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When it comes to hotel rewards programs, you generally want one with a huge portfolio of properties, so you can earn points whether you’re spending the night in a big city or a small town. The IHG Rewards Club has that – and what makes it stand out from other hotel rewards programs is that it encompasses budget-friendly properties, including Holiday Inn, Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites.
So is the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card from Chase worth getting? Here’s a closer look at the card and its competition.
With this card, you’ll earn:
- 5 points per dollar on hotel stays at IHG properties
- 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
- 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
If you spend $1,000 on the card within three months of opening the account, you’ll also get 60,000 bonus points.
Earning a bunch of points is not very meaningful if the cost of redemption is sky high. In some cases, your IHG Rewards Club points are worth quite a bit. In other cases, not so much. Keep in mind that this card comes with a 10 percent rebate. You get 10 percent of the points you redeem credited back to your account. So, the redemption values below will actually be 10 percent higher.
- Redeeming for PointBreaks: PointBreaks are super-discounted properties in limited locations that cost just 5,000 points per night. By “limited locations” we’re talking mostly outside major cities, but there are properties all around the world. Based on the average nightly rate at some of these hotels (as of February 2015), your points, when redeemed for PointBreaks, can be worth anything from 1 cent per point at the Holiday Inn Nola in Naples, Italy, to 2.2 cents per point at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Maryville, Missouri.
Note: IHG changes its PointBreaks portfolio several times a year. Expect the properties eligible for the PointBreaks rate to change.
- Redeeming for a night at other hotels: Based on average nightly rates, your points will be likely be worth less than a cent when redeemed outside the PointBreaks list. For example, a night at the Holiday Inn in Round Rock, Texas, requires 15,000 points – that makes each point is worth 0.6 cents, based on the average nightly rate. A one-night stay at the Holiday Inn Beachcomber Resort in Waikiki will cost you 35,000 points – meaning your points will be worth half a cent, based on the average nightly rate.
Keep in mind, though, that for some properties, you have the option to redeem for a combination of points and cash. That same night at the Holiday Inn Beachcomber can be had for 25,000 points if you also pay $70.
Hotel stays aren’t the only thing you can redeem for with this card. You can also redeem for cash (in the form of a check or statement credit), gift cards, merchandise, points with frequent flier programs, flights (if booked through IHG’s Flights Anywhere service) and charitable donations. Just know that, because this is a hotel rewards card, you’re going to get the best redemption value when you redeem for a hotel stay. For example (as of February 2015), it’ll cost you 10,000 points to get 2,000 Delta SkyMiles (a pretty lousy deal) and 11,000 points for a $25 iTunes gift card (ditto).
The IHG Rewards Club Select card gives you one free night annually (in a standard room) on your account renewal date. This alone is worth more than the annual fee once it kicks in after the first year. The free night doesn’t have any category restrictions, so theoretically, you could use it at any of its properties, pending availability of standard rooms. That’s a pretty nice perk.
The annual fee for the card is waived the first year. After that, it’s $49.
How it compares to the competition
Free night benefit: IHG’s annual free night benefit compares quite favorably, since many other hotel cards’ free night offerings come with property category restrictions. Even the Marriott Rewards Premier card, which generously gives you one free night upon account approval and another annually, won’t let you use them above category 5.
Annual fee: At $49, the annual fee on the IHG Rewards Club is lower than many popular hotel rewards cards, including:
- Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve ($95)
- Marriot Rewards Premier ($85)
- Starwood Preferred Guest ($95)
Comparing annual fees along, though, isn’t enough to determine a card’s value to you. For example, paying a higher fee for the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner), for example, gets you the ability to transfer your rewards into more than 30 frequent flier programs (often at a 1-for-1 exchange).
Point worth: How the worth of your points compares across hotel reward programs depends on the location, the type of hotel you want and the dates you’re traveling. If you’re planning a specific trip, price out the hotel and run the numbers (find out how to do the math here) to find out which hotel rewards card gets you the most bang for your buck.
The bottom line
If you’re a budget traveler, the IHG Rewards Club Select card is a smart choice, as its affordable hotels are common in the U.S. and throughout the world. It’s also a good fit for infrequent travelers, as it gives bonus points for non-discretional expenses, such as groceries and gas. Plus, the 70,000-point bonus the card is offering right now can get you a nice head start.
However, as with all hotel rewards cards, watch the redemption value. While the card offers a huge discount for certain limited (PointBreak) properties, your points can quickly become worth half as much (or less) if you stray from that list. With hotel reward cards, it all comes down to which hotel brands you find most appealing and which ones deliver the most free nights for your travel plans.
Updated February 2016