IHG Rewards is planning major changes to go live in March.
It will be a two stage process. Part 2 will be about adding new benefits, but there is no word yet on what these may be.
Part 1, announced today, is about changes to status levels.
You can find out more on this page of the IHG website here.
Aside from the official announcement, we have seen some internal IHG documents which add extra detail. It seems that welcome drinks and amenities are disappearing in China, and could arguably also disappear in Europe too. The 25,000 points bonus for reaching Spire Elite status will also be scrapped, it seems.
How will IHG Rewards change?
The programme will gain an additional tier – Silver.
The confusing Spire name will be retired, in favour of Diamond.
The new status levels will be:
- Silver – requires 10 nights
- Gold – requires 20 nights or 40,000 base points
- Platinum – requires 40 nights or 60,000 base points
- Diamond – requires 70 nights or 120,000 base points
For comparison, here are current levels, albeit these numbers were lower in 2021 due to covid mitigation measures:
- Gold – requires 10 nights or 10,000 base points
- Platinum – requires 40 nights or 40,000 base points
- Spire – requires 75 nights or 75,000 base points
The base point requirement increases sharply
As you can see, qualifying via base points will become substantially more difficult.
I am guessing that IHG has done this because IHG credit cards earn base points, and so it was relatively easy to earn status purely from credit card spending.
(A few years ago, I earned Spire Elite with a heavy contribution from spend on an IHG Rewards Premium credit card. This card earned 2 points per £1 spent, so £37,500 of spending got you top tier status even if you never went near a hotel. Legacy holders of this card – which is no longer available to new applicants – would now need to spend £60,000 to do the same.)
However, there are few countries in the world with IHG credit cards. The UK cards are now closed to new applicants. For everyone else, the only way to earn base points is by staying in a hotel.
Take Diamond. Based on 10 base points per $1, you’d need to spend $12,000 to earn status via spend. The alternative is completing 70 nights. You’d need to average more than $171 per night excluding taxes before you’d earn Diamond based on spend rather than nights.
Intriguingly, the nights requirement comes down
The new top-tier Diamond status will ‘only’ require 70 nights per year. This is a drop of five nights on the old threshold for Spire, albeit that for 2020 and 2021 this was reduced to 55 nights as a covid measure.
How many bonus points will I earn per stay?
These are the new base point bonuses earned on paid stays:
- Silver – 20%
- Gold – 40%
- Platinum – 60%
- Diamond – 100%
Here are the current rates:
- Gold – 10%
- Platinum – 50%
- Spire – 100%
Here is a graphic provided by IHG summarising the new structure – note that the top tier will now be designated by black imagery and not red:
In general, bonus levels at the bottom end are increasing. The biggest difference comes for people who do 20 nights per year, who will now be getting a 40% Gold bonus rather than a 10% bonus under the current programme.
What is interesting is that this is the total opposite of what Hilton Honors did in its last shake-up. Those changes involved taking benefits away from lower tier members and boosting rewards for the heaviest stayers, on the logic that occasional guests were less motivated by points.
Top-tier members will actually end up worse off if, as reported, the bonus of 25,000 points for achieving or renewing Spire status is removed.
What other benefits will we see?
In truth, IHG Rewards benefits are, at present, a joke. Nothing is guaranteed.
Hilton gives mid-tier Gold members free breakfast, some kind of upgrade and a (not guaranteed) late check-out. Marriott gives Platinum members and higher a guaranteed 4pm check-out. Hilton gives Diamond members free lounge access – Marriott offers this to both Titanium and Platinum members.
IHG Rewards guarantees you nothing. A top tier member isn’t guaranteed free breakfast, an upgrade, late check-out or lounge access.
Whilst IHG Rewards is telling hotels – as per the internal document we saw today – that it will cost them less to service IHG Rewards members in the future, it is difficult to imagine how this could be possible. If the welcome drink and snack are removed – which are only given in certain parts of the world anyway – there is literally nothing left that the hotel is obliged to provide.
If Diamond / Spire benefits do not improve, these changes will see top tier members being worse off. They lose the 25,000 points annual bonus – which I’d value at £100 given our valuation of IHG Rewards points – and do not seen any increase in their 100% status bonus.
How are these benefits being phased in?
Your status will switch in March.
Members will retain their existing status for the rest of 2022, with Spire members seeing a name change to Diamond.
You will need to hit the new status requirements to keep your status for 2023. I can see a very thin Diamond tier next year on this basis, given the 70 night requirement.
Is anything changing with Ambassador, Royal Ambassador or Kimpton Inner Circle?
It seems not. These ‘pay to join’ or ‘invite only’ membership levels will not be changing.
It is impossible, at this stage, to draw any real conclusions about the changes to IHG Rewards, except to say that there seems little logic to hiking up the spend requirements for earning status.
I will withhold final judgement until we see what benefits are provided alongside the new status levels, but this will not happen for a few months.
What none of this addresses, of course, is the shift to revenue based redemptions. If IHG feels that members are losing faith with the programme, I suggest it is more to do with seeing Holiday Inn Express hotels priced at 100,000+ points on peak dates.
Having points requirements changing daily doesn’t help either, making advance planning impossible. People want to know that if they spend £x they can redeem for y, and that is no longer possible. Fiddling with the names of the status tiers won’t fix that.
For clarity, there is nothing wrong with running a programme which focuses heavily on earning points rather than giving out benefits. If you go down this road, however, you need to have an attractive redemption policy.
IHG One Rewards update – May 2022:
Get bonus points: IHG One Rewards is offering bonus base points on all cash stays between 18th May and 31st August. You earn double points on your 2nd to 5th nights, triple points on your 6th to 14th nights and quadruple base points from your 15th night. Our full article is here. Click here to register.
New to IHG One Rewards? Read our overview of IHG One Rewards here and our article on points expiry rules here. Our article on ‘What are IHG One Rewards points worth?’ is here.
Buy points: If you need additional IHG One Rewards points, you can buy them here.
You will receive an 80% bonus when you buy IHG One Rewards points by 10th June 2022.
Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from IHG and the other major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.