Which Is Better: IHG Or Marriott Credit Card?

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At the moment there are limited time increased sign-up bonuses on two popular hotel credit cards issued by Chase. These include the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card and IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card. I’ve received some questions from readers who want to apply for one of the two cards, but don’t know which one to apply for. So I figured I’d share my thoughts on which card has a better sign-up bonus and better perks.

Which card has a better sign-up bonus?

The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card has a sign-up bonus of 80,000 Marriott Rewards points after spending $3,000 within three months, plus an additional 7,500 bonus points when adding the first authorized user, after they make their first purchase within three months of account opening.

Personally I value Marriott Rewards points at ~0.8 cents each, meaning the 87,500 points are worth $700 to me. However, there’s an $85 annual fee (not waived the first year), so the sign-up bonus is worth $615 to me.

Meanwhile the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card offers a sign-up bonus where you can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. You also earn 5 points per $1 spent when you stay at IHG hotels.

I value IHG Rewards Club points at ~0.5 cents each, so to me those 60,000 points are worth ~$300. While the card’s annual fee is $49, it’s waived the first year.

So ultimately I think the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card has a better sign-up bonus than the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card. But that should only be one of the considerations in applying for a card.

Which card has a better annual free night benefit?

One of the things which makes both of these cards awesome is that they offer an annual free night on your account anniversary each year. This makes them cards which are worth holding onto long term, and not just for the sign-up bonus.

The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card offers an annual free night certificate valid at any IHG hotel in the world. This is incredible, given that you can redeem the certificate for a hotel which would cost 60,000 points per night. It’s also amazing since this card has a low annual fee of just $49 per year.

For example, I just recently redeemed my free night certificate at the InterContinental The O2 London, which would have cost ~$500 for the one night stay.

IHG-Free-Night

The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers an annual free night certificate which is valid at Category 1-5 properties, which means you can’t use it at Categories 6-9 properties. This covers many mid-range properties, but excludes most of Marriott’s higher end hotels, and hotels in expensive cities. So I think it’s still well worth the $85 annual fee, but not as compelling in this regard as the IHG card.

Marriott-Chart

So when it comes to annual free night certificates, the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card wins thanks to the lower annual fee and the ability to redeem at any IHG property, rather than just a certain category of property.

Other perks to consider?

There are a few other perks to consider. The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers 15 elite qualifying nights towards status annually, and you get a further elite qualifying night towards status for each $3,000 you spend on the card. That means you could earn Platinum status by spending $180,000 on the card (which I wouldn’t recommend doing).

Personally I wouldn’t be putting much spend on the card, so I’d look at that benefit as being mostly about the 15 elite qualifying nights per year you get just for having the card. If you’re a Marriott loyalist, or a Starwood loyalist who is a soon-to-be Marriott loyalist, this is something which is worth considering.

Meanwhile the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card offers a 10% refund on award redemptions, and they’ll refund you up to 100,000 points per year. That’s a good deal if you ever redeem IHG points. Furthermore, you get IHG Platinum status for as long as you have the card. Ultimately that doesn’t come with that many benefits, but is better than nothing.

IHG-Points-Refund

Bottom line

For the average consumer, I think the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card is slightly more compelling than the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card. The Marriott card has a better sign-up bonus. However, long term the annual free night certificate valid at any property, plus the lower annual fee, makes the IHG card tough to beat.

The major exception is if you’re a Marriott (or Starwood/soon to be Marriott) loyalist, in which case the 15 elite qualifying nights towards status annually are worth factoring in.

Which card do you think offers an all around more compelling value proposition — the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card or Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card?


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Comments

  1. Lucky,

    When will you start reviewing more Marriott hotels (particularly Autographs, Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott and Edition)?

    Thanks

  2. The Marriott card free anniversary night certificate category 1-5 is getting harder to use unless you want to stay by the airport and even then that isn’t possible in most European airports.

  3. While I’m more of an IHG fan and I’m not a big Hawaii person. Marriott has much better choices than IHG for Hawaii.
    I also agree that Marriott’s Cat 1-5 free night isn’t as good as the IHG free night at any hotel.

  4. Why not get both! I have the IHG and considering getting the Marriott card also.

    In Asia, your Platinum Elite status with IHG actually means something!! Many Holidays Inns have executive lounges with free drinks and snacks. Also upgrades are also often given. Not bad for $49.

    There is a newer Holiday Inn in Bangkok on Soi 20. Great location and design.

  5. I love IHG hotels, especially overseas where Platinum means something. I think their hotels are also of a higher standard out there.

    Marriotts are not bad to stay in, but it’s hard to hit a high level status with them and even harder to use their points (as you need so many to get a decent hotel).

    Generally, I choose IHG over any other hotel due to location, price and those cinnamon buns!

  6. also consider getting the IHG card for the Platinum status and then using it to match to Hilton Diamon

  7. The Marriott anniversary night keeps getting devalued as Marriott raises the categories of their hotels. I would not stay at less than a Cat 7 Marriott because there are better HGI holiday inn aloft or Hyatt houses

  8. I’m of the same sentiment as Tony–it would be nice if Lucky reviewed a Marriott product like Edition. Only one other travel blogger that I could find (TPG) has reviewed an Edition hotel. Ben has been focusing this year on original content and it would be nice to see him outside his hotel comfort zone (SPG & Hyatt).

