IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card review: Good value for IHG loyalists
This is a low-cost option that can help bring down the cost of future IHG stays.
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IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card Overview
The IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card is a solid choice if you’re an occasional traveler who wants to earn maximum travel points to help cover the costs of your next IHG stay. This no-annual-fee card offers up to 17X points on bookings and purchases made at participating IHG hotels and resorts. The card also earns 3X points in multiple everyday categories and also has a 2X flat rate for all other general purchases. On top of that, you also get a nice sign-up bonus, automatic silver elite status and a chance to earn a free fourth night stay.
The IHG Rewards Traveler card holds its own against other no-annual-fee hotel credit cards, but hotel cards that do charge an annual fee are often loaded with features like an automatic free night stay every year on account anniversaries and a higher level of elite status, which can unlock even more benefits. These perks can help offset the cost and may provide greater value for occasional and frequent travelers alike.
Plus, like many hotel cards, IHG points aren’t as versatile and may not hold as much value as the points and miles offered by general-purpose travel rewards cards. Depending on how you travel, the IHG Rewards Traveler card may not be the best fit.
What are the pros and cons?
- No intro purchase or balance transfer APR
- Points value is very low unless you’re redeeming for IHG stays
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: 17X points on IHG hotel stays, 3X points on monthly utilities, gas station purchases, streaming service purchases and restaurant purchases; 2X points on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 bonus points for spending $2,000 in the first three months after account opening
- Annual fee: $0
- Purchase intro APR: N/A
- Balance transfer APR: N/A
- Regular APR: 18.99 percent to 25.99 percent (variable)
Current welcome offer
New cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months. This is a big drop from the card’s previous bonus of 120,000 points with the same spending requirement. But since IHG property reward stays can range from 10,000 to 100,000 points, this offer still has good value. Plus, it’s similar to bonuses found with other hotel loyalty cards, though you’ll have to spend more with the IHG card. Hilton, for instance, offers 80,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of card membership with the Hilton Honors American Express Card.
The IHG Rewards Traveler Card gives you plenty of chances to rack up points you can redeem in a number of ways, though your best redemption option will be to cover stays at eligible IHG hotels and resorts. Here’s a closer look at the card’s rewards program:
How you earn
The IHG Rewards Traveler Card gives you three ways to earn IHG points:
- 5X points for each dollar spent at IHG hotels and resorts (or up to 15X points with IHG One Rewards membership, adding up to 17X total points with the card’s complimentary Silver Elite status)
- 3X points on monthly utility bills, gas station purchases, streaming services and restaurant purchases
- 2X points on all other purchases
Although IHG locations may not be as immediately recognizable under the brand’s umbrella, your card is eligible for rewards at the following branded properties:
- Atwell Suites
- Candlewood Suites
- Crowne Plaza
- Even Hotels
- Holiday Inn
- Holiday Inn Express
- Holiday Inn Club Vacations
- Hotel Indigo
- InterContinental Hotels and Resorts
- Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
- Six Senses
- Staybridge Suites
- Vignette Collection
How to redeem
When it comes to redeeming your IHG points, you have a few options.
First, you can convert your current points balance into a free night’s stay at participating IHG properties. While some hotels come in at 10,000 per night, most require substantially more points (even up to 100,000). According to IHG’s list of its top five reward night destinations, the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba-Beach Resort and Casino comes in at 35,000 points per night, while a stay at the InterContinental New York Times Square is 60,000 points per night, on average. Additionally, cardholders can pay using a combination of points and cash, giving them the flexibility to use as few or as many points as they’d like then making up the difference with cash.
Other redemption options include transferring your IHG rewards to airline partners, which include American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, and United Airlines. Cardholders can also redeem IHG points for purchases such as jewelry, electronics, household items and more from the IHG rewards catalog. Redemptions in the catalog start at 1,000 points for magazine subscriptions and go up from there through a variety of categories and spending thresholds.
Plus, cardholders can redeem for gift cards or use points to offset the costs of flights, car rentals and more. It’s also possible to transfer or gift your points to other cardholders as well as donate to charities. But before you consider any of these redemption options, it’s a good idea to think twice before using your points for anything other than booking hotel stays. The value of your points can drop considerably when redeeming for anything beyond hotel stays. For example, a $25 gift card for Dunkin’ Donuts costs 13,000 points. Even if you earned those points making purchases in the card’s top bonus points category worth 17X points, you’ve spent over $764 for that $25 gift card.
Other cardholder perks
The IHG Rewards Traveler card comes with a number of additional perks that help it to compete with other hotel cards. Some features, like the complimentary fourth reward night may even help it stand out from the crowd and make it your top choice for a no-annual-fee hotel card.
More points-earning with IHG Rewards Membership
As an IHG One Rewards member, you earn 10X points on each dollar spent at eligible IHG properties. Combined with the 5X points per dollar offered by your Traveler’s card, this gets you at least 17X the points for every IHG stay (counting your Silver Elite status).
While inflated points models like this aren’t new to the hotel card landscape, they’re certainly a requirement on cards that hope to compete with brands like Hilton and Marriott—both of which offer high rewards points to members and cardholders. Unfortunately, points in these programs typically carry a low value and may vary in value based on the location, season and other factors.
Fourth reward night
If you redeem points for a stay of three nights or more at an IHG property, you’ll get a complimentary fourth reward night to add to your visit. Other top hotel brands like Hilton and Marriott offer a fifth night free, which means you have to spend more to earn a free night elsewhere.
IHG’s fourth reward night is especially useful for higher-end properties that have significant per-night points values and can help extend your vacation without breaking the bank.
