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Winning Big with IHG Rewards Club bonus points

IHG Rewards Club has a reputation for being the hotel loyalty program for quickly earning free nights. And it all comes down to the program’s software limitations. This post explains the normal earning scheme for IHG Rewards Club points and the hacker earning scheme employed by many members to earn tens of thousands of bonus points on hotel stays.

IHG Rewards Club has several earning rates depending on hotel brand.

Most hotel brands earn 10 points per $1.

  1. Holiday Inn (including Holiday Inn Resorts and Holiday Inn Club Vacations)
  2. Holiday Inn Express
  3. Crowne Plaza
  4. Hotel Indigo
  5. HuaLuxe (mainland China brand opening 2014)
  6. EVEN Hotels (new fitness lifestyle brand opening in USA 2014)
  7. InterContinental Hotels in Americas (USA, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Central and South America). InterContinental Hotels outside the Americas region earn only 2,000 points per stay.
  8. InterContinental Alliance Resorts worldwide (The Venetian and The Palazzo in Las Vegas and InterContinental Montelucia in Scottsdale, AZ) earn only 2,000 points per stay.

Extended Stay brands earn 5 points per $1.

8. Staybridge Suite

9. Candlewood Suites

InterContinental Hotels outside the Americas region earn only 2,000 points per stay. This is equivalent to the points earned for a $200 hotel night and a severe limitation on the earning ability when possibly spending $2,000 for a 4 or 5 night stay at an InterContinental Hotel that would earn 20,000 points if located in the Americas.

One of the changes last year with IHG Rewards Club was to change the earning structure for InterContinental stays in the Americas from 2,000 points per stay to 10 points per $1.


Promotion Codes vastly increase the earning rate for IHG Rewards Club stays.

IHG Rewards Club has a variety of targeted promotion codes and many of these are organized and posted on the web in forums like FlyerTalk and travel blogs. The FlyerTalk thread has a long list of codes any member can register for prior to IHG hotel stays. There is no guarantee that any of the specific codes will work, but I have received great value using the codes.

Signing up for bonus codes can result in thousands of additional points per stay.

I will illustrate the effect of promotion codes by showing my IHG Rewards Club earning over the past 90 days from four hotel stays during The Big Win 2013 promotion.

In October 2013, I registered several IHG Rewards Club promotion codes at random from the list on FlyerTalk while I was sitting in my room at a Holiday Inn Express after check-in and before check-out.

IHG My Offer Status

I successfully registered for seven promotions using 4-digit codes found on FlyerTalk.

My stay at the Holiday Inn Express Tehachapi, California was an approved Best Price Guarantee room for a free night. Due to the Best Price Guarantee claim being approved only about 5 hours before check-in, I was notified that I would need to pay for the room at the time of the stay and I would receive a check by mail to reimburse me. I received a reimbursement check in the mail five weeks later.

Holiday Inn Express Tehachapi room rate = $125.

IHG HIX Tehachapi points

Hotel Stay 1: HIX Tehachapi $125 rate earned 14,000 bonus points from FlyerTalk code registrations on a room night that ultimately was free of charge after being reimbursed for an approved Best Price Guarantee.

  1. Welcome Back Bonus = 3,000 points.
  2. Elite Member Next Stay Bonus = 5,000 points.
  3. New Member Bonus = 3,000 points.
  4. 2,000 bonus points for 60 days bonus = 2,000 points.
  5. Anniversary bonus = 1,000 points.

My regular earning for this stay was 1,250 base points earned from $125 room rate and 625 elite bonus points as an IHG Rewards Club Platinum member. This one night stay earned 15,875 points. And that is not even counting The Big Win bonuses for the main IHG Rewards Club 2013 global promotion.

Hotel Stay 2: Holiday Inn Santa Maria, California (Free Night through Best Price Guarantee claim)

This hotel stay was a free night for another approved Best Price Guarantee when the rate on IHG website was $119 and rate on Travelocity was $79.20.

This Best Price Guarantee room was free at check-out and therefore posted as a non-qualifying hotel stay. The only points earned were from a restaurant breakfast I paid for at the hotel.

