IHG Restricts New Breakfast Benefit, Makes It Easier To Gift Rewards

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”:

    1. IHG is basically saying redemptions for stays under someone else’s name in China are fraud. That’s largely true.

    2. 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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — Well, this little tidbit is somehwat concerning — “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.”. I certainly hope this doesn’t apply retroactively to existing bookings, as I am quite enjoying the sale fomr last year still. 🙂 Plus, with dynamic pricing, cancelling such awards effectivey constitutes fraud on IHG’s part. Plus, what about those non-refundable air tickets that I bought several months ago?

  2. @ Gary — I see now that the new T&C are efffective ONLY retroactively to April 10, 2023, so reservations made during the 2022 point stays sale should be safe. That doesn’t change the fact that this practice is fraud, plain and simple.

  3. I’ve had good experiences so far as a Diamond Ambassador except at the Intercontinental Downtown LA. Said no balance when I checked out but my credit card later had a charge on it. Called and they said it was tax on my free breakfast. I fought back and they said they would make a “one time exception” and waive it lol.

  4. This is just absurd. The IHG top-level free breakfast benefit isn’t even a year old. IHG has already eliminated BARS OF SOAP from its brands. Now they’re allowing owners to cut the breakfast benefit, which was already limited to a choice of a buffet or one main course plus unlimited coffee and juice. The benefit ALREADY excluded alcohol and speciality coffee drinks. This is yet another reason not to chase IHG top-level diamond status at dumpy Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza properties. Just stay at a Holiday Inn Express, where breakfast is free for all guests and is generally no worse than the non-free breakfast at a Holiday Inn.

  5. Some properties I’ve stayed in have already been doing this, having a few menu items that are an upcharge. So far anyway, it’s been within reason and the free options have been ample and better than the crappy allowance of Hilton and some Marriott properties. Hope it stays that way in practice. My stays at IHG properties have increased many fold since the program changes, mostly due to the breakfast benefit. Isn’t that what they want? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

  6. @ FNT DeIta Diamond — Well, that “free” brekfast at HIX is generally garbage.

  7. IHG is making a huge mistake by letting Hotels skimp out on the free breakfast benefit for Diamonds by letting Hotels define what that is. I’m a lifetime Platinum with Marriott and their games with this benefit cost them thousands of my money each year because if I don’t know what a benefit actually will be — I’ll avoid the brand.

    I gave IHG a chance and am currently a Diamond member. I’ll be closely watching how Hotels restrict this. What Marriott, Hilton, IHG fail to understand is if they can’t tell us what points are worth (dynamic pricing) nor what benefits we will get when we stay it incentivizes free agency to not care about any particular program and most importantly to book through third party portals that offer the cheapest price for a good room because we don’t trust that hotel program benefits are guaranteed or worth the money we save by going for the least expensive third party option.

    Once again Hyatt gets it right for Globalists and thankfully is growing it’s footprint every year. I’ve certainly been moving more of my spend to them every year and may finally focus all my spend there next year.

  8. One step forward and two steps back. IHG’s program is still not competitive.

  9. “Restricted breakfast items” is really only a problem in the USA: elsewhere in the world, this just doesn’t happen. Already, if I have a real choice of premium properties, and care about breakfast, I often call the properties directly to ask what breakfast benenfit I will get as an elite. This applies to all chains. It sounds like I need to continue this somewhat annoying but valuable practice.

  10. IHG finally figured out that free breakfast is a big darn deal to most of us, and they’re going to strip it down? Very shortsighted move.

  11. I think the last update is kind of a sleeper it’s basically guest of honor from woh but you instead earns the elite night/points.

  12. So long as they charge members to transfer points to their own spouse at a rate comparable to simply purchasing the points, they will continue to be a back of mind program. Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt all allow for free and easy point transfers; IHG is a huge outlier here and it’s impacting the value proposition on its loyalty program.

  13. This is why I am leaving IHG
    They change the rules to suit them at a drop of a hat and not publish
    I am a diamond with IHG and a titanium at Marriott and just because I have no choice at times a diamond at best western
    If IHG was really concerned about their high tear members there would be a difference in the late check out time of 4 pm like Marriott instead of the 2 pm late check out like basis member gets or a best western member gets

  14. The fascination with free breakfast at hotels always amazes me. I get that it can cost a lot to buy breakfast at a hotel but so does the mini-bar or in-room water. I don’t really see the big deal with this benefit but I can understand those that do I guess. The other thing that amazes me is that the higher up the hotel chain you go the more nickel and diming that goes on. Breakfast at a HIX = Free, Breakfast at an IC = $100. Internet at HIX=Free, at IC=$15 or whatever. I guess it trends in the other direction. IC=Bars of soap and mini bottles of mouthwash, conditioner, shampoo, slippers, and robes. HIX=wall mounted communal “shower mystery gel” and no bars of soap. So I guess the poor are better as saving the planet and polar bears and such 🙂

  15. @DaninMCI I think the biggest issue is that it’s promoted as a benefit or reason to steer enough business to IHG to become a Diamond member. We have seen time and time again that Hotels if given a choice use choices to define what that benefit is or to rule out certain items as a loophole. If somebody breaks a promise do you do more business with them or look at another option?

    When it comes to breakfast a factor is how many other good options are nearby. In a major city this is usually not an issue but in the suburbs or at an airport hotel without a car your options may be more limited.

  16. Seems like Marriott properties are increasingly offering a discount on breakfast in their restaurants or some ridiculously small point benefit like 500 irrespective of stay duration. Saving $10 on a breakfast priced at $22 and worth $0 since it should be free is just an insult. Seriously reconsidering my “loyalty” with >50 nights per year. Already started freelancing.

  17. I cut up my IHG Chase card and returned it after horrible service during a stay in London. I will say that the full English breakfast in most European hotels beats the crap out of the lousy breakfasts offered by American hotels. I stayed at the Holiday Inn near Phoenix, AZ airport. I opted for the breakfast rate since I have not been to Phoenix in a long time. Talk about CRAP. I paid $15.00 for the trash “buffet”! In spite of the lousy service at the Kensington Holiday Inn, I paid £18.00 for a full English buffet…all you care to eat which was really good. WHY can’t US hotels do the same?

  18. I am surprised that IHG properties are beginning to Bonvoy their guests, especially their Diamond Elite members. Maybe a new race-to-the-bottom merger is planned for Marriott and IHG® Hotels & Resorts.

  19. Been a business traveler for 25+ years. IHG reward program (especially on Intercontinental properties) had some really nice benefits in the past but nowadays the program is shit. Major hustle to find/book reward nights and you can only book the most basic room in the hotel. Why would I want to stay in the most basic room and have to book two rooms for a family of 2 adults + 2 children when a nice suite would be more suitable for a family holiday?

    As a frequent traveler I don’t have time for this BS so moved on to hotels.com (which is crazy since they mainly targeted occasional tourists) due to their straight forward reward program. No more hustle, if you can book for money you can use your earned night discount, i.e. you can actually choose the room/suite of your need.

    I still enjoy IHG hotels like Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn so still buy the Intercontinental Ambassador for 200USD/year (instead of qualify for it through stays) for room upgrade (upon availability).

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