No, I Do Not Trust IHG Rewards Club. Here’s Why.

On Monday night IHG Rewards Club — the hotel loyalty program for Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and related brands — announced:

  • Points would start to expire for after 12 months of inactivity beginning in May 2016 (elite members are exempt, so the 12 month clock starts if and when they lose status). Previously IHG Rewards Club points did not expire.

  • A new top tier elite level at 75 nights or 75,000 points with benefits to be named later but including 100% bonus points-earning for stays and the ability to either gift Platinum status or take 25,000 points, plus lower requirements to reach Gold and Platinum status.

In the fanfare, what they did not announce but instead buried in their program change FAQ was that they are re-pricing awards at 450 hotels (about 10% of the program’s total) — 300 going up in price and 150 going down.

  • Properties are changing award categories in two weeks but they won’t tell us which ones.

  • And they haven’t even announced this, they’ve buried that it’s happening in a FAQ about something else. (HT: One Mile at a Time)

Mind you they are doing this at a time that they are:

  • Introducing expiring points, which is a hit to the value of those points

  • Telling us the program will have great new benefits, but we should trust them about what those would be since they won’t tell us yet.

But I do not trust them. Here’s why…

IHG Had Made Little to No-Notice Changes to Their Award Redemptions Before

In 2012 they sent members an email that simply said,

Effective 18 January 2012, Priority Club will make changes to the number of points required for Reward Nights.

So they gave two weeks’ notice that changes were coming. What changes? We didn’t know.

It turned out to be new higher points categories and a general shift towards more expensive redemptions.

When called on the lack of notice for wholesale structural changes to points redemptions, they agreed to a two month period where members could call in and get points refunded to their account. So those ‘in the know’ could get the old prices, but most members would just be charged higher prices right away. (In the end this was a poor strategy as many people booked hotels, got points refunded, and then cancelled the hotel and got their full points back. They tried to be too cute by half with their make good and it wound up costing them.)

This is a Program That Sees Fit to Change Its Terms and Conditions Without Notice to Members at All

They made changes especially to their Ambassador program back in August without sending any notice to members or even flagging on their terms and conditions page that anything was different.

They eliminated points-earning for incidentals spend on third party bookings with a December 30 update to their terms and conditions. To this day they haven’t communicated this change to members that I’m aware of — book on Expedia, order room service, and your food and beverage spend isn’t supposed to earn any points. I don’t see how it even benefits IHG Rewards Club to change terms to incentivize members to book direct if they do not even tell members what they give up by not doing so!

IHG Has Pulled the Rug Out from Members Mid-Promotion, Too

With last fall’s “Into the Nights” promotion, IHG changed the requirements that many members had to complete to earn the rewards.

Members were presented with a set of tasks and started to undertake stays to earn their targeted bonus. At some point they would go back into their account and find a whole different set of challenges, and the investment in stays that they made appeared to be for naught.

When finally called on their move to change promotion terms mid-stream without even telling members they were doing so they relented and honored the original terms.

IHG Should Heed Their Own Words About Devaluations Without Notice

I think this statement is really important, and something that’s worth having Don Berg from IHG remind Don Berg (and the rest of his team) from IHG:

“We know from research that the value of loyalty points currency is paramount to members,” said Don Berg, vice president, Loyalty Programmes, IHG. “Travellers depend on their rewards to help them cover the costs of their summer vacations and weekend-getaways, and they don’t expect their points to suddenly lose value overnight.”

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, 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 have specifically avoided IHG because of these kinds of things; especially the issue you raised about members having issues during the middle of a promotion. I also don’t think IHG provides substantive on property benefits to elites when compared to Hyatt or Hilton. Incidentally, back in the day, Holiday Inn Priority Club provided tangible on property benefits to even base level members. I remember staying at the Holiday Inn Capitol in DC in college and getting free continental breakfast & coffee coupons; again as a base level non elite pc member. My colleagues thought I was some sort of VIP getting these on property mystery benefits. However, like IHG in general, this hotel has chipped away and devalued the benefits for both base level and elite members. I think the grass is greener indeed at Hyatt, and that is where I have focussed my stays. Kimpton is also a good brand, but its worrisome where that will go based on the transaction with IHG.

  2. Seems like any loyalty program based in Atlanta can be trusted…..*cough* Delta *cough*

  3. Give card holders the annual free night at Kimptons and all is OK. Assuming they ever get the two brands merged……………..
    I am holding my breath for neither.

  4. IHG closed my account for attempting to sign up for non-targeted promos – the ones their own reps promote on flyertalk and could be found with ten seconds on google. I called and asked for reconsideration and was treated rather rudely. Haven’t bothered with IHG since.

  5. Agree with all your comments but at least they were clear they won’t increase the number of points needed to stay at top properties. It will still be 50,000 points. Hyatt increased theirs from 22,000 to 30,000 and Hilton…. well, I just saw that 1 night in a regular room at the Waldorf Grand Wailea in Maui will cost me 209,000 Hilton points. WT.!!!!!!!

  6. @Ryan – They had built up a reservoir of trust and I said if they made no notice changes more than once I would no longer trust them. Fortunately they seemed to very much learn their lesson from that incident.

  7. I think they are just sloppy rather than running some secret campaign!

    What other reason can there be for putting the line about ‘the maximum price for a redemption will remain 50,000 points’ on the FAQ page in small print? 90 per cent who get the email will assume the top tier pricing is going up 10k to 60,000.

  8. Should make for some fun conversation at Freddies in a few weeks.
    I am with you and lost all trust for IHG after last round of bait-N-switch with the promo deal.

