Whether you stay for just one night or spend the better part of a year at hotels such as InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, it pays to research IHG Rewards Club: the loyalty program of InterContinental Hotels Group.
Formerly Priority Club, entry-level 'Club' members get perks like free internet access, late check-outs and a free weekday newspaper right off the bat, so there’s no reason not to join.
On your travels, you’ll earn IHG points that can be swapped for free hotel stays, or even for airline points or miles with Qantas, Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, Emirates and more.
Across the globe, 4,700 hotels in nearly 100 countries are part of IHG, which makes it easy to earn and redeem points whether travelling on business or with the family for a relaxing break.
IHG Rewards Club 101
Rewards Club members can earn and burn points with InterContinental, Hualuxe, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Even Hotels, Holiday Inn – including Holiday Inn Express, Resorts and Club Vacations – Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.
There’s no charge to join, so duck across to the IHG website and enrol now. You’ll get a membership number straight away and can then start earning points without a fuss.
Even if you only rarely walk through the doors of an IHG hotel, your points balance won't expire if you earn or redeem points at least once every 12 months (effective May 2016), and there are some other useful entry-level benefits too...
IHG Rewards Club tiers
Starting at the base-level Club tier, you’ll move up to Gold Elite, Platinum Elite and Spire Elite as you begin to stay more with IHG.
Club members enjoy late check-outs where available, a free weekday newspaper and free in-room Internet access as standard – which isn’t bad for a no-cost membership.
As an added bonus, reward nights come with no blackout dates and count towards as eligible nights towards gaining or renewing your elite status, regardless of your membership tier.
The number of points you’ll earn on each hotel visit varies depending on the particular hotel brand and a member’s Rewards Club status.
Across the board, you’ll earn 10 ‘Elite Qualifying Points’ points for every US$1 spent (or the equivalent in a hotel’s local currency) with only two exceptions: Staybridge and Candlewood Suites, where it’s halved to five points per US$1.
Moving up through the program, the elite levels can be reached by either the number of nights spent with IHG each year, or the number Elite Qualifying Points amassed over the same period.
That’s different to both Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), which also consider the number of stays made each year when awarding status – useful for travellers who make frequent but short visits.
IHG Rewards Club Gold Elite
Just 10 nights with IHG or 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points each year is enough to distinguish yourself as a Gold Elite member.
The perks start with more points: over and above your regular haul is a 10% bonus, but they come packaged as Non-Elite Qualifying Points.
You’ll still be able to swap them for free nights or for airline miles, but they just won’t count towards the targets for Gold, Platinum or Spire status.
Also on the list is priority check-in, which can be a real timesaver during peak periods of holiday traffic.
IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite
Forty nights over 12 months will bump you up to Platinum Elite, as will earning 40,000 Elite Qualifying Points over the same period.
For starters, Platinum members have their bonus points boosted to 50% of the base rate, although these still come as Non-Elite Qualifying Points.
Subject to availability, free room upgrades are also extended to Platinum guests who can also make confirmed, guaranteed reservations at fully-booked hotels.
That benefit looks great on paper, but you’ll need to dial in at least 72 hours before arrival, and even then, it’s not honoured during “special events that result in extraordinary demand”.
As it happens, that’s when you’d likely be using such a VIP perk, so we consider the benefit to be moot.
On the plus side, it’s easier to maintain your Platinum status with odd travel patterns.
Once you’ve hit the magic 40 in less than 12 months, any extra nights spent with IHG count towards your ‘nights’ tally in the following year.
For example, if you stay for 70 nights in 2015, you’d only need 10 more nights in 2016 to hold down your Platinum Elite perks for a further year.
NEW: IHG Rewards Club Spire Elite
Spend 75 nights or more in IHG hotels or earn 75,000 Elite Qualifying Points and you'll reach the top of the IHG ladder with Spire Elite.
These members earn double points on all qualifying stays – a boost from the lower Platinum Elite bonus of 50% – which makes free hotel stays even easier to attain.
