A Mixed Bag – Maximizing IHG One Rewards for Big Spenders

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IHG One Rewards

IHG One Rewards

A few months back, IHG credit card refreshes were announced, including updates to the IHG Premier and IHG Traveler cards, and a new IHG business card.  These changes suddenly made IHG more interesting.  I previously described why I planned to upgrade my long-held IHG Select card to the Premier.  Along the way, IHG promised more changes were coming.  Finally, the IHG program’s major updates arrived.  While my decision to upgrade to the Premier was fairly easy in my situation, I want to circle back and reassess big spending strategies since the IHG One Rewards major changes were unveiled.  Today, I’ll look at the major changes through the big spending lens.  What I see is a mix of good and bad.  Let’s get the bad out of the way first.

IHG One Rewards

IHG Big Spending Bad News

IHG covered various angles in the major announcement, and many hobbyists focused on Milestone Rewards.  By meeting certain night thresholds, IHG loyalists earn their choices of food and beverage credits, suite upgrades, lounge membership, and bonus points.  Unfortunately, IHG credit cardholders can’t spend their way to these nights like they can for elite status.  The automatic status we obtain by holding an IHG card does nothing for us with Milestone Rewards, either.  To earn Milestone Rewards, a member must have that many actual nights completed on hotel stays.

I’m a big spender who doesn’t stay that many nights in any given chain year over year.  I don’t even come close to 20 nights a year with a specific chain, which is where IHG’s Milestone Rewards begin.  So while I agree Milestone Rewards is a promising new feature for IHG loyalists, this aspect is dead on arrival for me.  There are probably others in a similar situation.

IHG One Rewards
Upgrading the IHG Select to Premier was pretty much a no-brainer for me.

Good News For Some

First, I want to reiterate the great news for IHG Premier and IHG business cardholders based on the initial announcements.  Long story short, these cardholders can earn 110k points and a $100 statement credit by spending exactly $20k in the 5x bonus categories.  And many of those bonus categories are generous ones, including travel, gas stations, and dining on both cards.  The Business version also includes office supply stores as a 5x bonus category.  I shared more thoughts on these developments here.

The earlier announcements stated that Premier and Business cardholders can obtain top-tier Diamond status with $40k spend in a calendar year.  The jury was still out on future Diamond benefits, though.  Luckily, the latest announcement spelled everything out.

Refreshed Elite Benefits

Does the recent announcement incentivize spending for Diamond?  Let’s recap the elite level updates:

  • Free breakfast choice for Diamond Elite members – Top-tier Diamond Elite members will have the choice of a free hot breakfast for two as their welcome amenity. This benefit will be available at most IHG Hotels & Resorts full service properties.
  • Rewards Nights Discounts – Platinum and Diamond Elite members receive exclusive access to rewards night discount promotions.
  • More Upgrades – Platinum & Diamond Elite members will have more opportunities to receive early check-in as well as room upgrades (subject to availability).
  • Dedicated Diamond Support – Diamond Elite members will have access to a dedicated support team.
  • Late Check-Out – All program members from the “Club” level all the way up to Diamond Elite will receive a late 2pm check-out (subject to availability).

Unpacking The Changes

Free breakfast for two is a big win for Diamond members who stay at full service properties.  I’m thinking reward night discounts and upgrades will provide clear value, but the extent will be based on one’s personal travel situation.  I’m not overly concerned about these two areas also including Platinums.  I’d be surprised if Diamonds didn’t get priority access to discounts and upgrades over Platinums.  I feel the same about late checkout, which is now theoretically available to all IHG One Rewards members.

Moving Forward

Essentially, big spenders cap out on simultaneously earning points and additional benefits at $40k annual spend.  A big spender’s first decision is whether to spend exactly $20k on the IHG Premier or IHG business card.  Again, read here to help inform your decision.  Next, a big spender should consider whether spending another $20k is worth the effort.

The guaranteed outcomes of spending that second $20k would mean 100k more points (maximizing bonus categories) and full breakfast for two at full service properties.  The true value of reward night discounts and upgrades is quite variable based on one’s personal situation.  A diamond support line and late check-out priority are also worth considering, but may not play a huge role in your decision.

IHG One Rewards
We prefer stays at limited service IHG hotel brands like Holiday Inn Express.

For most big spenders, the decision will come down to one’s rewards goals, spending capabilities, and individual earning capacities.  In my situation, I plan to spend $20k on my Premier card based on our upcoming travel goals where Holiday Inn Express will come in handy.  I currently have the ability to spend on the IHG Premier while also accomplishing other unrelated rewards goals.  Will I spend $40k on the IHG Premier card?  I don’t plan to – I don’t care that much about elite status, and we infrequently stay at full service IHG properties, anyway.

Conclusion

As big spenders, we are continually challenged to reevaluate our patterns and processes to optimize earning (and burning) amidst the dynamic rewards landscape.  IHG is just another recent example here.  I’m happy to take on this and all other rewards spending dilemmas that come my way.  Usually, I end up better off from these dilemmas after analyzing a bit.  I encourage you to do the same, and have fun in the process!  What’s your plan with the IHG credit cards?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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4 COMMENTS

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4 COMMENTS

    • Same I have Diamond but have not noticed anything different. I stayed at Intercontinental San Deigo for 5 nights but I was not offered anything and breakfast was pay as you go. My next stay is at Kimpton I’ll see if they offer anything for Diamond members.

      • I just checked in to the Kimpton San Diego its a total fail. I took a chance on the brand which has always been a success in many locations I have stayed in, I did not research this San Diego location well which was a huge mistake, lesson learned. I booked 4 nights (1 night free) with points (140k) unfortunately its unrefundable otherwise I would cancel in a heartbeat. This hotel is within the party district (Gaslight) surrounding area is unbelievable nasty I walked outside for 5 mins and almost threw up from the smell of homeless pee. Even my shoes were sticking to the ground outside of the hotel making feel more sick. Its super loud in the room, loud drunks everywhere, car horns, loud raidos, $55 for valet parking only which they park a block away from the hotel. The room has a a musty odor and a general feel of gross and dirty, stains on the furniture, shower water smells like sulfur and as a diamond member they only give $10 food and beverage credit per room, not per person!! $10 in this area cant buy much for 1 person not to mention 2 people. Disaster!!

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