Changes to IHG Rewards Club …. but no need to panic!

IHG Rewards Club has slowly started to email members about changes to the programme which start from July 1st.

Full details can be found here at the IHG site.

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.

IHG Rewards Club 350

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 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.)

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  1. I liked IHG for the points earning but defected to Hilton for the guaranteed benefits. Other chains were out because they had gaps in coverage for places I needed. I’ll still say in Crowne Plazas and IC’s (Ambassador) if I know they’re good and offer decent benefits. Otherwise I look to Hilton first.

    BTW there’s now a petition of East Coast Rewards (wasn’t my idea, hence it wasn’t there in February, but thought I’d run with it). Currently got 600 signatures in 14 days. I think it’ll be a success if we get at least over 1000. Main reason to do this is because Virgin claim to do things differently and to listen. We need visible evidence to prove that listening is not a key objective.


    Save East Coast Rewards is still appropriate because like Diamond Club it still exists even if not in its original form.

  2. I couldn’t see anything in the FAQ’s as to whether or not there will also be an InterContinental® Ambassador “newest membership level” above Platinum. I’m assuming so? Any thoughts?

  3. Does this mean if you took the CC in 2015 and got the 60k points, you are likely to be bumped to the top tier and can take another 25k points for free…?

    • Graham says:

      I was thinking the same thing Adam…..

      • My 60k bonus points haven’t posted yet, now I’m almost hoping they post after May 1st, combine that with the £10k spend to get the free night voucher and that will be the 75k met with ease.

        • It doesn’t matter when they post. As long as you have accumulated 75k qualifying points from the beginning of this year you will reach the top tier on July 1st.

    • Colin JE says:

      I wonder if the Premium IHG UK CC will give the higher status or if, as I suspect, IHG will leave it to card holders to earn the extra 15k points to get it.

      That said I’m not sure if you need to have earned 75k points in a year (inc credit card bonuses) or to have them sitting on your account to get status? I’ve already spent some of my 60k in the latest redemption bonuses. Can anyone clarify?

      And if in the second year would I need 75k points to get Black, or whatever it’ll be called, or just 15k to move from the CC awarded Platinum to the next level? If it’s 75k that’d be a real kick in the teeth.

      • All status points earned so far in 2015 count. If you are at 75k on July 1st you immediately get the new status, if you don’t then you get it whenever you hit 75k this year.

        You will definitely need 75k from scratch next year to achieve top tier, even if you have the credit card. That is already how it works if you have Gold via the credit card and want Platinum.

      • I dont think the IHG credit card will give the higher status, other hotel chains like to reserve the top status level for those that do actually stay with them.

        The 60,000 points are Elite earning, but arent enough on their own for the new status. You will need to then earn the other 15,000 points through points stays. Its clearer if you read the My Account section of your IHG account. I imagine this will update in due course to take account of the higher level status.

        Each year to retain ‘black’ status you will need to earn 75,000 Elite points or do 75 (!) stays in IHG properties.

        I dont imagine the 25,000 bonus points will qualify as Elite points.

  4. Overall a bit of a weird set of changes – good that retaining status stops points expiring though. I’m not sure they’ll give existing CC Plats (or indeed ‘true’ Plats) the as yet unnamed top tier – would seem easier to just transition across any of those that hit the required level.

  5. Harry Holden says:

    I have noticed my status as Platinum Ambassador for the last two weeks. This explains a lot.

    • Martin says:

      I’ve also been Platinum Ambassador for a week or so

      • Danksy says:

        Me too!

        • Globetrotter7 says:

          And me! I wonder why?

        • Colin JE says:

          My membership is just showing as plain ‘Platinum’ so I wonder if you guys have all earned your status through stays or points, whereas I got mine through the CC?

          Or have you earned 75k points and does this mean the new level will be called Platinum Ambassador!

          And if so does this indicate a merger with Intercontinental Ambassador status, or is it just to confuse us, which it certainly will!

      • Also and currently on over 75k points for this year.

  6. I fear this could be the end of the wembley 10k redemption!

    • IHG has the best value redemptions in a lot of the major world cities (mainly in secondary but not terrible locations). In LA, there are a number of HI and HIE properties that are in reasonably central locations for 15k points and I believe in New York, there is a JFK hotel for 15k points. All other chains are pretty expensive for big city awards. In HK, you can stay at Crowne Plaza for 20k points allbeit about 30minsout of the city centre – still much cheaper than any other points scheme.

      I will be sad if a lot of these good value redemptions go.

  7. Hi there, thanks for the article, I have a question you maybe able to answer: I have a few points in my account around 10K only ( IHG is my third tier hotel group ).

    Re the expiry” Does the 12 months of inactivity period start from July 1st this year? In other words, my last activity was 100 pts for some survey thing done and credited on October 9th 2014. Therefore will all my points expire October 9th 2015 or July 1st 2016?

    Thanks in advance

  8. Gabbai says:

    I assume that activity includes point credit for use of an affiliate credit card. So if you have an IHG card, all you need to remember to do is make a small charge once a year. Retained points are always a good thing to have in your wallet.

