What is the best hotel scheme? – IHG Rewards Club – The Opinion

In my other article today, I outlined ‘the facts’ of the IHG Rewards Club loyalty scheme.  This post is my personal opinion, highlighting areas where I think you might want to focus.

The 10-second summary:

Strong points – excellent global coverage at all price points, InterContinental hotels in key gateway cities usually impressive, bonus point promotions make it easy to earn free nights, free internet at all hotels, PointBreaks 5,000 point redemptions, free top-tier status with the £99 fee credit card

Weak points – Platinum status is a joke except at some Crowne Plaza hotels, benefits do not apply to InterContinental hotels which have their own programme

InterContinental Carlton, Cannes

The longer version:

IHG Rewards Club has been my dominant hotel loyalty programme for many years.  This is despite the fact that – by a huge margin – it has the worst elite benefits of any hotel scheme.  How do you resolve this contradiction?

The fairest thing to say is probably this – if you are a heavy user of hotels for business, and you are reliant on elite benefits to make the most of your stay, then IHG Rewards Club may not be the best option for you.

Your elite card won’t get you much, if anything, at an InterContinental.

Crowne Plaza hotels are better, and you may get an upgrade and lounge access.  A Holiday Inn or HI Express cannot offer you much more than a room on a higher floor or occasionally a larger one than booked.  No free breakfast (except for Crowne Plaza guests upgraded to a club room), no suite upgrades, generally no room upgrades.

The irony is that – since the rule change in 2013 which meant that only base points count towards status – IHG Rewards Club Platinum status is now incredibly difficult to earn.  You would need to spend around $4,000 excluding VAT to earn 60,000 base points.  And, in return, you won’t get much!

For the lover of points and free nights in luxury hotels, though, the scheme is ideal.  The large number of cheap UK properties (even in the London area you can get the Holiday Inn Express Croydon for £55 much of the time, and the Arial at Heathrow can be £29 at times) means that – when bonus point promotions are running – it is easy to run up points very cheaply.

There is currently an anomaly in the IHG rewards chart that works to your benefit.  Reward nights are capped at 50,000 points.  Combined with the fact that InterContinental generally has very good properties in the major ‘gateway’ cities, you can use the bonus points you earn cheaply to redeem at very smart hotels.

(Mid tier redemptions are less useful.  Most Holiday Inn Express properties in Central London are now 35,000 points per night.  You would need to be crazy to redeem for those when the InterContinental Park Lane is only 50,000 points.)

The PointBreaks offers every two months are also excellent value – in fact, it is the best hotel loyalty scheme deal available.  100 or so properties are offered for just 5,000 points per night.  If you can plan a trip to correspond with a participating property, you will get a very good deal.

What don’t I like?

The ‘free’ internet for elite members is, in some hotels, very slow and you are ‘encouraged’ to pay to trade up.  To be fair, I have never experienced this in my stays since free internet was introduced but it is an issue.

The benefits of Platinum are now totally out of kilter with the difficulty in obtaining it.  Free breakfast should be a minimum.  The potential for suite upgrades would be welcome, as would the opportunity to use additional points for club rooms or suites.

InterContinental has its own loyalty programme, Ambassador, which I wrote about here.  This means that they tend to put a low value on IHG Rewards Club status.

Non-US and non-UK members do not have the ability to get status by taking out the IHG credit card.  In the UK, you can pay £99 for the Black credit card and you are immediately Platinum.  If you are French, you have little choice but to spend $4,000 in IHG properties.

Like Hilton and Marriott, the oldest brand in the chain – Holiday Inn – tends to have the oldest and dirtiest properties.  Check reviews carefully before booking a Holiday Inn.  The other chains are more uniform, although there are always unwelcome surprises.

IHG Rewards Club withdrew from Amex Membership Rewards a few years ago.  This means it is harder to obtain IHG points without staying.  You can, if necessary, transfer Amex points to Virgin Flying Club and then on to IHG but the 1:1 ratio is not great.  The UK IHG credit cards do offer very generous sign-up deals of up to 40,000 points, see our ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page for links.

Finally, it is worth noting that all customer service queries are dealt with via a contact centre in the Philippines.  This can make it very difficult at times to get a sensible response to any semi-complex issue.

