IHG Rewards Club Sneaks a Big Change Into Their Terms and Conditions

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.

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. I don’t think the issue of giving notice is that important. You make a lot of hay about this issue and I wish you would vent more about the bigger issues like in this case that they are not recognizing elite status through 3rd site bookings. Heck if they don’t like such bookings, they don’t need to give any rooms to such sites to book. You sometimes rationalize the bigger issue as good business decisions that are understandable. And vent on this minor minor issue of notice like it really means something like transparency. Whoopee if they gave you 30 days notice like that will change behavior.

  2. I think the issue of giving notice *is* important – even somewhat perceived ‘minor’ things like this – how much respect does a program or a corporation or an entity like IHG, which supposedly ‘values it’s members’, have for its loyal customers when they make changes like this . . . I don’t have a lot of respect for IHG, this is another reason why

  3. If an OTA charges up to 25% commission, I don’t think the hotel would want to give any benefits at all. If I was running a hotel, I’d want customers to book directly and would do everything I could do to not pay such a crazy commission.

  4. Gary is the only blogger I regularly see taking issue with IHG for not offering elite benefits on third party bookings or even award stays as a matter of policy (“I am not my rate”).

    Notice matters here because guests booked rooms in advance on the expectation of earning points. Now the rules say they won’t. No notice is bait and switch. It is borderline fraud. That’s a big deal, and it’s disrespectful.

  5. giving notice to any changes is an ethical issue, its so fundamental its not even worth a discussion. Just ask yourself if a hotel is doing something truly nice which is rare, wont they will publish it way a head of time? Conversely they sneak this in because it’s clearly a bad thing for customers.

  6. As Andrew asks, how does this work for online corporate travel (AmEx, etc.)? I feel like I stayed at a lot of hotels this year and only managed Silver/Gold at a few chains (but I also wasn’t very good at maximizing my loyalty to any specific brand).

  7. IHG doesn’t tell you that you won’t receive points/benefits on certain rates they offer if they deem that rate too low. They don’t tell you until after you stay and question where your points are. Another reason to move on….

  8. Although you don’t mention above that Hilton still offer status benefits on third party stays. Of course given how poor the status benefits are with IHG this would be less of an issue with them!

    Although it can be hassle I’ve had some good results going down the best rate guarantee route with both Hilton and IHG.

  9. This could be interesting because like many business travellers, I book all my hotel (and flights) via our corporate travel agents website. I don’t have a say in this matter and last night booked 61 nights in IHG properties via it.

    If this extends to the corporate travel booking web portals then IHG will see a significant loss of business travellers (who I am guessing make up a lot of their customers)

    Why would they do this?

  10. Clicking through shopping portals like TCB shouldn’t make any difference as you’re still booking direct with IHG. Agree with other posters that this is a major own goal for them though if corporate booking channels are excluded!

  11. I stayed 12/28 thru 12/30 on an OTA booking. The stay posted to my account as non-qualifying/zero points. I emailed IHG requesting points be provided per the T&C’s in effect on my check-in date. Customer service replied back quoting the new T&C’s and refusing to credit the points. I have a second email out to them reiterating they should honor the T&C’s I booked and checked in under. I’ll update if I learn any more from them, but would welcome any advice on how to persuade them to award points for the stay.

  12. @Joe I’m pretty sure they were doing this before the new terms were written, the new terms were meant to codify existing practice, but it seems to me that if it wasn’t in the terms you should be getting the points. It’ll be frustrating (their customer service is) so you have to decide if the juice is worth the squeeze.

  13. @Joe if you’re not getting anywhere then I’d try their social media channels – even as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ they might well credit the points for you.

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