IHG Will Seriously Close Your Account for Signing Up for Bonus Offers

IHG Rewards (formerly Priority Club) used to be one of the absolutely most generous programs for free nights because you could sign up for tons of promotions, earn them all on the same stays, and wind up with a windfall of points.

Basically IHG Rewards would send out different kinds of offers, and anyone who wished could register for them. See, for instance, this list from early in the year.

You might earn points on your next stay, for your next stay within 90 days, for a weekend stay, and for being an elite member. And you might earn them all on a single stay! Then again, you might not, and if they didn’t automatically post you couldn’t usually go chase after them.

This year the program started cracking down on members who were doing this. IHG Rewards offered promotions, let members register for those promotions, and then award points. And closed the accounts of members for it. Because blaming the customer is always the best strategy.

Now we know they’re actually serious about this.

I set up ‘change detections’ on the terms and conditions of many of the loyalty programs I participate in. Today IHG Rewards added the following to their terms and conditions:

IHG® Rewards Club may offer limited-time promotions that offer bonus points and/or partner credits. These promotions are governed by Membership Terms & Conditions but may have additional Terms & Conditions specific to the individual promotion. Many of these promotions are only available to IHG® Rewards Club members who receive a specific, targeted communication from IHG. Registration for a targeted offer for which you are not invited to participate is not permitted. Doing so is a program violation and may result in the freezing of your account, the forfeiture of all of your point transfers, rewards, vouchers, or merchandise issued pursuant to point redemptions and any accrued points or miles in your account, as well as cancellation of the account and your future participation in the Program.

(Emphasis mine.)

So you’re warned.

Except you’re not, because they merely updated a website and haven’t actually told members this.

So you are warned, because I’ve warned you. But lots of other members? Not so much.

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. They could easily just prevent ineligible people from signing up for the targeted offers.

    I guest they are just incompetent.

  2. If they can detect when you’re signing up for targeted offers you didn’t receive, why can’t they just prevent you from signing up instead of letting you sign up and then punishing you? It seems like a stupid way to go about doing things.

  3. they should just update their software so one could only sign up for offers they were targeted for. why create so much animosity with travelers?

  4. I’m dealing with this right now. I had a family member sign up for an IHG account to take advantage of the ‘Into the Nights’ promotion because they had some upcoming stays. I also suggested that they register for some additional promo codes. Immediately following their first stay this past weekend, their account got frozen. When they inquired, they were told that it was because of a “random audit” and that they had registered for promotion codes that they were ineligible for.

    Perhaps the most frustrating part is that most of the promo codes you try tell you that you’re ineligible and won’t let you register for them. Then again, a few work here and there. Changing their T&C to add this phraseology seems like a Band-Aid; they’re in need of some IT work to prevent members from registering from untargeted promotions, therefore maintaining good-faith with guests. For my family member, this was one of their first ever stays at an IHG hotel (which they liked), but it will be their last (a loss for IHG since they stay ~50 nights/year at mid-tier properties).

  5. This seems just inane. If IHG closed my account, I would simply never stay at another IHG property again in my life. Easy peasy. There’s lots of competition in the hotel market. Not earning points effectively increases the cost of me staying at their properties, and I have tons of other hotel options.

    Aside from them explicitly telling you you aren’t eligible, how exactly are you supposed to *know* which ones you’re eligible before signing up anyways?

    What a ridiculous knee-jerk response from IHG. Again, if this happens to me, goodbye IHG for good.

  6. So my question is – how do you get targeted for any of these promos, if they are targeted? I don’t think I’ve ever been notified of any kind of bonus for next stay other than the quarterly stay x earn y promos.

  7. Hi Gary,

    Glad to see that this is finally in writing. I was a “victim” if this back in July, as you may recall. They told me I was involved in, quote, “fraudulent” activities and thus my account and points were forfeit. Luckily I didn’t have too many, because I don’t care for the IHG program.

    Hopefully others will be spared…


  8. Wasn’t it relatively recent that an executive with IHG admitted that their systems weren’t up to snuff and that they wouldn’t really pursue those taking advantage of the system?

  9. I was also a victim of this back in June.

    I really never use IHG properties, but had an account, and had roughly 200-300 points in there. Nothing major.

    So they had a decent rate at a destination I was visiting, and I figured I’d try em out and perhaps stay more often – Added some promo codes I found online… Nothing crazy, I think I added three – And they killed the account. Phone call didn’t help either…..

    I don’t really care, but just wanted to follow up that it happened to me. I do feel it’s a bit shady however. If you don’t want people to use promo codes, then perhaps just not make them work for people they weren’t intended for? It’s 2014 – All of us use coupons for things we buy online, and it’s well within their ability to limit it only to those actually targeted. It’s a pretty bad policy, and in my case – They probably lost a good deal of future business over it.

