Are the IHG Premier cards worth our big spend?

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I originally published this post before IHG’s new elite program details were announced.  We knew at the time that $40K spend would result in earning Diamond status, but we didn’t know what Diamond status would be worth.  In the conclusion of the post at that time, I wrote “It’s possible that IHG will surprise us with valuable Diamond Elite benefits.”  And, they did indeed surprise us!  Given what we know now, it was necessary for me to revise and update this post.  Suddenly spending $40K on an IHG Premier card is looking much more attractive than before…

IHG recently launched big changes to their credit card lineup.  They improved their current consumer cards and added a new business card.  Full details can be found here.  In this post I’ll dive into the IHG Premier and Premier Business cards to answer the question that’s surely on everyone’s mind: Should we spend $20,000 on an IHG Premier card?  How about $40,000?  $60,000?  OK, I get it, that’s not really on your mind at all, but both cards offer bonuses with big spend and so if you have a Premier card or are thinking of getting one, you will at some point wonder whether its worth spending towards those bonuses…

Rewards for Spend

The IHG Premier and Premier Business cards offer the following rewards with spend:

Premier Premier Business
10x IHG: Earn 10 points per dollar for spend at IHG hotels
5x Travel / Gas / Dining: Earn 5 points per dollar for spend in these categories
5x Online advertising / Office supply stores: Earn 5 points per dollar for spend in these categories 🚫
3x All other spend
$20K Spend Bonus: $100 Statement Credit & 10,000 Bonus Points with $20,000 spend plus one additional purchase each calendar year
$40K Spend Bonus: Earn Diamond Elite Status with $40,000 spend plus one additional purchase each calendar year
$60K Spend Bonus: Earn an additional 40K Free Night certificate with $60,000 spend plus one additional purchase each calendar year 🚫

 

IHG Point Value

In order to determine whether it is worth spending a lot on IHG cards, it’s necessary to know how much points are worth.  How much value will we get from earning 3 points per dollar for that spend?  How much value will we get from earning 10,000 bonus points?

Our estimated Reasonable Redemption Value (RRV) of IHG points is 0.6 cents per point.  This is the median value you can expect to get when redeeming points for free nights if you don’t do anything special to cherry pick the best awards.

On the other hand, IHG sometimes offers points for sale for as low as half a cent each.  To the extent that it’s possible to buy points for 0.5 cents each, it doesn’t make sense to value the points higher than that for this analysis.  But if IHG doesn’t regularly offer those sales going forward, the 0.5 estimate doesn’t make sense and we should go with 0.6.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll calculate results with both point values: 0.5 and 0.6 cents per point.  Decide for yourself which number makes more sense for you…

Now, let’s get to the question of the post… is it worth spending $20K, $40K, or even $60K per year with these cards?…

Should we spend $20K per calendar year?

Let’s conservatively assume that none of the $20K spend will be within the 5x or 10x bonus categories.  That is, all $20K spend will earn 3x (3 points per dollar) or 60,000 points total.  Plus, we’ll get a $100 Statement Credit & 10,000 bonus points once we’ve made one additional purchase after achieving the $20k spend.

Points worth 0.5 Points worth 0.6
60K points from spend = $300 value = $360 value
10K bonus points = $50 value = $60 value
$100 statement credit = $100 value = $100 value
Total Value: = $450 = $520
% Rebate on Spend: = 2.25% = 2.7%

As a general rule, it’s pretty good when you can earn more than 2% value from non-bonused spend.  True, there are other cards that offer as much value or more without having to spend an exact amount each year (see “Best cards for everyday spend“), but if you’re a fan of IHG properties it could make sense to do this.  That’s especially true if you have a good track record of cherry-picking high value awards.

That said, if IHG continues to regularly offer points on sale for half a cent each (that’s a big “if”), you’d be better off with a cash back strategy where you use the cash back earned to buy points when available.

$20K Bottom Line: Personally I wouldn’t go out of my way to routinely spend $20,000 on an IHG card, but if I needed more points for a high value award and if IHG wasn’t running any good point sales, I’d do it.

