Priority Club Increasing Points Requirements for Reward Nights on January 18

As reported by Live from a Lounge, Priority Club sent out their monthly e-statement with this ominous note,

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

No clue as to what the changes would be were included. However, at this moment, the Priority Club Reward Night page brings up new award levels when using the Google Chrome browser, strangely when using Internet Explorer only the old rates come up.

It’s not an across the board devaluation. Rather, whereas Priority Club has historically charged a single points level based on the brand of hotel you were redeeming for, and in recent years has added some segments within each brand (so that an Intercontinental might be 30,000 or 40,000 points). Now they’re adding greater segmentation:

  • Candlewood Suites will cost 15,000 or 20,000 points per night, rather than just 15,000.
  • Crowne Plaza properties will cost 25,000 or 35,000 points per night, rather than just 25,000.
  • Hotel Indigo will be 25,000 or 35,000 points per night, rather than just 25,000.
  • Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express further segment — going from 10,000/15,000/25,000 to 10,000/15,000/20,000/25,000.
  • InterContinental adds a new 50,000 points level. Ouch.
  • Staybridge Suites will cost 20,000 or 25,000 points per night, rather than just 20,000.

I frankly hate redeeming Priority Club points anyway (except when they’re an exceptional value for specific properties listed in PointBreaks at just 5000 points a night) because it’s the only chain that specifically doesn’t honor most elite status benefits on award stays. There’s also no option for premium room redemptions for additional points. So a top tier elite member, who spends all year with the chain, based on the terms and conditions of the program should be ‘rewarded’ with the most basic room when they finally cash in the points – the supposed ‘fruits of their loyalty’.

Priority Club points are easy to earn, but I tend to prefer gifting them to friends and family for whom upgraded accommodations are less important. Or if I’m going to use them, it will be on short stays where I simply need a place to sleep.

Two years ago, Priority Club ran the “Luckiest Loser promotion” to highlight that Hilton HHonors was devaluing its points and highlight that you could trust Priority Club’s value. Intercontinental Hotels execs even personally threw down the gauntlet over this.

From Priority Club’s press release at the time:

“If you want your loyal customers to stick with you during tough times, it’s vital to show you appreciate them and give them more value, not less. So it’s no wonder there was such a negative reaction to Hilton devaluing their points programme,” said Tom Seddon, chief marketing officer, 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.”

And yet now they’re the ones devaluing. We don’t actually know by how much since we don’t know how many and which hotels will go up versus staying the same. I suppose that it’s only during ‘tough times’ that you have to show loyal customers that you appreciate them, and now they’re unconcerned about “giv[ing] more value, not less.”

Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo properties that do go up to the higher category will see an increase of 40%. We’ll have to wait until January 18 to see just how bad and across the board the increases are for the program as a whole.

Update: According to Barbara De Lollis, Priority Club will provide a grace period through mid-March for members who specifically call in and ask for the older award prices.

Berg says that IHG hopes to take the sting out of it by building in a two-month grace period.

Through mid-March, members will be able to book the old rates – without too much of a hassle.

…”We don’t want to say, ‘Here’s the increase. It’s going to take place two, three months from now,'” Berg says. “That doesn’t help the customer who may have already planned a vacation.”

To give customers who had planned to use points in 2012 a break, any Priority Club member can use the old rates by calling IHG’s service center.

“We’ll automatically give them the old price for 60 days,” Berg told me.

IHG Vice President Don Berg misleadingly claims “We know Hilton, Marriott and Starwood and everybody else has raised their prices in the last 18 months,” when of course Hilton’s devaluation was longer in the past than that, Marriott’s wasn’t quite as large, and major devaluations are much farther in Starwood’s past. Of course, it’s not as though Priority Club hasn’t devalued before either — all Intercontinentals used to cost only 30,000 points. The De Lollis piece also cites IHG misleadingly with the claim “IHG is dropping the point requirements for 20% of hotels, Berg told me. The rest of IHG’s hotels will remain the same.”

It’s also far from clear why Priority Club won’t just implement the chnages with two months’ notice rather than offering a backdoor for ‘in the know’ members, other than that they hope most members won’t be in the know.

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. Well, this will make me feel slightly less bad for redeeming for “Any Hotel, Anywhere” cards. Though the points to value is atrocious, it is a way to use points for paid stays.

