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
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.”