The One Credit Card (Almost) Everyone Should Have

Update: This offer for the Citi Prestige® Card has expired. Learn more about the current offers here.


In the interest of full disclosure, One Mile At A Time earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers that we have found for each card. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about the partners we work with. Thanks for your support!

I do my best to give general advice on credit cards while still noting that different cards work best for different people. For example, while I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and think it’s a phenomenal card, it’s not the ideal card if you don’t spend a lot on credit cards, and in particular if you don’t spend a lot on dining and travel.

Similarly, the single credit card that gets me the most value every year is the Citi Prestige® Card, thanks to the fourth night free benefit that it offers. However, I know others who get zero value out of that benefit, either because they rarely stay in a single hotel for four nights, or because they typically redeem points for hotel stays.

So while my advice is typically that a certain card makes sense under certain circumstances, there’s one card which I think makes sense for almost everyone. I know long time readers probably already have this card, but I’m always surprised by how many people don’t, which is why I keep writing about it.

Specifically, I’m talking about the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card. The card has just a $49 annual fee, which is waived the first year, and offers several benefits that make it worth holding onto long term, including IHG Rewards Club Platinum status for as long as you have the card, as well as a 10% discount on redeemed points, for a total of up to 100,000 refunded points per year.

However, there’s one perk that makes this card most worthwhile — specifically, the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card offers an annual free night certificate on your account anniversary every year. So if you want to simplify the math further, you’re paying just $49 per year for a free night that’s valid at virtually all of IHG’s roughly 5,000 hotels around the world. These are hotels that retail for up to 70,000 points per night if you were to redeem points, so spending just $49 on an annual fee to get a free night annually is an insane deal.

A vast majority of properties retail for over $49 per night, and in the US you’d be hard pressed to find an IHG hotel that’s anywhere close to that amount. So you’d come out way ahead redeeming this certificate at a roadside Holiday Inn, and that doesn’t even account for the excellent InterContinental hotels you can redeem these at.

The past three years I’ve used my certificates for stays at InterContinental hotels in London, Hong Kong, and Geneva, and in each of those cases a night would have cost $300+ if paying cash, but I stayed for the equivalent of a $49 annual fee.


InterContinental Hong Kong, where I redeemed my certificate last year

In terms of applying for this card, the card isn’t subjected to the 5/24 rule, meaning you can get approved even if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months. You also want to open this card as soon as possible, because the longer you wait, the longer until you get your first anniversary night certificate.


InterContinental Geneva, where I redeemed my certificate this year

Bottom line

When I give advice about which credit cards to get, there are almost always some people who say that a certain card wasn’t a good fit for them, which is fair enough. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard from a reader who wasn’t happy with the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card. With the number of people who read this site, that says a lot. Instead just about the only thing I hear about this card is that it’s “too good to be true”

So I’d actually love to pose this question to you guys — has anyone gotten the IHG Card and not found it to be worthwhile, and ended up canceling?

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. Hey Ben, wondering about the Citi Prestige 4th night free benefit, does using their “new” online portal still allows for full Marriott points and elite benefits. I know in the past I have gotten all the benefits by calling the Citi 800 number, but not sure if that’s the case with online booking.

  2. I used my free night for the intercontinental Washington DC, around $300, and last year for the Intercontinental Austin during SXSW, over $400 for that night, its good and its true !

  3. Was looking forward to using the free nights at IC London in April. Alas, it’s available every night in April except for the 4 nights we’ll be there. Trying out the Indigo Paddington instead. At least it’s only 15 minutes from Heathrow on the express train. It’s a deal since rooms are over $300/night there. We’ll get two more free night certs before we leave so maybe we can swap out our 2 reserved points nights and get 4 free ($49) nights!

  4. The problem is that you get 1 night of certificate. If you want to stay for 2+ nights, you are out of luck. IHG should offer an options for card members to book unlimited nights for $49 each!

  5. @Jackie I’m pretty sure that’s something they will offer eventually. Well trusted source told me that.

  6. While IHG card applications are not limited to 5/24, I assume that applying for this card does count against other future chase applications subject to 5/24?

  7. @Jackie Yes. This is the real problem. I don’t know why IHG limits only the number of nights. It should be unlimited free nights wherever I want (for unlimited number of stays) for $49 annual fee.