    Generally, I get the feeling that IHG just thought they should do something, so they did it. As noted the elite benefits do not guarantee much at all. I have found though that smiling sweetly and asking nicely almost always gets an upgraded room, sometimes even to suite level, sometimes with whatever benefits that level room offers. I was recently at a European IC where I requested and got upgraded to an executive room facing the ocean, and also got access to the Executive lounge with its free food and drink offerings. Not bad for a free annual redemption certificate. To have booked the room that night would have cost $560!

  9. James67 says:

    I imagine HI Wembley will be increased. It will be interesting to see if benefit of the premium cc will be revised to reflect the new higher status level.

    • That was only meant to be a temporary thing anyway whilst the hotel was being refurbished and there was noise and dust everywhere! I sometimes think they simply forgot to change it back!

      • James67 says:

        Yes, very likely. I have frequently put friends up in it when visiting London and it has been q hit with them. Will be sirry to see it go up although still a good choice if it only increases by 10k but somehow I think it is going to be an exception.

    • I’m considering making a few speculative weekend reward bookings for Wembley, at least i can always cancel later on without penalty.

      • James67 says:

        Same here, will spread three of them out at 3 month intervals and then get advance train tickets too if I can render them less speculative.

  10. Thunderbirds says:

    Judging by the colour coding the new top level will be called Grey, or perhaps Black…
    IHG would be mad to give the new top level to Premium Visa holders as the whole purpose of the new level is surely to differentiate their best customers i.e. those spending 75 nights from those spending £99.
    However, having said that this is IHG and someone from CC Marketing may have something on someone in Hotels Marketing…

  11. I’ve been transferring my e-rewards points to IHG in the last couple of months to bump my total up to 60K after the last promotion. As long as that counts as activity, there’s always that option.

  12. Just got an email from IHG saying im going to love the changes coming and that i deserve it more than ‘anyone else’. I guess its a vague confirmation i will get the new status (whatever that is).

    • pauldb says:

      You’re easy to please! I got the same email and I’ve only earned 70k this year so I’m not yet eligible for the top tier.

    • I got the same email but didn’t read it as positively as that I’m afraid! 🙂

      Just showing as plain Plat, not Amb Plat – although I have done previously! I’ve got Plat from over 60k last year thanks to the IHG sign up bonus (downgraded the card to white so status not from that).

  13. I have just received the below info, which looks like extra stuff to your post:

    Dear XXX,

    We’ve made changes to IHG® Rewards Club that we know you’re going to love. More than anyone else, you deserve an experience that measures up to the loyalty you show every time you stay with us.

    That’s why we’re adding a new membership level in July that recognises the way our members travel and rewards them in brand-new ways. Our members at the top level who stay with us the most will get a yearly option of 25,000 bonus points or the ability to gift Platinum membership to a friend.

    We also want to reward our guests who choose to stay with us more often, so we’re focusing more programme benefits towards members who earn and redeem on a regular basis. Starting in May 2016, we will expire all points if there’s no account activity in the prior 12 months. But it’s easy to maintain your points balance. Simply earn or redeem once a year through any of our IHG hotels and partners or through the IHG® Rewards Club Catalogue.

    This is the start of a new kind of experience, and we’re so excited to bring it to you. Have a look at what an even better IHG® Rewards Club looks like.

    • I have had the exact same email although I am only at 35k so far this year. My app has shown as Platinum Ambassador for the last couple of weeks but online it still shows platinum.

      I’m assuming it’s just a marketing email rather than any confirmation that I will have the new status. Last year I had 70 nights and 225k points.

  14. Dave R says:

    Ok, well I’ve just answered my 1st question. I deposited the 5k Ambassador points and they are not elite qualifying. That’s disappointing.

  15. Nathan says:

    I paid for ambassador earlier this year as have about 25 nights in IC booked this year. I’ve currently got 80k elite qualifying points so will be bumped to this new level what ever it turns out to be but unless they offer free breakfast and maybe some more lucrative upgrade guarantee then it means nothing to me really! If they do however merge the IC Ambassador program together with status then I kinda feel like I want a refund on my IC Ambassador membership :/

    • Totally agree Nathan! It’s basically pretty pointless, especially compared to other available programs, unless there are substantial benefit changes. However, to be honest, I don’t expect anything special, as what has IHG status really done for anyone in the past?

      • They have already told me one benefit is:-

        “Our members at the top level who stay with us the most will get a yearly option of 25,000 bonus points or the ability to gift Platinum membership to a friend.”

    • Martin says:

      Id be surprised if it was a merger with IC Ambassador, unlikely IMO.

  16. Who stays 75 nights a year in a hotel ???

  17. On a related note, does anyone know how long it will take for ‘Set your sights’ promotional points to post? Am wondering whether a mattress run is appropriate for an extra 35k points, assuming my points post…

  18. Czechoslovakia says:

    Had just started to move everything over to ihg too. That said, stayed at HI PRG airport, and they upgraded me to an executive room, thanks to my ihg status – the entry level? Not complaining mind.

  19. Do you think the 25k points will be in july 2015 and then again in jan 2016? if so the credit card looks to have earned another 50k!