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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
When it comes to getting the most out of your travel experiences, hotel elite status plays a key role. Having status ensures guaranteed perks like free breakfast and bonus points-earning. Plus, it gives you a shot at scoring a room upgrade — something that can make even the most mundane hotel stay more exciting.
That said, assigning a cash value to elite status and its benefits is tough. Much of this process is subjective and depends on how often you travel and stay at a specific hotel chain. And given the credit cards that award status to cardholders, is it even worth pursuing hotel elite status the hard way?
Today we’ll dive into all of the perks of elite status with IHG Rewards Club. Before setting on IHG, though, be sure to check out our other posts on Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt to see if one of those programs is a better fit for your travels.
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In This Post
How I developed these valuations
Before getting into the calculations, I want to remind readers that this approach represents just one methodology for determining the value of IHG elite status.
You may put more or less value on the benefits I outline below, or you may be entirely loyal to a single brand in the IHG portfolio (like Kimpton and its fantastic properties). It all depends on your individual circumstances and typical travel patterns. As always, adjust the numbers to more closely reflect your own preferences.
Like all of the previous entries in this series, the numbers I’ve included below reflect the value you’d get after reaching the given status level and then continuing to requalify in future years.
Many of you may be starting from scratch and wondering how to modify the analysis, given that your benefits will incrementally improve as you climb the IHG elite status ladder. To help, I included a link to an Excel spreadsheet below that will estimate the value you’d get as your status changes.
Finally, it’s important to note the key assumptions that I’m using to arrive at a final value for each tier of IHG elite status:
- You spend 20% more nights than the minimum required for the given status level
- You spend an average of $150 per night
- Your average stay is two nights
I’ll also use the consistent assumption for IHG Rewards that I used for other programs:
- Your stays are evenly split between full-service properties (like InterContinental or Crowne Plaza) and limited-service properties (like Holiday Inn Express).
Please adjust these assumptions if your typical travel patterns are significantly different.
Two final details before jumping into the calculations: As always, I’m using TPG’s most recent valuations for any bonus points earned, with IHG points coming in at 0.5 cents apiece. In addition, I’m rounding all values to the nearest $5 to make the math a bit simpler.
Other things to consider before chasing IHG elite status
There are a couple of things to keep in mind as you decide whether to chase status with a given hotel group. Let’s take a look at three quick things to consider that go beyond elite status benefits.
Does IHG have properties where you travel?
When doing your personal valuation for IHG Rewards Club status, make sure IHG has properties where you travel the most.
Thankfully, IHG has almost 6,000 properties spread throughout the globe. Everywhere from major cities like New York City and London to tourist hotspots like Orlando and National Parks have nearby IHG properties. You’ll also find lower-end IHG properties — think Holiday Inn Express — alongside major expressways and in small towns. This makes IHG a solid option for road trippers and city travelers alike.
Regardless, it’s in your best interest to double-check the properties you travel to most and where you’d like to travel post-pandemic. Verify that there are both IHG properties in or around your destinations, and ensure they match your travel style.
If you find IHG doesn’t have your desired type of hotel near the places you travel most, consider chasing elite status with a program that does.
Consider how much you value IHG Rewards Club points
Another important thing to consider is how much you personally value IHG Rewards Club points.
While we value IHG Rewards Club points at 0.5 cents apiece, you might value them differently. The program dropped standard award prices in favor of dynamic award pricing last year. This means that the hotel group can charge as many points as it’d like for a specific night at a specific hotel. It may choose to raise award prices when paid nights are expensive or during high-demand dates like holidays and major events.
Unfortunately, the hotel group has not said how it prices award stays.
You can develop a personal valuation for IHG Rewards Club points by running a handful of searches for destinations and dates you want to travel. Find the after-tax cash and points pricing, and find the cent per point value by dividing the cash price by the number of points required for a stay. Then, multiply that number by 100 for the cent per point value.
For example, this one-night stay at the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile in June costs $291.41 after taxes and fees.