    Come on Ben. Don’t report silly ‘non-deals’ like this one. How much are they paying you? /s

  8. I disagree with this post. Yes the IHG card is a great value IF you can manage to use it at one of the nicer IHG properties. Hell, even a mediocre IHG property would make it a good use of $49. Problem is that a vast majority of IHG properties are terrible Holiday Inns, and while the retail price of those rooms might be more than $49, I would still never pay $49 to stay in one of those properties.

    I think the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is arguably a better card that everyone should have. 1.5x points on all spend with no annual fee is a no brainer.

  9. Waiting for 80,000 or 100,000 offer to come back. It was around in second half of last year. With IHG devaluation recently those extra 20k-40k points help.

    Even doing dummy booking doesn’t seem to bring up better offer than 60k.

    And chase refer a friend isn’t eligible for this card.

  10. Can I make a cash booking for a year out, and then later substitute a night of cash booking for a free night certificate? Would appreciate anyone’s experience with this.

  11. Can you redeem the free night at Kimpton hotels since they are part of IHG now? What about international Kimpton hotels like the new one in Amsterdam?

  12. @Jackie
    Just make a second booking for the following night (using points or cash) and call the hotel to merge the reservations.

  13. We are redeeming our free nights at Intercontinental Paris in a few weeks. Well out of our price range. Nice to have two cards as a couple. Honestly if you can’t find value in this just pay with your debit card and stop pretending you care about rewards. If you travel at all this is so easy.

  14. I redeemed the free night at the Intercontinental Hong Kong last year but will use it at Intercontinental Danang in a couple of weeks. The latter is probably one of the most beautiful resorts in the world, it is much better than IC HK.

  15. @ Thomas — IHG doesn’t have last room availability for awards, but rather awards come out of a subset of room inventory. So there’s a chance there won’t be award nights available when you cancel your paid booking.

  16. @ Anzhelika — Yes, you have to book within a year of when the certificate is issued, though you can stay on a subsequent date.

  17. @ Jackie — If you and a friend or spouse have the card, then you can use the certificates for back-to-back nights.

  18. Just used mine at he IC Pattaya, Thailand. My upgraded room would have run $300+ and it was a great stay.

    The annual fee is easily worth it for the upgrades alone if you frequent IHG enough.

  19. I (respectfully) disagree with this post, because “everyone” covers a lot of people. For example, it’s rare that’s i visit places where stay for only one night on my own dime, and I personally don’t find much value in staying at a five star vs. three or four star hotel.

    One other point – if too many people take advantage of this benefit, this will go the way of the old Hyatt credit card for two nights. Bloggers are incentivized to monetize asymmetric information.

  20. @ Lucky– thanks. Would it work to book an award night now with points and then, once the certificate became available, swap out the certificate for the points? Hoping to use for a honeymoon to Tahiti in June of 2019, but won’t get the certificates until February 2019, and am worried that award availability will already be gone by then. Thanks!

    “@ Thomas — IHG doesn’t have last room availability for awards, but rather awards come out of a subset of room inventory. So there’s a chance there won’t be award nights available when you cancel your paid booking.”

  21. @ Lucky– thanks. Would it work to book an award night now with points and then, once the certificate became available, swap out the certificate for the points? Hoping to use for a honeymoon to Tahiti in June of 2019, but won’t get the certificates until February 2019, and am worried that award availability will already be gone by then. Thanks!

  22. so you want me to open a credit card, pay $49 a year to have it, only to get ONE free hotel night stay a year???????

    Pff. pass.

  23. Rico, I used mine at the IC London and was unimpressed. Tiny room, view of roof, no really lobby area, ignored by staff. Maybe the Paddington will be better!

  24. Sorry, but if you are going to suggest a hotel-based credit card, I think the new Hilton Honors Ascend Card from Amex gives a FAR better value for only $95. Automatic Gold status at Hilton (which includes free breakfast every day of each stay) and Priority Pass access alone make it a better card than the IHG card.

  25. If you want to stay 2 nights in a row, you can do so by:
    1. have your spouse/friend get a separate card and use the benefit in 2 consecutive nights
    2. accumulate 2 nights, and book before the first year’s benefit expires

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *