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Breaking Down The New IHG Changes Starting Soon

As you may know, I really like IHG in terms of earning and burning points. IHG is dedicated to having the least competitive elite benefits, but give you the most points to keep you coming back. Now IHG will be offering even more points!

The basic changes are the following:

  1. A new membership tier from 75 nights
  2. That tier earns 100% bonus points and a bonus 25,000 points for qualifying
  3. Points now expire (not a big deal)
  4. A minor stealth devaluation starting May 1 (where a few hundred hotels change categories)
  5. There will likely be more changes announced in summer

The “NewMembership Level”

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There is a new status being added on that will earn 100% bonus points (Platinum will still earn a 50% bonus) and when you reach the status you get another 25,000 bonus points. This is cool, but nothing to go switching programs over.

But the good news is that award nights count towards status, and elite roll over nights count. At least I assume they will. Log into IHG to see how close you are? So between rollover, paid nights, and award nights I assume I’ll hit the 75 nights.

100% bonus points

Normal members get 10 points per dollar at IHG hotels. Platinum members get 15 points per dollar, and the new status gets 20 points per dollar. Good news? Frankly I’m apathetic about the 100% bonus, but I’ll take what I can get. Over the Platinum status that comes with the card, that’s an extra 5,000 points per $1,000 spent at IHG hotels. In no way is that game changing, but it’s more points than before, and therefore it’s a good change.

25,000 bonus points

The most interesting thing for me is the extra 25,000 points for reaching the status. Still not game changing but a great change none the less.

 

Choice Rewards

Technically, you have to choose between the 25,000 bonus points or gifting someone Platinum status.

I can’t imagine a situation where someone would choose gifting Platinum status over 25,000 points. Who wants Platinum status? You are going to be the least popular person at your work’s Secret Santa exchange.

IHG Platinum status is the most worthless top tier status that exists. And:

  • It has no guaranteed benefits besides earning slightly more points (“guaranteed” meaning no guaranteed upgrades, breakfast, lounge access, etc…)
  • Platinum status comes with the IHG credit card.
  • It’s an easy status match.

Would you buy platinum status for 25,000 points? No! Not if you’re sane.

 

 

Points Now Expire?

Why are you announcing this policy change?
Following extensive research with members, IHG is evolving its award-winning program to focus on building more personalised relationships, delivering the most relevant benefits and choice to global travellers. We have decided to expire points after 12 months for only members who neither earn nor redeem at all during this time, so that we can focus on rewarding our most loyal members.

Yes, but not for elite members. Gold, Platinums, *mystery status*, Ambassadors, and Royal Ambassadors won’t worry about their points expiring.

Points now expire after 12 months of nothing in and or out. No idea what this has to do with “extensive research with members” as I can’t possibly imagine a scenario where “most loyal” members said, “I’d like this program better if I knew other people’s points were deleted from their account after a year”. How is that “rewarding our most loyal members”? Seriously, why is IHG always so full of BS?

In reality, it’s an accounting issue. No need for spin.

Anyways, if you have status and don’t use your account, you’re fine. And even if you drop to “Club level”, your points won’t expire for another 12 months after being club.

 

IHG Has The Worst Consultants Ever / This Won’t Be The Last Change

I’ll give IHG execs my phone number and next time they need to blow money on someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, they can call me.

Is IHG really adding a new status level that is tied for the most difficult status to earn in number of nights per year spent in a hotel and still the least competitive benefits… by far?

Still no free breakfast? Still no lounge access?

If their goal is to reach more people, that’s where I’d start.

If their goal is to offer the most rewarding program in terms of free nights and give people with 50 nights a reason to stay 25 more nights… they’ve done a decent job.

 

I think there are elements to IHG’s Royal Ambassador status that were interesting and I applaud any company that does something unique – like the referral system. But they’ve back-tracked to a normal program with less benefits.

They are the only elite status program to not offer lounge access, to not offer  breakfast, and not offer benefits on award nights. Heck even mid-tiers with chains like Hilton and Marriott offer all those benefits (award or not). And most programs can earn the status in some like 25 stays. And IHG… remains uncompetitive.

But why they really screwed up…

Ambassador and Royal Ambassador status is only for InterContinental hotels. A company that is well used for the same reason McDonalds is – because they are the biggest – has a status that only works at 200 hotels out of their something like 6,000+ hotels.

