IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card Review


If you only stay in hotels a handful of times each year, it’s fair to wonder whether you should bother with a branded hotel credit card. Though these cards tend to have generous benefits for frequent guests, most charge annual fees that are difficult for occasional guests and light spenders to offset. Most, but not all.

One exception is the Chase IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card, which favors spending at nearly 6,000 IHG hotel and resort properties worldwide. As a cardholder, you earn bonus points on these purchases (and some non-hotel purchases too) while enjoying complimentary Silver Elite status in the IHG One loyalty program.

The IHG Rewards Traveler card is ideal if you can easily stay at widely available IHG properties like Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, and InterContinental Hotels when you travel, regardless of how frequently that happens. But it’s not the best choice if you’re on the road every month. So before you apply, carefully consider the pros and cons.

What Is the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card?

The IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card is a hotel credit card with no annual fee. Designed for people who regularly stay at IHG hotel and resort properties, it rewards IHG purchases to the tune of up to 17 points per $1 spent.

The IHG Rewards Traveler card earns rewards on non-hotel spending as well. Restaurant, gas station, utilities, and streaming purchases all earn 3 points per $1 spent, inching ahead of the 2x base rate on general spending.

The IHG Rewards Traveler card has some other notable benefits, including automatic Silver Elite status in the IHG loyalty program and spending-based opportunities to earn extra bonus points and higher loyalty status. But it’s less generous than most hotel credit cards and — at least for frequent IHG guests — overshadowed by the perks-laden IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card.

What Sets the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card Apart?

The IHG Rewards Traveler card stands out from other hotel credit cards for several reasons:

  • No annual fee. Most hotel credit cards have annual fees, so fee-free is a notable feature. It increases the card’s appeal for occasional IHG guests.
  • Above-average sign-up bonus. For a no-annual-fee card, the IHG Rewards Traveler card has an extremely appealing sign-up bonus for new cardholders. While not quite as generous as annual-fee cards like IHG Rewards Premier, it’s reliably worth at least two free nights at more than 5,000 IHG properties worldwide — several hundred dollars in value.
  • Broad 3x bonus categories on non-hotel spending. This card earns bonus points on purchases in several non-hotel categories: restaurants, gas stations, utilities, and select streaming services. These categories are broadly popular. You likely make at least one monthly purchase in each, and probably much more than that.

Key Features of the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card

Like other hotel credit cards, the IHG Rewards Traveler card has a rewards program that uses its hotel partner’s loyalty currency — in this case, IHG points. It has some other notable perks as well, including automatic loyalty status and a spending-based status upgrade opportunity.

Sign-up Bonus

Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s worth up to two free nights at 5,000+ IHG properties worldwide.

Earning Rewards

The IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card reserves its best return for purchases at IHG hotels and resorts, including bookings and purchases made at the properties themselves. These purchases earn up to 17 points per $1 spent, broken down as follows:

  • 10x points just for being an IHG loyalty program member
  • 2x points with Silver Elite status, a complimentary perk of the Traveler card
  • 5x points with the card itself

Purchases in non-hotel categories earn 3x points:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Utilities
  • Streaming services

All other eligible purchases earn 2x points, with no caps or restrictions on how much you can earn. Points expire after 12 months of inactivity, so be sure to earn points (through spending) or redeem them at least once per year.

Annual Spend Bonus

When you spend $10,000 on your card in a calendar year, you earn 10,000 bonus IHG points. These points work the same as points earned on everyday card spending.

Redeeming Rewards

It’s best to redeem your IHG points for award stays (free nights) at participating IHG hotels and resorts. 

Redemptions start at 10,000 points per night for budget-friendly hotels and range up to 70,000 points per night at luxe properties. Actual nightly point requirements vary by location and demand, but you can generally get by with 25,000 points or fewer per night at lower-end brands like Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites. Resorts and more amenity-rich urban properties typically require 30,000 points or more per night.

Fourth Night Free With Qualifying Redemption

When you redeem IHG points for three consecutive award nights at any participating property, you automatically get the fourth night free. Keep it in mind when you book. There’s no reason not to extend your stay if you can.

Automatic Silver Elite Status

The IHG Rewards Traveler card comes with complimentary Silver Elite status in the IHG One loyalty program. Benefits include:

  • 20% bonus points on paid IHG stays — that’s 2 points per $1 spent, which counts toward the total of 17 points per $1 spent on IHG spending with this card
  • Priority check-in
  • Late checkout (2 p.m.)

Upgrade to Gold Elite Status With Qualifying Annual Spending

When you spend at least $20,000 on your card in a calendar year, you’re automatically upgraded to Gold Elite status. The benefits significantly improve on Silver Elite’s:

  • 40% bonus points on paid IHG stays — 5 points per $1 spent instead of 2 points per $1 spent, for 20x total points on IHG spending with this card
  • Ability to roll over points to count toward next year’s status, making it easier to keep Gold Elite status moving forward
  • Priority check-in and 2 p.m. checkout

Travel & Purchase Benefits

The IHG Rewards Traveler card has four travel and purchase benefits of note:

  • Baggage delay insurance. This benefit reimburses essential purchases (like toiletries), up to $100 per day for three days when your bag is delayed more than six hours in transit.
  • Lost luggage insurance. If any of your luggage or an immediate family member’s is lost or damaged in transit, you can claim up to $3,000 in reimbursement for the bag and its contents.
  • Trip cancellation and interruption coverage. This benefit covers up to $5,000 per person and $10,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses (fares, hotels, and tours) forfeited due to illness, severe weather, and certain other covered situations.
  • Purchase coverage. This benefit covers loss and damage to covered items purchased with the card, up to $500 per item and $50,000 lifetime per account for 120 days from purchase.

