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IHG Rewards’ approach to elite status is fairly unique amongst the major hotel chains in both good and bad ways. Starting with the negative… you won’t be guaranteed many useful perks during your stays – no breakfast or lounge access (although hotels can choose to be more generous).
But unlike the other major hotel chains – where you generally reach elite status based on the number of nights spent in a calendar year – the most common way to earn elite status with IHG Rewards is to reach a certain number of Elite Qualifying Points.
Normally, you would require:
- 75,000 Elite Qualifying Points for Spire status
- 40,000 Elite Qualifying Points for Platinum status
In 2021, however, those hurdles have been reduced to:
- 55,000 Elite Qualifying Points for Spire status
- 30,000 Elite Qualifying Points for Platinum status
What is an Elite Qualifying Point?
At most IHG hotels you earn 10 EQPs per US Dollar (so currently about 14 per £1) spent on your pre-tax room rate and other eligible charges such as food and beverages, etc, (you earn 5 EQPs at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites).
Not only must you book direct with IHG, however, you must avoid certain heavily discounted rates such as “Friends & Family” or employee discount rates. A useful rule-of-thumb is 30% – if your discount is greater than 30% against the standard flexible rate, your rate might not qualify.
Bonus Point Packages
Some hotels offer room rates that cost more, but come with bonus points attached. These bonuses can be 5,000 EQPs per night or more. Sometimes these bonus points are cheaper than buying points directly (during promotions) – sometimes they aren’t, but the elite qualifying element can still make them worthwhile.
It’s important to note that the rate must be clearly defined as a “Bonus Points Package” (with a little logo). Some hotels will offer rates that happen to come with bonus points, but these won’t qualify for status. Stick with the 5,000 point packages and you should be fine. Chase a 20,000 point bonus and you might find that they aren’t EQPs.
Credit Card Spend
This is what allows you to obtain IHG elite status without actually staying. However, only day-to-day spend counts as an EQP. Sign-up bonuses do NOT count as EQP.
Select Partner Activity
If you visit the IHG Extras webpage, you can book:
- Car rentals
- Tour Packages
The IHG points you earn will count as EQPs.
What ISN’T an Elite Qualifying Point?
Elite Status Bonuses and Amenities
Gold members receive a 10% bonus. Platinum members receive a 50% bonus. Spire members receive a 100% bonus. These bonuses do NOT count as EQPs.
At check-in, elite status members are usually offered their choice of a welcome drink or some points. If you choose the points (and they post correctly) these are NOT EQPs.
Promotion Bonus Points
Points earned via promotions – such as the current one offering triple points – do NOT count as EQPs.
Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses
As mentioned above, any sign-up bonuses do NOT count as EQPs.
Occasionally IHG offers a discount or bonus when buying IHG points. These purchased points do NOT count as EQPs.
Points & Cash
IHG lets you book reward stays using a combination of points and cash. However, you pay the cash up front and are essentially buying points at the time of booking. If you subsequently cancel your reservation, your refund will come in the form of points. These are NOT EQPs (and you never earn points on the cash portion).
Many travel hackers earned their IHG elite status through clever use of partner conversions. You can convert Virgin Atlantic and Finnair miles to IHG points at a poor exchange rate. You can also convert E-Rewards “money” into IHG points.
Previously these conversions counted as EQPs (whether intentionally or not) but now they definitely do NOT count as EQPs.
IHG has closed some of the loopholes that allowed many members to reach elite status without staying much at IHG hotels. But you can still reach Spire status by paying close attention to all of the various opportunities to earn Elite Qualifying Points.
Alternatively, you could purchase Intercontinental Ambassador status for ~£145 ($200), which includes IHG Rewards Platinum status.