Should we spend $40K per calendar year?

At $40K calendar year spend (plus another purchase), we’ll earn Diamond Elite status.  What is that worth?  I detailed IHG’s new elite program here: Wow! IHG to offer real elite benefits. Watch out Marriott.  The advantages of Diamond status over Platinum status (the latter of which automatically comes with the IHG Premier card) are:

  • Free hot breakfast for 2 for each day of your stay as a welcome amenity choice
  • 100% bonus points on paid stays (vs. 60% bonus for Platinum Elites)
  • Dedicated Diamond Support

It’s really hard to come up with a single number for how much Diamond status is worth over Platinum status.  It depends greatly on how much value you’ll likely get from the free breakfast benefit and how often you’ll book paid stays (and how much you’ll pay).  And until we have some evidence that the dedicated Diamond support is actually more helpful than regular support, I won’t assign any value to that at all.

To come up with a value for how much Diamond is worth above Platinum status, I think it’s important to think of it not as how much you may save but rather how much you’d be willing to pay for this benefit in advance.  For example, if you think you might save $1,000 on breakfasts, it would be crazy to prepay $1,000 in the hope that you’re correct.  Instead, you might pay $500 or $600 to ensure free breakfasts for a year.  In that example, I’d argue that you should value Diamond status at most at $600 rather than $1,000.

But many probably won’t save $1,000 on breakfasts.  Instead, let’s assume that you’ll book two trips over the course of the year where you’ll stay 4 nights each time (to take advantage of the 4th Night Free credit benefit), double occupancy, and that you would otherwise pay for breakfast during those stays.  That then amounts to 8 breakfasts for two people.  If the average cost of breakfast was $20 per person, then the savings = 8 x 2 x $20 = $320.  How much would you prepay for $320 in expected / hoped-for savings?  Let’s go with 60%: $192.

Let’s also assume that you expect to spend $1,000 at IHG hotels over the course of the year.  With Platinum status you would earn 16,000 points (with your 60% point bonus), but with Diamond status you would earn 20,000 points.  Yes, you would earn more points with promos and with paying by credit card, but those point totals would be the same whether you had Platinum or Diamond status and so are irrelevant to this analysis.  With Diamond status you would earn only 4,000 points more than with Platinum status.  Since points can sometimes be bought for half a cent each, that’s only $20 in value.  If we say we’d be willing to pay 60% of that in advance for this benefit, then this perk is only worth $12.

Given the above scenarios, let’s say it would make sense to pay $204 ($192 + $12) to go from Platinum status to Diamond status.  That’s a purposely very conservative estimate.

Rather than analyzing the value of $40,000 spend, let’s assume that we already spent $20K (see the section above for that analysis), and so the question here is really this: Should we spend another $20K to earn Diamond status?

Points worth 0.5 Points worth 0.6
60K points from spend = $300 value = $360 value
Diamond status = $204 value = $204 value
Total Value: = $504 = $564
% Rebate on Spend: = 2.5% = 2.8%

The % rebate for the second $20k spend within a calendar year is higher than the % rebate for the first $20k spend.  As we found before, we would exceed the value of spending the same amount on a 2% cash back card.  Those who spend a lot of time and money at IHG hotels would do even better.

I expect that many readers are interested in spending to Diamond status, but wouldn’t otherwise spend $20K, and so a more interesting calculation is the cumulative % rebate on spend starting from $0…

Cumulative $40K Spend:

Points worth 0.5 Points worth 0.6
120K points from spend = $600 value = $720 value
10K bonus points at $20K spend = $50 value = $60 value
$100 statement credit at $20K spend = $100 = $100
Diamond status at $40K spend = $204 value = $204 value
Total Value: = $954 = $1,084
% Rebate on Spend: = 2.4% = 2.7%

$40K Bottom Line: Whether it makes sense to spend $40K depends greatly on how much value you’ll likely get from Diamond status.  I presented conservative value estimates.  Many will benefit much more than I estimated, but some will benefit less.  Personally, if I expect to spend significant time at high end IHG properties after completing the spend, I’d definitely go for it.

