IHG Rewards

Redeeming IHG Points for Gift Cards and Merchandise: A Good Value?

Thanks to the IHG Rewards Club Priceless Surprises and Accelerate promotion (which are stackable, by the way), a lot of folks are going to end up with a nice stash of IHG Rewards Club points. Most of you are probably planning to use these points for free hotel nights, which is just one of many different ways to redeem IHG points. This brings me to an infographic recently published by IHG Rewards Club, which illustrates how millions of members have used their IHG points over the past year. The most popular redemptions were reward nights, followed by gift cards and merchandise. In the gift card category, most members preferred to redeem their points for coffee and home improvement store gift cards. Meanwhile, tablets were the top redemption items in the merchandise category.

How IHG Rewards Club Members spent their points in 2015
How IHG Rewards Club members spent their points in 2015

I know what many of you are wondering: Is redeeming IHG points for gift cards and merchandise a good value? Most people value IHG points at 0.6 cents a piece. So it depends on whether the value of the points required for one of these awards exceeds the retail value of the item. Let’s look at some of the most popular items IHG Rewards Club members redeemed their points for:


  • Apple iPad mini 4 Wi-Fi + Cellular 64GB Silver – 284,500 IHG points or $629
  • Apple iPad mini 4 Wi-Fi 128GB – 271,500 IHG points or $599

If you were to purchase 284,500 IHG points at 0.6 cents each and redeem them for an iPad mini, it would cost you $1,707 – nearly three times the retail price of $629. The same goes for the 128 GB iPad mini model: Buying 271,500 points would cost $1,629, which far exceeds the $599 price tag of a 128 GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi capability. 

Gift Cards

  • $50 Starbucks or Home Depot gift card = 20,000 IHG points
  • $25 Starbucks or Home Depot gift card = 11,000 IHG points
  • $100 Home Depot gift card = 38,500
  • $200 Home Depot gift card = 77,000

At 0.6 cents each, 20,000 IHG points are valued at $120 while 11,000 points are worth $66. Redeeming $50 and $25 Starbucks or Home Depot gift cards at these rates will get you less than half the value of what it costs to buy the points.

Based on point valuation alone, redeeming IHG points for iPads or gift cards isn’t a good value for most people. That being said, you should always redeem your points the way you see fit. I once spoke with an IHG employee who redeemed her points for a new washing machine. This person received a great employee discount on paid hotel stays, so she valued her points differently than most of us would. When she had an opportunity to save money on a new washer by using her IHG points, it made sense for her. The savings from her employee discount were significant enough that she didn’t need her IHG points for reward nights.

There’s also the matter of how you personally use IHG Rewards Club points for free night awards. If you’re not maximizing your award redemptions and getting decent value out of reward nights, then a gift card or merchandise reward might seem like a better alternative. Do what works for you. 

I, for one, will probably redeem my points for a reward night at a top-tier Category 9 hotel. Up until recently, I had my sights set on a week-long stay at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa, where a standard award night gets you into an Emerald overwater villa. At over $1,000 per night, the Intercontinental Bora Bora is great place to put 50,000 points to use. However, there is the issue of flying all the way out to Bora Bora. And reports of giant tarantulas roaming around the island. So I don’t know how practical this trip will be (or safe, for an arachnophobe like me). In any case, I plan to get at least 1 cent per value out of my stash of IHG Rewards Club points. 

Have you ever redeemed IHG points for something other than a free night? Please share in the comment section.

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  1. What do you personally do when you find that one of your gift/debit cards won’t work? I have a MC debit card issued by US Bank and it won’t work either for the purchase of money orders at Walmart or the purchase of groceries at a store. I have reset the PIN and finally called customer relations where I was on hold for a half hour before finally talking to a live person and finally her supervisor. I got no satisfaction other than advice to 1) change my PIN again and 2)try to run it as a credit transaction. Still won’t work. I know NOW to stay away from MC and to stay away from US Bank but what do I do about this one card? I should also tell you that I had actually bought as many as ten of these cards at Office Max and the other 9 worked fine. Thank you and I really enjoy your columns.

    • Have you called them about re-issuing the card? It’s really up to the card issuer (i.e. US Bank) to do that. If they’re giving you the run around, I’d contact your credit card company and file a claim. I’m assuming you were using Chase, which is actually very good about handling claims in an efficient manner.

      • Thanks for getting back to me!
        I followed their instructions and reset the PIN (for about the 5th time) without any faith that it would actually work and waited for an opportunity to try it again. In the meantime, I was on a shopping portal (Card Cash) and used this card and to my surprise, it WORKED! So, immediate problem solved although I would have preferred to use it as cash as part of my MS efforts.

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