  10. I am a Platinum Ambassador with IHG with ~400K points stored up. Perhaps I should use them quickly! I do not take the time reading fine print. BTW – they are terrible at treating higher-tier loyalty members very well. Recently at ICMiami, I was “upgraded” to a higher floor. Had to argue with them about being upgraded to the next tier room (club room), as stated in the Ambassador terms. When you use points for a ‘free’ room, they put you in the dungeon, facing a brick wall (e.g., ICBoston). I am rethinking my loyalty to this brand….

  11. Obviously, this is very disturbing. As a practical matter, few of us rely on the travel provider to directly tell us what promotions we are eligible for. That’s what online media is for, right? 🙂 It’s so much easier that way.

    With most travel providers, if you try to register for a code you’re not eligible for, they tell you that and you move on. With the IHG policy, it seems actually risky to sign up for promo codes unless you get a specific email from them targeting you — which is very rare to see.

    I was kind of on the fence regarding participating in their Into the Nights promo, and was thinking of doing it if I could “juice” the award with some other concurrent promos. Now that it seems risky to sign up for these promos, I think I will pass — and not give IHG any revenue.

  12. Add me to the list of those who will NOT be staying at IHG properties again. I have a little over 50k points, enough for a few stays, and when those are gone, I don’t think I will ever stay at a IHG again. There are too many Hilton and Marriott properties out there.

  13. Maybe this is the final straw on the assault on “loyalty” programs? Everyone who knows about this absurd, customer- unfriendly aspect of the IHG program should use all remaining points as quickly as possible and everyone should cancel en masse. Maybe these saps at IHG might get the message.

    As good fortune would have it, I used a good chunk of my IHG points in the past week for a family wedding. I cancelled my account today and let multiple IHG drones know the one and only reason why.

    I certainly have other options for hotel chains, but I believe it is past time for frequent travelers to dig their heels in and say enough is enough. Let’s face it, the past 18 months have been horrible for devaluation of loyalty programs across the board. There soon won’t be any good option to take “our business elsewhere.”

  14. I unfortunatly am taking their side on this. I have signed up for lots of promotions in the past. I knew I was not eligible and was glad the points posted. However, I knew I was not playing by the rules. Just because you find any type of promo code on the internet doesn’t make it right. I file this under the “good while it lasted” category.

    That said, they are implementing this poorly. They should update their system like everyone else to only allow you to register for valid promotions. They also could post a warning on the sign up screen. Then people can proceed at their own risk.

  15. Andrew, with all due respect, you sound like an IHG abuse victim who is rationalizing and putting the blame on themselves. You’ve done nothing wrong.

    It should NEVER be the clients responsibility to make sure they are not signing up for too many promos. How about IHG upgrade their crap system to let someone know they are ineligible for a promo. Our how about IHG send a friendly email to a customer who has signed up for multiple bonuses instead of being draconian and canceling accounts. The bottom line is the onus should never be on the “customer.”

    My point is that we have all been conditioned to accept less with reduced benefits while constantly facing increased fees…..oh, and to shut our mouths and take it.

    I have had the pleasure to dine in Danny Meyer’s 2 flagship NYC restaurants. There you are made to feel special, even a schlub like me. He not only has written the book on hospitality, but he instills it in his staff. Every bean counter and exec at every airline, hotel etc should read his thoughts on hospitality….and put it into action.

  16. I’m sitting on over 500K points and decided to try a promo that I received by email. Because of this report, I have cancelled the reservation I made to be safe. Until this gets resolved and because of the shoddy treatment elites get on reward stays, I have decided against using IHG for future reservations. I’ll just burn the points instead.

  17. P.S.
    And their customer service doesn’t exactly leave me wanting to do more business with them either.

  18. WTF…was targeted for the Into that Night. Suggested by someone on boardingarea to register other offers… Does that mean I should give up all the upcoming stays and forget about the Into that Night? I have a annual voucher for Intercontinental Hong Kong for New Year eve! Cannot afford losing that certificate!!!

  19. Cancelled all three upcoming stays in IHG, they lost 1400 USD…Will only stay for the Chase Annual free night, no more other IHGs ever….

  20. RoloT,
    Let me clarify, when I signed up for promos, I did so by going through a list of 20+ codes and hopefully getting a few of them. You have seen the lists of codes, I was clearly trolling. I knew other people got emails on them but I did not and I signed up for them. When they posted and I got mega points I was happy. It is like getting the AAA discount at a hotel and not being a member. It is nice when it works but you know it is wrong.

