Lots of stories about IHG Rewards Club closing accounts for ‘code abuse’ ….

There have been a few stories on public and private frequent flyer forums and blogs in the last couple of weeks about IHG Rewards Club launching an aggressive crackdown on people who have ‘abused’ their bonus codes.

As is often the case, this is not the whole story.

What you need to remember is that a story posted on a board like Flyertalk is rarely the whole truth.  Sometimes the story is simplified to make it easier to follow.  Sometimes the poster misses out incriminating information which would explain why the account was closed.

Sometimes legitimate issues get mixed in with scare stories.  One person I knew posted that his account had been closed for code abuse.  It turned out IHG had blocked it due to a suspicion that it had been hacked and that all he needed to do was request a PIN reset ….

IHG Rewards Club

First, some background.

For at least the last 10 years – yes, that long! – IHG Rewards Club has used promotional codes to drive business.  It would create an offer (eg 1,000 points on your next stay) and email it to a few thousand people.

It is a doddle to write the necessary computer code to ensure that only those accounts that are emailed can register.  IHG has never – over a decade, remember – chosen to do this.  It has become a tradition for people who receive these codes to post them on social media.  They have even been posted at IHG’s own online community forum!  I summarise them occasionally in posts such as this one.

The head of IHG Rewards Club said in an interview last year on the Loyalty Traveler blog that he was happy for codes to be shared in this way.

What is happening now?

Quite a few stories have popped up on Flyertalk and the like in recent weeks of people who have had their accounts closed.  When questioned, IHG has said they abused promotional codes.

Not many people, though.  Not when you consider how many thousands use the codes on Flyertalk, Head for Points etc.  I only know one Head for Points reader who had problems and they fall under one of the categories below.

Who is having their accounts closed?

Let’s be clear on one thing.  At the moment, IHG is not targeted ‘good’ customers unless you bring yourself to their attention.  There seems to be NO evidence that people are being picked off at random who have a good record of IHG stays.

The following groups of people DO seem to be targeted:

Chinese people – unfairly or not, IHG has suffered some major problems with promotions, block booking of PointBreaks nights, the resale of reward nights etc from IHG members in China.  Chinese accounts appear to be under great scrutiny.

People who have booked reward nights in China – in March, computer hackers block-booked the majority of the PointBreaks availability at some of the Chinese hotels listed.  Note that the May list had NO China properties on it.  We know that EVERYONE who booked into an InterContinental in China on a PointBreaks award had their IHG account audited.  This impacted a HFP reader who had innocently booked it but had also registered for a lot of codes.  Their account was blocked.

People who have done no IHG stays but have registered for lots of codes – this is to stop members opening multiple IHG accounts, one for every stay, and registering for all of the ‘one time only’ bonus codes.  This can make sense – you could get enough from one stay for a £25 shopping voucher or for a free night in a small town, effectively ‘buy one get one free’.

People who have contacted IHG customer services about anything at all – some reports suggest that customer service agents who answer queries about missing points etc are encouraged to flag accounts if they see anything unusual whilst dealing with the query.  That said, I have had a few dealing with customer services this year over a missing stay, a protracted Best Rate Guarantee claim and non-posting of stays to my Big Win and my account is untouched.  I am a very long-term member however.

What does this mean for HFP readers?

In general, if you are a long established IHG Rewards Club member, you shouldn’t have a lot to worry about if you sign up for any promotional code you see online.

However:

do NOT have any dealings with IHG properties in China

think twice about contacting Customer Services over missing points etc

think twice about doing this if your account is only a year or so old

think twice if your IHG balance is very large and you are signing up for codes only worth a small number of points (think risk / reward)

(To see our complete list of all current hotel promotions for the major chains, click here to visit our ‘Hotel Promos’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. James67 says:

    And the key point here is that many like me who have not abused the system are afraid to contact IHG for missing points resultiong from IHGs own failings. For example, they owe me 45k for big win but I don’t want to risk my existing points stash by chasing this up.