  9. Does anyone have experience with having the Marriott Premium personal card AND the Marriott Premium Business card, and earning 30 elite qualifying nights every year – to the same Marriott account?
    Thanks!

  10. I had the Marriott card and booked hotel stays through the sign-up bonus as well as utilized 2 years of free anniversary nights. I was disappointed when they devalued their points and consequently didn’t stay at their properties as often, so I cancelled.
    I got the IHG card card instead and despite their recent devaluation, I still find they’re simply a better fit for me with their lower cost for upper midscale locations and global footprint.

  11. Just got back from Italy where I spent 9 nights at two Marriott Autograph Collection hotels. Breakfast every morning would have been 35 euros plus tax for myself and my wife, but it was free since I am Marriott Gold. That was a quick $900 of savings. I am retired so there is no travel for business. I could never hit 50 nights per year in Marriotts without the 15 free elite nights and the additional nights I earn by putting some spending on the Marriott card. So at least for me, the Marriott credit card is well worth it.

    As for the one free night per year in Cat. 1-5, I can normally get at least $200 in value out of it, which more than covers the $85 annual fee.

  12. I can never get even $85 worth of value out of Marriott’s free night anymore, not comparing it to Priceline and Hotwire.
    And Marriott Silver is pretty worthless, so unless you’re spending lots and lots of time at Marriotts to get to the levels where they actually give you free breakfasts, it’s not worth it.

  13. @Lucky, @P. Clausen
    TPG reported recently that it is now the policy that 30 nights be credited rather than only 15 when you have both the Personal and Business cards. I (and many others) only seem to get 15.

    Lucky, do you have any Chase or Marriott contacts which could weigh in with an official statement? Something we could refer to when calling customer support?

  14. I’ll second getting the IHG card and matching status to Hilton Diamond. For me, this is a no-brainer for Hilton loyalist who have been hanging out at Gold for the last few years like myself.

    I’m also expecting the potential for a nice CC bonus when the hotels merge and don’t want to disqualify myself if I get the Marriott card now!

  15. I love the Marriott credit card! I agree that in large cities it’s tough to use your certificates; my solution: ROAD TRIPS! I the past three months, I’ve had the pleasure of booking 3 certificate nights (one cat 1-4 and two cat 1-5) that were earned through the credit card and the Spring Mega Bonus. I used the certificates at: The Delta in Sault Ste Marie (Cat 4) I think this is a hidden gem with beautiful views, the restaurant has wonderful service, way under-rated. The Fairfield in St. Joseph (Cat 3) this is a basic property, but it is very popular because of it’s great location to spring/summer tourist destinations. The Delta in London, Ontario (Cat 4) which is newly renovated and great service. It was super easy to book all of these certificates- one of the bookings was done online just a few hours before checking in. I also really like that there is NO fees at all- zero balance on these rewards!

    Although I love reading reviews and comparisons of credit cards and hotel loyalty programs, and I have gleaned so much useful info from these blogs, the questions of “what credit card to get” or “which loyalty program” really is determined by your travel needs, style/preferences, and goals for reward redemption. I chose Marriott based on looking at the specific properties in the destinations I frequent.

    The credit card’s 15 nights gave me Gold status, and I expect Platinum by September. I have already booked a 5 night reward redemption at the Casa Magna in Cancun (this will be my first vacation booked entirely on points), and I have another 80,000 points sitting in my account earned from the credit card, work travel, and leisure stays. (I’m in a long distance relationship and we often stay in hotels together). At a recent Marriott stay, the arrival gift was a bottle of wine along with a fruit and cheese plate (this is not the norm, only the third of fourth time that has happened)- I feel that Marriott has done a wonderful job treating me as an “elite.” So the Marriott credit card has really been great for me!

  16. @Melissa Wemstrom I just spent four nights at the CasaMagna in March with my family of five (two rooms). I am Gold and plan to make Platinum by the end of the year. We had a great time. Since it is a resort, they don’t have an executive lounge, but they do give you all kinds of discounts for being Marriott Gold, including discounts off of breakfast and the gift shop (which includes their coffee shop, which can work for lunch). They also gave us free appetizers at dinner for being Marriott Gold. The CasaMagna is connected to the JW Marriott. We virtually never EVER eat at hotel restaurants, but in this case, we actually ate four dinners at four of the six different restaurants on property (we ate at the Sports Bar, the Thai Restaurant, the Habachi Restaurant and the less fancy restaurant at the JW) and they were actually really good! We found this out too late for all but the last night, but there is actually a loyalty card for the restaurants with a progressive discount–first dinner was 10% off, second was 15%, third was 20% and fourth was 25%. You may want to ask about it at the front desk if you are planning to eat in, since it will save you some good money. Food prices were very fair. Beach is beautiful, but only warning is that the sun is very hot and there is virtually no shade by the beach. It is easy to get an umbrella by the pool, which overlooks the beach and is maybe a three minute walk away. I did not pay with points since I was able to get a great package deal and it didn’t pay to use the points. Hope this all helps!

    We can always get good value out of the cat 1-5 certificates using them the same way you do–road trips. Marriott also runs promotions quite often and I have earned many free night certificates with them during the past several years. Sure, many times they are good for only cat 1-4, but it is pretty easy to find a hotel at or less than cat 4 outside of the major cities.

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