I was hoping for another occurrence of paying for the hotel room and getting reimbursed. Alas, that did not happen. I could have paid $80 for the room on a AAA rate and received credit. Instead I had to plan another hotel stay to reach 3 stays and earn The Big Win bonus for 22,000 points after stays in three different IHG brands.

Hotel Stay 3: Candlewood Suites Santa Maria, California = $77 AAA rate.

I sandwiched my 500-mile one-way road trip along the California coast from Monterey to San Diego and back with two hotel stays in Santa Maria. I thought I would be tired after driving 300 miles from San Diego, but record high temperatures in the low 80s around Santa Barbara and the central coast pumped my adrenaline. I arrived at the Candlewood Suites, checked-in and checked out the room for some photos, then got back in my car and drove the remaining 170 miles home to Monterey.

IHG Candlewood points

Candlewood Suites $77 rate earned 6,577 points.

  • 385 base points for $77 x 5 points per $1.
  • 192 Platinum elite 50% bonus points.
  • New Member Bonus = 3,000 points.
  • 2,000 Bonus Points for 60 Days = 2,000 points.
  • Anniversary Bonus = 1,000 points.

This stay earned 6,000 bonus points from the FlyerTalk codes I registered for in October during my first stay for The Big Win promotion.

Stay 4: Holiday Inn San Jose Airport $81 rate.

Since my free night at the Holiday Inn Santa Maria posted as non-qualifying, I had to decide whether or not to book another stay at a third IHG brand to earn a 22,000 points bonus from my Big Win promotion offer. I calculated the bonus points were worth the expense for a hotel stay I really did not need.

IHG HI SJC points

Holiday Inn San Jose Airport earned 5,215 points on an $81 hotel stay.

  • 810 base points for $81 hotel rate.
  • 405 Platinum elite bonus points.
  • New Member Bonus = 3,000 points.
  • Anniversary Bonus = 1,000 points.
  • (If I had paid for the Santa Maria Holiday Inn, I would have been in the timeframe to earn 2,000 bonus points for stays within 60 days).

The Big Win Bonus Points = 23,000 points.

IHG 2013 points summary

My Big Win 2013 tasks offered a total 89,800 points, however, the bulk of those points could only be earned with two hotel stays in Europe. I planned for a trip to Europe, but family emergencies canceled those plans.

My Big Win tasks:

  • One and Done = 1,000 bonus points.
  • Explore Our Brands (3 different IHG brands) = 22,000 bonus points.
  • Three IHG website bookings = 2,800 bonus points (not posted yet).

Summary of IHG Rewards Club Points earnings on 3 paid stays

Four hotel stays at IHG brands between October and December spending a total of $158 + $20 tax + $5 parking charge + $12 breakfast = $195 hotel spend on four hotel nights.

27,667 points earned through IHG promo codes found on FlyerTalk.

23,000 bonus points earned from The Big Win 2013. An additional 2,800 bonus points anticipated.

53,467 points earned with $195 in hotel spend.

This is a purchase rate of $3.65 per 1,000 points.

I have already redeemed 30,000 points for 6 hotel nights on PointBreaks.

My PointBreaks reward nights where average room rates were $120 per night were bought with points costing me $18.25 per night while staying in hotel rooms.

Ten nights for $195 and an additional 23,467 points sitting in my IHG Rewards Club account is why IHG Rewards Club is considered one of the fastest earning hotel loyalty programs for free nights.

Big Win 2014 running from January 1 to April 30, 2014 has far easier tasks for me to reach in five hotel nights with IHG brands to earn 76,400 bonus points.

Add on some additional IHG bonus codes and earning 100,000 IHG Rewards Club points after five nights by April 30 looks like a good bet for my account.


Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

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  • Lionell January 7, 2014

    I have registered for some of the IHG promotion codes successfully the past 2 days, but only the Big Win 2014 promotion is showing in the My Offers section of my IHG account. Will the other registered promotions show up there as well, or does it maybe take a couple of days before they show?

