Update 6/8/22 – IHG’s Milestone Rewards are now live and members who have reached a qualifying number stays will be able to choose them online within their IHG accounts. Members first earn Milestone Rewards once they complete 20 qualifying nights within a calendar year and then earn additional Milestone Rewards every 10 nights after that, up to 100 nights. The one exception is the food and beverage credits. While it is possible to choose them, they aren’t redeemable yet…and we don’t yet know how soon they will be. So, if chosen, they will just be saved in the member’s account until they’re reedmable. You can jump to Nick’s detailed explanation of each Milestone Reward here.
IHG One Rewards is the loyalty program of the Intercontinental Hotels Group. This program encompasses brands from long-term-stay value-options like Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites to mid-tier properties like Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza all the way up to Intercontinental, Kimpton, Six Senses, select Mr. & Mrs. Smith properties, and more. IHG One Rewards completely revamped its program in 2022 and has made some huge improvements, particularly with regards to elite benefits and credit cards. Opportunities to earn and burn continue abound with a very large worldwide footprint and wide range of brands from which to choose. This post serves as a complete guide to the loyalty program.
IHG One Rewards overview
IHG One Rewards shares traits that are common to most hotel rewards programs:
- Earn points from paid stays (but not when stays are booked through online travel agencies such as Expedia).
- Use points to book free night awards.
- Those who spend many nights at IHG hotels booked either as free nights or paid stays (but not those booked through online travel agencies) earn elite status.
- Elite status levels range from Silver to top-tier Diamond Elite status. The higher your status, the more perks you get.
- Branded credit cards can be used to earn points and to help earn elite status.
IHG also has a few traits that set it apart from some in this space:
- IHG no longer has an award chart. The number of points necessary to book an award stay is therefore variable / not easy to predict
- IHG offers a paid elite status tier called IHG Ambassador. This status costs $200 per year.
- Elite members will soon have access to reward night discounts, which is a unique benefit for IHG One Rewards.
- There are two invitation-only status levels that are brand-specific: Intercontinental Royal Ambassador and Kimpton Inner Circle. These statuses are extended by invitation only and come with some unique perks for those highly loyal to those respective brands.
IHG no longer has an award chart. Hotels regularly range in price from 10,000 points per night to about 70,000 points per night, though we have seen some Six Senses and Mr. & Mrs Smith properties cost in excess of 150K points per night.
Things to know about IHG awards:
- Award prices are good for standard rooms (each hotel defines “standard” differently).
- Points + Cash rates are a way of effectively buying points. When you book a Points + Cash rate, your cash co-pay buys the points for an award stay. If you later cancel a Points + Cash booking, you are refunded in the number of points that were necessary to book the free night award.
- Sales on Points + Cash rates can be good opportunities to buy points. IHG sometimes runs a sale on the cash portion of Points + Cash rates and when they do we sometimes see the cash portion buy points at half a cent per point or less.
- Confirmed Suite Upgrades (a perk added with the IHG One Rewards revamp in 2022) can not yet be applied to award stays.
- New IHG One Rewards benefits are scheduled to begin in June 2022. This means perks like free breakfast for Diamond members have not yet officially launched.
Those with the IHG Rewards Premier, IHG Rewards Premier Business or IHG Rewards Traveler credit cards booking a 4-night award stay get 4th night for free. For example, if you book a 4-night stay at a hotel that costs 25,000 points per night, you would only pay 75,000 points since the 4th night is free.
This perk can be leveraged to even greater value at times when the 4th night is particularly expensive. Given dynamic pricing, the 4th night may cost more than the previous 3 nights — but cardholders get the 4th night free on an award stay even when the 4th night is more expensive. If your 4th night is a high-demand night like New Year’s Eve, this could result in a substantial savings. For more on this, see: New IHG Sweet Spot: Dynamic Pricing + 4th Night Free For Huge Savings
IHG has several elite status tiers:
- Silver Elite: 10 nights
- Gold Elite: 20 nights or 40,000 elite-qualifying points
- Platinum Elite: 40 nights or 60,000 elite-qualifying points
- Diamond Elite: 70 nights or 120,000 elite-qualifying points
- Intercontinental Ambassador: $200 per year
- Intercontinental Royal Ambassador: By invitation only.
- Kimpton Inner Circle: By invitation only
IHG One Rewards Elite status things to know
- Elite nights are earned with either cash or award stays. As a IHG Premier / Premier Business / Traveler credit card holder, when booking a three night award, it makes sense to book 4 nights instead (thanks to 4th Night Free pricing) just so that you can get an extra elite night. Make sure not to check out after the third night.
