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Chase currently issues three credit cards linked to the IHG One Rewards program and this article compares the annual fees, the earning rates, and the key benefits that these cards offer in what is (hopefully) an easily digestible format to make it easier to see which card (if any) will work best for you.
The three IHG Rewards credit cards
There are 3 IHG Rewards credit cards that are currently open to new applicants (I’m not including the IHG Rewards Select credit card here as it’s no longer available). Two are consumer cards and one is a business card.
- IHG® Rewards Traveler credit card
- IHG® Rewards Premier credit card
- IHG® Rewards Premier Business credit card
Two of these cards charge an annual fee while one does not and as you’ll see below, all three cards have their own key selling points.
Comparing the IHG Rewards cards
A couple of notes before I get to the comparisons:
I’ve chosen to use tables to show what the three IHG Rewards credit cards offer and because I think the information speaks for itself, I don’t intend to add a lot of commentary about specific differences between the cards.
This article is intended more as a resource (with a few of my thoughts added in) rather than a blow-by-blow discussion of what I think is good and bad about each of the IHG cards.
Ok, let’s move on to the comparisons…
Comparing the current welcome offers (terms apply)
Comparing earning rates (terms apply)
~ Cardholders will earn up to 17 points/dollar on spending at most IHG properties because they will also earn 10 extra points/dollar for being an IHG One Rewards member and 2 extra points/dollar for holding Silver Elite status (a benefit of the Traveler card)
^ Cardholders will earn up to 26 points/dollar on spending at most IHG properties because they will also earn 10 extra points/dollar for being an IHG One Rewards member and 6 extra points/dollar for holding Platinum Elite status (a benefit that comes with these cards)
The key thing to point out here is how similar the earning rates that the IHG® Rewards Premier credit card and the IHG® Rewards Premier Business credit card offer and it’s interesting to note that the Business Card is never once beaten by the earning rates offered by either of the consumer cards – that’s not something that we see very often.
Also, while the IHG® Rewards Traveler credit card clearly offers the weakest overall earnings, that’s something that needs to be viewed in context – this is a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee while both of its competitors do.
When looking at these earnings rates, don’t just look at the points/dollar number in isolation.
To get a true view of how good or bad these earning rates are, you should always work out how much value the earning rates are offering you and go from there.
Here’s what I mean by that:
I value IHG One Rewards Points at 0.4 cents each (based on the value that I know that I can get out of them with ease) and that means that where one of these IHG cards offers me 5 points/dollar for spending in a given category, I know that for me, that’s an effective return of 2.0% on my spending.
This helps put things in context as while a headline earning rate of 5 points/dollar can look impressive, the fact that it only equates to a 2.0% return shows that it’s actually not very good at all and that I would probably do a lot better by using another credit card when spending in that particular category.
Comparing key benefits (terms apply & enrollment may be required)
Deciding what is and what isn’t a key benefit is, by definition, a subjective thing so not all benefits may have been listed here.
Having said that, the benefits that have been included here should be more than enough to help you see just what a cardholder is being offered in return for the annual fee that each card charges.
*These free night certificates can be topped up using IHG One Rewards Points and so can be used to part-pay for more expensive properties.
As usual, it’s important to keep some of these benefits in context when evaluating these cards as some are not as valuable as they may appear.
$100 + 10,000 points probably sounds quite nice but because you have to put $20,000 of spending on to these cards to earn this benefit, this isn’t a benefit that most cardholders should be trying to trigger.
Sure, if you’re a cardholder who can spend the $20,000 at IHG properties then by all means go ahead and do exactly that but because in all other categories these cards offer noticeably worse returns than a lot of other credit cards on the market, putting so much non-IHG spending on one of these cards is a sub-optimal idea.
Likewise, the fact that the IHG® Rewards Premier Business credit card offers cardholders the chance to earn a second free night certificate may look like it gives the card an edge over its siblings, but because a cardholder would have to put $60,000 of spending on to their card to trigger this benefit, it’s not much of an edge at all.
A 40,000-point free night certificate isn’t worth more than $200 and by putting $60,000 of non-IHG spending on the IHG® Rewards Premier Business credit card just to earn that benefit, a cardholder would almost certainly be leaving behind significantly more than in earnings that they would have enjoyed had they used a more appropriate card for that spending.
My thoughts on the cards
There really isn’t much to split the IHG® Rewards Premier Business credit card and the IHG® Rewards Premier credit card but because the business card offers more opportunities to earn bonus points, I’d have to give that card the edge.
The IHG® Rewards Traveler credit card may look like an ugly duckling when compared to its more premium siblings but the fact is that this is actually a great card to hold. It doesn’t charge an annual fee and it offers one of the best benefits that these cards offer – the 4th-night free benefit on award bookings.
The truth is that unless you’re likely to stay at IHG properties more than once or twice a year, you probably don’t need most of the benefits that the other two cards offer…so why pay for them?
As most people can make the most of the IHG One Rewards program by simply combining a good points sale (when points are on sale at 0.5 cents each) with the 4th-night free benefit, most people shouldn’t feel the need to pay an annual fee for an IHG Rewards credit card – the Traveler card does everything that they need it to do.
If, however, you happen to be someone who loves IHG One Rewards and stays at IHG properties reasonably frequently, then the extra benefits offered by the two more premium cards will probably be more useful and so paying an annual fee will make sense.
Hopefully, the tables above will provide readers with a useful resource when it comes to deciding which IHG Rewards card is best for them or if they should bother having an IHG Rewards card at all. If there’s anything that you think I’ve missed or something that you’d like me to add in or discuss, let me know in the comments section below and I’ll see what I can do.