What is the best hotel scheme? - IHG Rewards Club - The Facts
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  1. I disagree re: the call centre in the Philippines. I’ve had to call them a couple of times recently and been really impressed by the call handling – much better than I’ve experienced in a UK centre recently. The CSAs went out of their way to help me out..

    • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

      I agree with you, Tom.

      I’ve had quite wonderful service from the IHG call centre when I had to change a reward booking at the IC in Moscow because of a death in the family.
      I’ve also had a smooth, helpful and professional service from them last week when I needed to change the dates on a pre-paid, advance booking at the HI Basingstoke.

      • I can’t comment on the overseas call centre, their emails are enough for me. If I need to speak with them I call Birmingham directly and speak to Guest Relations.

  2. Platinum members always get an exec upgrade at Ariel. Also every HI I have been to recently has offered me a choice of points or a free drink and snack.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Agreed re the HI & HIX welcome benefits (I’ve had the choice between some points or free drinks, the drinks work out better value). At Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC we got drinks vouchers for me and my OH too.

    • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

      Every IHG rewards club member (not just elites) gets a bonus at the Ariel, or at least they did last year.
      You get a lucky dip at check-in with prizes of meals (or courses), drinks in the bar, extra points etc.

      In my last contract, I would stay at the Ariel, but pop next door to the Sheraton for dinner (where you can get points to your SPG account even if you are not staying). You could then go back to the Ariel to spend your vouchers for drinks, desserts etc.

      I also did it the other way round when I stayed at the Sheraton Skyline and found that I still had some open-ended Ariel vouchers with me.

  3. Nice pic of the IC Cannes I think? Worth the trek from Nice airport with the toddler or better to stick in Nice? 🙂

  4. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    What’s your view on devaluation risk? Obviously impossible to know for sure, but it seems to me that IHG has an unsustainably generous number of points sloshing around and devaluation seems to be the done thing ~2 years into a program relaunch.

    • They did the big devaluation last year, remember. However they kept the 50,000 point cap which is why IC’s are now a disproportionate bargain. I doubt there will be a massive change for another few years, but it is very possible that IC’s will sneak up by 10,000 points at some point.

  5. It’s the chain and scheme of choice for me. Most of my work is done in the NW of England and coverage is very good around Manchester and Liverpool and at a reasonable price. Rarely to I get an upgrade although I did get the honeymoon suite on a Wednesday at the HI on the A55 at Mold in North Wales, not bad for £54. I stay around 40+ nights in IHG properties for work and do manage to maintain Plat status annually, it does give 50% bonus on points per stay and the bonuses always give me enough for around a week of reward stays every year. I’ve 4 nights in NYC in the Holiday Inn at Soho and 2 nights in the Staybridge in Savannah GA booked already. In the US in particular big cities the savings are great for free nights regardless of the property, I’d never pay to stay in the IC anyway so for me the saving at the Holiday Inn is around $250 per night in NYC so i’d rather save 15k points per night for 4 nights rather than spend 50k at the IC and use the 15k saving per night on other trips.

  6. Yay, my trust in IHG has just returned and I am more amped to do the current big win having just had my points (on my own and OH accounts) from the last big win finally post. I did send in 2 queries over a month ago and got no response which didn’t thrill me! How many others had issues with postings? Both of us had qualifying stays miss-post, but got these fixed promptly, yet it seemed that they were holding up the process for final qualifications. Oh well, better late than never, though still awaiting the “Book with us” 2,000 x 4 bonus to post, and reports elsewhere suggest that it may occur mid Feb – well here we are, waiting… Time to get the PC Black I think and push ahead with the next haul of bonus codes and big win.

  7. pacifoco says:

    I think Virgin Atlantic miles transfer to IHG points will count towards a elite qualifying points? Do you agree?

    • Someone did it last year and got them – I even wrote a post about it. Then someone else in the comments said they’d done it and it didn’t! Not sure what the current position is.

  8. Don’t forget at the Ariel you can also use tastecard for bar and restaurant food. Combined with the free drink it makes for a cheap meal!

  9. I am new to IHG and earning rewards as i used to book the hotels directly with Expedia as i always found their rate to be cheaper, which means i have a IHG rewards balance of 0! Now that it has my attention all these promo codes see a little overwhelming of what will and wont work with what. But to break it down simply

    1) can i put in all those promo codes/ which are the best codes to use?
    2) The Big Win promotion if i was to stay twice on friday and saturday nights at 2 different IHG hotels, is that all that is required to hit the full bonus?


