IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card Review: A Hotel Credit Card With Lots of Perks

Elizabeth is a writer specializing in credit cards, student loans, debt repayment, and small business. Her work has also appeared on MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, and Business Insider.

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Hotels are one of the biggest expenses when it comes to vacationing. But what if you could stay in a nice hotel for free? That’s what hotel credit cards are designed to help you achieve, and with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card in your pocket, it won’t take you long to get there. This is a hotel credit card favorite for good reason: It comes with a generous sign-up bonus, a great rewards rate, and perks like hotel status and annual free nights.

Why I applied

I had plans to visit relatives for a little over a week and wanted to cover my hotel stay using the sign-up bonus from just one credit card. Using the fourth night free perk and their PointBreaks discounts, the sign-up bonus on this card covers eight nights at a Holiday Inn in the area. While this card isn’t always the best for luxury redemptions, you can really stretch your points when it comes to low and mid-range properties, and the extra perks it comes with are priceless.

What I like

80,000 points sign-up bonus -- Spending at least $2,000 in the first three months will earn you 80,000 bonus points. You can earn an additional 5,000 by adding an authorized user who makes a purchase within the first three months. Finally, for each year that you spend $20,000 in a calendar year and then make one additional purchase after your card anniversary, you’ll get another 10,000 points.

10x points per dollar -- Earning 10x points per $1 spent at IHG® hotels is about as good as rewards rates get, so if you stay at IHG® hotels often, you can earn a lot of points. On top of that, you’ll also earn 2x points for every $1 you spend on dining, gas, and groceries and one point per $1 for everything else.

Free night every anniversary -- Every year on your card anniversary you’ll be gifted a free night that can be used at any IHG® hotel that’s worth 40,000 points per night or fewer.

Platinum Elite status -- Cardholders are automatically upgraded to IHG® Rewards Club Platinum Elite status, which comes with a few useful perks. You’ll get 20% off point purchases, the anniversary free night, and a fourth reward night free. The fourth reward night free benefit gives you a free reward night every time you book an award stay of four nights or more.

Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® -- If you pay for either your Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application with your IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you’ll receive a statement credit that reimburses you for the $100 or $85 respective fees.

No foreign transaction fee -- For those who travel abroad frequently, it’s important to have a credit card with no transaction fee. The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card does not charge one.

Why you can trust me

I’ve been using travel credit cards with sign-up bonuses to make my travels more affordable since 2013 and have owned nearly 20 different cards since then. I haven’t paid more than $150 for a flight in five years -- in fact, I fly between the U.S., my home country, and Costa Rica, my adopted home country, for around $5-$25 in taxes and fees at least four times every year. I’ve also stayed at some of the nicest resorts and hotels in the world using hotel credit cards. As a personal finance writer who specializes in credit cards and credit, I regularly research credit card offers and follow credit card trends for both business and pleasure.

What could be improved

Annual fee -- The $89 annual fee is lower than many travel credit cards, but it’s not waived the first year. The annual free night is offered as an incentive to keep the card and pay the fee, but because the annual free night can only be redeemed at hotels valued at 40,000 points or below, there is a limit to how much value you can get from it.

Transfer partners -- If you’re looking to redeem your points for something other than a stay at an IHG® hotel, you won’t have much luck. While this credit card does offer plenty of options for transferring your points to various airlines, most of them transfer at a rate of 10,000 points for 2,000 miles, meaning even the 80,000 sign-up bonus isn’t enough for a roundtrip flight on most airlines.

Suggested credit score

Applicants with very good or excellent credit (a FICO score of 740 to 850) have a great chance of approval. Applicants with good credit (a FICO score of 670 to 739) have a fair chance of approval, especially if their score is a 700 or above. There are multiple reports of people with credit scores in the 700-720 range being approved.

What are IHG® points worth?

On average, IHG® points are worth $0.005 each. This was calculated by researching award redemption options across a wide range of locations and hotel brands.

