IHG Rewards System

Here is my take on the IHG Reward system. I stay at Holiday Inn a lot, so I am somewhat familiar with how the points can be earned and how to use them. I figure it might be worthwhile to read my take particularly if you have plans to stay Holiday Inn a lot.

Things you need

There are two things you’ll want to need: a Chase IHG Rewards Club Select credit card and an AAA membership card.

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select card

You don’t need this credit card to earn points but can earn more points using the card at Holiday Inns than without it.

As of this writing, the credit has the following features:

  • Earn 60,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
  • Earn 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels.
  • Earn 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants
  • Earn 1 point per dollar for all other purchases.
  • $0 introductory annual fee, then $49 per year.
  • 10% rebate on IHG reward club redemptions
  • Annual free night worldwide
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Platinum Elite Status

The one thing that should compel you to get the card is the one free night per year and the $49 annual fee. Basically, you would be getting a room for $49. Though I haven’t done this, I heard you could book the most expensive room you can find by using the annual free night.

There is one little catch and it is that you have use the card throughout the year or Chase can terminate your credit card due to inactivity. (I have had a bank terminate a non-IHG credit card due to inactivity.) I don’t know how often you need to use the card. For me, I only use the card for hotel bookings and I still have the card.

 AAA membership

If you’re the type of person who wants to book a room with no cancellation fees (the ability to cancel without a charge at least two days prior to check-in), get an AAA membership card. The reason is that AAA rates comes with no cancellation fees and are cheaper than the Best Flexible rate, which carries no cancellation fees as well.

When you book a room online, however, you may not see AAA rates even listed. They are there. If you don’t see the AAA rates, go the Rate Preference drop-down box, select AAA/CAA rate, and select the Apply button. Now you should see the AAA rate if the location offers it.

When you go to www.ihg.com/holidayinn through E-bates, you’re not going to have the option to see AAA/CAA rate in the Rate Preference drop-down box.

How to earn points

Important note: The following is useful if you have both AAA membership and an IHG credit card.

Do not pay $5 for 1000 points

For the uninitiated, some Holiday Inn locations offer a special deal for the Best Flexible Rate. For $5 per night more, you can earn 1000 extra points per night.

If you qualify for AAA rates, go for the AAA rates and bypass the Best Flexible Rates even if they include the 1000 points for $5. In most cases, you’re better off going with the AAA rate.

Plus, the price differential between the AAA rate and Flexible+1000 point rate is more than $5. For instance, at Holiday Inn Old Town San Diego, you can get a one queen bedroom for an AAA rate of $144.99 per night. The Best Flexible Rate is $149.99 per night. Tack on the $5 for 1000 points and the room rate becomes $154.99 per night. Practically, you would be spending $10 for 1000 points per night.

Later on, I’ll show you why AAA rate is the better deal.

Per Night vs Per Stay

Know the difference between these two terms. Per Night means just that – per one night. Per Stay refers to the entire stay at the hotel and that can mean 1 night, 2 consecutive nights, or 100 consecutive nights, etc.

That being said, this topic segues to the next topic.

When to take the bonus 5000, 10000, and so forth offers.

Sometimes the Best Flexible Rate comes with a deal like 5,000 bonus points per stay for like $15. The dollar amount is the per-night dollar amount added to the rate.

For instance, at Holiday Inn San Diego, the Flexible rate is $169.99 but you can get 5,000 per stay for $13 per night. So if you stay two nights, you can get 5,000 bonus points for your two-night stay for $182.99 per night. If you stay 10 nights, you would get 5,000 bonus points for the whole 10-night stay for $182.99 per night.  It does not matter how many nights there are in your stay, you only going to get 5,000 bonus for the entire stay.

Now there are deals like 5,000 for $10 to $25 per night at some hotels.  There is even a hotel that had 10,000 for $25 per night.  These per-night bonuses are worth it.

Here is my rule:  If there is a per-night bonus of 5,000 points or more for around $25 per night, take it.   If you’re offered a 5,000 or 10,000 points for $10 to $25 per stay and your staying one night, take the offer. Otherwise, forget the bonus points.