    I am not claiming to be a victim, but I knew I was not entitled to what I signed up for. I think others had the same feeling. If you are arguing that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, then that is a different discussion. My point was simply that I knew what I was doing was not 100% legit. Also, I was not shut down by them so I do consider myself lucky.

  21. Thanks for the warning. I have signed up for promotion codes in the past and I have emailed/called IHG when the points did not the post – never had a problem and IHG always credited the bonus points. Now I will be more careful.

  22. I’ve been a RA for five or six years with IC, burning points now on PointsBreak to break free of them, just had a Presidential Suite for eight nights @ 5K a night, and an adjoining suite, and another seven night stay, but given the money i’ve given them, last year i paid for 400 suite nights at IC including an employee, it’s a trade off, but please give us the benefits on redemption stays, your most loyal customers, they really have no idea as a service organisation, i believe they’ll be bought out by Private Equity that will be able to do a much better job for shareholder value, and other stakeholders. They are very incompetent, in particular Michael Lawyer in Salt Lake, as said before, i’d write him a great reference and send him to Hyatt or other to deteriorate their business, unconscious incompetence, they don’t know they don’t know. Basic 101 Marketing. They really shld have McKinsey or Boston do a review for them, they really need it.

  23. I really like that, “…forfeiture of all merchandise….” provision.

    Are they coming to my house to take the merchandise back?
    They need to be pranked.

  24. Just sent an email to the IHG rewards club, asking them to deregister me for all targeted offers. I’ll see what they come back with before deciding whether to continue with my reservations for two upcoming stays in Indonesia (though I really don’t want to give up my suite for CNY at the IC Bali!)…

  25. Actually got a fast response from the IHG Rewards club. They told me that they are unable to unregister member to any offer. Once registered, the promotion remains to members account.

    But when I asked whether I should cancel any upcoming stays to avoid having my account closed, the rep replied-

    “Our records show you have 2 offer registration and 1 reservation for this quarter (Sep to Dec 2014). You may leave the offer and reservation as it is in your account and avoid future invalid registration. Reservation in Feb 2015 will not be counted to any promotion as we do not have new offers yet for the said quarter and stay is not yet completed. ”

    So I’ll take that as evidence they will not cancel my account after my upcoming stay.

  26. As an IT Web Developer I am appalled at their lack of usability design.

    To make the customer responsible for their lack of programming ability on the website is inexcusable.

    I wonder if it is the department who creates the promos and doesn’t communicate with the IT dept or if it is the IT Department who sucks at information management who is at fault. Of course it could be bad management all the way around too.

  27. This is just bad “legal” text in PC’s Terms. They have the ability to target promotions and have their system disallow extra/over-lapping bonuses, from which members have to knowingly enter (or be denied).

    For PC to freeze accounts because of what a person entered is just a very bad policy.

    Again, ObamaWorld is lawless—he created the crap economy, it is his war on airline flyers and hotel patrons. Impeach this pig.

  28. I simply stopped using IHG Hotels. I travel year round and stay basically in hotels the whole year. I cut out IHG when i read your last warning on this. It’s made life easier to be honest, now my loyalty is down to just 2 chains and I am reaping the benefits by doing that. I thought your line about “Blaming the customer” is quite telling about their attitude. Stuff them, they don’t get my money.

  29. Thanks for the write-up. I have no problem with IHG tightening up their rules, but it’s absurd to freeze a customer account instead of fixing their programming.
    One can find many promo codes and discount codes on the Internet. They may work, they may not. YMMV. But to blame the customer is a sure way to create ill will.
    Boo on IHG.

  30. IHG has actively sent out the codes on their own websites and through third parties, like Award Wallet et al, management has been behind this strategy for years, and to flip, and start cancelling accounts, that is the tragedy for IHG, and their most loyal customers. I still find it unbelievably stupid what they’ve done as an organisation. As so many have pointed out, why not just get your IT in order?

  31. Ok what about offers that let you purchase points (via targeted e mails) and lets say you purchase 50,000 points. They say they can close your account because you may have signed for a non targeted promo prior to this, yeah right, so they take your $350 and then close the account and they have the nerve to say you have been acting fraudulently…

  32. This is a stunning example of corporate stupid. I always sign up for any offers to which I am invited by IHG and Hilton. And if I see an offer elsewhere, I’ll sign up for that too. So IHG will now close my platinum rewards account if they deem me a bad girl? When I check my HHonors points after a stay, there are sometimes 8 different bonus point categories listed for one stay at the diamond level. This is an amazing situation, difficult to believe that IHG would diss their best customers this way.

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