    • Trevor says:

      I was missing 72k points from this big win and about 33k from last. Neither posted automatically and I chased both without an issue, despite using every code I could. They still haven’t posted the 100 points from the survey which I forgot to mention, but not going to raise awareness just for that – just like Raffles said, think risk/reward. I’ve also done some research on FT and realised that there appears to be missing or extra info on closures, and in some cases where there was blatant abuse of the same offer as their silly developers can’t be bothered to program in simple checks, accounts were marked inactive making everyone scared and then activated again when requested. I don’t say be all gung-ho without a care, by all means exercise caution and follow the above advice along with some common sense, but I think the issue is made out to be bigger than it is.

      If “The head of IHG Rewards Club said in an interview last year on the Loyalty Traveler blog that he was happy for codes to be shared in this way.” then perhaps Raffles can post a link to this quote so that, together with a link to where codes are shared on their own online community forum, anyone hit with the excuse of code abuse can throw it straight back at them saying that their own head and forum promote it, so their account termination isn’t justified and no warning has been received.

    • If you’ve not abused it what are you scared of?

      • James67 says:

        Well, I used the multiple codes. Most I believe were relevant to me but it is still most freqyently reported reason for closing down. Will follow up on Trevors comments after I have use abouthalf my points and see how it goes.

        • I took the minor risk of challenging them after my Big Win credit card 20k bonus didn’t post. The qualifying stay was one that had accrued about 12k in bonus points already so I was a little wary, but it was too many points to walk away from. I must admit I left it until after my 3 night IC redemption stay had completed before chasing them for the third time, but it posted fine in the end. If I had run into any issues I was going to quote the interview that Raffles mentioned above, as I remember reading it when it first came out.

  2. Think twice about being loyal to IHG :)

  3. I had my account ‘closed’ because of an audit after registering for several codes. Ironically I only registered after reading a previous article on HFP.

    I have been a IHG / Priority member for over 10 years but haven’t used IHG much for a couple of years and had about 30k in points. Dunno if the low usage was also a factor.

    Anyway after phoning Customer Services they unlocked my account and told me not to register for codes I was not entitled to! On being able to reaccess my account I found there were only 3 codes present rather than the half dozen or so I had registered for

  4. I am a very occasional IGH customer, usually only stay in a couple of cheapo holiday Inns or Expresses a year.

    I “abused” a load of codes before by last stay. My account which is set up to auto-transfer to BAEC shows over 2000 miles transferred to BAEC, but BA.com shows that the base points only actually made it to BAEC.

    I haven;t followed this up with customer services.

  5. I actually booked a point breaks property in Beijing in April (crowne plaza), I did it over the phone though so thankfully there is a record. The fuss was over the IC in Hangzhou, a relatively new property which seemed to good to be true to appear on Point Breaks. Thus far have no problems on my account (touch wood) and looking forward to a stay at IC Hong Kong in August.

  6. I think you have hit the nail on the head Rob. We are definitely not getting the full story on FT for sure. The initial post is made by someone and then it is the same five or six people who are posting over and over arguing like hell with each other.

    If your account is making money for IHG (ie you are booking everything via IHG, using the CC, spending in the properties etc) I’d be surprised if you are flagged as by doing all this you are a revenue stream.

    Duplicate accounts or a couple of stays with enough points for a night in an IC will trigger something in their system for sure. Redemptions in busy hotels where they have to pay a higher rate for the redemption as the hotel is over 95% or whatever the figure is will also cause scrutiny I would imagine as you are costing them money.

    Imagine spending £100 on a few mattress runs at HIX Croydon or HI Haydock etc to accrue a large number of points quickly only to blow them in the IC PL on a night when it’s full and IHG have to pay full rate for the room.

    I personally rattled every code going last year and my entire Big Win 1 had to be manually posted with bonus points all over the place and they never said anything, although I had fifty one nights last year so even without the CC I will produce revenue.

  7. So, for my upcoming trip to Beijing i better not book an IHG hotel (i was planning to as i’d need the nights for the 7-day code that was posted here some time ago)? Is the same true for Macau?

  8. Irons1980 says:

    My personal view is that you take a risk if you used codes like this – even if they are able to be shared. I have all but stopped putting them in, as the previous ones I’d tried last year seemed not to work anyway. I think the moral of the story is that if you play the system you have to weigh up the risk of being eventually caught and suffering the consequences (even if their IT system isn’t up to scratch to put blocks in the first place). My personal view is that I don’t think we can complain: it’s their scheme, so they can do as they want with it – also if too many people play the system it eventually gets worse for all of us.

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