The IHG Hotels Credit Card – I Happily pay $49 a Year For it and never Use It…Here’s Why

When you read Points and Miles blogs, you tend to see the same cards written about at length.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred, the SPG AMEX, the Citi American Airlines cards, and others dominate the blogosphere.  I have either had or still have all of these.  But there’s one little card out there that just keeps flying under the radar, and I absolutely love it.  I spend $49 a year just to have it.  It sits in my desk drawer gathering dust.  I can’t remember the last time I charged something to it.  And yet I’ll be very upset if I ever am without it.
IHG card

Every year, I spend $49 for this card…and I don’t charge a penny to it

Why in the world would I apply for a card that costs $49 a year to keep and not actually use it to buy anything?  The annual free night is why.  Each year on the card’s anniversary, I pay the $49 annual fee to Chase, and in return, I get a certificate good for a free night at (in IHG’s own words) “hotels in the IHG® Rewards Club Family of Brands.”  I interpret that to be any IHG hotel you can find on their website, and IHG has an enormous footprint.  Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, and Hotel Indigo are just a few of their brands.  So, your ability to use the free night should not be hampered by where you go given that they are everywhere.  Along with Marriott and Hilton, they are the three giants in terms of properties. The other huge factor here is that they do not cap the award certificate for specific categories of hotels.  Marriott’s highest level card and Hyatt’s card also offer a free night each year, but they each cap the award on hotels only up to certain levels.  While Hyatt’s $75 a year fee can still snag you a terrific property (Category 4 or lower), Marriott has driven a lot of people away with the Category 5 or lower restriction given that Marriott continually raises the Category level of their hotels.  By comparison, Citi’s Hilton Reserve and Chase’s IHG cards offer very generous free nights, though the Citi Hilton’s is for weekends only.  
Now, I think it’s fair to say that you should be able to get a LOT more than $49 in value out of your free night, especially if you opt for a Crowne Plaza or Intercontinental.  But guess who IHG has a partnership with?  The Venetian in Vegas!  So, if you want, you can use that free night at The Venetian as well, depending on availability of course.
One way I look at this card is: even if I only use the card every other year, I’ll come out ahead because the hotels for which I would use this perk are going to cost a lot more than 2 * $49, or $98 a night. So, here I am talking up a great credit card, and I haven’t even mentioned the signup bonus.  That’s partly because I see the bonus figure move around throughout the year.  I’ve seen it go as high as 80,000 IHG points down to 60,000 IHG points (in both cases, $1000 spent in 3 months is required).  You can use them at Candlewood Suites or Holiday Inn Expresses and get several nights or splurge at the Venetian for one night (50,000 points).  From a value perspective, 50,000 is a lot for The Venetian, but it’s where a lot of people would like to use their points. Let’s also take a look at the other benefits of the card:
  • The card earns 5x points spent at IHG hotels, 2x points on gas, groceries, and restaurants, and 1x points on everything else…which explains why I would never use this card after meeting the bonus requirement.  Lest Chase read this and get angry at me, I would use my Chase Sapphire Preferred and/or Chase Freedom for these purchases!
  • 10% rebates on point redemptions.  If you use your points for a free night, IHG will give you back 10% of the points you used.  So, a 25,000 point hotel night actually costs you only 22,500.
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you own the card – IHG Elite status is not that impressive to me in terms of benefits (though rollover elite nights and upgrade possibilities are nice), but you do earn a 50% bonus on points earned on paid stays, which is very strong.

As I said earlier, the card is not very exciting from an ongoing benefits standpoint, but the free night is the only reason I need to motivate me to keep paying the $49 a year.  And you know what?  During the first year, you don’t even pay that.  It’s only if you decide to keep the card and get the anniversary night that you will pay the $49 fee.  So, at worst, you’ll get a boatload of points with a hotel chain offering plenty of properties in which to use them. So, what do you think?  Is $49 the steal I am portraying it as?  Leave us a comment below! ​If you enjoyed this post, please email it, share it or tweet it to your friends!

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