- Elite nights are not earned with online travel agency bookings. For example, if you book through Expedia, you will not earn elite night credit (or points) for your stay.
- Elite status can be earned based on spend. Each status tier requires qualifying nights in a hotel or elite qualifying points. These points are earned through paid hotel stays.
- Newly-enhanced on-property benefits:
- Complementary Upgrades (Platinum and Diamond Benefit): This isn’t really a new benefit, but IHG has informed us that they have taken pains to better educate member hotels so that this benefit will hopefully be implemented better going forward. Free upgrades can include suites, but hotels aren’t required to offer them.
- Points or Drink/Snack Welcome Amenity (Platinum Benefit): Choose points or a drink / snack at check-in.
- Free Breakfast Welcome Amenity (Diamond Benefit): Diamond Elite members get free breakfast at almost all properties with relatively few exclusions (Note: this benefit begins sometime in June 2022). IHG excludes limited-service brands that already offer breakfast as well as Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau), and Mr. and Mrs. Smith properties.
- Early Check-In (Platinum and Diamond Benefit): This could be valuable if many hotels would honor it, but since this benefit is “subject to availability” I don’t have high hopes for it at all.
- 2pm Late Check-Out (All Members): Unlike Hyatt and Marriott, which guarantee late checkout for top-tier elite at non-resort properties, with IHG this benefit is “subject to availability”, so YMMV.
- Missing stay: If a stay was not properly credited to your account, you can fill out a missing stay request online:
- If you book multiple rooms for the same dates, you’ll earn elite night credits for only one room. That said, you will earn points on up to nine rooms. This can make IHG a great choice if you regularly plan travel for a group.
IHG’s Milestone Rewards are strikingly similar to Hyatt’s Milestone Rewards. Members begin earning Milestone Rewards once they complete 20 qualifying nights within a calendar year and then again every 10 nights after that, up to 100 nights.
Qualified nights are often referred to as "elite nights". With many hotel chains, you can earn elite status by acquiring a number of qualified elite nights each year. For example, IHG requires earning at 20 elite nights within a calendar year to earn Gold status. IHG members also earn Milestone Rewards beginning with 20 elite nights. Qualified nights include free nights booked with points or certificates as well as paid nights booked directly through IHG.
- Once a milestone is reached, members have 90 days to select a Milestone Rewards choice on the IHG Hotels & Resorts website or IHG One Rewards app. If a Milestone Rewards choice is not selected within 90 days, the Milestone Rewards choice for that milestone expires and will no longer be available.
- All Milestone Rewards selections are final.
- Food & Beverage Rewards and Confirmable Suite Upgrades are valid for 1 year from selection.
- Annual Lounge Membership is good for the rest of the calendar year in which it is selected and all of the following year.
Confirmable Suite Upgrades
Each Confirmable Suite Upgrade can be used to upgrade up to 5 nights to a base level suite. Suite upgrades can be confirmed up to 14 days in advance of your stay. That means that if you book now for a stay 10 months in the future, you’ll have to wait until the stay is two weeks away before you can call to confirm your upgrade.
- Time window: An upgrade to an entry-level suite, if available, can be confirmed from 14 days before the stay, up to 24 hours before check-in.
- Number of nights and rooms: The reward is valid for a stay up to 5 nights and available for 1 room per stay.
- Alternatives: If an entry-level suite is not available, a member has the option to confirm a premium room as an alternative.
- Valid 12 months: Once a member selects the Confirmable Suite Upgrade as their Milestone choice, they have 12 months to redeem their reward.
- Paid stays only (at first): Initially, suite upgrades will only be applicable to paid stays, but IHG tells us that their intent is to allow award stays in the future.
|# Nights Upgradeable||5||5*||7|
|Earliest upgrade can be confirmed||14 days in advance||5 days in advance||At booking|
|Upgrade points stays?||Not yet||Yes||Yes|
|Upgrade free night certificate stay?||Not yet||Yes||No|
* Marriott offers 5 1-night Suite Night Awards as a Choice Benefit at 50 elite nights and again at 75 elite nights each year.
Annual Lounge Membership
Annual Lounge Membership is available as a Milestone Reward option at 40 and at 70 nights. Once a member selects this reward, they will receive Club Lounge access where available, for the registered member plus one additional guest. Lounge Membership will be valid for the rest of the calendar year in which the reward was selected and all of the following calendar year.
Annual Lounge Membership does not include InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau) or Mr & Mrs Smith properties.
Food & Beverage Rewards
Each Food & Beverage reward is worth $20 in food & beverage credit. So, when the choice is for 2 Food & Beverage rewards, that is equivalent to $40 in credit in total.
