A (Somewhat Pricey) Shortcut To IHG Hotels Elite Status

Hotel elite status comes in a variety of different flavors.  My favorite hotel chain is still Hyatt, given all the benefits they bestow on higher spending elite customers.  Chains like Hilton, IHG and Marriott have much more significant footprints, which some folks prefer.

As a general rule, hotel status is achieved through “heads in beds”, usually your head.  There have been a few loopholes/shortcuts over the years, such as booking cheap meetings with Marriott.  For the most part though, you need to spend a decent chunk of time in a hotel to achieve top-tier elite status with the various hotel chains.

IHG does have a shortcut to elite status.  To be clear, this isn’t breaking news.  The path has been around for a while.  The IHG program isn’t one I normally focus on, so hadn’t come across it.

Our family has a one-night award stay coming up at an IHG property.  I had some orphaned points I wanted to use up, but I was a tiny bit short of what I needed for the redemption.  I transferred some points from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account to IHG.  Now, if you’re a mile/point purist, don’t jump on me.  I know I could have purchased the points from IHG.  I’m lucky to have a pretty healthy Ultimate Rewards balance and had never really transferred to IHG in the past.  I figured I’d be lazy and save a bit of cash while testing the transfer process.

I quickly discovered that points transferred from a Chase Ultimate Rewards account counted towards elite status.  If my math is right, someone could transfer 75,000 points to earn Spire elite status.  You could also choose to transfer few points for a lower status level, or to “top off” to the next status level.

Is It Worth It?

This is where the value of flexible currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards can work against you.  Those Ultimate Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio. Where I value a United MileagePlus mile at around 2 cents, an IHG Reward point is worth about half a penny to me.  The exception here is if you transferred enough points to earn Spire elite status.  That’s their top-tier status, which allows you to choose a gift of either 25,000 points or Platinum status for a friend.  So, you’d technically want to consider the value of an additional 25,000 IHG Rewards points  in your transfer ratio if your transfer ultimately earned Spire status.

The opportunity cost of transferring those points to IHG could be the inability to book an award flight on United or another airline that could potentially save you more money.

What Does IHG Elite Status Get You?

Short answer, not much.  There are no guaranteed suite upgrades or breakfast benefit.  Even the late checkout benefit is subject to availability, words I truly hate to see in terms and conditions.  As you can see from the chart below, elite status is mostly a play to earn extra points on paid stays.  Spire Elite Status earns you Five Star status with Hertz along with your choice of 25,000 points or Platinum status as a gift.  But, mostly slim pickings.

I don’t talk to a ton of Spire Elite members, so I can’t vouch for the reliability of room upgrades (you know, those ones that are subject to availability).

The Final Two Pennies

Flexible currencies are very helpful for travelers, both frequent and infrequent.  While it wouldn’t be my first choice to move points to IHG from Chase Ultimate Rewards, it might be a part of your plan for an upcoming vacation.  If so, you might consider moving a number of points that gets you to a higher level of elite status.  Make sure you consider how often you’ll use the status and what return you might get for those points in the future.  Once you transfer them from Ultimate Rewards to IHG, you can’t transfer them back.

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13 Comments

  1. As an IHG Spire and Ambassador member I wouldn’t bother unless you have tons of UR points to burn. Spire is OK and you may get upgrades at some properties. Better than Hilton offers but there isn’t much difference to me from Platinum which you can get from a $49 per year credit card.
    The best use of this would be to use the bonus points to buy Ambassador status which gives automatic upgrades at Intercontinental properties. Spire doesn’t count for much at Intercontinental hotels.

  2. I was IHG Platinum for a couple years from stays, and in my experience there wasn’t much of a difference in stay upgrades or benefits, other than better points earning via bonus points.

  3. I’ve had Spire Elite status for a couple of years. I’ve never gotten an upgrade or a free breakfast. I inquired about an upgrade at the Intercontinental Hong Kong because I wanted a view of the skyline. I ended up paying about $60 extra per night for a room with a view.

  4. I got Spire Elite status in 2015 through a short-lived loophole wherein my Chase signup bonus counted towards that status immediately after that new tier was introduced. It was great for me, since I got a free 25k IHG points. But other than that I didn’t notice a single benefit of Spire Elite status over the Platinum status you get with the card in the dozen or so stays at IHG hotels I had before the status lapsed.

    Given that UR points are worth at least a cent each and given that the IHG card is not under 5/24, I can only think of a one scenario where someone might want to take advantage of this. That is if they are just under the point qualification level for Spire, and won’t hit it otherwise. Transferring that extra 10,000 UR could be an ok deal, because you’re basically getting 35k IHG points. Transferring any more than that wouldn’t really be worth it for me.

    Interesting post, though!

    1. JB, thanks for the data points on Spire status. I agree that the only really great scenario I see is if you’re just shy of a status level like Spire. Exchanging 10K UR points for 35,000 IHG points wouldn’t make me too ill. 🙂

  5. I am a Spire Elite. I did get an upgrade last month at the Intercontinental Hong Kong with a harbor view and this was an upgrade on an award stay. I also go an upgrade at the Intercontinental Tokyo Bay on a 3 day stay ( I paid one night, used points for 2). I don’t have Ambassador status. IHG upgrades are all up to the individual hotels and I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve never received free food but did get free drinks from time to time.
    I feel that IHG is a program for acquiring a bunch of points in a short time with Accelerate, bonus points, 2,000 or 5,000 extra points per stay or 1,000 a night. And as a Spire you get 100% bonus points per stay.

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