If you absolutely know for sure that you’ll be at the hotel…

The next best rate after the one-night stay with the 5,000 bonus points is the Book Early & Save rate. The catch is that it is a non-refundable rate.

For instance, for Holiday Inn San Diego Old Town, the Book Early rate is $131.99 per night.

When to redeem points

Before I mention my personal rule to redeeming points, let me explain what I do first.

I plan about six months ahead and I book refundable rooms at AAA rates. After the booking the rooms, I know the range of room rates that I’ll pay. As of this writing, the range is from $90 per night to about $134 per night. Afterwards, I look for hotels that offer 15,000 points per night.

As of this writing, the hotels that offer the 15,000 per night are slightly off-the-beaten path than where I want to be. However, I might be willing to go the extra mile to save money. Practically, I would be trying to save $130 per night for 15,000 points per night.

So here is my current rule: Try to find 15,000 point per night rooms that will replace the high-rate rooms. If the 15,000 point room is off-the-beaten path, then determine if it is worth going to the extra mile to save money.

What redemption rate to use

For the uninitiated, there are three options to redeeming points for rooms. You can pay for a room using only points, you can pay for a room using points plus $40, or you can pay for a room using points plus $70.

The following is an example:

15,000 points

10,000 points + $40

5,000 points + $70

So what is the best option?

The best options are in this order:

  1. 5,000 points + $40
  2. 10,000 points
  3. 5,000 points + $70
  4. Toss-up between 15,000 points and 10,000 points + $40
  5. Toss-up between 20,000 points, 15,000 points + $40, and 10,000 + $70.
  6. 25,000 points
  7. 20,000 points + $40
  8. 20,000 points + $70

This list of options are based on calculations.

The math behind the madness

One of the difficult things is trying to put a dollar value to a point. The point is like a currency with a varying earning rates and redemption rates.

Here is a breakdown of earning points at Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

  • 10 points per dollar spent for a night stay at Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express
  • 50% bonus points for the night stay if you’re a Platinum member.
  • 5 points per dollar spent if you use the IHG credit card for the night stay.
  • Points from IHG Rewards Club are not accrued from paying taxes such occupancy tax, city tax, and state tax. However, points from using the credit card does accrue from such taxes.

The following is a table that I calculated using a spreadsheet. The scenario is the following:

If you were to stay at a same hotel at the same room for X amount dollars until you exhausted all your money and points, the practical room rate is the how much you would practically spend per night. For example, if you had $10,000 to spend for the same room at the same rate and you redeemed earned points for rooms using the 5,000 point + $0 redemption option, you would stay a total of 79.57 nights and the room rate would break down to $125.68 per night.


Location:Holiday Inn Express – San Diego
AAA Rate:136.62
Total Cost:151.53
Est. Points Earned:2776
Spending budget:$10,000
redeemed pointsadded costnights spentpractical room rate per night


As you can see, the best option to use is the 5,000 + $40 option.

The following is an example why 1,000 bonus points per night for $5 per night is not worth it. Except for the 5,000 + $40 option, you would get fewer nights.

Location:Holiday Inn Express – San Diego
Flexible Rate:145.95
Bonus:1,000 per night for $5 per night
Total Cost:$169.91
Est. Points Earned:4,113
Spending budget:$10,000
redeemed pointsadded costnights spentpractical room rate per night


The following is why it is worth getting the bonus points if you’re staying one night. The following assumes that the person can check-in and check-out every night so that 5,000 per stay becomes 5,000 per night. The following example is fictitious but uses a tax rate comparable to taxes found in San Diego.

Location:Fictitious Holiday Inn in San Diego
Flexible Rate:$145.95
Bonus:5,000 per stay for $10 per night
Total Cost per night:$175.54
Est. Points Earned:8,216
Spending budget:$10,000
redeemed pointsadded costnights spentpractical room rate per night


The following is an example that the Book Early & Save rate is better than the AAA rate but not as good as the one-night with 5,000 bonus points per stay rate:

Location:Holiday Inn Express – San Diego
Book Early & Save rate:$127.62
Total Cost per night:$143.65
Est. Points Earned:2,632
Spending budget:$10,000
redeemed pointsadded costnights spentpractical room rate per night