There are some exceptions to IHG’s breakfast, lounge, and suite upgrade benefits, as follows:
Free Breakfast Exceptions
For their amenity choice at check-in, Diamond Elite members will have the option of a free daily hot breakfast for up to two guests. Exclusions:
- Limited-service brands that already offer breakfast
- Candlewood Suites
- Holiday Inn Club Vacations
- InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau)
- Mr. and Mrs. Smith properties
Annual Lounge Membership Exceptions
If a member selects the Annual Lounge Membership as their Milestone Reward at 40 or 70 Nights, they will receive Club Lounge access for the registered member plus one additional guest. Exclusions:
- Annual Lounge Membership does not include Club REGENT or Club InterContinental amenities or services beyond the physical Club Lounge. Note: To be clear, Annual Lounge Membership does include access to Club REGENT and Club InterContinental lounges, but not to additional services (free pressing, farewell amenity, airport transportation, etc.) that may be offered under the same names.
- InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau)
- Mr & Mrs Smith properties
- IHG properties with a restricted Club Lounge due to renovations, closures, or other facility updates.
Confirmable Suite Upgrade Exceptions
Confirmable suite upgrades can be applied at all IHG properties except the following:
- avid hotels
- Atwell Suites
- IHG Army Hotels
- Holiday Inn Club Vacations
- Six Senses Resorts & Spas
- InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau)
- Mr & Mrs Smith properties
The Ambassador program offers solid value that can be worth paying for, but only if you make good use of the free weekend night certificate. Guaranteed room upgrades and 4pm late checkout can also be quite valuable under the right circumstances. I also like the fact that the new $20 per stay food & beverage credit can be used on award stays. This makes our points and free night certificates just a wee bit more valuable.
How to join Intercontinental Ambassador Status
The InterContinental Ambassador elite status program has two levels: InterContinental Ambassador and Royal Ambassador. Royal Ambassador is invitation only. InterContinental Ambassador is a pay to play program: pay either $200 or 40,000 IHG points for 12 months of membership. If you pay with points and you have the old IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer available to new applicants), you’ll get 10% of your points back for a net cost of 36,000 IHG points.
You can join InterContinental Ambassador online here. Benefits are available instantly upon joining. Benefits are not available at InterContinental Residences.
Ambassador Status Benefits
InterContinental Ambassador elite status benefits
InterContinental Ambassador now offers complimentary IHG Platinum status. This status offers benefits across all IHG brands. Other than IHG Platinum status, the following benefits apply only to stays at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts:
- IHG Platinum status: Great for those who don’t have an IHG credit card which offers this automatically.
- Free weekend night: Valid on the second night of a paid weekend stay on the Ambassador Weekend Rate (“AMB Certificate”) at InterContinental Hotels (excludes InterContinental Alliance Resorts). The free night is available immediately upon enrollment in the Ambassador program. Only one free night certificate is issued per 12 months. Valid only for the member who has InterContinental Ambassador status. The weekend is defined as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, except in the Middle East where hotels may define the weekend as Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. TIP: Use this link to check for free weekend night prices and availability before joining the Ambassador program (h/t Loyalty Lobby)
- Guaranteed room upgrade: Guaranteed one category room upgrade on paid stays. Upgrades include suites, but exclude lounge access unless you booked a room with lounge access from the beginning. Room upgrades are not guaranteed on award stays.
- 4PM late checkout
- $20 food & beverage credit per stay: Can be used at most InterContinental hotel restaurants, bars and minibars. Not applicable to in-room dining (weird).
- Complimentary mineral water
- Complimentary internet service
- In greater China only:
- Complimentary breakfast for one, each night you stay (Valid in Mainland China only)
- 15% discount at restaurants and bars
- Welcome fruit platter for Platinum & Spire Elite members
- RMB120 credit for restaurants and bars for Spire Elite members only
Royal Ambassador elite status benefits
Royal Ambassador (invitation only) offers all of the benefits listed above, plus the following:
- Guaranteed two category room upgrade
- Complimentary Club InterContinental lounge access (or free full breakfast for two)
- Free Night at an IHG Hotel: Good for any hotel that costs up to 70,000 points per night
- Guaranteed Early check-in of 10 a.m. on day of arrival
- Minibar credit of $50 per night, up to $200 per stay
- In-room welcome amenity choice of fruit, sweet or savory snack on day of arrival
- Waived Amenity or Destination fees
- Single-room rate for double occupancy
- Guaranteed room availability for member’s room with 24-hour advance reservation
Ambassador Benefit Guarantees
IHG backs up Ambassador benefits with cash, credits, or points if they are not able to offer certain benefits during your stay:
Kimpton Inner Circle Status
Kimpton offers a special level of status by invitation-only to its most loyal guests called Kimpton Inner Circle. Benefits of this status can be awesome for those selected and include:
- Inner Circle Amenity (A personalized treat on arrival. Anecdotal reports indicate that this is usually pretty nice and often fits preferences well.)
