Why some people should apply right now for the IHG Premier credit card

Why some people should apply right now for the IHG Premier credit card

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March 24 is just around the corner, and for those who already have the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, it means an entirely new fleet of IHG benefits, including more points, more bonus categories and the ability to “top off” IHG free night certificates so they can be used at any IHG in the world, including Holiday Inns, Kimpton Hotels, Intercontinental Hotels and many others. Those perks are in addition to the card’s current sign-up bonus that gives new card holders an opportunity to earn 125,000 bonus points and a free night after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months after opening the account.

But for some people, if you aren’t an IHG Premier card holder just yet, you might want to consider applying right now before these changes go into effect.

Those with the legacy IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card — which is IHG’s older credit card that’s no longer available to new applicants — can still apply for the IHG Premier card without canceling the IHG Select card, but only up until March 23. Once the new benefits launch on the IHG Premier, Chase will no longer allow you to get both cards. Instead, you’ll need to either upgrade your IHG Select card, or cancel it and then apply for the IHG Premier.

Now, you might be wondering why this matters. Isn’t one IHG credit card good enough? For many, yes. But if you want to truly utilize as many credit card benefits as possible, then having both credit cards in your wallet may be the cream of the crop.

Stacking the benefits of the IHG Select and IHG Premier credit cards

Both the IHG Select and IHG Premier cards offer their own distinct benefits, but fortunately, if you have both, you can stack the perks of the two cards together.

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IHG Select card holders get a 10% rebate on all points they redeem, which is a benefit that’s unique to this card and isn’t offered with the IHG Premier. It’s an incredibly easy way to get points back when you make a redemption, although you must have the points in your account to start with to make the booking.

The IHG Premier card, on the other hand, give you a fourth night free on all point reservations. When booking your stay, the least expensive night on a four-night (or more) stay will automatically be zeroed out.

So having both IHG credit cards means that on a four-night stay, you’ll be able to reap both benefits. For example, let’s say you have both cards and you’re staying at an IHG hotel that costs 35,000 points. For a four-night stay, you’ll only need to redeem 105,000 points, since your fourth night is free as an IHG Premier card holder.

But then after your stay is complete, you’ll then receive 10,500 points back thanks to the 10% rebate benefit of the IHG Select card. What would have normally cost you 140,000 points for the four-night stay will only cost a net of 94,500 points, which is a 32.5% discount off the normal points price.

Additionally, by having both cards, starting with your second year as a card holder you’ll receive two free night awards annually on every card holder anniversary that can be used at any IHG property that normally costs 40,000 points or less. Put the two free nights together and you can score a full weekend away instead of just one night per year.

Depending on the time of year, some notable properties where these certificates can be redeemed include the InterContinental Hotel Lisbon, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba and the Hotel Indigo San Diego Del Mar, just to name a few. During peak dates, these hotels can be quite pricey if you’re paying for them in cash, giving you excellent value with this perk.

A room at the IHG InterContinental Hotel in Lisbon.

Also, while the free night awards offered with both cards are capped at properties that cost 40,000 points per night or less, with the free night that comes with the IHG Premier card, starting on March 24 you’ll be able to use points in your account to make up the difference if you’re looking to stay at a property that exceeds the 40,000 point requirement.

While this perk won’t apply to the annual free night attached to the IHG Select card — even if you have both cards — you could still take advantage of it at properties where one night costs more than 40,000 points and a second consecutive night costs less, which can sometimes happen under IHG’s dynamic points redemption system.

Additional IHG Premier credit card benefits

Since the IHG Premier card is the only one of these two cards that you can currently apply for, let’s take a look at its many additional perks, especially since its benefits outweigh its annual fee even after the first year.

Why some people should apply right now for the IHG Premier credit card

IHG Premier credit card holders automatically receive complimentary IHG Platinum elite status. Although IHG Platinum status isn’t the best hotel status around, having some sort of elite status when you walk in the front door of a hotel is better than no status at all.

One of the main benefits of holding IHG Platinum status is that your points will never expire. Typically, IHG points expire if there’s no account activity within a 12-month time frame. IHG is very strict with this policy outside of the pandemic, so not having to worry about your points expiring is a great benefit.

