Intercontinental Hayman Island

The pandemic hasn’t been too kind to travel businesses, but in some ways consumers have actually benefited from the trying and humbling times.

Loyalty programs which were drunk on the travel boom of old were forced to inject new value and opportunity into their offerings once again, rather than the continuous tune of devaluations and ‘enhancement’. Except, of course, for IHG Rewards.

In the middle of these historic times, while other programs offer up exceptional values, such as the ability to earn top tier status from just 15 actual nights, or all nights at off peak rates, IHG seems hellbent on making the already marginal IHG Rewards loyalty program something bordering on irrelevance, as if the global mega chain didn’t even want to have a loyalty program at all.

With a ‘no notice’ devaluation which raises the price of hotels around the globe, it’s the latest waltz into obscurity from a program which can’t seem to tell which way is up. For a program desperately banking on people getting back to laying down on sun loungers and looking up at the blue sky from one of their infinity pools, it’s a treacherous game.

Here’s what IHG has changed with their IHG Rewards Program in the last week, and how the program still brings “some” value to credit card holders.

IHG No Notice Devaluation: Nights Cost More Points

Without any warning or communication to members, IHG raised the number of points you’ll need to book many hotel rooms, ranging from roadside motels to luxury five star stunners in remote destinations.

Things had already shifted from dependable points values at given hotels on any night of the year – think: this hotel costs 50,000 points – to ‘dynamic’ pricing, where the price in points can change from night to night, if IHG thinks the values using points are too out of line with cash costs.

It’s a less transparent way of doing peak, standard and off peak pricing, which the likes of Marriott Bonvoy and other hotel programs use. Loyalty programs always say this makes for more intuitive pricing (more points during peak, fewer points during lows) but history shows it’s mostly just price increases, and very few new “lows”.

The previous cap where the most a property could charge in points per night was 100,000 has been shattered with this weeks devaluation, and new 120,000 point per night options are plentiful. Hotels which previously cost a solid 40,000 points before cost 70,000 points now in some instances.

Favorite hotels like Intercontinental’s in European capitals which topped out at 70,000 points now cost 90,000 to 100,000 per night, depending on the night. And yep, it might be a different price every night you look, even for the same continuous stay.

There’s now a long list of Holiday Inn’s for 70,000 points or more, which aren’t exactly aspirational. Ugh.

Intercontinental Hayman Island

This is a huge frustration not only for people with lots of IHG Rewards Points, but also loyal customers who hold IHG Rewards credit cards who will now see less value from their “free night” certificates. This remains somewhat unclear, but if hotels shift most dates to prices north of 40,000, it’ll mean fewer nights or hotels available for this perk.

These certificates allow a “free night” for hotels which cost up to 40,000 points, and since many previously 40,000 point hotels have jumped their nightly cost in points to levels beyond this figure, it’s going to be harder to get value from those once valuable certificates which helped to justify holding the IHG credit card.

Particularly with the timing of global events and (most) hotel businesses diving deeper into the loyalty world to get heads in beds, the only realistic question to ask is WTF?

Last Useful Feature Of IHG Rewards: Credit Card?

IHG Rewards has always been the worst major hotel loyalty program in terms of elite status recognition. It typically begs the question: why bother? Hotels are under no real obligation to upgrade even high tier elite status guests to the best rooms or suites and breakfast isn’t guaranteed at all.

Unless you’re in an invitation only ‘Royal Ambassador’ tier, the program is an outline of what “could” potentially happen for you as a guest, not what will happen, with tangible guarantees and perks people can bank on. Still, the program attracts lots of members, and that’s been down to the IHG credit cards on offer in different global markets.

Factoring in all the negative changes, where rooms went from a cap less than a year ago of 70,000 points per night, to up to 120,000 points per night now, and no benefit improvements for elites, it’s safe to say there’s only one useful feature in IHG Rewards now. It’s not like points became significantly easier to earn in the interim.

Six Sense Yao Noi

Last Win: 4th Night Free Credit Card Perk

The last real win on the table with IHG, at least in the opinion of GSTP, is 4th night free on points stays for US based IHG Rewards credit card holders.

Surely, somehow, IHG will change for the better and become valuable again, but at present time, it is what it is. UK readers with the no longer available IHG Premium card still have decent value from the uncapped free night with the UK card.

IHG acquired the Six Senses portfolio of luxury hotels, with some stunning places in Vietnam, Thailand, Portugal and more and many are now (finally) bookable online.

These hotels typically cost 100,000 points per night, and if you book 4 nights, IHG Rewards credit card holders would pay 300,000 points, with the 4th night free perk. This equates to 75,000 points per night, for hotels which can very easily cost north of $500 using cash, and represent excellent value.

If you have a significant stash of IHG points, this is a great way to extract what little value is left from a program which already significantly lagged earning and burning opportunities of Hyatt, Marriott and even Hilton.

Intercontinental properties in far flung places like Tahiti offer similarly great value. The Platinum elite status which comes with IHG credit cards can add value, but elite perks aren’t guaranteed on points stays, and then again few perks are guaranteed on any stays.

Right now, when most loyalty programs are pulling out all the stops in ways which haven’t been seen since 2008, it’s a head scratcher from IHG, so WTF indeed. There’s only one way to go, and hopefully that’s up. Perhaps whoever is running the loyalty program thought the phrase best pertained to points prices, rather than value.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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2 Comments

  1. I’m not sure where or what the “WTF” is in regards to — you predicted this in your December article about MS.

    – “People who engage in manufactured spending are the outsized reason for airline and hotel loyalty program devaluations, which end up costing EVERYONE more points.”

    Apparently, there has been a number of users doing some serious volume to get their IHG points, and they caused the whole program to devalue. /s

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