The same night costs 35,00 IHG Rewards Club points and $15 for the amenity fee.
To calculate the cent per point value, subtract the $15 fee from the $291.41 rate to find the true value of your redemption. Then, divide $276.41 by the 35,000 points required for the same stay, and multiply that value by 100. This gives you 0.79 cents per point, which is actually higher than our valuation.
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The math looks like this: ((291.41 – 15) / 35,000) * 100 = 0.79
Do this for several IHG stays you see yourself redeeming in the future and average out your cent per point value. If it’s lower than TPG’s valuation — or lower than what you’d like to be earning compared to other programs — consider choosing a different program.
After all, you’re going to earn a lot of IHG Rewards Club points as you work toward elite status. Make sure you can actually use them before you work toward status.
COVID-19’s effect on these valuations
It’s hard to discuss anything in the travel world right now without mentioning the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic has affected how most of us travel. Even though travel demand is slowly recovering, many of us are still traveling less than we were in 2019. This means fewer miles on an airplane and nights at hotels for most of us.
This is another thing to keep in mind as you personally value IHG Rewards Club status and other statuses. If you’re traveling less — and using your elite status benefits less — chances are you’re getting less value from your status too.
That said, as the author, it’s impossible to know how much you’re traveling during the pandemic. Likewise, the coronavirus vaccine is starting to roll out worldwide, which will ultimately be a good thing for travel demand. This is why I haven’t cut the value of elite status tiers in response to the pandemic. Likewise, I’m not taking reduced qualification requirements into account throughout this article, as we’ll eventually see the old requirements return.
Regardless, you should always do your own math to see how much elite status is worth for your specific travel habits. Consider your own pandemic travel plans when doing this and you’ll come away with a better look at how much all types of elite status are worth for you personally.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at how much value you can get out of the IHG Rewards Club and its three elite status tiers.
IHG Gold Elite ($60)
IHG Rewards Club’s lowest tier status, Gold Elite, is earned after 10 qualifying nights or 10,000 elite-qualifying points. This has been reduced to 7 qualifying nights of 7,000 elite-qualifying points for the 2021 status year.
For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 12 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
- Bonus points ($10): As a Gold member, you’ll earn 10% more points than non-elite members, giving you an additional point per dollar spent at most properties (0.5 extra points at Staybridge and Candlewood Suites locations). With $150 per night across 12 nights, you’ll spend $1,800 and thus earn 1,800 extra points, worth $9.
- Late checkout ($20): All elite members are eligible for late checkout within the IHG portfolio. However, neither the benefits page nor the program’s terms and conditions specify how late this is available. There are also two disclaimers indicating that it “may not be available in all regions” and is “subject to availability.” As a result, I’ll peg this at the same value I used for Marriott.
- Points don’t expire ($10): An interesting aspect of the IHG Rewards program is that your points don’t expire as long as you hold elite status, whereas regular Club members will lose any points they’ve earned after 12 months of inactivity. It’s pretty easy to earn (or redeem) points in some way each year, but it’s nice not to worry about it. I’ll peg this at $10.
- Priority check-in ($10): Gold members also have access to a priority check-in line, though I have rarely found this to be a valuable benefit at any chain where I’ve held elite status, so I’ll peg this at $10.
- Welcome amenity ($10): The final perk offered to Gold Elite members is a welcome amenity. Unfortunately, the program’s website and terms & conditions only specify what this entails at Kimpton properties (a “Raid the Bar” or “Raid the Mini Bar” credit). The offering varies at other brands but generally includes a choice between bonus points or a drink/snack choice. I’ll peg this at $2 per stay.
IHG Platinum Elite ($880)
IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status is typically earned after 40 qualifying nights or 40,000 elite-qualifying points. This is reduced to 30 qualifying nights or 30,000 elite-qualifying points in 2021.
