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With travel likely to get back on its feet in 2021 and people starting to think about taking a vacation — even if it’s not until later in the year — the current sign-up offers on the two IHG hotel credit cards might be just what you’re looking for if you want to earn a ton of points to use toward that trip you’re daydreaming about.
The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is currently offering a whopping 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months of account opening, while the no-annual-fee IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card is offering 60,000 bonus points after spending just $2,000 on the card within the same time frame.
Although the IHG Premier card comes with an $89 annual fee, it has perks that easily make it pay for itself, which makes it our recommended card between the two options — as long as you can meet the higher $3,000 minimum spending requirement. Not only will you earn more points from the welcome offer, you’ll also get many more benefits, making the card much more desirable.
If you’re unfamiliar with the hotel properties that fall within the IHG umbrella, they include brands such as Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo, Kimpton, Crowne Plaza and high-end InterContinental Hotels. And with the IHG Premier card, you’ll earn up to a whopping 25 points in total for every dollar you spend at these and other IHG hotels, along with 2 points per dollar on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
On the other hand, the no-annual-fee IHG Traveler card earns up to 15 points in total for every dollar spent at IHG properties, and the same number of points as the IHG Premier in all the other categories.
While the number of points you’ll earn for your IHG stays with either of these two cards is better than any other credit card out there, you can probably get more rewards in the other bonus categories and on everyday purchases with a different card. But the real value of these cards comes down to their benefits, so let’s take a look at how either card can work for IHG loyalists.
Elite status at IHG properties
IHG Premier credit card holders automatically receive complimentary IHG Platinum elite status. Although IHG Platinum status isn’t the best hotel status around, having some sort of elite status when you walk in the front door of a hotel is better than no status at all.
One of the main benefits of holding IHG Platinum status — or any IHG status — is that your points will never expire. Typically, IHG points expire if there’s no account activity within a 12-month time frame. IHG is very strict with this policy, so not having to worry about your points expiring is a great benefit.
The IHG Traveler card, on the other hand, will only earn you Gold elite status if you spend $10,000 per calendar year on the card. Truthfully, we don’t recommend spending this amount of money on the card solely for this benefit.
A reward night every year with the IHG Premier
Starting with your first IHG Premier card anniversary (meaning one year from the date you originally get the card), every year you’ll receive a reward night certificate to redeem at a qualifying IHG hotel. Now, this certificate can’t be used at every IHG property — it’s capped at hotels costing up to 40,000 IHG Rewards points. But last year IHG moved to variable pricing for its awards, so depending on when you travel, you might be able to use these certificates at some very high-end properties.
Some notable properties where this certificate can be redeemed depending on the time of year include the InterContinental Hotel Lisbon, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba and the Hotel Indigo San Diego Del Mar, just to name a few. During peak dates, these hotels can be quite pricey if you’re paying for them in cash, giving you excellent value with this perk.
With the certificate alone, you’re already coming out well ahead on your annual fee. And if your significant other also has an IHG Premier card, you can put the certificates from both cards together to get a nice weekend getaway by booking the reward nights back to back.
This is a benefit that only comes with the IHG Premier card, not the IHG Traveler card. So even after the first year, you might find paying the extra $89 is well worth it solely for the reward night certificate.
A complimentary fourth night with either card
All card holders of either the IHG Premier credit card or the IHG Traveler credit card get a complimentary fourth night when redeeming points at an IHG hotel. There are no exclusions to this benefit — this perk can be extended to any IHG property, regardless of the number of points it costs.
For example, let’s say you’re looking to stay at the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba right near Palm Beach in Aruba at a cost of 40,000 points per night. Thanks to this benefit, you can redeem just 120,000 points for a full four-night stay at this hotel. That means with the IHG Premier’s sign-up bonus alone, you can be well on your way to enjoying the sunny Caribbean.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit with the IHG Premier
When you apply for either the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck trusted traveler programs, just pay with your IHG Premier credit card and your application fee up to $100 will be reimbursed in full. The TSA PreCheck program gets you through TSA security faster at US airports, while Global Entry expedites going through immigration when you return to the US from being overseas.
