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
- Earnings on Steroids
- GiftCard Promos
- 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).
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).
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.
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.