Earning IHG Rewards Points on Steroids

I’ve been an IHG Rewards Points millionaire for pennies. Well, I never hold onto IHG points very long but it’s not uncommon for me to have 100,000 IHG Rewards Points and I barely spend money. Take a minute to learn all the IHG hacks and you too will be earning more points than reasonable. Make sure you read the section on Earning IHG Points on Steroids.


  • Credit Card
  • Sales
  • Earning
  • Earnings on Steroids
  • GiftCard Promos
  • Bogos
  • Best Rate Guarantees

IHG Rewards Credit Card

First, I should mention that the IHG Rewards credit card is probably my favorite hotel card for two reasons. 1) The free night every year at any hotel. Yes, it has a $49 annual fee but the free night is good anywhere. Even their $1,000/night hotels. 2) The 10% rebate on all points spent. Simply because I do go through hundreds of thousands of IHG points, this benefit is worth keeping the card for me.

The card also comes with a sign up bonus and Platinum status, which is nearly worthless and super easy to get (as I’ll explain in a minute).

Buying Points

The second thing I want to mention is that you can buy points for cheap. At least if you are flexible enough to take advantage of a PointBreaks or two, it pays off big. There is the more legitimate way of buying points, via sales, and then there is a more… secret way. But now a well known secret, yet, still a secret.

See the post on Best Use of IHG Rewards Points to hear more about PointBreaks and how you can redeem free nights for 5,000 points at nice hotels.

So the best way of buying points, for the flexible at least, is the legitimate way – sales. Earlier this year, IHG Rewards had a 100% bonus on buying points, which was not bad. However, more recently IHG Rewards Points were on sale via DailyGetaways. You could essentially buy 5,000 points for $28.

It’s not that $28 is a great price for 5,000 points as top hotels are 50,000 points, which would be like paying $280. Which is not bad if it’s the IC Bora Bora but sometimes even the IC New York goes for less than that. Plus, you don’t earn points on rewards nights.

The nice thing about getting 5,000 points is PointBreaks and other sales. And with my 10% back, it’s really like 4,500 points bringing the nightly cost closer to $25.

*Update* I’ll be darned. I just posted this and checked my email and saw an offer to buy IHG Rewards Points with a 100% bonus. It looks targeted to Ambassador members. You can get 60,000 points for $345. That’s $28.75 per 5,000. Same big deal as normal. Still a good price for PointBreaks. It goes to Aug 26, surely before they announce the next PointBreaks list.

This is why some prefer method two – the way of the well known secret.

This way allows you to buy 5,000 points for $35 instantly. As PointBreaks come and go quick and you never know what they are going to be, people tend not to jump on these big daily getaway sales.

It’s pretty simple. When you use Cash & Points to book a room, you pay 10,000 points less than required and $70. Make sense? If the room normally costs 25,000 points, you have the option to book it for 15,000 points and $70. And your credit card is charged right away.

However, when you cancel the room, you get back the full amount of points and none of the cash. In the example above, you’d get back 25,000 points (when you paid 15,000 and $70). It’s a way to buy 10,000 points for $70. You can also buy 5,000 points for $40 doing the same thing but it’s slightly more expensive.

Why don’t I personally do this? $35 is too much for my taste. Okay, really, I don’t want to get on IHG’s bad side. If you have a lot of points and get your account shut down, that would be a major shame. I don’t think that’s happened much, but I don’t want to risk it. The other reason is that I actually believe I can earn points from stays at a similar rate. I would rather just pay the money for a stay than through this process. But… it’s instant. I get the appeal.

Earning Points from paid stays

You would think this is pretty simple. Here’s how most people earn points with IHG Rewards.

  • 10 points per dollar at hotels (5 points per dollar on StayBridge Suites and CandleWood Suites)
  • An extra 5 points per dollar for Platinum members
  • 2,000 point bonus for paid stays at InterContinental hotels
  • 5 points per dollar when paying with IHG credit card

So we’re earning 20 points per dollar without anything special. But 20 points per dollar isn’t special either.

Where things get good is their promotions.

Earning on Steroids

IHG has a number of promotions to enroll in and too few people do it. This is one of the best ways to earn free nights in any loyalty program. My last stay earned over 16,000 points. Which on PointBreaks is worth at least 3 nights.

