extended check-out, free internet, priority check-in, and a welcome amenity (or “Raid the Bar” at Kimpton hotels).

For Elite member award redemptions, reward nights count towards elite status, there are no blackout dates for reward nights, and points don’t expire.

Hotel-Branded Credit Card Comparison

InterContinental Malta
Earning 10x points at IHG properties helps you earn free nights faster. Intercontinental Malta. Image Credit: IHG

If you’re wondering how the IHG Premier Card stacks up against similar hotel-branded cards, this snapshot comparison may offer the answer to that question.

Let’s take a took at annual fees, overall earnings, and the hotel-related benefits delivered by each card.

CardEarningsHotel Benefits
IHG Premier card
  • 10x points at IHG properties
  • 2x points at gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores
  • 1x earnings on all other purchases
World of Hyatt Credit Card
  • 4x points at Hyatt
  • 2x points at restaurants, flights purchased directly from the airlines, select fitness and gym memberships, local transit including rideshares, taxi, mass transit, and tolls
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • Complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status
  • Explorist status after spending $50,000 in a calendar year
  • Free hotel night certificate each card anniversary, good for category 1-4 properties
  • Additional free hotel night after spending $15,000 in a card anniversary year
  • 5 elite-tier qualifying nights each calendar year
  • 2 additional elite-tier qualifying nights for each $5,000 spent on the card each calendar year
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
  • 6x points at Marriott
  • 2x points on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver elite status
  • Gold elite status after spending $35,000 in a calendar year
  • Free hotel night certificate worth up to 35,000 points at each card anniversary
  • 15 elite night credits each calendar year
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
  • 12x points at Hilton
  • 6x points at gas stations, restaurants, and supermarkets
  • 3x points on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Top Hilton Honors Diamond status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year
  • Free weekend hotel night certificate each calendar year after spending $15,000 on the card
Hot Tip: If you want to learn more about how to earn lots of IHG Rewards points quickly, we have a lot of tips to share. We also share some of the best ways to redeem you IHG Rewards points for great hotel and resort experiences. 

Alternative or Additional Cards for IHG Loyalists to Consider

If you travel frequently, you’ll realize additional benefits when selecting a travel rewards credit card that can partner with an IHG-branded credit card.

Travel rewards cards can deliver benefits such as elevated earnings for travel purchases, lounge access, elite status, and statement credits. These additional benefits can help you create a full package that supports all your travel activities.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card ranks as one of our favorite travel rewards cards. You’ll earn valuable Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar you spend on the card and have several flexible redemption options when it comes time to utilize your points.

In addition, the Sapphire Preferred offers benefits and protections that can save you money, such as primary auto insurance, trip insurance, purchase protection, and extended warranty.

Why We Like the Card for IHG Loyalists

  • Earn 2 Ultimate Rewards Points per dollar spent on travel and dining
  • Redeem points for 1.25 cents on travel
  • Transfer points to Chase’s airline and hotel partners
  • Primary rental car insurance
  • Trip cancellation, interruption, and trip delay coverage
  • Free DoorDash DashPass subscription
  • $60 Peloton Digital and All Access Membership statement credit (through December 31, 2021)
  • Enroll in complimentary Spot Club Platinum status at The Parking Spot for 2 years and receive 20% off of your first reservation and points for 1 free day of parking
  • Enroll to receive 10% back on Groupon deals every month for 12 months (up to $50), rewarded as Groupon Bucks
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Shopping protections

Bottom Line: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card makes a worthy companion to any hotel rewards card, including the IHG-branded cards.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

For frequent travelers who enjoy luxury travel benefits, the Amex Platinum card deserves your attention. The card excels in providing luxury benefits such as worldwide lounge access, hotel elite status, statement credits for purchases, and much more.

Why We Like the Card for IHG Loyalists

Frequently we find that 1 travel rewards card does not cover all your travel needs for earning maximum rewards and delivering benefits. Additionally, selecting the best combination involves matching your own personal travel preferences.

