Here is a another look at U.S. News & World Report Travel Rewards Programs rankings released this week. My earlier post asked, Do you agree Marriott Rewards is top hotel rewards program? and this post 2014-15 Best Hotel Rewards Programs U.S. News & World Report gives an overview of the survey.
IHG Rewards Club ranks high in U.S. News & World Report Travel Rewards Survey. My feeling is that all hotel program comparative surveys hold limited value in choosing a hotel loyalty program. This post looks at IHG Rewards Club, the second highest rated hotel rewards program in the USNWR survey. Loyalty Traveler takes a look at the program synopsis in the U.S. News & World Report survey and some of the real value of IHG Rewards Club missing in the program details.
#2 IHG Rewards Club
IHG Rewards Club is a large hotel loyalty program closing in on 5,000 hotels worldwide with more than 70 million members. One of the ‘Pros’ given by USNWR is points can be used for hotels outside the IHG family of hotels. This is true and in the past I have shown how some Hilton-brand hotels required fewer IHG points than HHonors points to book. I have not done that analysis in a couple of years.
Last year I interviewed Don Berg, VP of IHG Global Loyalty Programs. One of the points he emphasized is IHG points can be used for so many purchases besides hotel nights. Two managers with IHG told me about how they used their points to make household purchases like major appliances.
Any Hotel, Anywhere Card $100 for 35,000 points
A sample price using Hotels Anywhere for San Francisco is Kimpton’s Sir Francis Drake for 109,000 points on Friday, September 5. The hotel shows a room rate of $284 for that date.
An IHG Rewards Club member needs only 45,000 points for InterContinental San Francisco with a $315 room rate or 50,000 points for InterContinental Mark Hopkins with a $288 room rate.
One of the ‘Cons’ listed for IHG Rewards Club is points are not earned for discounted hotel rates. Although there is a clause in the IHG Rewards Club terms, the only time I have known that to occur is for IHG ‘2 nights for price of 1’ rates. Even then, I have always received points for 2-for-1 stays.
The USNWR graphic shows points cannot be used for Air Travel which is incorrect. IHG Flights Anywhere is an IHG Rewards Club program for redeeming points for flights.
The inability to use points for Room Upgrades is one of the major competitive disadvantages of IHG Rewards Club. It is one of the few programs that does not have a points route for upgrades. That being said, there are often several room categories offered when redeeming points for hotel stays.
IHG Rewards Club Elite Membership
All members of IHG Rewards Club get free internet at hotels.
IHG Priority Club Rewards used to be one of the easiest programs to earn elite status, but that all changed with the introduction of IHG Rewards Club in June 2013. All points earned in the program used to count for elite status. These days only base points earned from hotel stay spend and partner transaction points are elite qualifying points. Elite bonus points and promotion bonus points do not count as elite qualifying points. The IHG Rewards Club credit card is the easiest route to Platinum elite if you are not staying 40 or more nights at IHG hotels.
Platinum elite has no breakfast benefit at full-scale hotel chains. That is one of the major disadvantages of high elite with IHG compared to other hotel rewards programs. Of course, Holiday Inn Express has free breakfast for all guests at the brand that makes up nearly 50% of IHG properties worldwide. Thinking of eating cheese omelets with biscuits and gravy for a week makes me want to puke. Too often there is a limited selection of fruit.
Gold elite at 10 nights with 3 brands has few benefits except 10% bonus points on hotel spend.
What U.S. News & World Report Hotel Rewards Program survey does not tell you about IHG Rewards Club.
1. IHG Rewards Club lets members stack promotions for bonus points. Loyalty Traveler BRG follow-up Holiday Inn Express Tehachapi, California shows how I earned 15,875 points on a free hotel night by registering for IHG promotions while in my room during the one night stay at the Holiday Inn Express. Read this FlyerTalk thread for current promotion offers.
2. PointBreaks are 5,000 points for a reward night. The list of hotels is renewed every two months or so. These are effectively $35 hotel nights and some of the hotels have $200+ per night rates.
Members can buy 10,000 points from IHG Rewards Club for $70 through Points and Cash bookings.
In general, IHG Rewards Club is a good program to belong to and use for good value hotel stays, however, I do not find the program the most beneficial for my everyday travel. By staying infrequently, the stackable bonuses add up to big hauls since many of the promotion codes are applicable to only one stay.
IHG Rewards Club reward nights are fairly expensive in major cities with rates commonly 25,000 to 35,000 points. Even when buying points at $7 per 1,000 the room night cost is $175 to $245 per night.
I basically use IHG Rewards Club for PointBreaks and hotels in the 10,000 to 20,000 points range. My infrequent paid stays generally earn large numbers of points from stackable promotions. In Europe, 2-for-1 rates can be one of the best deals to be found, although the offer this summer was 3-for-2 and 4-for-3 rates. Loyalty Traveler – IHG Europe 4-for-3 rates or 30% off July 4-September 4.
InterContinental Ambassador and Royal Ambassador – I have nothing to say about these programs. I tried to redeem points for IC Ambassador a couple years back and my membership was never processed. The points were not taken from my account. I do not stay at InterContinental Hotels frequently enough to make membership worthwhile.
There is an interesting thread on FlyerTalk started this week with the rumor that IHG is going to eliminate the Ambassador program.
Here is a Loyalty Traveler overview post on IHG Rewards Club from earlier this year.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.