IHG Rewards Club has slowly started to email members about changes to the programme which start from July 1st.
The important news, before you start to worry, is that the 50,000 point cap on the cost of a redemption night will remain. For some reason this point was hidden away in the small print rather than made clear up front.
As long as InterContinental redemptions remain at no more than 50,000 points, I can live with anything else.
Let’s take a look at what is coming:
From May 1st, 300 hotels are increasing in price by 5,000 or 10,000 points. At the same time, 150 hotels are decreasing in price by 5,000 points. I get a feeling that ‘big city’ hotels will come down – you would be crazy to pay 35,000 points for a Holiday Inn Express in London when the InterContinental Park Lane is just 50,000 points!
From July 1st, Gold and Platinum status will become easier to achieve. Platinum will drop from 50 nights or 60,000 base points to 40 nights or 40,000 base points. Gold will drop from 15 nights or 20,000 base points to 10 nights or 10,000 base points.
However, the current ‘Fast Track to Elite Status’ offer – which allowed to earn status more quickly by staying at multiple IHG brands – will be discontinued.
From July 1st, a new top tier will be introduced. It currently has no name! It will require a slightly crazy 75 nights per year or 75,000 base points to reach. If you took out the IHG Premium credit card recently – when it had the 60,000 points bonus – you are very likely to qualify for this new ‘super level’. The only guaranteed benefit is a 100% bonus on base points when you stay. Stays and points earned during 2015 to date will count towards qualification.
The new top tier has no special benefits (yet?). The main selling point is the choice of 25,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points or free Platinum status for a friend or relative. You can take one of these benefits each year.
Points will expire if there is no activity on your account in any 12 month period. This does not apply to status members. The first round of expirations will take place in May 2016.
There are no particular losers from these changes:
If you have status via the IHG credit cards, your status is – on paper – devalued. A Premium Visa cardholder no longer gets top tier status as Platinum is now the middle tier. In reality, you will not lose much unless hotels which used to offer specific benefits to Platinum members now reserve them only for the new top-tier.
Points expiry is not a big deal especially as any activity – probably booking and immediately cancelling a reward night – is enough to stop it. That said, the person who wrote this in the IHG email – “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” – should be taken in a dark room and patronised relentlessly so they can realise how everyone who read the email feels.
What IS a problem is that IHG is not releasing the names of the hotels which are going up or down in price on May 1st. We know that 50,000 point InterContinental redemptions will be unchanged. If you had any other redemptions planned, you may want to book them now just in case. You can always cancel without penalty later – better to be safe than sorry.
What I don’t quite understand is why IHG is still shying away from offering any cast-iron benefits. You can do 75 nights a year with them but it still seems that you will not receive free breakfast, guaranteed late check-out or a guaranteed upgrade. At the very least you would expect to receive guaranteed lounge access if a property has a lounge – but you won’t.
The website does say this:
New benefits, bigger rewards and an enhanced in-hotel experience will continue to be rolled out beginning in 2016.
…. so perhaps there is some hope. ‘Bigger rewards’ sounds rather ominous ….
(I also don’t understand why IHG is not revealing the name of its new top tier! They cannot seriously have decided to announce these changes without being sure of the name yet … could they?!)
IHG Rewards Club has always been a good programme for earning points quickly and has a good global spread of hotels for redemption at reasonable rates. It has NEVER been a good programme for elite benefits. I’m not sure that creating a new elite level which still does not have any guaranteed benefits really adds much!
Take a look at ihg.com here to find out more about the changes.
(Want to earn more hotel points? To see our complete list of promotions from 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.)