  10. There are a lot of ‘new’ bonus points codes flying around at the moment on other blogs. Many of the ones being listed as new are either exactly the same codes as previous one or simply the same offer with a different code (and therefore don’t work if you did the offer last year).

    I’ve just done a quick one night stay to try these out and I can confirm hat the following codes work:

    4040 – 1.5K next stay bonus
    5000 – 1K for next stay within 60 days
    9944 – 1.5K New Member Stay (works for everyone, I’m Plat Ambassador)
    3050 – 3K Elite member next stay (not sure if you have to be Gold/Plat to qualify)
    8000 – 1K for next stay within 60 days
    3006 – 3K next stay ‘Win-Back’ (no idea what win back means!)

    Many of the other codes that have been listed this year appeared on my account but no points posted. To be clear, I used up ALL of last year’s codes, so the ones above should work for everyone (less any status requirements).

    My one night stay got me a pretty good haul – 16,000 bonus points from the stay and these codes, 20,000 for paying with the IHG credit card as part of my Big Win, 15,000ish for completing the second part of my two city stay bonus (also part of big win) and 40,000 points for opening the IHG credit card (the 40K link still works)!

    • Doh! There was another 3K bonus that posted but I can’t figure out what codes it’s for! Damn IHG for not listing the code on the offer status page!

  11. Can I ask a quick question about Big Win? Just totting up some stays to see if its worth it (mine is a pretty good deal compard to some I’ve seen I think). I know the advance saver rate works, as thats what I used last time to book, but there is another tab next to that which is Rewards Club Member Discount – Advance Saver rate, which is basically 10% off – does that rate work as well? I’m all for saving a couple of quid, but not if it means it doesn’t post as a qualifying stay! Many thanks.

    • It should count. Some hotels are still not used to it and are posting them as non-qualifying, but an appeal to IHG gets it fixed.

      For security, do a screenshot of the page after booking which says ‘You will earn x,xxx [base] points from this booking’.

  12. I got an auto-reply to an email to IHG, telling me to call 1-800-621-0555 if it was urgent. It’s obviously a US freephone number and it’s free to call using Skype. So that’s what I do when I want to speak to somebody, rather than waiting weeks for an emailed reply. And the (American) staff seem to be very helpful and knowledgeable.

    I suggest those who have issues with the Phillippino call centre (I’ve never used it) should try the Skype route to America.

  13. Thunderbirds says:

    As a Platinum Ambassador IHG hotels are the default choice for me unless there is a special situation. HI/HIX are everywhere so there is usually a choice when I’m away on work. I use Crowne Plaza (CP) or Intercontinental for leisure. More often than not HI/HIX provide a drink and snack but most HI/HIX in the UK can’t provide upgrades except higher room, which is something for town centre locations. Many but not all CP Hotels have a lounge but they are surprisingly hit and miss as far as quality is concerned. I find most of the UK airport hotels (Manchester, Heathrow and Gatwick) give upgrades to Club Room with lounge access. CP hotel in Leeds doesn’t have a lounge and the CP just outside Rome is in a sorry state i.e. they should knock it down. With Intercontinental I’ve managed to collect 3x two for one weekend night vouchers in 5 months. O.K so it’s not really 2 for 1 as you have to pay the standard rate not the saver rate but it can make a substantial difference. I write this from the Intercontinental Singapore where I’ve saved S$420 on two nights at the standard rate and the list of free stuff is great. Despite the free stuff I get during stays I actually go for the points at IHG. I’ve stayed 6 nights at the CP New York Times square and am on my way to 6 nights at the Old Sydney HI both with points. I’m planning for 6 nights in Tokyo before the end of the year. All this and no taxes or fees to pay. By the way a recent application for an IHG Rewards Credit card (for the Big Win) using the old 40k points link on this site has worked. I’ve just stayed at the CP Heathrow for 20k (Big Win) and it was a Flexible with Breakfast rate 2k (Big Win) plus my standard Platinum earnings of 3k. So about 65k in total plus 4 points per £ on the spend. There may be better hotels but do they have the coverage, quality range and the earnings potential of IHG, so far nobody has convinced me that, on balance, there is a better rewards program. Having said that I’m staying two nights at the PremierInn in Scunthorpe in a couple of weeks which is a far cry from where I am now.