It’s also included as an automatic benefit on the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (which is no longer available to new applicants). And if you don’t currently have the IHG Premier Card, now’s a great time to apply since it’s offering a sign-up bonus of 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 48 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
- Bonus points ($180): Platinum members enjoy a 50% point bonus on paid stays, resulting in an extra 5 points per dollar spent (2.5 additional points at Staybridge and Candlewood properties). Spending $150 per night across 48 nights means a total spend of $7,200 and 36,000 bonus points, worth $180.
- Late checkout ($80): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Points don’t expire ($10): Same benefit and valuation.
- Priority check-in ($40): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Room upgrades ($480): You’re also eligible for space-available complimentary room upgrades as a Platinum member. The program’s terms and conditions indicate that this is up to the individual hotel but excludes suites. It’s also not available on award stays. I’ve never been wowed by upgrades as a Platinum member, and given the lack of applicability on award reservations, I’ll peg this at just $10 per night.
- Guaranteed availability ($20): As with most other programs, Platinum members are guaranteed a paid room with 72 hours of notice, though this contains the usual drawbacks: not applicable to special events, high revenue rates, etc. As a result, I’ll value this at the same $20 used in my prior analyses.
- Welcome amenity ($70): Platinum Elite travelers also enjoy a welcome amenity for every stay. Like the above offering to Gold members, it’ll be a Raid the Bar/Mini Bar credit at Kimpton properties and a choice between bonus points or a food/drink voucher. Since the point offerings are a bit higher, I’ll bump this to $3 per stay.
IHG Spire Elite ($2,185)
IHG Rewards Club’s top tier Spire Elite status is earned after 75 qualifying nights or 75,000 elite-qualifying points. It’s more easily attainable this year since it requires just 55 qualifying nights or 55,000 elite-qualifying nights.
For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 90 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
- Late checkout ($150): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Points don’t expire ($10): Same benefit and valuation.
- Priority check-in ($75): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Bonus points ($675): Spire Elite members earn a 100% bonus when staying at most IHG properties, resulting in 10 extra points per dollar spent (5 additional points at Staybridge and Candlewood locations). Spending $150 per night across 90 nights means a total spend of $13,500 and 135,000 bonus points, worth $675.
- Room upgrades ($900): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Guaranteed availability ($20)
- Choice benefit upon qualification ($125): When you reach the qualification threshold for Spire status, you can choose between 25,000 bonus points (worth $125) or gifting Platinum status to a friend or family member. While the status may appear to be significantly more valuable based on the numbers above, remember that my calculations are based on using the benefits on enough stays/nights to requalify each year, and since Platinum status is easily attainable with a single credit card (and an $89 annual fee), I’ll assume you select the bonus points.
- Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star upgrade ($50): You’ll also be able to upgrade your Hertz Gold Plus Rewards status to Five Star after reaching Spire status, giving you one-class upgrades and bonus points on rentals. This can be a nice perk if you frequently rent from Hertz, but I’ll keep it at a conservative $50.
- Welcome amenity ($180): You’ll also enjoy a welcome amenity on each stay as a Spire Elite member, and while the bonus points are generally the same as the Platinum offering, the food/drink option is typically upgraded. As a result, I’ll bump this to $4 per stay.
Related: IHG Spire Elite Choice benefit guide
What if I’m starting from scratch?
As mentioned earlier, the numbers above represent values for those who have already earned these status levels.
However, many of you may be starting from scratch without any IHG Rewards status at all. If this is the case, you won’t enjoy any benefits until you have spent 10 nights and earned Gold status. After that, you won’t enjoy additional benefits until you hit 40 nights to earn Platinum status. How can you quantify this climb up the ranks?
Just like I did for my airline elite status series, I have attempted to answer this by converting the above calculations into a value per night, as follows:
- IHG Gold: $60 / 12 nights = $5 per night
- IHG Platinum: $880 / 48 nights = $18.33 per night
- IHG Spire (minus $125 — explanation below): $2,060 / 90 nights = $22.89 per night
I then created an Excel spreadsheet that uses these numbers to calculate how much value you’d get from the different IHG status levels given a certain number of nights. All you need to do is change the number in cell A2 to represent the number of nights you expect to stay in 2021, and the spreadsheet will update accordingly.