  9. “We’ve made changes to IHG® Rewards Club that we know you’re going to love.” From the official email I received. What “enhancement” has ever translated into a good thing from hotel and airline companies lately? IHG’s rewards program seems to be a lot like their properties-hit or miss.

  10. IHG is very sloppy. Even as a Platinum I have to deal with terrible out-sourced customer service reps with little English.

    I just had a stay where I checked out 5 days early on an award but for 2 weeks now no refund of points. Between the hotel I stayed at only speaking Spanish and IHG reps being in India it’s chaos.

    Pointsbreaks are the best bargain in hotel rewards now but this last time the list was for 4 months instead of 3 and who knows what future they have, if any.

  11. I agree about most of the IHG shenanigans from the past. But having points expire after a year of inactivity is no big deal, when all you have to do is rent a car for a day and credit it to IHG. Or register any cc with the dining program, and buy a burger somewhere on the list.

    And it doesn’t effect “elites” at all. All you have to do be a top level elite is to have the IHG credit card, which is a true no-brainer. 70K points with the first year fee waived. Then $49 the second year for a free ‘at any property’ certificate, good for an entire year. If only the Hyatt certificates were good for any property…..

    What has me crying in my beer is the loss of Club Carlson BOGO award bookings. That’s equal to a 50% devaluation ! That one is really going to hurt.

    Excellent and relevant post, by the way. Glad to have the warning to make some speculative bookings in the next couple of weeks.

  12. Thanks for getting this out. Really bad of IHG. I was just thinking of becoming a loyal member of IHG but this is not good.

  13. C’mon, IHG, you’re so formulaic – a big points sale promotion right before a major devaluation.

  14. I have been an IHG Rewards (from Prestige Priority Club) member since 2005. I have gotten so used to the POINTS NEVER EXPIRE clause that not once have I claimed a rewards night, thinking of splurging on it when I go on honeymoon. I did get married but also got pregnant (high-risk) so no travel for a while. I am now much better, thank you, and planning to travel again, but when I checked my points, I was told they expired! And that despite no notice, I am not going to be able to regain them. Is there any way of taking this up with a “higher power” so to speak? I am so disappointed and was really looking forward to a stress-free vacation after all I’ve been through.

  15. Recently (in October 2016) I booked a double room at the Crowne Plaza in Stratford-upon-Avon with Expedia as a birthday treat for my partner as she likes something different, and opened an IHG Rewards Account, and was told I could get points for all food and beverages purchased but only points for accommodation booked directly with IHG. The receptionist who told me this knew I had booked my accommodation with Expedia as I made reference to this. This is normal for all chains I have experienced. I also booked a table for two with the hotel upon arrival with everything charged to my room.

    It was a very enjoyable experience for the two of us and upon settling the bill I asked about the points and was told to phone Guest Relations and my points would be added to my account.

    After leaving the hotel I tried to get the points for the food/beverages added to my account by contacting Guest Relations in Brierley Hill, West Midlands but they argued that I couldn’t have points because I didn’t book directly with the hotel.

    On the IHG website it states:

    In addition to staying at any IHG hotel, there are many other ways to earn IHG® Rewards Club Points including:

    On all Eligible Charges Worldwide charged to the member’s room (except when staying at an InterContinental Hotel brand). Eligible charges include food and beverage, telephone, laundry, and in-room movies.

    The food and beverages were charged to my room, so according to the information above they qualify for points as it makes no reference to how the room was booked. This is what I was told when I signed up for the IHG Rewards Account. I pointed this out to Guest Relations that it wasn’t for the accommodation but they were bad mannered as they didn’t get back to me and ignored my correspondence from then on.

    Normally when there are problems like this and I cannot get a satisfactory answer, I write to someone higher up or ultimately the chief executive for an apology or explanation as this normally helps to put things right and helps prevent the problem from reoccurring. This I did but not having had a reply from you I thought I would try other means and started using social media.

    Since posting a message on TripAdvisor I got a reply from Roxanne Hopkins/David Morgan stating:

    Thank you for the detailed review and feedback. The IHG Rewards club website does stay “Most rates booked through most third party websites, complimentary hotel stays and any other rates not defined as a Qualifying Room Rate are not eligible for points.” Only guests who have booked directly with IHG or the hotel will receive points. I’m very sorry that you were given the incorrect information by our receptionists unfortunately as you booked through Expedia you would not have been eligible for points on this occasion.

    Kind Regards
    Roxanne Hopkins
    Front Office Manager

    “Only guests who have booked directly with IHG or the hotel will receive points” refers to the room rates and has nothing to do with food/beverages as only room rates are mentioned here, so this is being generalised to win the argument. There is nothing definitive stating that food/beverages do not qualify if accommodation isn’t booked directly with IHG or the hotel.

    So having got nowhere with Guest Relations in Brierley Hill who ignored my query and didn’t bother to reply, I wrote to Richard Solomons at Head Office in Denham of which I haven’t had an acknowledgement, so I wrote to him at his home address in Radlett but still haven’t had anything of an acknowledgement or reply.

    If this is the way the one at the top treats customers who have been misled by his staff who are in breach of contract and the evidence is clear that IHG is at fault, and then all I can say is do not trust IHG when the man at the top is so arrogant and reluctant to honour the truth.

    I have no intention of ever going to an IHG hotel again even if it restricts my choice – there are loads of other choices out there.

  16. I have finally had a reply from a senior official and received 1000 points as a gesture of goodwill. I have said that information provided to customers should be clearer; especially for ones who are new to the IHG Rewards Club and they should be made aware of food and beverages not qualifying if the room wasn’t booked directly as food and beverages are purchased directly. All other chains I use let me have points for food and beverages irrespective of how the accommodation was booked.

    Perseverance has paid off.

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