- Complimentary Chef’s Taste
- Complimentary Night at New Hotels (When Kimpton opens a new hotel, you can reserve a free night for a limited time. This can be a huge benefit if you’re able to take advantage of it).
- VIP Dedicated Phone Line
- Guaranteed 1 category room upgrade
- Early check in | late check-out: Guaranteed 10am check-in and 4pm check-out
- Waived amenity fee: this includes amenity/destination fees, but does not waive resort fees
- IHG Diamond Elite Status
How to get Kimpton Inner Circle status
Kimpton Inner Circle status is by invitation-only, but it requires a member to earn IHG Diamond Elite status and show particular loyalty to Kimpton by staying at Kimpton hotels often (this isn’t defined). Invitations go out in January each year by email.
One of the main elite status perks of the IHG One Rewards program are increased earnings on paid stays:
- General member (no status) = 10x points per $1 on paid stays with most brands / 5x points per $1 at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites)
- Silver status = 20% bonus on points earned (12x / 6x)
- Gold status = 40% bonus on points earned (14x / 7x)
- Platinum status = 60% bonus on points earned (16x / 8x)
- Diamond status = 100% bonus on points earned (20x / 10x)
In addition to amplified earnings on paid stays, elite members enjoy a few other perks:
- Points do not expire for elite members. Ordinarily, IHG points expire if a member has no activity for 12 months. However, points never expire for elite members.
- Late checkout. This isn’t guaranteed, but program terms indicate that elite members are eligible for late checkout, so they theoretically have increased odds of scoring late checkout.
- Early check-in: Platinum and Diamond Elite members can get early check-in subject to availability. At Kimpton hotels, this is only guaranteed for Kimpton Inner Circle members.
- Complimentary upgrades. Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite Members will be offered a complimentary upgrade, though upgraded rooms are defined by the hotel might include something like a more recently renovated room or a room on a higher floor or with a better view. Program terms explicitly state that hotels are not required to upgrade members to suites.
- 72-Hour Guaranteed Availability: “When contacting the IHG® Rewards Club Customer Care Centre directly and guaranteeing the reservation with a valid credit card, each Platinum Elite or Spire Elite Member will be guaranteed one guest room for personal use, for reservations made at least 72 hours prior to the date of arrival, except during special events that result in extraordinary room demand, as determined solely by the hotel, or on Reward Night reservation. The Member will not be charged more than the prevailing rate for the accommodation requested, and the Member is not entitled to a rate less than the prevailing rate. Once made, Platinum Elite or Spire Elite Guarantees may not be dishonored for any reason.” Frequent Miler’s explanation: If you want to stay at a particular IHG hotel, but it is sold out for your desired stay, they’ll let you book the stay anyway, but at standard rack rates. While it says that this type of reservation can not be dishonored, terms do not indicate any compensation if it is not met.
Those who have the IHG Rewards Premier credit card, IHG Rewards Premier Business, (or the older and no-longer-available IHG Rewards Club Select card with a $49 annual fee) get automatic IHG Platinum Elite status.
IHG Rewards Premier and Premier Business cardholders can reach Diamond status with $40,000 spend in a calendar year plus one additional purchase.
Once you earn elite status this year, your status will be good for the rest of this year, all of the next, and through February of the year after that.
Things to know about elite status shortcuts:
- Earning one level of status doesn’t help you get to the next. For example, if you have Platinum status from the IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card, you are just as far from Diamond Elite status as someone with no status at all — you’ll still need either 70 nights, 120K elite-qualifying points, or $40K in spend on a qualifying credit card to reach Diamond status. You don’t get any credit towards the next level up.
- Unlike competitors, IHG has no lifetime elite status so there is no disadvantage to shortcuts in terms of lifetime credit lost
|Status||Points per $ at most brands||Points per $ at Staybridge Suites & Candlewood Suites|
|Club (no status)||10x||5x|
The chart above shows point earnings for stays. The middle column shows the number of points earned per dollar at most brands. The next column shows the points earned per dollar at long-stay brands Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.
Points are not earned with online travel agency bookings. For example, if you book through Expedia, you will not earn points for your room charge.
You can earn points on up to nine rooms at once. If you book nine rooms with the same IHG Rewards Club account number, you’ll earn points on all of the rooms but you’ll earn elite night credits for only one room.
