IHG credit cards: Earn 125,000 bonus points & a free night

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With travel starting to get back on its feet and people thinking about their next vacation — even if it’s not until later this year or into next year — the 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 just launched a unique offer which, for some people, might be the best opportunity we’ve seen to date. Right now, new card holders can earn 125,000 bonus points and a reward night certificate after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months.

In the past, we’ve only seen straight points offers on this card, so being able to earn both points and a reward night certificate could potentially be a better value for those interested in the card — especially if you’re looking to travel within the next year. And even though the IHG Premier comes with an $89 annual fee, you’ll find that its surplus of benefits can make up for the fee and then some.

There’s also a no-annual-fee version of the card, the IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card, which is offering 60,000 bonus points after spending just $2,000 on the card within the same time frame. While there’s no reward night certificate on this card and we’ve seen better offers in the past, if you’re itching to travel now, the card’s points and benefits might be a reason to jump on it sooner rather than later.

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. That means you can use the reward night certificate from the IHG Premier card at any of these brands, but only at certain hotels, so it’s important to understand the details.

How does the IHG reward night certificate work?

The reward night certificate that’s part of the sign-up bonus on the IHG Premier card allows you to stay for a single night at any IHG property that costs 40,000 points or less. Fortunately, there are no other restrictions, but the certificate expires exactly one year after it’s deposited into your account, meaning that you must complete your stay by the expiration date.

Even though the reward certificate can’t be used at every property under the IHG umbrella, you can typically still use it at some memorable destinations, such as the InterContinental Hotel Lisbon, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba and the Hotel Indigo San Diego Del Mar. IHG has moved to variable pricing for its awards, so depending on your travel dates, you might also be able to use these certificates at some even higher-end properties during off-peak dates.

According to frequent flyer website The Points Guy, IHG points are worth 0.5 cents apiece toward travel. This puts a value of up to $200 on the certificate alone since it can be used at properties worth up to 40,000 points. Combine this with the 125,000 points earned from the sign-up bonus — worth $625 at 0.5 cents per point — and you could get as much as $825 in value from a single credit card offer.

Plus, starting with your first IHG Premier card anniversary (meaning one year from the date you originally get the card), every year you’ll receive another reward night certificate to redeem at a qualifying IHG hotel. This is the same type of certificate that you earn with the sign-up bonus, which means it’s capped at a hotel costing up to 40,000 IHG points.

With the certificate alone, you’re already coming out well ahead of the card’s $89 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.

Just know that this is a benefit that only comes with the IHG Premier card, not the IHG Traveler card. But the real value of both cards comes down to their benefits, so let’s also take a look at the other perks available on both IHG credit cards.

Benefits of the IHG credit cards

• 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 complimentary fourth night with either card

All card holders of both the IHG Premier credit card and 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 card’s sign-up bonus alone, you can be well on your way to enjoying the sunny Caribbean for no additional cost. Of course, you could also add on your reward night certificate and turn your stay into an even longer five-night vacation.

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.

Related: Protect your cell phone from theft or damage with these credit cards.

Earn bonus points at IHG properties and elsewhere

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 Card 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. 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, and possibly even more depending on how you use them.

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 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.

Should you consider the IHG credit cards?

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.

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. Since the sign-up bonus on the IHG Premier comes with an additional 65,000 points plus a reward night certificate, that’s $525 more in value at IHG properties than the IHG Traveler card — $325 from the difference in bonus points and up to $200 from the reward certificate.

You’ll also get all the enhanced benefits of the IHG Premier card in addition to the sign-up bonus, plus the same reward night certificate that comes with the sign-up offer on an annual basis, starting with the second year you have the card. 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.

But 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 (though keep in mind that you won’t get a second bonus for downgrading from one card to the other).

Now, if you don’t spend a lot of time at IHG hotels, it’s likely that neither of these credit cards are right 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 to find a card that’s more suitable for your needs.

But if you’re ready to start traveling the world again and expect to have at least two or more stays at an IHG hotel in the near future, the sweet haul of bonus points from either IHG credit card and the reward night certificate on the IHG Premier card can get you well on your way.

Learn more about the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

Learn more about the IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card.

Check out CNN Underscored’s list of the best travel credit cards of 2021.

Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.

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