Should we spend $60K per calendar year?

This question is only relevant for those with the Premier Business card since the consumer card doesn’t offer a bonus at $60K spend.  Those with the business card will earn a second 40K free night certificate after reaching $60K spend and making one more purchase in a calendar year.

So, what is the 40K free night certificate worth?  We know that it is worth less than 40,000 points since it expires in a year and is less flexible (you can’t use a 40K cert to book 2 nights priced at 20K points per night, for example).  However, the ability to top off free night certificates with points makes these certificates more valuable than before.  I’m going to arbitrarily set the value of these free night certificates to 75% of their top value, or 30,000 points.

Rather than analyzing the value of $60,000 spend, let’s assume that we already spent $40K (see the sections above for those analyses), and so the question here is really this: Should we spend another $20K on the business card to earn a second free night?

Points worth 0.5 Points worth 0.6
60K points from spend = $300 value = $360 value
Free night worth 30K points = $150 value = $180 value
Total Value: = $450 = $540
% Rebate on Spend: = 2.25% = 2.7%

The % rebate for the third $20k spend within a calendar year exactly matches the % rebate for the first $20k spend!  That was a surprise.  And it makes the conclusion easy for me to write… Cut and pasting from above but with a little necessary editing:

$60K Bottom Line: Personally I wouldn’t go out of my way to routinely spend $60,000 on the IHG Premier Business card, but if I needed another free night plus more points for a high value award and if IHG wasn’t running any good point sales, I’d do it.

Conclusion

Before writing this post, I thought the answer to the top line question would be easy: No way.  The reality is much more nuanced.  You actually can get good value from spending the exact amount needed each year to earn big spend bonuses: either $20K, $40K, or (with the Premier Business card only) $60K.  That said, “good” value is not the same as great value.  For the $20K and $60K thresholds, I personally wouldn’t do it unless I had a need for many more IHG points and if IHG stops having good sales on point purchases.  But then there’s Diamond status…

It’s possible that IHG will surprise us with valuable Diamond Elite benefitsIHG surprised us by rolling out valuable elite benefits.  Now I think that many would do well to spend $40K per year in order to secure Diamond Elite status.  This is primarily true for those who value in-hotel breakfasts and who plan to spend significant time at high-end IHG properties.

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Ellen

Hi Greg, I charged $40k on the personal Chase IHG Premier card, billing cycle just closed and points posted yesterday. THEY ARE NOT PREMIER QUALIFYING POINTS!!!

I had been texting IHG One Reaards support and this is the explanation I received:

Hello Ms. Xxxxx,

How are you? My name is Clark and I am getting back to you with regard to your elite qualifying points inquiry. First, I would like to say thank you for being one of our valued members. I really appreciate you for choosing IHG Rewards Chase Credit card. I hope you are enjoying the additional perks that come along with it.

Our records show that you have the Premier and Select credit cards linked to your account.

You’ve mentioned on your recent chat conversation with Angelica that you’ve spent a total of $40,820 this year on your IHG credit card to reach Diamond elite status. Kindly confirm if the said total combined purchase amount were all charged to your Premier or your Select credit card.

I’d like to share that effective March 24, 2022, points earned on purchases made with IHG Premier and Traveler cards are Non-Qualifying points and are not Elite Status qualifying. This means that points that are showing as qualifying are purchases made prior to March 24.

We will be optimizing our card benefits, including enhanced automatic loyalty status based on the card product. There will also be opportunities to achieve status based on reaching spend bonuses. For complete program details and additional ways to qualify for IHG® Rewards status level tiers, visit ihg.com/chase.

If you find any specific purchases that did not receive the correct points, kindly specify the type of credit card used for the purchase/s with the following transaction details.

Transaction date
Merchant name
Exact transaction amount in USD

The above requeted information will be forwarded to our Chase contact to review the transactions in question to make the necessary adjustments.

