IHG Rewards Club has made a big change in their terms and conditions with no advance notice, or even any notice, to members: they will no longer award points even for incidentals on stays booked through third party website.
Hotel loyalty programs have spent years trying to gain control over the distribution of rooms.
Years ago Priceline nights counted towards Hyatt elite status and even towards promotion earning (such as ‘Faster Free Nights’). In some cases such generosity was because of systems limitations.
Bookings through third party websites like Expedia, Orbitz, or Booking.com are costly to hotel chains. On the whole they’ve driven down those costs over the past few years as hotel occupancy has gone up, but it’s still a huge expense that can run 15% – 25% of a room night.
So hotels do all they can to drive bookings to their own channels, like limiting points-earning and elite benefits to room nights booked through a chain’s own website and encouraging customers to book there with ‘best rate guarantee’ promises (that have varying degrees of ‘teeth’).
- Hyatt and Marriott will recognize elite status when you book outside their own channels, but won’t let you earn credit towards your status.
- Starwood won’t let you earn status or receive status benefits (although some individual hotels will still give you benefits)
- Hilton won’t even let you earn points for food and beverage spend if you book your hotel through a third party.
Now IHG Rewards Club has updated its terms and conditions to be more like Hilton’s.
IHG Rewards Club: OTA Earn Restriction. IHG® Rewards Club members will not earn points during a stay or retroactively on any reservations booked through Online Travel Agencies (OTA). This restriction includes but is not limited to: earning points on food and beverage purchases, parking, in room dining, movies, and any other incidental charges incurred during the member’s length of stay.
So according to the terms, if you book an Intercontinental, Crown Plaza, Holiday Inn, or related brand hotel through a third party website you won’t even earn points for in room dining charges.
That’s worth knowing, but unlike Starwood — which eliminated elite status benefits on third party bookings in 2004 but gave nearly four months’ advance notice of the policy — IHG Rewards Club has simply slipped this change into an update of their fine print on December 30th with no notice to members at all, let alone advance notice.