As noted above, I lowered the IHG Spire valuation in the spreadsheet by $125 since that is a flat amount of value earned with the Choice Benefit at 75 elite-qualifying nights. As a result, you’ll see a separate line item for this.
For example, you’ll see that I have pre-loaded 60 nights. If you’re starting from scratch, you’d get no benefits for the first 10 nights, then enjoy Gold benefits for the next 30 nights (at a rate of $5 per night) and then enjoy Platinum benefits for the last 10 nights (at a rate of $18.33 per night). This means that if you’re starting from scratch and estimate that you’ll spend 60 nights in IHG hotels in 2021, you’d be able to get roughly $516.67 worth of perks from the program.
Again, feel free to update the numbers for each tier (loaded into the “Base Data” tab of the spreadsheet) based on your own personal valuation.
Is it worth it?
Given these values, is it worth pursuing elite status (or the next tier of elite status) with IHG Rewards?
Like any analysis we undertake here at TPG, there isn’t an easy answer to this, as it depends entirely on your individual situation. However, here are a few over-arching questions that can help you arrive at a decision:
- How much will you travel in the future? When you’re pursuing elite status, it’s critical to think about how much you’ll be traveling in the future. If you push hard to earn Spire Elite, for example, the valuable perks outlined above only apply when you actually travel. This is especially important to ponder during the coronavirus pandemic, when many of us are traveling less.
- What’s the incremental value of one tier over another? Many of you may wind up within striking distance of the next tier, so be sure to consider whether the benefits are worth pushing for it. There’s no sense in going out of your way for perks that don’t matter to you.
- How well does IHG’s geographical coverage match your typical travel patterns? There’s really no point in pursuing elite status with a hotel chain if you can’t feasibly stay at one (or more) of its properties regularly. Be sure to consider IHG’s hotels in and around your common destinations.
- How sensitive are you to price and convenience? There are many tradeoffs in this hobby, and one of the most common is deciding whether to use your preferred airline or hotel chain when it’s not the most convenient or cheapest. Would you stay at a Holiday Inn or Crowne Plaza if there was another brand that was cheaper and/or more convenient to where you need to be? If the answer is no, it may not be worth going out of your way to earn elite status with IHG (or elite status with any hotel chain, for that matter).
- Is a credit card a better option? As mentioned above, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer available) give you automatic Platinum status for as long as you’re a cardholder. As a result, you may be better off simply opening the IHG Premier Credit Card and utilizing the benefits without worrying about qualifying (or requalifying) the hard way — especially because you’ll currently take home a massive welcome bonus.
These questions are also not easy to answer, as many different factors come into play with each of them. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile exercise to evaluate your own situation as you determine if IHG elite status is for you.
Hotel elite status can be a terrific way to maximize your earning potential and enjoy a variety of on-property perks for your next trip. Still, it can be challenging to put a number on just how valuable the different status levels are with a given program. It’s even more difficult to quantify this in 2021 when travel is unpredictable, given the coronavirus pandemic is still raging through most of the world.
Regardless, IHG Rewards Club status can be incredibly valuable for frequent travelers that choose to stay at IHG properties. Road warriors will appreciate Spite Elite’s complimentary upgrades, priority check-in and late checkout. Plus, it offers many opportunities for earning bonus points with a 100% bonus on paid stays and a choice benefit when you qualify. You can use these points for free stays at incredible properties like the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort.
Of course, you’ll want to consider other hotel elite statuses too. Other programs to consider include World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. Read through our guides on these programs and see which best fits your travel style.
This is The Points Guy’s permanent page about IHG Rewards Club elite status, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for the latest information. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to outdated information below.
Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh
Feature photo of the Intercontinental Marseille by EQRoy/Shutterstock
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.