  2. @Andyandy back at the end of 2007 Priority Club ran a 50% off sale on Any Hotel cards and I went all-in on that, since I could then book paid premium room stays with my points and of course earn points for those stays.

  3. Thanks for the heads up. Even though our options were limited on the islands, I am thankful we locked in our rooms in Hawaii this summer.

  4. The worst part about Priority club is that even the lowest redemption is 10K points. And now the highest is 50K! They are probably trying to align with Hilton

  5. I think the hotel points devaluations are getting worse than the airlines, at least from my anecdotal perspective. A 60K point PCR Visa signup might get me only one night at a Crowne Plaza now, whereas a similar mileage bonus may get me a flight to Europe. With hotels there are many more options to get a good value – in most locations anyway – even if it’s a non-chain hotel. I struggle anymore to figure out why to wast a credit pull on a hotel CC, or to get all that worried about hotel status.

    I”d been using PCR a lot since they do print points like candy, and Hilton just costs so much for a night at anything decent. But now the tradeoff is less clear for me anyway.

  6. Creepy business behavior
    Let’s see what we can grab as quick as we can unless our customers are really pi$$ed off in which case will give em 60 days before we too stab them in the back too
    A class act company gives a minimum 90 days notice and informs their membership base
    Even better 6 months to absorb the upcoming changes and prepare accordingly
    However this is a hotel company and program that thinks redemption of points from revenue loyalty is evil and allows and encourages hotels
    to deny their benefits on award stays
    Beyond sad and pathetic especially as it could be a much better respected program if it simply put forth a minimum effort
    They are without a doubt the biggest blind out of touch program
    The one glaring exception being the Ambassador program which gets it right most of the time to their credit

  7. where can you find a list of the old rates.
    the resv reps are clueless about the rollbacks and they claim they have no way to find out

  8. Don’t forget the grace period is effect now! I just booked a room online for the IC times square NYC which is now gone form 30K to 50K per night. After booking I called Customer Service and they instantly credited my account with the 20K points before I hung up. A note the 20K points posted as Goodwill and counted toward status and qualified me for platinum for another year. Now I’m thinking what if cancel the 50K reservation will I get to keep the 20K goodwill points???

  9. Another thing you didn’t mention is that Priorty Club CLAIMS that their reward nights aren’t blacked out but gets around that by only offering 1 or 2 rooms per hotel of 500 rooms during periods like the Mardi Gras, NYC Christmas Shopping weeks or special events. Also, most PC properties in beachfront or desirable cities only have 1 or 2 rooms for rewards. So often, you will find plenty of availability to PAY for a stay but no way to use your reward nights.

    I think PC is up to something here but can’t figure out what in terms of strategy. With sites like hotels.com offering a better reward program and Best Western giving more ‘luxury’ options with their new 3 tier hotel system, they are going to lose people bigtime to these programs. Hotels.com needs to drop their ‘use a coupon and you don’t get points’ rule and the pay for 10 nights and get 1 free thing becomes very attractive. I’d say if you take away the Intercontinental from PC, they are around the same as Best Western in terms of quality offered. Best Western has been buying lots of properties in desirable locations like on the Sunset Strip, Laguna Beach, etc. and making them just as nice as any Holiday Inn Express. I will be interested to see how this point devaluation affects business. Great job using the Intercontinental exec’s own words from a short time ago against him! It really says a lot about a company’s business model when they say one thing and do the exact opposite a year later. Businesses like that ALWAYS screw their customers over in the long run and can’t be trusted because they make decisions based on how the wind blows. Good post.

  10. I also noticed the devaluation of PC points. Used to be very happy with them but now I am pretty angry. Not only have they devalued their points but reward nights are also not counted even if you use points plus cash. Pretty cheesy. Also, I do quite a bit of group bookings as a school trip organizer and the points you get for that is pretty measly. Used to get more points for using IHG hotels but now it’s not really worth it. Booking 15 rooms using 1 credit card won’t even get you 1 night anymore. It’s not worth the effort. You would think a hotel chain would jump at the chance of getting a group booking like that and reward the organizer handsomely. Last time they even forgot to give me any points and it was a 3 week process calling emailing and chatting directly with the hotel and IHG international. It was extremely frustrating.

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