Update: The new program and benefits are now live. Don’t forget that you can still register to start with Platinum status and get a shortcut to Diamond!
Originally posted on 4/13:
IHG’s loyalty program has long been uncompetitive with the big names in US hotel loyalty, Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott.
Today they announced IHG One Rewards, with sweeping changes from the previous IHG Rewards program.
There are now 5 elite tiers, which can be reached based on paid and award nights, points from stays, or from credit cards. IHG will look back to 1/1/22 to award tier status. Unfortunately, credit card spending and transfer from Chase no longer earn elite qualifying points in the program as they used to previously. You also can’t earn elite qualifying nights from credit card spending.
If you have an IHG Premier Card or IHG Premier Business Card you will get Platinum status and can earn Diamond status if you spend $40K plus one additional purchase in a calendar year. You can read more about those cards here.
It’s worth noting that the United Club Infinite Card also offers IHG Platinum status. You can read more about that card here. IHG Select cardholders will also receive Platinum status, while IHG Classic cardholders will get Silver status.
If you have an IHG Premier Card or IHG Premier Business Card that means you’ll earn 26 points per dollar at IHG hotels, which consists of 10 points per dollar on the card, 10 points per dollar from IHG for the stay, and 6 bonus points per dollar from IHG for being a Platinum elite member. If you earn Diamond status that climbs to 30 points per dollar.
I value IHG points around 0.45 cents each, so earning 26 points per dollar is a total rebate of about 11.7%.
Below are the new benefits for each level, though these benefits won’t kick in until early June.
New benefits include things like early check-in (upon availability) and Rewards Night discounts for Platinum/Diamond, such as the recent promo for 20% off stays up to 3 nights, a Diamond phone line, and the ability for Diamond members to choose a full hot breakfast instead of a points or drink amenity.
All members will get 2pm late checkout upon availability, which is not competitive with offerings from Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott that offer 4pm guaranteed late checkout at non-resorts for upper tier elites. Higher tier elites will have higher priority, but there are no guarantees here.
IHG is saying that Platinum and Diamonds have always been eligible for upgrades to suites based on availability, but they will try to better communicate that benefit to hotels in an effort to provide more suite upgrades. Unfortunately, suite upgrades are still not guaranteed even if base suites are available as hotels are not required to offer them.
Notably missing from the IHG program is the ability to transfer points to other members, which other brands allow.
IHG also doesn’t waive resort fees on award stays like Hilton and Hyatt do and they don’t offer lounge access to elites unless they qualify for it with Milestone Rewards as described below.
IHG also doesn’t offer a path to lifetime status as the other brands so.
IHG is taking a page out of Hyatt’s playbook with Milestone Rewards after every 10 nights, starting with 20 nights in a calendar year.
Benefits you can select include food and beverage awards worth $20 each and annual lounge membership which allows you and a guest into hotel lounges where available through the end of the following calendar year.
IHG will also offer confirmed suite upgrades which work for an upgrade to a base suite or premium room on stays up to 5 nights long. You can call IHG to apply the suite upgrade up to 14 days before your stay and if a base suite is available for sale, it will be yours. In the future, IHG says that this process will be brought online. Unfortunately suite upgrades can only be applied to paid nights, not award nights. Hyatt and Marriott suite upgrades apply to both paid and points stays, though only Hyatt offers suite upgrades confirmable at the time of booking, while Marriott doesn’t let you know until within 5 days of the stay. However I like that IHG will allow you to use the suite upgrade for a premium room, something I wish Hyatt offered as well as Hyatt hotels are often sold out of base suites, which means you can’t use a suite upgrade for that stay.
The real problem with the IHG Milestone Rewards is that you don’t earn any nights from spending money on or having IHG credit cards. While the Chase World Of Hyatt Consumer Card comes with 5 night credits per years and earns 2 night credits for every $5,000 spent and the Chase World Of Hyatt Business Card earns 5 night credits for every $10,000 spent, IHG cards don’t earn any night credits. You’ll have to stay on paid or award nights to earn there rewards even if you have Platinum or Diamond status from an IHG card.
Marriott also has choice rewards at 50 and 75 nights, but just having a Marriott consumer and business card puts you at 30 night credits for the year. Plus you can earn 1 elite night credit for every $5,000 spent.
That makes IHG Milestone Rewards good for those spending nights in IHG hotels, but not competitive with credit card benefits offered by other hotel chains. And while IHG offers rollover elite tier nights, those don’t count for Milestone Rewards.
You must select your Milestone Rewards within 90 days of earning them. Once selected, the food and beverage or suite upgrades are valid for 12 months.
Milestone Rewards are non-transferrable.
These will launch in early June, with a lookback period to 1/1/22:
IHG says that it will continue offering the Kimpton Inner Circle and IHG Ambassador/Royal Ambassador programs, though benefits can’t be stacked with Milestone Rewards.
Overall these are some nice benefits and changes, but I don’t think this quite makes IHG competitive with Hilton, Hyatt, or Marriott.
Hyatt offers a credit card path to earn top-tier status with more concrete benefits like confirmed suite upgrades even on points stays at the time of booking, confirmed 4pm late-checkout, a dedicated concierge, waived resort fees, waived parking fees on award stays, guest of honor bookings, hot breakfast, and lounge access even without milestone rewards. Hyatt also still offers award charts, which IHG, Hilton, and Marriott have all jettisoned.
Marriott also offers a credit card path to earn upper tier elite status and choice benefits like suite upgrades, and offers confirmed 4pm late-checkout, guaranteed base suite upgrades when available at checkin, and lounge access even without milestone rewards.
Hilton’s top-tier Diamond benefits can all be had by opening an AMEX Aspire card and the program offers waived resort fees on award stays and lounge access even without milestone rewards.
IHG isn’t there yet, but these are certainly steps in the right direction and they promise future improvements. For people who were staying at IHG already, this is almost all good news. But I don’t think they’re going to draw away many defectors from other hotels chains with this set of benefits.
IHG needs to firm up the “upon availability” benefits, allow their credit cards to earn elite qualifying nights, and fully integrate Six Senses and other aspirational hotels into the program to become a top-tier hotel loyalty program.
What do you think of the IHG One Rewards programs? Will it be enough to change where you stay and earn hotel status?