200 hotels is small, and Ambassadors sometimes stay in non-IC hotels, like Crowne Plaza. And apparently they expect something more than what Platinum has to offer.

Reality is, their members want benefits at all IHG hotels.

I use TripAdvisor a lot and I take a mental note anytime I see a Crowne Plaza being reviewed and see a 1-star review where part of the reasoning is “I’m a Royal Ambassador and yet…”. Members not only don’t care, they don’t know. Technically Ambassador/RA only works at InterCons, and yet I constantly see people complaining at non-IC hotels about their lack of benefits.

IHG has done a really bad job at making a luxurious program, and they’ll need that if they want to compete with other upscale business hotels (which is where the money is).

 

More Changes To Come?

They’ve alluded to more changes coming… but my guess is that they aren’t done building this program. Yes, they will reveal more when they launch it officially in July. But my guess is that the reason it doesn’t have a name, and the reason more is yet to be announced is because they don’t have more yet. Someone was motivated enough to set deadlines, but they don’t actually know what they want.

Someone wants an upsell, and a reason for people to stay more nights. And someone wants to make a better rewards program without knowing what that means.

The entire program (& company) is a hack job. They launch promotions without having the website built, and they seem to be changing policies without knowing what those changes will be. Look at their FAQ page. For example they ask “Is there a Fast Track to the newest membership level?” and don’t really answer the question at all. It’s like they hired someone on Fiverr to be in charge of this. They copy and paste the same answer for two different questions (and neither answer makes sense).

 

Conclusion & Stealth Changes

I would say the changes are better, but clearly they don’t care about their members. The last line in their boring hack-job FAQ page is that they plan to secretly change the points levels effective May 1.

“We’ll be raising less than 300 hotels by 5,000 or 10,000 points and we’re lowering about 150 hotels by 5,000 points. The overall point requirement of 10,000 to 50,000 points for all Reward Nights is not changing.”

Hack job code, hack job changes, a very out of touch company in regards to what their customers want (which hurts hotel TA ratings too), and stealthy changes without any consideration of announcing those changes to members. I know these folks care about bottom line for priority numero uno, but don’t understand how running things poorly will accomplish that. I’d love to spend a day with these folks.

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9 Comments

  1. Great post. I have also wondered why you were / are such a supporter of a weak IHG program. I get PointsBreak but the rest has a LOT to be desired.

    Reply
    • In terms of free nights from paid stays, there is no comparison in my opinion. If you know what you’re doing you can always get atleast enough points for a free award nights per paid stay. I’ve done extensive posts on our stats with just IHG. In one 6 month period we had dozens of ihg stays and the average cost was $19 a night.

      Reply
  2. Hi Drew, thanks for the extensive information update on the IHG changes. Where did you find the info about award nights now also counting towards elite status? It would be nice if this is the case, as I’m redeeming a load of IHG points this year.

    Reply
    • It’s not technically on that Q&A page, and I’m doing a little assuming.

      But currently reward nights are counted towards IHG elite status, and this is a new IHG status (different than InterContinental /Ambassador status).
      Could they take that away? Yes, but they haven’t said so.

      Reply
  3. Yup, more IHG “into the chaos.” The parallel to MacDonalds is striking…. (much recently complaining there too)

    IHG should just stop putting out half-baked, chaotic new promos until it figures out if it really wants to continue as a going concern. I’ve been wondering lately if it’s secretly trying to ruin its brand image — in preparation for being taken over on the cheap.

    Reply
    • Scott, while it certainly may appear that they are trying to ruin it’s image with it’s most loyal customers… this is par for the course with IHG. They’ve long been a mess. Sometimes it works in our advantage and sometimes it doesn’t. 😀

      Reply
  4. Drew, love the new look for the site, but miss a couple of things from before. The search feature has helped me out a bunch in the past, and having just searched through 6 months’ posts, I remembered why I liked it so much. Also, any chance on having the dates listed by the post headings again? Thanks.

    Reply
    • I second putting the dateline in there again. More than once, I’ve scrolled up to see what day an article was posted. One can reasonably figure it out via the date in the comments section, but I’d still like to see it at the top, below the byline.

      Reply
  5. Does it decrease the stay requirement for achieving the new level if I have the Chase IHG credit card

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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