Loyalty Lobby points out several changes that have been made to the IHG One Rewards elite benefit terms and conditions. These have been published to their website, but they haven’t otherwise told anyone about them which always strikes me as a poor practice.
- Hotels can restriction what items are included in free Diamond breakfast. The program’s terms and conditions now say “Select Breakfast menu items may be excluded (such as specialty/local-themed items)”
Breakfast as an elite benefit is supposed to be a treat, not just a cost savings. Most people don’t have time to stop and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Sure, at many hotels it’s just powdered eggs and juice from concentrate. But what makes some properties stand out is specialty items, maybe a bit pricier but also an escape from the everyday.
Giving license to hotels to limit the breakfast options is something some properties will drive a truck through in any case – choose any breakfast entree made sense. Telling hotels they can pick and choose which entrees qualify for breakfast won’t end well.
- Confirmed suite upgrades can’t be used on stays paid in part by Ambassador free weekend night certificates. We actually already knew this, but now the terms make it clear. IHG made huge progress introducing upgrades that are actually rebooked reservations into a higher room class, available 14 days prior to check-in and a choice benefit members can select after staying just 20 nights. But for now they’re only available on non-prepaid revenue stays, and they’re… a little complicated.
IHG’s program head shared with me that the reservations agent is basically taking an existing reservation the customer has, cancelling it, and then booking a new reservation at the original rate into the upgraded room category. But it “doesn’t always work as designed with pre-paid rates” or “rates have moved materially since time of booking.”
Prepaid rates were initially excluded from these upgrades, but it’s actually possible to do upgrades on some prepaid rates where deposits haven’t been taken. IHG’s goal is to make “more rates eligible for upgrades” and they’re “working on making these eligible on reward nights.” The “main exclusions [that will remain] are corporate negotiated rates.” In addition they’re working on offering members the ability to electronically confirm their suite upgrades. Hopefully the benefit gets even better!
- They can cancel your award if you get too good a deal. The terms now say,
In the event of an erroneously published Reward Night point price, IHG One Rewards reserves the right to cancel the booking and refund the points. Members will be notified in the event that this occurs.
It’s a little weird for the program to eliminate award charts, so the member has no way of knowing what a redemption is ‘supposed to’ cost and then say ‘if the price was lower than we’ve decided it should have been we’ll cancel it’ and by the way there’s no time limitation for us to do so. That means IHG redemptions are never really guaranteed until the stay is over?
Over the summer it did seem a lot of properties were pricing at half off their usual number of points but the chain also said they were going to run a lot of redemption sales, and of course this came after a series of price increases on redemption nights.
Maybe this was a mistake and they now say they may not honor sales? A better tactic would be to actually improve their own IT and revenue management rather than blaming the member. Inserting the ability to cancel these bookings reduces the incentive for them to do so!
- Easier gifting of reward nights. The terms now say you can just list someone as second guest on a reservation and they can use the reservation. Odds on they’ll receive the elite member’s benefits and the member may accrue status credits too! This simple method excludes stays in “Greater China”:
- IHG is basically saying redemptions for stays under someone else’s name in China are fraud. That’s largely true.
- And they don’t dare separate out Hong Kong… or Taiwan… in their policies for fear of angering the Chinese state.
Priority Check-In has also been removed from the list of elite benefits on the IHG website. Most hotels that have a priority check-in queue don’t actually operate separate lines for elites to use. Those that do will presumably continue to do so.