I hope I’ve helped clarify your query, Ms. Ching, but if there’s anything I missed to help you in regards to this, please let me know so I can extend further assistance.

Thank you for reaching out and keep safe.

Kind regards,

Clark
1-888-211-9874

Ellen

Just to be clear, I charged $40k on the card on Apri 18th (tax day) specifically for Diamond status. In addition to the 120k IHG points from the spend, I also received 2 x 10k “IHG Rewards Premier Card Spend Bonus”, so it appears that you’ll get 10k bonus points for every $20k charged to the Premier card. They are all non elite-qualifying points.

Ellen

Greg, no I haven’t used this card after tax day, although there was a separate credit card fee charged on the same day.

I went back to Chase website and read the terms & conditions carefully. It does say the $100 statement credit requires an additional charge. However, Diamond status with $40k spend does not have such requirement.

Buzz

I’m currently Diamond and plan to exhaust my points while I am Diamond. It will give me a chance to see if the promised benefits are really that good.

Grant

I’ve had 1 stay with a Kimpton since being diamond and the experience was as special as the old IHG Spire Elite Level (aka no very exciting or special).

TravelerMike

Now that we know more info about the new IHG One Rewards program, I would be interested to know your opinion if it is worth it to spend $40k on the card(s) for Diamond status … Then if you do this on the Business card, all the way up to $60k. It is too bad that if one had both the consumer and business premier cards, that they wouldn’t count the combined spend for these threshold rewards!

TravelerMike

Thanks! Having never stayed at an IHG hotel, I’m unfamiliar with their products and therefore I don’t how to value their breakfasts. I love Hyatt (and their free parking / breakfast benefits for Globalists), and was wondering about the quality of IHG’s breakfasts – and whether or not going for Diamond status via credit card spend. Either way, good for IHG for create a combination of product improvements that gets us talking about them! LOL

Giovanni

Het Greg,
Does the Business Card count toward Chase 5/24 rule if you are over the limit? Or it will not count?

gymrat

Hello Greg – I applied for the Premier Card on 3/21/22 that had the $89 annual fee with the 125K bonus and FNC. I called Chase yesterday and they said the application is still pending and takes 7 – 10 days to make a decision. If approved, would I still be getting the old offer that I applied under? Thanks.

Gymrat

Hello Greg,
My application was approved by Chase yesterday. They said the bonus is 125k points with $3k spend in 3 months. Now I need to fight for my 40k free night cert. Thanks.

gymrat

Hello Greg – Chase is not honoring the offer with the free night cert, even after I sent a screenshot of the offer I used to apply for the card. Chase Twitter forward to the marketing team and they said no. Any ideas on who I should contact to get this looked at?

JohnB

Write to Jamie Dimon, CEO JP Morgan Chase
383 Madison Avenue
New York, N.Y 10179

Complaints go to Exec. agents who investigate.

Jake

Nice Article. I come to roughly the same conclusion for the 15k spend bonuses on the Hilton Surpass and Chase WOH.

jeph36

I am certainly thinking about getting the IHG Business Card to complement my old $49 card. Does anyone know how many cards they will approve before hitting a limit or at least causing heartburn? I only have 2 business cards, but I think I have 7 personal.

JohnB

I applied for the IHG Premier CC. I have the old $49 as well. They denied me and stated in writing that I already had an IHG CC. I am over Chase, too many rules.

Jose mesa

Get the business card

Cavedweller

Unreal as in NO ! I bet..I got approved for my BA card at Chase 100k and 3 weeks much later..I called twice and Chase said go away… I still have 10k points from 5 years ago I think Hmmmmmm…..VB

chris

Thanks for the IHG info. I would further I dislike the way IHG point redemptions works as they limit how many rooms can be had via Points or Free Certificates. So much of the time I try to book via IHG and no point rooms are available, but plenty of cash paying rooms. I was really hoping I would like IHG more but am disappointed that last couple years.