Even if you already have one of these memberships, you can always use your IHG Premier to pay for a friend or family member’s application fee and you’ll still receive the reimbursement — the name on the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application doesn’t need to match the name on the credit card. And you can receive this fee reimbursement once every four years.
This isn’t a perk that comes with the IHG Traveler card, which is another reason why the benefits of the IHG Premier card outweigh the annual fee difference.
Cell phone protection with both cards
If you pay for your cell phone bill with either your IHG Premier or IHG Traveler card, you’ll automatically be covered in case your cell phone is stolen or damaged. This is an extremely valuable perk, and one that isn’t too common yet among reward credit cards — especially a card that comes with no annual fee, such as the IHG Traveler.
With the IHG Premier, you can be reimbursed up to $800 per claim, while the IHG Traveler will reimburse you up to $600 per claim. Both cards are capped at $1,000 in reimbursements per year and a maximum of two claims in a rolling 12-month period. With both cards, you’ll also be charged a $50 deductible per claim.
If you stay at IHG hotels even a couple times a year, we recommend either the IHG Premier or the IHG Traveler for their benefits, but not for using on everyday purchases. That’s because you can earn more rewards — either cash back or points — with other credit cards.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 2 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining, but Chase points are worth at least twice as much as IHG points. Even on CNN Underscored’s benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, you’ll earn 2% cash back — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off — on everything you buy.
Since IHG points are only worth 0.5 cents apiece according to frequent flyer website The Points Guy, you’re getting a 12.5% return on spending at IHG hotels with the IHG Premier card but only a 1% return in the 2x bonus categories.
If you’re trying to determine which card to apply for, we recommend the IHG Premier card over the IHG Traveler card for most travelers. The extra 80,000 bonus points you’ll earn with the IHG Premier easily offsets the $89 annual fee in the first year — with IHG points worth 0.5 cents apiece, that’s another $400 toward IHG hotels, plus you’re getting all the enhanced benefits for 12 months.
And after the first year, if you decide you don’t want to pay an annual fee for the card, you can always downgrade to the IHG Traveler and skip the annual fee going forward.
Now, if you don’t spend a lot of time at IHG hotels, these probably aren’t the right credit cards for you, since you won’t be able to take advantage of the best benefits and perks of either of them. If that’s the case, check our our guide to the best credit cards of 2021 to find a card that’s more suitable for your needs.
With some other credit cards, you’ll find that the value mostly comes from the sign-up offer. But not these cards. The IHG credit cards are ones you’ll likely want to hold on to for years to come thanks to their benefits — even for the occasional IHG traveler.
In the first year alone, with the IHG Premier card, you’ll end up with 140,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening — valued at $700 according to The Points Guy — plus a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement, which is worth up to another $100.
And starting with the second year, you’ll receive a reward night certificate valued at up to $200 since the certificate works at IHG properties that cost up to 40,000 points per night. Add in all of the other benefits of being a card holder — such as your complimentary fourth night and Platinum elite status — and for just an $89 fee, you should find it very easy to come out ahead if you use IHG hotels on any regular basis.
Finally, those who have the old IHG Rewards Club Select Card (which is no longer available to new applicants) aren’t disqualified from getting the IHG Premier card and bonus offer. And if you have both cards, you’re able to reap the benefits of both at the same time and get even greater value from being a card holder. Just keep in mind that since this is a Chase credit card, all applicants are subject to Chase’s “5/24” rule, which means if you’ve gotten five or more credit cards from all banks in the past 24 months, Chase will automatically deny your application.
So if you’ve been considering either of these cards, grab them now and score a sweet haul of bonus points to use at IHG hotels around the world — either in the near future or down the line.