How to maximize IHG® points for the most value

In order to maximize the value of IHG® points, you will want to look for redemption options that pay out at a rate of at least $0.005 per point. Divide the dollar price per night by the point price per night to get that figure.

Find PointBreaks deals -- The IHG® PointBreaks program is one of the best ways to maximize your points value. Every few months, IHG® posts a different set of hotels around the world that are discounted for award redemptions as low as 5,000 points per night. These hotels are often low or mid-range properties and are rarely in major cities, but 5,000 points is an incredible value if you find a hotel in a destination you’d already planned to visit. You might even get lucky and swipe a high-end property as they do make it onto the list from time to time. Combined with the fourth night free perk, the sign-up bonus is enough to score you up to 20 nights at a PointBreaks property.

Get your fourth night free -- To maximize your redemptions, wait to redeem until you have enough for at least three nights at a property so you can get a fourth night free. When you take advantage of this perk, you save up to 25% on your stay.

Wait for the right time to buy points -- With the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card you get 20% off points purchases. While it’s generally not a good value to purchase points, IHG® regularly runs promotions that get you 80% or even 100% points back on point purchases. Combine that with a 20% discount, and purchasing points can be well worth it.

Don’t book using points and cash -- Booking using a combination of points and cash is typically not a good value

Don’t transfer points to an airline partner -- Transferring your points to an airline is the lowest value you can get. While you can transfer your IHG® points to a wide range of airlines, the transfer rate for most airlines is 10,000 IHG® points for 2,000 miles. For example, if you converted your sign-up bonus to 16,000 airline miles, it goes from being worth $400 to being worth $160 on most airlines.

Is the annual fee worth it?

The annual fee on the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is $89, and it’s not waived for the first year. Considering the sign-up bonus on this card is worth at least $400 in hotel spending, the annual fee is well worth it for the first year.

The card also carries significant value thereafter. The Global Entry statement credit saves you $100 every four years. The annual free night is a bigger perk, which gives you one free night at any IHG® hotel valued at 40,000 points or less each year on your card anniversary. A typical 40,000 point IHG® hotel can cost $150/night or more, making the $89 annual fee worth it if you already have plans to stay in a qualifying IHG® hotel the following year. So, you could actually view the annual fee as a prepaid hotel expense at a discounted rate.

Keep in mind that it’s not worth holding onto this card for the annual free night if you weren’t already planning on staying in an IHG® hotel. Planning an entire trip around one free night will have you spending money rather than saving it, which defeats the purpose of rewards credit cards.

Is it right for you?

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is a very high value card for people who stay in IHG® hotels regularly.

This isn’t a great card to put all your regular spending on given the inflexibility of the points you earn, but even if you only stay in IHG® hotels occasionally, putting those stays on this credit card can offer great value. On top of that, the automatic Platinum Elite status gives you access to valuable perks like the fourth night free benefit, the annual free night, and 20% off point purchases.

With an annual fee of $89, a point value of $0.005, and 10x points per $1 spent at IHG® hotels, you’d need to spend over $1,780 at IHG® hotels each year to cancel out the annual fee based solely on points accumulated. Many travelers will more than breakeven on this fee.

If you don’t stay at IHG® hotels often, the value of the card is mostly limited to the sign-up bonus and the annual free night. In that case, I would recommend applying for the card only if you have a specific plan in mind for how you want to use the sign-up bonus. You really have to be strategic to maximize the value of the sign-up bonus as it’s easy to waste IHG® points on low-value redemptions.

Finally, if you see a hotel on their PointBreaks list in a destination you’ve been planning to visit, go for it. The 80,000 sign-up bonus can get you up to 20 nights in that case, which is unbeatable.

How to apply

The application process for the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is very similar to any other credit card application process. They’ll ask you for:

  • Personal information like your name and address
  • Financial information like your income, employment history, and housing costs
  • Security information like your social security number, your date of birth, and your phone number

You also have the chance to enter your IHG® Rewards Club membership number on the application form. If you’re already a member, be sure you do this so that the points you accrue with your credit card show up in your membership account as soon as possible.

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