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IHG Rewards Club credit cards closed to new applications – what happens now?

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The two IHG Rewards Club Visa credit cards closed to new applications on 31st March.

No prior notice was given.  The cards have disappeared from the Barclaycard website (both cards were administered by Barclaycard).  They still appear on the IHG website but the linked page no longer contains a link to the application form.

Nothing changes for existing cardholders, at least for now.

It is not clear at this point what will happen.  As far as I know, IHG is not pulling out of the credit card business – the credit card conference I attended recently had a few IHG staffers there – so I would guess that the card will re-emerge at some point with a new issuer.

However, as recent rulings make it clear than American Express co-branded cards are now covered by the 0.3% interchange fee cap, there is no clear incentive for IHG to launch an American Express card.

Ironically, the benefits package on the IHG Premium Visa was to my mind exactly what was needed to survive in the new world of EU interchange fee caps.  Both my wife and I have the IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa.

IHG Rewards Club offered status to everyone who got the cards – Gold status on the free card and Platinum status for the £99 Premium Visa.  They also offered a free night voucher in return for spending £10,000 on the Premium card.  In addition, the points from your spending counted towards earning a higher level of status.

Spending £10,000 per year on the Premium card would earn 20,000 IHG points and a free night potentially worth £200+.  That is a 2% return even after deducting the £99 fee which is excellent for a Visa.

These were all excellent reasons to get the card, retain it year after year and keep it in your wallet and use itwhich is the ultimate goal of all loyalty cards.  The real value for the issuer is in you seeing their logo every time you pay for something.

The Premium card also offered double points for foreign spending – which was a good reason to use it abroad, despite the 3% foreign exchange fee, especially if your employer was reimbursing you.

There was no need for an over-generous sign-up bonus (although it did have good offers from time to time) or indeed a strong earning rate (although that was pretty good as well).  The economics looked as good as you were going to get in the post-EU fee cap world.

However …..

If you look at this Flyertalk thread you will see that many people had problems with the way that Barclays administered the card.  In particular, there were major problems in crediting the bonus points for stays at IHG hotels.  Some people were earning a decent second income via the compensation Barclaycard was paying them every month for their repeated complaints.

I can also imagine that IHG would have been frustrated with the recent change to Barclays policies on issuing cards.  If you held any other Barclaycard, including the Hilton HHonors card, or have had one in the last six months, you would not be accepted for the IHG cards.

It isn’t clear where the IHG credit cards go from here.  IHG seems to ‘get it’, as opposed to:

Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa (review), which has an amazing sign-up bonus – the best bonus in the whole travel loyalty sector, to be honest, and the card doesn’t even have an annual fee – but has little incentive to actually spend on the card.  The one benefit – Gold status for spending £10,000 – has been devalued due to Hilton status matches.  The card also has stupid timing rules – the free night voucher for getting the card only lasts for six months and the £10,000 spend for Gold must be done in a calendar, not card, year.  The sensible thing to do is to cancel it quickly and churn it, which is bad news for Hilton and Barclaycard. 

Marriott Rewards Visa (currently closed to new applicants, possibly because Marriott has no FCA license), which has a weak earnings rate and is only spiced up by giving you free Silver status and 2,000 points per year for keeping the card.  The problem here is that you apply for it but keep it in a drawer unused.

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (review) which has a ‘too high’ £75 fee and the most insulting benefits package of any UK travel loyalty card.  Spend a ludicrous £25,000 in a year and you get a free night voucher which is, effectively, not valid at anywhere better than a 3-star hotel – because that is obviously where people who spend £25,000 a year on Amex cards like to spend their free time.  The best reason to get this card is if you collect airline miles via one of the 20-odd SPG airline partners who do not have their own UK credit card, eg Flying Blue, Aeroplan, Avianca etc. 