With that in mind, you will want to review our list of the best travel rewards cards to find the perfect card for supporting your IHG-branded card.

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Credit CardKey Benefits & Info
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)
  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • $2,000
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 25% more value when redeeming points through Ultimate Rewards® travel
  • Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850)
  • Annual Fee: $95

Must Reads: For more info on the Ink Business Preferred, see our guides on its benefits, 7 things to do as a new cardholder, and our full review. This is our favorite Chase business credit card.

Business owners, even small business owners, can benefit from having a Chase business credit card. Every purchase you make earns valuable rewards that can offset business expenses or fund a personal vacation.

One of our favorite business credit cards is the Ink Business Preferred card due to it earning valuable and flexible Ultimate Rewards points.

Why We Like the Card for IHG Loyalists

  • Lower annual fee compared to other business credit cards
  • 3x points earned for travel purchases, internet/cable/phone, shipping, and advertising purchased through select social media and search engines (maximum $150,000 in purchases per year)
  • 5x points on Lyft purchases
  • Ultimate Rewards points earned on the card can be transferred to IHG, however, the ratio is 1:1 and not a good use of your points (an exception might be to top off your IHG account for a specific redemption)
  • Primary car rental insurance
  • Trip interruption/cancellation/delay coverage
  • Cell phone protection

While you won’t receive any direct IHG benefits from having the Ink Business Preferred card, the business traveler will reap plenty of benefits earning and redeeming Ultimate Rewards points. Plus, the travel protections on the card can’t be beat.

Hot Tip: To learn more about how much rewards points and frequent flyer miles are worth, our article breaking down the relative values has a wealth of information on the topic.

Final Thoughts

IHG Hotels & Resorts, the associated IHG Rewards program, and the IHG Premier card can provide value for most travelers. If you’re a road warrior, a family weekend traveler, or travel primarily domestically, however, you’re more likely to find plenty of value associated with IHG.

With its Holiday Inn Express brand, for instance, you can anticipate a clean, well-located hotel with an adequate breakfast for your family. You may also be able to secure free nights for as little as 5,000 points at that IHG brand (and others).

International travelers may also find value with IHG. Several IHG brands can offer essential airport locations (Holiday Inn at Sydney Airport, Australia), comfortable city budget lodging (Holiday Inn Express in Quito, Ecuador), or centrally located mid-level accommodations (Crowne Plaza in Santiago, Chile).

Benefits at properties such as Intercontinental for IHG-branded cardholders can be more elusive. Neither breakfast nor lounge access will be provided for having an IHG-branded card or the complimentary Platinum Elite status.

Regardless of the level of your relationship with IHG, IHG Rewards, and the IHG Premier card undoubtedly can offer value, and it doesn’t take a high level of exposure to the brand to benefit from the combination.


Frequently asked questions

Is the IHG Premier card worth it?

Yes, the IHG Premier card is worth it, even with the $89 annual fee.

With 25x total earnings at IHG properties, a free hotel night each card anniversary year, Platinum Elite status with IHG Rewards, and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, the value is there for those who can use even some of these benefits.

How many IHG points do I need for a free hotel night?

When IHG has PointBreaks promotions, you can secure a free hotel night for as little as 5,000 points.

Normally free nights start at 10,000 points and high end resorts can be as high as 70,000 points per night.

Fortunately, when you book rewards nights, you will receive the fourth-night free, which can be a significant savings.

How does the fourth-night free work?

The fourth-night free is a benefit of having an IHG-branded credit card.

When you book 4 or more consecutive rewards nights using your IHG Rewards points, you will receive the fourth-night free.

You can use the benefit more than once during your stay. If you book 8 consecutive rewards nights, for example, you will receive the fourth and eighth nights free.

Does the IHG card get me hotel lounge access?

Unfortunately, having an IHG-branded credit card or the accompanying Platinum elite status does not grant lounge access at IHG properties such as Intercontinental hotels.

You may receive an executive lounge access upgrade at select Crowne Plaza properties but it is not a stated benefit.

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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