  • Ric Garrido January 7, 2014

    @Lionell – there has been discussion that promo codes are not showing up in 2014. This is a developing story. We will see what happens as the month goes on. In the past I received bonus points for promo codes that did not show up in my account list.

  • Lionell January 7, 2014

    @Ric thanks for the quick reply, I have an upcoming stay this weekend in Amsterdam so I’ll find out afterwards which promotions get rewarded, I’ll let you know.

  • Carl P January 7, 2014

    I stayed at an HI last night. I’ll see how many of the 8 new codes I registered for on Saturday show. Normally there is about a 4 day lag before credit. Will advise.

    I assume you saw the warning letter somebody got for using non-targeted codes? If I can only use codes IHG sends me (which has been none except Big WIn) then the program will lose a lot of its appeal.

    Maybe staying away a while would get me a better Big Win offer next time. I need 10 stays, including 2 weekend stays and 4 brands, to get 82K points.

  • Carl P January 7, 2014

    Due to an unpredictable schedule I end up using the flexible rates a lot. A few IHG properties I stay at offer an extra 5K points for a $15 add-on ($3.00 per 1K points) . That can be another way to rack up some cheap points.

  • Ric Garrido January 7, 2014

    @Carl P – statements I have seen indicate less frequent loyal members have easier to reach tasks with The Big Win.

    @Carl P. – I asked Don Berg, IHG VP of loyalty, about members using these targeted codes to earn bonus points during an interview October 2013. He said it was a very small number of people who did this out of 71 million members.
    Paraphrasing Don Berg (I did not record interview), he said something to the effect that IHG wants smart travelers like people who read travel forums and blogs and learn about the hotels where they stay. If the points issued using these codes become a liability, IHG can upgrade software to stop stackable promotion codes.

  • Carl P January 7, 2014

    I was thinking about that interview the other day, but didn’t remember it was you that had done it. I hope it’s the case that people getting the warning letters were doing things this misrepresenting themselves as HP employess and the like – not using the more generic promo codes.

    I’ll still feel a little better when I see the new ones showing in my promo section and/or see some promo points credited. Call me paranoid.

  • ORD-TGU January 7, 2014

    I also did well on the BIG WIN 2013. 2014 is easier. I did a lot of cheap local “staycations”, enjoy pool, complimentary breakfast, drinks at bar. Today all points posted, and I received 147K on $411 spend. That includes promo codes, Visa spend, platinum amenity, etc.

    This promo got me to stay 5 times at IHG, which I would have not stayed at if not for promo. So I guess it worked out for IHG too.

  • DJP January 7, 2014

    Is there a way to change the BIG WIN you got for 2014???

    The one I received I dislike and I dont see it as doable without having to do mattress runs.

    I have to do 3 saturday stays. At most I see even doing at max between now and end of April are 2. More likely only 1. Any others would have to be mattress runs–UUGGHHH !!!

  • Alex January 7, 2014

    I’m hoping the promo codes post for my stays, even though they’re not showing up. At this point, though, I just feel greedy. My Big Win 2013 offer was 134,000 points completable in 6 nights over 3 stays (albeit in ‘certain cities’ which were difficult to reach cheaply), and the 2014 version is offering 156,000 points after only four nights spread over 3 stays (two different holiday inns, one other brand, two saturday nights, booking with card, etc).
    I’m ending up spending about $800 for close to 300,000 points, and I’m hoping the promo codes bump this to a point where i’m paying about $2.00 per 1,000 points.

  • Kent C January 7, 2014

    Yup, loaded about 12 codes just 2 days ago, only 1 showed up in the account. They will say the code is accepted each time, but then it is immediately removed from your account. Nice move. As people know, in 2013 you could load many codes. I had about 20 listed in my account, all went bye bye on 1/1/14.

  • Carl P January 11, 2014

    Loaded 8 new codes. 5 worked for me om recent weekdday night. New member, Platinum and Gold bonuses did not work. I am Platinum.

    3,000 pts WELCOME BACK BONUS – Test Market Offer
    1,500 pts New Stay Bonus

  • Ric Garrido January 11, 2014

    @Carl P. – looks like good stay bonuses to add on to your Big Win earnings.

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