I have collected travel points and miles for many years, though I only started actively focusing on accumulating them last winter. One of the first cards I signed up for at the time was the IHG Rewards Club Select MasterCard. While IHG Rewards points are not valued as highly as the points of some competitors, I consider this card to be one of the most valuable I hold.
The spend required to earn the sign-up bonus is only $1,000. Currently, the bonus is 60,000 points but it has been higher. The card also includes IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite Status which provides a 50% bonus on points earned from hotel stays. Last year, the sign-up bonus even counted toward Spire Elite status, but this is not guaranteed by the card. Another valuable benefit is a 10% rebate on redeemed IHG Rewards points, up to 100,000 points back each year. That's essentially an across-the board 10% discount on reward stays unless you have over 1,000,000 points to redeem! While all those benefits make the card attractive, the best benefit alone covers the $49 annual fee (which is waived the first year).
Each year, upon paying the annual fee, you receive one free night at any IHG property worldwide. I don't know about you, but I don't remember the last time I paid $49 for any hotel room, much less at an IHG hotel! If I were to use my free night for a stay in a rural Holiday Inn Express, I would still come out ahead on that $49 annual fee. Granted, that would be a colossal waste of a free night, but it shows that the annual free night alone justifies carrying this card even if you never pull it out of your wallet after meeting the initial spend. Personally, I only use it when staying at an IHG property, but I have no plans to close my account. The free night benefit is why I will fee no pain when I reach my first anniversary next month and pay my annual fee!