Additionally, once the new benefits go into effect, IHG Premier card holders will have the opportunity to earn IHG’s recently announced new top-tier Diamond elite status. By spending $40,000 on purchases in a calendar year on the card and making one additional purchase after that, you’ll be able to reap the new Diamond benefits, including a 100% bonus on points earned on IHG stays, along with other perks to be announced.

Currently, you’ll earn a whopping 10 points for every dollar you spend on the IHG Premier at IHG hotels, along with 2 points per dollar on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. However, come March 24, you’ll also earn 5 points per dollar on travel (currently 1 point), 5 points per dollar on purchases at gas stations and dining/restaurants (currently 2 points) and 3 points per dollar on all other purchases (currently 1 point).

Read CNN Underscored's review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

While the number of points you’ll earn for your IHG stays with the IHG Premier is better than any other credit card out there, you can probably get more rewards in the other bonus categories and on everyday purchases with a different card. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 3 points on travel (or 5 total points on flights and 10 total points on hotels and car rentals if booked through Ultimate Rewards) and 3 points for every dollar you spend on dining. But based on the point valuations of frequent flyer website The Points Guy, Chase points are worth at least twice as much as IHG points, and possibly even more depending on how you use them.

Even with CNN Underscored’s benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, you’ll earn 2% cash back — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off — on everything you buy. Since IHG points are only worth 0.5 cents apiece according to The Points Guy, you’re getting a 12.5% return on spending at IHG hotels with the IHG Premier card, but only a 1.5% return on your non-category bonus purchases once the changes go into effect.

When you apply for either the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck trusted traveler programs, just pay with your IHG Premier card and your application fee up to $100 will be reimbursed in full. The TSA PreCheck program gets you through TSA security faster at U.S. airports, while Global Entry expedites going through immigration when you return to the U.S. from being overseas.

Even if you already have one of these memberships, you can always use your IHG Premier to pay for a friend or family member’s application fee and you’ll still receive the reimbursement — the name on the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application doesn’t need to match the name on the credit card. And you can receive this fee reimbursement once every four years.

Starting March 24, a new benefit of the IHG Premier is up to $50 in United TravelBank cash each calendar year. This TravelBank cash can be used toward air travel purchases on United and United Express flights. You can get up to $25 in credits every six months, with the first set starting around Jan. 1 each year and a second set around July 1 each year.

Deposits made in the first half of the year will expire on July 15, and the ones made in the second half will expire on Jan. 15 of the next year, so you won’t be able to just bank these credits for the long term. But as long as you typically fly United at least twice a year, this is an easy way to offset your annual fee.

Another new benefit of the IHG Premier starting March 24 is the opportunity to earn 10,000 bonus points and a $100 statement credit after spending $20,000 on purchases and making one additional purchase on the card each calendar year.

We probably wouldn’t recommend putting that much spending on this card since you can earn more rewards with other credit cards, including other travel credit cards. But if you’re strongly committed to IHG, then it’s a nice extra bonus for using the card regularly.

Should you consider the IHG Premier credit card?

Get four nights for the cost of three when you have the IHG Premier card and redeem points at properties like the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba-Beach.

If you don’t spend a lot of time at IHG hotels, it’s likely that the IHG Premier isn’t right for you, since you won’t be able to take advantage of its best benefits and perks. If that’s the case, check our our guide to the best travel credit cards to find a card that’s more suitable for your needs.

But between its benefits and sign-up bonus, the IHG Premier card is worth a look for even occasional IHG travelers, especially when combined with the IHG Select (if you already have it). In the first year alone, you’ll end up with 125,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account, plus the free night from the bonus offer and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement worth up to another $100.

Additionally, getting the IHG Premier card now will lock you into the $89 annual fee for the first year. Once the new benefits go into place on March 24, the fee will go up to $99, but existing card holders won’t be charged the increased fee until your first anniversary with the card.

So, if you’re planning to do some traveling this year and expect to have at least two or more stays at an IHG hotel in the near future, regardless of whether you have the old IHG Select card or not, the sweet haul of bonus points from the IHG Premier credit card can get you well on your way.

Learn more about the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

Looking for a new credit card? Check out CNN Underscored’s list of the best credit cards available right now.

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