Reward Points Battle: IHG Rewards Club vs. Bonwi

IHG Hotel Willard Intercontinental in DC

We say that Bonwi gives you a better loyalty points payback than any hotel booking site out there, but what about individual hotel chains? Could you earn a free night faster by booking direct?

From our research, we haven’t found any program that allows you to get to a free stay faster. Let’s look at one of them in detail: the IHG Rewards program that includes 12 brands across 5,000 hotels and resorts.

How the IHG Rewards Program Works

In some ways the IHG Rewards Club is the best of the direct booking ones. They have the most properties to choose from in a whole lot of markets, the point earning levels are transparent, and most of the redemption levels are in the range of 10,000 to 35,000 points. (With Marriott, Hyatt, or Hilton you can easily be looking at twice that much.) Their brands range from good-value suite hotels to Holiday Inn Express to Intercontinental. When they finally consolidate their program with the Kimpton chain they bought, that will be another option for redemption.

To earn points, you stay at any of their properties. You earn 10 points per dollar at most of them for your stay, but 5 points per dollar at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. If you have their credit card you earn many more by paying with that and IHG frequently runs promotions that give you bonus miles. (It takes a while to hit elite status normally, but the credit card ups you to Platinum automatically.)

With 10 or 5 points per stay, that means you would earn 1,500 points for spending $150 for most of their properties, but 750 points at Staybridge or Candlewood. The lowest possible redemption is 5,000 in their “Points Breaks” promotions, but those are usually hotels that nobody is booking, in obscure locations. Think Gadsden, AL; Anderson, SC; or Silao in Mexico. The more common minimum is 10,000, for a Holiday Inn Express. So it would normally require at least $1,000 in spending at their properties before earning an award, or $2,000 if staying at the bottom category ones. At $100 a night that’s 10 or 20 nights. At $150 a night it’s 7 or 14 nights.

How the Bonwi Rewards Program Works

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 1,500 points for a $150 room charge. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of the price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.

Comparison of Earnings in Two Markets

Let’s say you’ve got two business trips coming up in California. One is in San Francisco and one is in San Diego. How would your earnings differ between IHG and Bonwi?

Bonwi points back San Francisco

If you booked your San Francisco stay at the Holiday Inn Civic Center for two nights, you would pay $449 with tax either way. If you booked direct through the IHG site, that would translate to 4,490 points. If you booked it at Bonwi, you would earn 12,220 points.

A month later you need to spend two nights in San Diego. You pull up the IHG site and see the Crowne Plaza Hanalei is a pretty good deal at $166 per night before taxes. The total tab for two nights is $366. If you go ahead and book it through the IHG site, you will earn $366 X 10, or 3,666 points. If you book it through Bonwi instead, you will earn 10,289 points. Another big difference.

Bonwi vs. IHG points in San DIego

Cashing in Your Loyalty Points

Now that you’ve earned some points, what can you get if you take your kid to Orlando for a weekend getaway in March?

If you wanted to redeem what you’ve earned from these two stays, you wouldn’t have enough points with IHG Rewards. From those four nights, you only earned 8,156 points. Only a Points Break promotion would be available. Let’s assume you already had a couple thousand in the account though or you got past 10K with credit card spending.

From Bonwi you have a total of 22,509 points.

For weekends in March, with 10K IHG points from IHG, you’re going to come up empty. There is nothing available on a Friday or Saturday night in March for under 20,000 points, the amount that three of the four hotels below would require. The Holiday Inn Orlando Suites Waterpark hotel would require 35,000. So you would have to use their “points and cash” option and pay at least $70 on top of the 10,000 points.

IHG Rewards points in Orlando

For the same weekends in March with the 22,509 Bonwi points earned from four nights paid, you have lots of choices for a free night’s stay at IHG properties. These are just a few of them, including taxes:
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando – Lake Buena Vista – 17,663
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites Waterpark – 20,273
– Holiday Inn Orlando SW – Celebration Area – 15,139
– Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando at Seaworld -20,412

If you want to use your points for something else, you’re much better off with Bonwi. With us you can use your points for any flight of $225 or less with those 22,509 points, or you can get two $100 gift cards from major retailers and still have some left over. The points are valued at a penny a mile. If you want to cash in for a reward card with IHG, you usually pay 20,000 points for just a $50 gift card. That’s one-fourth the value, on points that required more spending to start with.

So which program offers you a faster payoff? This one is a no-brainer.