First, there are public offers that are typical promotions like any hotel chain. For example, Hilton is running a double points promo and so is IHG. However, IHG runs multiple promos and you can sign up for all of them. Perhaps they don’t promote them as hard, but they are there. They aren’t big promotions, just average promotions you can stack. That alone ends up being really rewarding.

Then, there are the targeted offers. They send these via email and what not to people and each one is usually a small bonus. Stay one night get 2,000 points. Stay 3 nights get 3,000 points. A bunch of these.

The thing is, anyone can sign up for these offers. People share these offers on this thread on Flyertalk. That’s the gold ticket. Read the thread, usually latest backwards to the last time you entered the promo codes. Make sense? Click here, go to the latest page of the thread and starting entering the codes. Some don’t work but move on.

You enter the codes on this page (as explained on the first post on the flyertalk thread).

This is where most of my IHG Rewards Points come from on a paid stay. Stack em and stay. You can see the math as you plug them in. 3k points after 2 stays, 5k points after 3 stays, etc… Now, if there were only a way to bring down the cost of a room. Oh wait…

Bringing down the cost of a room

Gift Card Promos

They have run this promotion in the summers to get a $50 giftcard (MasterCard, so it’s good as cash) for a 2 night weekend stay. It’s still going on. When they did this last year for $75 I pointed out a number of hotels that you would get free, or even paid for. As some hotels in Phoenix dropped to $35, you would pay $70 and get back $75.

The thing about these promotions, or anything where you are getting reimbursed, is that you earn points. So if you pay at the hotel and later get the gift card, it’s a normal paid night. It earns points, sets off promos and earns elite qualifying nights (as if those matter).

Bogo Certs

When you join the Ambassador program (elite status that you have to pay for (and is only good at InterContinental brand hotels)) they give you a buy one get one (bogo) cert. They are also good for weekend night (when rates are at their lowest anyways). This means that you pay for one night and get a second free. Pretty simple.

These certs are more useful to some than others and therefore get traded around. If you don’t know where to trade things, don’t worry about it.

The problem is that the second night does not count as a paid night. So you will earn points on the first night, and it will set of promos and all that jazz. However, you will not be able to cash in on the $50 giftcard for a weekend stay promo. But that would be awesome.

BRG

If you haven’t read the complete guide to IHG Best Rate Guarantees, you need to. This is a legit way to get free nights. I love it. Basically, if you find a lower rate on a competitor website, you get your first night free, even on one night stays.

They contact the hotel and zero out the first night. On a night where you pay nothing to the hotel, you earn nothing. So BRG’s really do not count towards your promos and earning points. If you have other nights on the same stay, they will continue to earn nights but not the first one.

* Read more info kept offline in tomorrows newsletter

Earning status with points

IHG platinum status can be had by earning 60,000 points in a year or 50 nights. That’s a joke. If you stay 50 nights and haven’t already earned 60,000 points you are not paying attention to the points earnings. Earning points is super easy. Besides the fact I have status from the credit card and being an Ambassador, I would surely earn it in less than 10 stays via points following the steps above. If you think about that… it’s a pretty good return.

Well… I say that but, I remember now that as of July award nights count towards elite night credit. I’d still earn points first and besides the fact I already have it, I think I’d qualify this year on rewards nights alone.

 

Hopefully in keeping track and posting all our spends publicly, people can see exactly how many points can be earned and exactly at what cost. In terms of free nights, I see no better program. Is there any comparison?

If I had to pick one, I’d say stacking the targetted promotions earns the most points. Is there anything else I’m missing? Are there other methods out there for earning IHG Rewards points?

And by the way, I typed “Priority Club” instead of “IHG Rewards” so many times. Guess I’m not used to the new name yet.

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26 Responses to Earning IHG Rewards Points on Steroids

  1. choi says:

    could you explain how to get platinum through cc sign up and cost of ambassador, what are the benifits of plat vs ambassador ? thanks

    • Travel Is Free says:

      I’ll do a full post on it at some point, and the newsletter tomorrow will touch on some of it. But here’s an overview:

      Platinum is for all IHG Rewards. So the 50% point bonus, free internet, and all that jazz is good at all hotels. While your Platinum status still gives free internet and earns 50% more points at InterContinental hotels, InterContinental branded hotels have their own loyalty status – Ambassador. You can buy it for $200 or 32,000 and it comes with a BOGO, 5,000 points and gives a 1 category guaranteed room upgrade, along with other perks like fruit and water. Ambassador status is only good at IC hotels and doesn’t really help at Holiday Inns or CPs.

      Hope that helps for now.

      • levander says:

        Travel is Free: “I’ll do a full post on it at some point, and the newsletter tomorrow will touch on some of it.”

        Why does this blog have a separate newsletter? Just make the newsletters blog posts?

      • levander says:

        Travel Is Free: “Platinum is for all IHG Rewards. So the 50% point bonus, free internet, and all that jazz is good at all hotels.”

        I remember from a The Points guy article that platinum status perks aren’t given for award night redemptions. He was saying he hates that because he doesn’t think award nights are something that should be punished.

        But it just sounds so weird, I almost feel he must be leaving something out somehow…

        Here’s his article on it: Link

        • Travel Is Free says:

          I assume that he’s not referring to Platinum status, as those benefits would still be good. But instead some of the Royal Ambassador benefits are not granted on award stays. Like suite upgrades. I find most hotels honor RA status with free minibar and upgrades, but in Europe they don’t give lounge access free anymore anyways. YMMV

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks for the big run-down. My wife and I are planning toward getting to Tahiti, and your post on hotel loyalty plans and the dreaded over-water bungalows (OWB) was what kick-started us. We both got the card, and I’m trying things like e-miles and e-opinions to get IHG points on the side. I have two questions that dovetail, I think. First, in terms of timing, when do we need all of our points, free night vouchers etc. lined up? If we’re thinking summer 2015, do we need all that by summer 2014? Second, if we want to get OWB in Bora Bora, is the Ambassador upgrade enough? You allude to it in your previous post. Pursuant to the first question, when is the best time to get Ambassador? Is there a way to pay for it only once and still time it to get the benefits for our trip?

    Sorry so many questions! I love your blog and never hesitate to let my friends know about it!

  3. Jasmine says:

    I got the offer today and I am only platinum.

  4. Travel Is Free says:

    @ Mike – Thanks! And good for you guys. I hope we can get out there in the next year or so.
    The key here is a year.
    Once you get the credit cards you don’t really have to worry about the points expiring as long as you use it once in a blue moon.
    But once you get the card you have to wait a year before the annual fee posts and you get your free night certificate. BUT, you also have to make sure to use it within that year. So if you wait two years, you can’t store up two free night certs. There may be some overlap of expiration and you MAY be able to book your cert for a date after expiration. But becareful on that. I would get someone to say that you can so if it does expire you can call and get it back. :-p
    Anyways, you have a year after the annual fee to use.

    The other thing is that Ambassador status only lasts a year. So you have to get it within that year. Ambassador will guarantee one room category and since there is only one non-OWB, you should be golden.

    Maybe I’ll do a full post on this.

    @ Jasmine – I guess IHG lied to me. :-p
    “For our Ambassador members
    Dear Drew,
    As a token of our appreciation, we’d like to extend a very special offer to our Ambassador IHG® Rewards Club members. Purchase IHG® Rewards Club points between 12 August and 26 August and you’ll get 100% more in bonus points”
    Good to hear it’s for all members, well at least “elite” members.

  5. I thought there was a very recent change on the Best Rate Guarantee…pretty much rendering it useless. Or am I thinking of another program?
    Nice post!

    • Travel Is Free says:

      Meh, it’s mild. The big difference is that you can’t call it in and that you can’t get two in one 7 day period in the same city (within 50 miles).

  6. Lee says:

    Nice summary. I’m aware of these mentioned promos, but my main use is the C&P cancel for use with PB. And alternatively I always use the FF rate outside of PB which gives me a great rate. I also use bogo for high end ICs like SYD and Paris as well.

  7. DaninSTL says:

    Nice post. I could see how someone no paying attention could stay at least 50 nights and not get platinum. Most likely on an exended stay at Candlewood or Staybridge with no bonus promos snce the earning rate is only 5 points per $
    In fact it’s one reason I don’t stay much at those brands even though I like both. It’s like getting punished.

  8. Terry says:

    Your note at the bottom about the 60K points/50 nights Platinum status is a little misleading as they changed the program so that the bonus points (such as via the methods you mentioned) no longer count towards Platinum status.

    • Travel Is Free says:

      While they did change the program, this info is accurate.
      Bonus points actually refers to points earned from other methods than paid stays. Particularly buying points would not could towards elite status. However, I assure you that I have 20,000+ EQPs and I’ve had only one paid stay so far this year and it was in August, since the change. It was 1 night in fact. Unless it was a $2,000 room… which I assure you it wasn’t, this shows that not only do the methods I’ve mentioned work, but they count towards elite status.

      • Gem says:

        I would probably want to hear how you do that as my recent bonus points are not counted as EQP

        • Travel Is Free says:

          That’s crazy as even the Big Win points are going toward my EQP. 20k just posted from one stay and went toward eqp yesterday.
          I think it just has to be coded as a qualifying stay.

          • Rick says:

            Very odd.. Only my base spending goes to EQP. Not even platinum bonus points!!

          • Travel Is Free says:

            So do I have a good error or do you have a bad one? Not even platinum bonuses… That’s quite different than my big win. Ultimately I don’t care as I get Platinum anyways. But I wonder if they use it to decide RAs.
            Anyways, I’m going to have to look into this more.

  9. Scott says:

    I just got another pleasant surprise. As I was doing another check for rates/options via the IHG web site for travel to a large city, I thought to log in this time, first, to my IHG Rewards account, THEN did the reservations hunt — and got the surprise.

    Many of the hotels in the city being search had “bonus point packages” listed beside the hotels — of varying amounts, between 1k and 5k points. And then there’s a little red line notice at top of point indicating that if I book a “bonus point package,” I’d get another 1k per stay. (and this is on top of all the other bonuses I’ve signed up for previously — including “the big one.”)

    No doubt this is a hint of the “steroids” you’ve been trying to get across. Yet truly a delight to begin to see it myself, even before making first actual reservation. Thank you Drew. (and to fellow Thomas-types out there, try it yourself and see for yourself.)

  10. Anthony says:

    Quick question for you. I found a Crowne Plaza for $100/nt, and the option to “Add 5k points for $15″ to my stay. Because this is a refundable room, if I made the purchase with the “Points Bonus” but then cancelled the room, would I still get the 5k points (and simply receive $15 less on my refund)? I know United works that way when purchasing “Award/PQM Accelerator Miles” but wasn’t sure if IHG worked the same way. Could be a quick way to score 5k points for $15, if so. Love the blog — thanks for all your great information!!

    • Travel Is Free says:

      Na, unfortunately the bonus is like a promo code – it gets deposited into your IHG account after the stay. Would be awesome tho :-p
      I mean, you can do the same thing with the cash and points thing… So you get a room that is xx,xxx points + $70. When you cancel you get back 10,000 points extra instead of the $70. Not as cheap…
      Thanks, glad you enjoy it.

  11. Mark D. says:

    Going on a road trip in June and trying to figure out where to stay as all but one night will be paid stays unless a point break hotel shows up on our route.

    Thinking of booking most or all IHG hotels for the trip which is looking like it will be around 10 nights, especially because we are looking to do a Bora Bora trip in the summer of 2015. I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind.

    I will sign up for all of the promo codes, but will the ones like “next stay bonus” only credit once? Can I sign up again for the same bonus the next night? Since all of these nights are in a row, should I expect diminishing returns for each night?

    Do you think there will be another big win for that time frame? I would like to sign my wife up for an account so that between the both of us we can get 2 big wins on this trip.

    Should I definitely get the IHG card before this trip? Neither of us have one at this point and I have a bunch of chase cards so I was going to avoid them for a little while.

    Thanks for your time.

  12. Lola says:

    I got 22k steroid points with one $99 stay after promos, thanks! Question: Will I get steroid points on my subsequent stays? (I tried to reenter promo codes but it said all were already entered.) What points should I anticipate for my next stay?

  13. J. Clifton says:

    I just got about 22,000 points from a one night stay. This post was so helpful. Thanks!

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