After receiving their upgrade to Spire Elite, members can also choose between 25,000 bonus IHG Rewards points or can nominate a friend or family member for a free boost to Platinum status.
All of the benefits afforded to members at the lower tiers – such as free room upgrades, free Internet access and priority check-in – are also provided to Spire Elite cardholders.
Earning points through IHG Rewards Club
IHG has properties around Australia in both business and leisure areas, but with the notable exceptions of Brisbane, Darwin and Hobart.
At 10 points per US$1, an overnight stay with a A$200 room rate and $25 room service charge would earn around 1,684 points at most brands including Crowne Plaza, InterContinental and Holiday Inn, based on the exchange rate at July 10 2015.
On that same spend, Gold members pick-up 1,852 points, Platinums pocket 2,526 points and Spire Elites net an impressive 3,386 points.
Alternately, IHG Rewards members can earn frequent flyer points in lieu of Rewards Points – at InterContinental hotels, that's three Qantas Points per A$1 spent within Australia or 1,000 points per stay abroad.
With all other IHG hotel brands, the rate dips to 600 points per stay abroad – although remains at three per $1 on home soil.
If Virgin Australia Velocity is your preferred program, the rates are much the same, except that foreign InterContinental stays only earn 600 points, as opposed to 1,000 with Qantas.
As the rates differ by airline and hotel, head to the IHG website to see what you can earn with your preferred loyalty program.
Redeeming IHG Rewards Club points for hotel stays
Whether earned as Elite or Non-Elite Qualifying Points, your bounty can be traded for either free hotel stays or converted airline points or miles.
For the former, it’s as easy as switching the rate preference from ‘best available’ to ‘reward nights’ when booking through the IHG website.
Looking at the InterContinental: Melbourne the Rialto hotel, an overnight stay can be had for $261 on our dates, or for 50,000 IHG Rewards points:
With fewer points, there’s also the option to make up the difference with cash – but we’d suggest that only if your balance really is lacking.
Redeeming 50,000 points against a $261 room rate sees a return of 0.52 cents for every point traded in, but the more you pay, the further that drops.
At 45,000 points + US$40 (around A$53.46), the real value of the points lowers slightly to 0.46 cents, while 40,000 points + US$70 (roughly A$93.47), it drops further to 0.42 cents per point.
While not a huge drop, if you’re a Platinum or Spire member who frequently swaps points for hotel nights, it’s something to keep in mind.
Converting IHG Rewards points to frequent flyer points
Alternately, 10,000 IHG Rewards points can be traded for 2,000 points with the likes of Qantas or Velocity, but even with a 50% Platinum bonus, you’re generally best to ship the points straight to your favourite airline.
For example, a Club-level member would need to spend A$1,335 within Australia to amass 10,000 IHG Rewards points, which become 2,000 Velocity or Qantas Points (based on today’s exchange rate).
By crediting directly to Qantas or Velocity for Australian stays, $1,335 would instead earn 4,005 points with these airlines – over 50% more than funnelling them through an IHG conversion.
The 50% Platinum bonus makes no great difference, where a A$890 spend earns that same 10,000 IHG Rewards points (2,000 Qantas/Velocity Points), or would otherwise earn 2,127 Qantas or Velocity Points on the direct route.
For Spire Elite members, it's about on-par whichever option you choose: a $1,335 spend nets 20,000 IHG Rewards points (convertible into 4,000 Qantas/Velocity points), or 4,005 Qantas/Velocity points when opting in directly.
Building an IHG Rewards balance also has merit if you frequently travel abroad and spend more than US$300 per stay, as you’d pile up at least 3,000 IHG Rewards points in the process.
On a pro-rata basis That's equivalent to 600 Qantas or Velocity points, so the more you spend above that, the better the benefit.
The bottom line: If you'll mostly be using your new IHG card overseas, opt to earn IHG Rewards points. However, for domestic travel within Australia, you just can’t beat the direct airline sweep!
Updated on July 10 2015 to include the revised tier qualification levels, the new Spire Elite tier, foreign exchange rates and new points expiry rules.
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