10,000 bonus points each calendar year
By spending $10,000 within one calendar year, plus an extra purchase at least a day after you’ve reached that threshold, you can earn another 10,000 points. According to the 0.7-cent IHG point value, this can potentially amount to a low-tier IHG property stay or up to $70 of value for big spenders.
Gold Elite status with $20,000 in purchases each year
If you make $20,000 or more worth of purchases in a calendar year, you’ll automatically earn Gold Elite status with IHG. This lets you access extended check-out and priority check-in options, ensures your points never expire and gives you 10 percent bonus earnings on top of your base points. By no means should you aim to spend $20,000 just to fall into this category, but this is a wonderful promotional perk for members who already land in this spending range.
How much are the rewards worth?
If you’re booking a night’s stay at IHG properties, your points redemption value will typically hover around 0.7 cents per point, according to our points valuation. You can improve this conversion rate by taking advantage of special hotel offers or traveling in off-peak season, which reduces the overall points cost per night.
If you redeem your rewards for anything beyond hotel bookings, be prepared for significantly lower conversion rates. For example, looking at the IHG rewards catalog, a Bose speaker is advertised on the IHG rewards site for 68,000, but the same speaker retails for around $119, meaning your points are only worth about 0.17 cents each.
If you not only want to earn a high volume of points but want to make each point as valuable as you can, stick to travel purchases and redemptions like offsetting the cost of hotel stays or redeeming for free nights at select locations. The closer you get to the point’s 0.7-cent value, the better off you are.
Rates and fees
The IHG Traveler card doesn’t charge an annual fee or foreign transaction fees. It comes with a variable APR range of 18.99 percent to 25.99 percent. The low end of this range hovers around the current average credit card interest rate, which isn’t the worst for a travel card.
The card does not offer any introductory purchase or balance transfer APR, which isn’t unusual for a hotel credit card. The card’s late and returned payments can both cost up to $40 each, which is also fairly standard for a rewards credit card.
While these aren’t exactly the best rates and fees for a no-annual-fee card, they likely aren’t high enough to be a deal-breaker for travelers, especially since frequent international IHG guests are saved from the usual 3 percent foreign transaction fee.
Bankrate expert experience
IHG offers many hotel options for both the domestic and international traveler across all price points. From the Holiday Inn to a boutique Kimpton property, all the way to a luxury Intercontinental location, the IHG Rewards Traveler Card helps you take advantage of both earning and redeeming rewards from the full IHG hotel portfolio without adding the expense of another annual credit card fee.
— Stephanie ZitoBankrate Financial Expert Review Board member
How the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card compares to other travel rewards cards
The IHG Rewards Traveler card is a good choice for travelers who are loyal to the IHG brand but don’t want to pay an annual fee. But if you want a travel rewards card with more benefits or greater flexibility in how you redeem your rewards, there are other options available to you.
IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card vs. IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
The IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is another travel card IHG offers and is a step up in rewards rate, welcome bonus and annual fee for IHG Rewards cardholders. You’ll pay a $99 annual fee for this option, but if you’re an IHG member, you’ll earn up 26X points on IHG hotel stays (compared to up to 17X with the IHG Rewards Traveler card). This elevated rewards rate positions you to earn more for each dollar you spend, but you’ll need to make up that annual fee to justify the card.
Plus, the 140,000-point welcome bonus (after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months) for the IHG Premier card is much higher, and the card also rewards cardholders with a free night worth up to 40,000 points each account anniversary. The free night alone might well be worth the annual fee on the card. On top of the welcome offer and annual reward night, loyal IHG guests can continue to earn more rewards value with every dollar spent throughout the year — as opposed to semi-frequent IHG guests that may struggle to offset the premium card’s annual fee.
IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If you aren’t sold on a hotel card but still want a travel card to reward you well for all the money you spend on flights, hotels and restaurants, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is an excellent choice. The card earns 5X points on travel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal, 3X points on dining (plus selecting streaming services and online grocery purchases that exclude Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs) and 2X points on all other travel. Plus, when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards portal, points receive a 25-percent boost in value, making them worth 1.25 cents each.
While the rewards rate on the Sapphire Preferred seems markedly lower than the earning rate on the IHG card, Chase points are far more valuable than IHG points. In fact, 25 IHG points are worth roughly 17.5 cents when redeemed for stays at IHG locations. Comparatively, 14 Chase Rewards points are worth just as much when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
While you may earn more points with an IHG card at IHG locations, points through Chase will get you much further. On top of that, you’ll have more redemption flexibility with Chase because you won’t have to worry about sharp dips in value for redemptions outside of hotel stays. You can redeem for flights and hotels at the fixed rate of 1 cent per point, plus the additional 25-percent increase if you use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Best cards to pair with the IHG Rewards Traveler Card
If you’re looking for another card to pair with your IHG Traveler card, consider a cash back credit card for everyday spending. While the Traveler card gets you 2X points per dollar for day-to-day spending, you’ll be better served solely using this card for spending at IHG properties, gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants. Then, try using a flat-rate cash back card to earn 1.5 percent to 2 percent back on all other spending.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the IHG Rewards Traveler Card worth it?
When it comes to hotel credit cards, IHG’s offerings stand out for their ability to maximize point-earning by combining card and rewards club bonuses. But with few perks and lower-than-average points redemption value, this card may not be the best fit for travelers looking to maximize the value of their rewards.
If you’re a frequent guest of IHG properties and combine the Traveler card with another cash back option, it offers solid benefits to help reduce the cost of travel. But if IHG options aren’t your preferred properties, consider another travel or cash back card.
*The information about the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card and IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.