This is what I think you need to offer in the 0.3% interchange fee world:

Some sort of status benefit to encourage you to retain the card and pay the annual fee (annual fees will be the norm going forward whether we like it or not)

An incentive for spending a decent sum on the card – but the amount must be realistic and the reward must have some value (take note, SPG Amex)

Points which count towards status in the loyalty programme

Additional incentives for using the card with the sponsoring hotel / airline

I’d love to think that we’d see more cards doing away with foreign exchange charges.  In a world of 0.3% interchange fees, however, that is highly unlikely to happen.  It is virtually the only way to make any income from those of us who pay our bills promptly each month.

The IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa ticked all of these boxes.  Hopefully, wherever IHG goes next, it will not forget what it has learned about putting together a good package which benefits both them, the issuer and the cardholder over the long term.

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Comments (61)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • kirill says:

    I used the barclaycard eligibility check yesterday and the hilton card did not come up for me or my partner. Is that normal, or does that mean that we are unlikely to be accepted for it?

    All the other cc had a high rate of acceptance.

    • Zander says:

      The checker is beyond useless, I applied for an got accepted for Plat when it said I was only able to get the basic one. Apply anyway.

    • Stan says:

      Same thing here , I have made 2 applications in the last 3 years and none were successful . I have not had a problem with any other cards Amex Gold , Lloyds Avios , TSB Avios , Halifax Clarity , Ba Amex I have them all but have never been able to get a Hilton . I could not even find what the criteria is , my credit rating is 999 on both rating agencies …. Possibly there is a check with hilton to see if you book with them often or an age criteria ..

      • RTS says:

        Hh Barclay Card uses Experian as a credit check agency.

        I applied for mine 2 weeks ago. I was immediately accepted with a ridiculously high credit limit. It did make me think back to the pre-crunch days where credit cards were being dished out left right and centre.

        Interestingly, once you are all signed up online with barclaycard, they offer a free experian credit score service too.

        • RTS says:

          Oh – and I had only ever had 1 stay with Hilton but a Diamond member

  • Kaz says:

    Slightly related – found it near impossible to redeem HHonors free night voucher. Four calls to the booking line, 10 agents, 100 minutes and £50 of phone charges. Nobody knew a thing about the voucher. It was only resolved after I insisted on a manager. Even they were clueless, but at least helpful, and persisted with their helpdesk. The solution was to credit my account with 70k pts to allow the booking to go through.

    Decided I’d be wasting my time pursuing with Hilton so went direct to Barclays who, to their credit, refunded my charges immediately without quibble.

    • Kipto says:

      I had similar issues a few years ago. Passed around different call centres throughout the world. Woeful customer service

    • Alan says:

      Well done on the compensation front. I find it best not to confuse the agents by mentioning a Barclaycard or VISA free night certificate, just say you want to make a booking and the certificate is already on your account (you’ll have been sent a number with the email). You can call the US call centre for free over Skype on their 1800 number.

    • Moray says:

      I don’t know if I was just lucky but my experience was the exact opposite. Called up and had a room at the Conrad in London book within about three minutes. Very helpful and friendly person in the call centre, seemed to know exactly what I was after and I didn’t even have to quote my voucher code. I was also surprised that the room that was booked was not the cheapest one they offer (I believe it was the third from the bottom, or third from the top if you prefer).
      One negative thing was that I never received a voucher email. After three months of waiting I e-mailed their customer services and they replied with the code within 24 hours, although as I said above I didn’t actually need it when booking.

      • Liz says:

        I had the same experience as Moray. The free night voucher was in my husbands name – when I phoned to book I was transfered straight away to the USA call centre. A lovely lady chatted away – I told her I had Diamond status so she upgraded the room to King Superior, put me down as lead guest and noted on the booking is was VIP Diamond – will be staying there next weekend!

        • Liz says:

          This is also for the Conrad in London -80000 HH points !

        • AndyR says:

          Hi Liz, I am hoping to do the same so great to hear you were able to. Can I just check that the night was still booked under your husbands account but name was changed? Or were they able to transfer the voucher to your account somehow? Thanks.