Important Fees

This card has no annual fee or foreign transaction fees. Other fees may apply — see pricing information.

Credit Required

This card requires good or excellent credit. If your FICO credit score is much below 700, you may have difficulty getting approved.

Advantages

The IHG Rewards Traveler card has a surprisingly generous set of perks for a no-annual-fee travel card. 

  • Up to 17x points on eligible IHG purchases. All told, this card earns up to 17x points on eligible IHG purchases. Only 5x points come from the card itself, with the balance from your automatic Silver Elite status and IHG Rewards program membership. But it’s still a nice bump over what you’d earn without the card.
  • Above-average sign-up bonus. This card’s sign-up bonus isn’t super-generous as hotel credit cards go, but after accounting for the lack of an annual fee, it’s pretty impressive. Most no-annual-fee travel cards have less generous sign-up bonuses or none at all.
  • No annual fee. I can’t say it enough: The IHG Rewards Traveler card has no annual fee. That makes it ideal for occasional travelers who can’t justify an annual maintenance charge.
  • Multiple 3x bonus categories. This is another appeal for occasional travelers who spend most of their money on everyday expenses like fuel, food, and utilities. 
  • Automatic Silver Elite status with card membership. Without this card, IHG Silver Elite status requires at least 10 paid nights at IHG properties in a calendar year. With this card, you get Silver Elite status automatically.
  • Spending-based points bonus. Spending $10,000 on a single credit card in a calendar year is a heavy lift for some folks, but if you can swing it, you earn an extra 10,000 bonus points. That’s significant progress toward your next IHG award stay.
  • Fourth night free with qualifying redemption. There’s an incentive to save up enough points to redeem for three consecutive award nights. When you do, you get a fourth award night free — no additional points or dollars needed.

Disadvantages

The IHG Rewards Traveler card is less generous than most hotel credit cards, including the IHG Rewards Premier card. And IHG’s rewards program is also less guest-friendly than Marriott’s or Hyatt’s. IHG has:

  • No 0% intro APR promotion. The IHG Traveler card has no 0% intro APR promotion. That’s a notable downside if you’re laboring to pay off existing high-interest credit card balances or looking to finance your next vacation on the cheap.
  • Gold Elite status upgrade requires heavy annual spending. If you want Gold Elite status without racking up 20 paid stays or earning 40,000 base points in a calendar year, you must spend $20,000 on this card during the same period. That’s a lot to ask many people. If it’s not a heavy lift for you, you can probably afford the annual fee on a more generous travel card.
  • Relatively few value-added perks. Other than automatic Silver Elite status, the IHG Rewards Traveler card has limited value beyond its rewards program. By contrast, the IHG Rewards Premier card comes with complimentary Platinum Elite status, a free award night each year after your account anniversary, credits against eligible expedited entry programs (like TSA PreCheck), and complimentary DoorDash DashPass membership (good for free delivery on eligible orders).
  • IHG points aren’t worth much. Valuing hotel loyalty currency is always tricky, but it’s not up for debate that IHG points are worth less than some competing hotel loyalty programs’ currency. Marriott Bonvoy points and World of Hyatt points are both worth more when redeemed for award stays. You might need just 20,000 Bonvoy points and 15,000 Hyatt points to get a free night at a full-service downtown hotel, versus 35,000 or 40,000 IHG points.

How the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card Stacks Up

The IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card is a fine choice for occasional travelers who tend to stay at IHG properties when they venture away from home. However, if you hit the road more often, the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card might be a better fit. Compare them head-to-head before you apply.

IHG Rewards Traveler IHG Rewards Premier
Sign-Up Bonus Yes, worth 80,000 points  Yes, worth 140,000 points 
IHG Rewards 17x points 26x points
Bonus Rewards 3x points on select categories 5x points on select categories
Base Rewards 2x points on all other purchases 3x points on all other purchases
Elite Status Silver (potentially Gold)  Platinum 
Annual Points Bonus 10,000 bonus points with $10,000 spent None
Annual Free Night No Yes
Annual Fee $0 $99

Final Word

You don’t have to stay at an IHG property every month — or every quarter — for the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card to make sense. You don’t pay anything to keep it in your wallet. Yet it still boasts a generous rewards program and complimentary Silver Elite status.

It’s truly a hotel credit card for people who don’t consider themselves seasoned travelers. But by the same token, it’s not the best choice for people who spend a significant amount of time on the road.

If you’re not sure which is right for you, start with the IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card. If you find yourself yearning for more and better benefits and traveling often enough to justify a $99 annual fee, you can upgrade to the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card.



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