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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