          • Liz says:

            She tried to change it to my account but couldn’t. It is booked on my husbands account but my name is on the booking – hoping for a further upgrade and any other Diamond benefits that are available!

          • AndyR says:

            Thanks a lot Liz! Hope you get the upgrade 🙂

        • Nick M says:

          We could have had a mini HFP party… We were booked there next weekend too but my wife then decided she didn’t want to be in the middle of a city, and so switched to Syon Park last week.

          Unfortunately the certificates were credited to our accounts rather than the points, – otherwise would have been a nice 40k bonus!

  • Thunderbirds says:

    Just had my wife confirmed as a supplementary cardholder for IHG Visa Premium but that was a few days before the deadline.
    Interesting people are having problems crediting bonus points as I’ve not had any problems matching the bonus points posted to spending for non-GBP or IHG Hotels. are the problems for specific chains, regions or currencies?
    OT: Still waiting for Intercontinental Pack from July 2015

  • Adrian says:

    I had an IHG card for 8 years (I know my bad). Prior to Barclays getting their sticky fingers on it, it was provided by MBNA, could it be going back to them? MBNA were much better than Barclays IMO. Barclays even charged me after the account was closed because they couldn’t collect the direct debit!
    Having discovered HfP last year and seen the light in churning I cancelled my IHG card in Feb (after BAPP, GOLD, BAPP. GOLD, for the wife and I and Lloyds).
    Ironically I applied for the Hilton card yesterday (less than 8 weeks after ditching the IHG card) and was instantly accepted, which I wasn’t expecting given the supposed 6 months enforced wait. Maybe that is over now they aren’t taking any new IHG applications? They have clearly used the info from the IHG card as my credit limit is the same as my previous card.

    • john says:

      I downgraded from the black to white card before my renewal date and yet they still charged me the annual fee for the black card as I didn’t switch in time (not true). I sent a message through the message system and they credited it on next months statement so not too much of pa roblem.

  • Kim H says:

    Interesting- I cancelled mine in Feb as I was planning to churn and the call centre tried to retain me… offering 5k points or I think £10 off the annual fee! Wasn’t impressed by the process or by Barclays at all (having previously had the card under mbna I think). Still, got some great value redemptions on my last holiday out of the sign up bonus…

  • TomTom says:

    OT – Need some AMEX advice. 1st year AMEX Gold (for free), then upgraded to Plat for entire 2nd year. Now coming to the end of 2nd year and still want to continue with Membership Rewards. What is the cheapest option?

    • Topp2015 says:

      You fool… Where to start

      • TomTom says:

        Any advise instead of stupid comments? Should also mention that the Plat benefits have all been used over the past 12 months, but will not be going forward.

    • Rob says:

      Downgrade to Green for £5 pm

  • Nathan says:

    I wonder if the platinum card will become a spire card… it was a good deal to get top status before but for mid tier status now.. hardly worth the £99 imo

    • Will says:

      What are the actual spire benefits/enhancements over plat?

      I still get the upgrades I used to with plat! No issues here unless spire start getting free breakfast or similar

      • John says:

        Mainly 25K free points and higher earnings should you ever pay to stay at IHG

  • Enigma368 says:

    I don’t know if I agree that the Hilton card has a poor earning rate. 2 Hilton points per £1 on this no annual fee card definitely beats the 1 IHG point per £1 on the no annual fee IHG card. I agree that the gold for £10k benefit is now pretty useless for most.

    • Rob says:

      Fair point, I tend to compare it with IHG Premium but that is unfair given the fee. I agree 2 HH beats 1 IHG. I have edited the article slightly.

      • Waribai says:

        Raffles. On the subject of editing, I think the Lloyds avios credit card offers 0% purchases for 24 months currently rather than the 13 months referred to in your summary. This has been the situation since January I believe.

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