[Note: As you might have guessed from the title, this post is intended for beginners. If you already know this stuff, please let me know in the comments if I missed anything that would be helpful to newbies.]
Q: Dear Personal Finance Digest: I’d like to know more about the Holiday Inn credit card. Can you help me out?
A: Sure! But just so you know, it’s not actually called the Holiday Inn credit card; it’s called the IHG credit card and used to be known as the Priority Club card. IHG stands for InterContinental Hotels Group, the company that owns Holiday Inn as well as other brands including InterContinental, Indigo, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites.
Q: Ah, okay… this is already getting a little complicated.
A: In this case, complicated is a good thing! The more brands they have, the more options you have for redeeming for free nights.
Q: Cool! Hey, I see this card comes with a sign-up bonus. Should I go ahead and get it?
A: That depends on what the sign-up bonus is, but usually it’s decent. In the past, it’s gone as high as 80,000 points, and sometimes a modest statement credit is available too. It was 70,000 points when I got it, and it’s usually at least 60,000. There’s a thread over at flyertalk which is usually pretty good at posting up-to-date best credit card offers.
Q: Say I get a whole bunch of IHG points from the sign-up bonus. What can I do with them?
A: Good question! The best use for IHG points is with their Pointbreaks program. Every 3 months or so, IHG releases a new list of Pointbreak hotels which you can get for only 5,000 points per night. So if you’re fortunate enough to snag an 80,000-point sign-up bonus, that means you can get as much as 16 free nights, which is a phenomenal sign-up bonus.
Q: This sounds too good to be true.
A: It is and it isn’t. They rarely put the nicer hotels on the list, and since inventory is limited the nicer ones and/or the ones in the more desirable locations tend to get snapped up pretty quickly. But if you’re flexible there is value to be had.
Q: Okay, aside from that how should I use my points?
A: Use them for whatever you want! Log into ihg.com and figure out how many points it will take you to go where you want. It’s helpful to have some idea of how you’re going to use your points before you apply.
Q: The card has a $49 annual fee (waived the first year), but I read that you shouldn’t have credit cards with an annual fee. Should I cancel after the first year?
A: Excellent question! I generally recommend against paying annual fees, but this is one where there is value to be had assuming you were already going to be doing some traveling. After your first year, you get one free night per year which you can use at any IHG hotel in the world, even one of the really expensive ones. So the question you need to ask is, are you willing to pay $49 for a hotel night at an IHG hotel some time in the next year? In my case, the answer is yes. As is always the case with credit card rewards, your mileage may vary. But note that some hotels, such as the InterContinental brands, can go for hundreds of dollars per night, so this can be a good way to get a cheap stay at a luxury property.
Q: What else should I know about the IHG rewards program?
A: You should know that Drew over at TravelIsFree is a big fan and has written some good posts on IHG. I like Earning IHG Rewards Points on Steroids as well as as How to Find Free Nights with IHG’s Best Rate Guarantee.