IHG allows you to transfer points to another member without limits for a fee of $5 per 1,000 points. At a cost of 0.5c per point to transfer, that’s a horrible deal. IHG frequently sells points for the same price, so you’re better off waiting for a sale and simply buying points rather than paying to transfer them unless you’re looking to just top up an account for a specific award and points aren’t currently on sale.
To transfer IHG points to another member, see this page. I’m not positive whether or not the transfer is instant, but for half a cent per point it sure better be.
Points expire after 12 months of inactivity. Fortunately, almost all points activity will reset the clock. Points remain alive and available as long as you earn or use points at least once every 12 months.
Points do not expire for current IHG One Rewards elite members (including those whose status comes from holding the IHG Rewards Premier credit cards).
IHG Rewards Club points can be transferred to more than 30 different airline loyalty programs, albeit at a poor rate of 10,000 IHG points to 2,000 airline miles in most cases. That is generally a poor deal unless you’re topping off an airline account for a valuable redemption and/or draining orphaned IHG points before expiry.
Unfortunately, this can not be done online and typically takes a few weeks. You must contact IHG One Rewards over the phone to make a transfer.
Choice benefits used to be a benefit of the old IHG Rewards Club program for Spire Elite members, but this perk has been removed from the new IHG One Rewards program.
Below you’ll find information about each currently available IHG credit card:
|Card Offer and Details|
Pros (where IHG Rewards Club is better than average):
- Large mid-tier footprint
- High point earnings from paid stays
- Automatic credit card elite status (Hilton also has this and Hilton is arguably better since you can get either Hilton Gold or Diamond status from a credit card and those statuses include food & beverage credits)
- Points don’t expire for elite members
- Breakfast now guaranteed for Diamond members at nearly all IHG properties
- Milestone Rewards offer the chance to confirm a suite upgrade after just 20 elite qualifying nights.
Cons where IHG Rewards Club is worse than average):
- IHG charges resort fees on award stays (Hilton and Hyatt do not)
- Suite upgrades not guaranteed without an upgrade instrument
- Suite upgrades only confirmed 14 days in advance of arrival (which is better than Marriott, but not as good as Hyatt).
Top IHG Redemptions
If you’re looking to stay at luxurious properties, the best use of IHG points tends to be for Intercontinental and Kimpton properties. As more Six Senses and Mr. & Mrs. Smith properties become bookable with points (and as travel opens back up and more members can take advantage of those partnerships), we will likely find more hidden gems.
In the near term, those looking for boutique luxury in North America may want to check out the following post: Best Kimpton Hotels in the United States and Canada.
Q: If I have the old IHG Rewards Club Select credit card ($49 annual fee) which offers a 10% rebate on award stays, can I stack that with the 4th night free if I also get the IHG Rewards Club Premier or Traveler card?
A: Yes. These benefits stack.
Q: If I cancel a Points + Cash stay, will I receive a cash refund?
A: No. When youn cancel a Points + Cash stay, your refund will be entirely in points. This can be advantageous as it is sometimes possible to buy IHG points indirectly via Points + Cash for less than IHG charges when they sell points
Q: I completed a stay but it hasn’t credited to my account. What can I do?
A: First, wait a bit. It’s not unusual for a stay to appear on your account about a week after checkout. Next, if the stay still hasn’t appeared, you can fill out a missing stay request online: https://www.ihg.com/hotels/us/en/customer-care/forms/missing-points
Q: If I book multiple rooms for the same stay will I earn rewards on all of them?
A: You will earn points for up to nine rooms, but you’ll earn elite night credit for only one room.
Q: Do IHG members lose any benefits with the new IHG One Rewards changes?
A: A lot is gained, but yes, some benefits are lost:
- Gold elite members no longer receive a Welcome Amenity Choice at check-in
- Diamond elite members will not receive exclusive Choice Benefits that were previously only for those reaching Spire elite status (now renamed Diamond). For example, those earning Spire Elite status could previously select 25,000 bonus points.
Q: What happens if I don’t select my Milestone Reward?
Once you reach each Milestone Reward threshold you have 90 days to select your reward. If you don’t select it in time, it’s gone.
Q: Do rollover nights count towards Milestone Rewards?
No. Rollover nights are only used for achieving elite status levels. Milestone Rewards must be earned in entirety each calendar year.
Q: What happens if I apply a confirmable suite upgrade but then cancel my stay?
Confirmable Suite Upgrade will be reinstated if the stay is cancelled in advance of the hotel’s cancellation policy timeframe. The original validity dates will apply.
Q: Can I stack a confirmable suite upgrade with a guaranteed Ambassador upgrade?
Q: Do award nights and free night certificate nights count towards Milestone Rewards?