IHG Rewards Club Won’t Provide Benefits EVEN WHEN You Book Direct

IHG Rewards Club sent out an email to members to let them know that if they do not book direct, they will no longer provide full program benefits. (HT: One Mile at a Time)

Effective 1 January 2017, members must book directly through IHG® (IHG.com, IHG® App, IHG® brand sites, corporate travel sites, Central Reservations, or Hotel direct) and not through other travel booking sites in order to take full advantage of the benefits that come with an IHG® Rewards Club membership. Why? We want to give you the best travel experience—from start to finish—every time. And we can only do that when you book with us directly.

IHG Pointbreaks: Holiday Inn Express Sedona - Oak Creek

Holiday Inn Express Sedona – Oak Creek. Source: IHG

Here’s the thing, though.

  1. The program doesn’t provide points on bookings made through third parties

  2. And elite benefits haven’t been provided on such bookings for years.

It’s not clear at all what’s new here. And it’s not clear that it matters either way, at least with respect to benefits, because the program doesn’t really offer much in terms of benefits.

IHG Rewards Club offers reasonable points-earning and redemption. They’re all about the points (although there’s no option to redeem points for premium rooms or suites.)

They can skip elite benefits on third party stays and you may not know the difference, because even when you book direct:

  • There is no guaranteed lounge access.
  • There is no guaranteed late checkout.
  • There is no guaranteed upgrade to suites, even when available at check-in.
  • There is no guaranteed breakfast.

IHG Pointbreaks: Holiday Inn Express Hamburg City Centre

Holiday Inn Express Hamburg City Centre. Source; IHG

Even IHG’s new top tier Spire elite really just gets you more points (including 25,000 points for qualifying or the ability to gift mid-tier status, which will get the recipient more points).

Spire Elites do get Hertz’s giveaway elite level Five Star. And in theory they’re testing actual benefits at a handful of properties as part of an unannounced pilot.

Most of what you get on-property from a participating Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, or related brand is the generosity of the individual hotel. And of course that could still continue to happen for third party bookings as well.

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. Yeah, going without IHG “benefits” is like showing up for a ski trip without your snorkel gear. Sure some individual hotels will go the extra mile even on award stays, but you can’t bank on that by any means.

  2. As a very loyal Spire and Ambassador member I find that I’m even getting less upgrades and recognition at the Spite level than at Platinum. It’s like many employees have no idea what the levels even mean.

  3. Agreed that there is no benefit whether booking direct or not. I was recently told @ the IC New York Barclay that I get an automatic 4pm late check-out as a spire remember with no need to request it (this was on an annual free night). I was skeptical, but returned to my room @ 2:30pm and the key still worked. Checked out after 3pm and didn’t get charged……so it did appear to be automatic. I asked about a welcome amenity at check in but was told one wasn’t available since it was an award stay, but the 4pm check-out was automatic.

    I imagine this to just be property-specific though, which of course is the problem. No guaranteed benefits means no more stays from me apart from the annual free stay from the CC and the occasional stay draining the rest of my points.

  4. My girlfriend is a long-time IHG Spire and she is fed up. Any idea if Marriott will do a status match and what the e-mail is to request one?

  5. Despite the IHG loyalty shortcomings, I have been very happy with the IHG hotel chain. I either stay at a high end IC or a low end HI Express.
    I’ve been a life long IHG member and have been trying to migrate over to Hyatt but am constantly stymied by the lack of Hyatt choices globally. I travel globally three times a year and everywhere I go there are either no Hyatts available or the IHG’s are much better. The IC Hong Kong, Osaka, and Bali are three of my favorite hotels, also love the IC Monterey and the Indigo Paris. There are Hyatts in those cities, but are inferior and I am not going to stay at a lesser hotel just because they have a better loyalty program. Quality of hotel is what determines my hotel choices. When I do stay at a HI express it is because I just need an inexpensive place to sleep for the night, and there are so many of them available globally.

    I have a Hyatt free night that I have been trying to redeem before the end of the year but cannot find anyplace worth going to. So it looks like it will expire and I will have wasted the Hyatt Card annual fee that I paid :(. I am about ready to give up on pursuing the Hyatt loyalty program since they have so few choices available.

  6. There’s always IHG Ambassador status. Personally, for $200, I’ll take the Diplomatic Immunity of Ambassador status any day.

  7. It’s a joke. Or at best a roll of the dice. In PEK my CP stay was amazingly wonderful. In NYC (Times Sq) it’s sometimes like staying at the Motel 6.

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