Late last week, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants announced that their loyalty program, Kimpton Karma Rewards, would roll into IHG® Rewards Club in early 2018. Fortunately, according to the announcement, “all the special magic of Kimpton Karma will remain.” Well that’s a relief.
Actually, those of us with lots of IHG points should be excited that we’ll be able to redeem points for Kimpton stays. And, just as exciting, those of us with IHG Credit Card free nights will have many desirable new options. More good news: Kimpton will also adopt IHG’s “no blackout” policy for reward nights.
Regarding Kimpton loyalists, those who currently have and love Kimpton Rewards Inner Circle status will not only keep that status in 2018, but they’ll also gain IHG Spire status (IHG’s top elite tier). That’s the good news. The bad news is that Kimpton Journey Rewards are going away (I’m not even going to explain what that is since it no longer matters). And, earning Inner Circle status in the future appears to be quite a bit more difficult…
Earning Inner Circle Status circa 2018 for 2019 elite year
Kimpton Inner Circle status will still exist side-by-side with IHG status. The addition of Inner Circle status will give you the following benefits at Kimpton hotels:
- Inner Circle Amenity
- Complimentary Chef’s Taste
- Complimentary Weekday Newspaper
- Complimentary Night at New Hotels (huge!)
- VIP Dedicated Phone Line
- Exclusive Direct Access to Kimpton’s CEO
For those with a lot of travel flexibility, the ability to book a free night at new Kimpton hotels is unquestionably a great benefit. But, the process for earning Inner Circle status is changing…
Kimpton says this about earning Inner Circle status in 2018 for the 2019 elite year:
To qualify for 2019, members will need to:
- Earn Spire Elite status
- Receive an exclusive invitation into Inner Circle
Earning an exclusive invitation into Inner Circle for 2019 and beyond is based on similar variables as today – loyalty to Kimpton. While the invitation criteria are unpublished, things like frequency of stays, spend, history and more are considered.
To summarize, you have to earn top tier IHG Spire status AND you have to get an invitation to Inner Circle 2019. In other words, they’re not going to tell us how to get it.
I think that its fare to assume that the requirements for getting that Inner Circle invitation will be similar to today’s documented rules for earning Inner Circle status: complete 14 stays or 40 nights. The scarier part for many current Inner Circle Members is the fact that you will now have to earn top tier IHG Spire status as well.
How to Earn IHG Spire Status
IHG offers two options for earning Spire status: stay 75 qualified nights per calendar year, or earn 75,000 elite qualifying points. Current Kimpton Inner Circle members who are used to earning status with just 14 stays or 40 nights might be scared off by this new 75 night requirement. Fortunately, earning Spire status with points is much easier.
IHG Terms & Conditions state that point earnings from the following qualify towards elite status:
- Qualifying Rates paid for hotel stays
- Spend on IHG® Rewards Club credit cards
- Select partner activity
- IHG® Rewards Club Bonus Points Packages, and
- Qualified Spend through IHG® Business Rewards
One good way to earn status quickly is to book stays with bonus points packages which may earn, for example, 10,000 or even 20,000 qualifying bonus points for a stay.
An easier option is to transfer points from a partner, such as Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic miles transfer 1 to 1 to IHG and those points are elite qualifying. If you don’t have Virgin Atlantic miles, you can transfer points 1 to 1 from Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Citi ThankYou Rewards. You can also transfer from SPG (20,000 points to 25,000 miles), or from Marriott, ideally through a Marriott Travel Package where 270,000 Marriott points will give you 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and a 7 night category 1-5 stay certificate. The best option at the time of this writing is to take advantage of Amex’s current 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic. If you don’t have Amex Membership Rewards points, you can earn them quickly through credit card signup bonuses (found here). With the transfer bonus, 58,000 Membership Rewards points will result in just over 75,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.
Once you have enough miles in your Virgin Atlantic account, you can call Virgin Atlantic to transfer miles to IHG (details here). Note that the transfer can take up to 30 days to complete. And once you earn Spire status from those 75,000 points, you can get 25,000 more IHG points as your Spire Elite Choice Benefit. In other words, while the Amex transfer bonus is in effect to Virgin Atlantic, you can indirectly convert Amex points to IHG (and get Spire Elite status) at a ratio of 58,000 Amex points to 100,000 IHG points. That approaches a 1 to 2 transfer ratio. While I value Membership Rewards points much more than 2X IHG points, it’s not a terrible way to use your Membership Rewards points if it also means getting top tier IHG status and a chance of getting Kimpton Inner Circle status.
If you want to take advantage of the current Amex transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic, make sure to do so by November 30, 2017. Amex tends to run these bonuses frequently, though, so I wouldn’t worry too much if you missed this one. You can always check our Current Point Transfer Bonuses page to see current and past bonuses.
Regardless of when you transfer points to Virgin Atlantic, I’d recommend against moving Virgin Atlantic points to IHG until you are sure you need those points. If you are hoping to earn Kimpton Inner Circle status in 2018 for the 2019 elite year, then you can wait until later in 2018 to initiate the Virgin Atlantic to IHG transfer. This way, you can see how many IHG elite qualifying points you already have in your account and transfer over just enough from Virgin Atlantic to top up your points to 75,000. Just make sure to make the transfer more than 30 days before the end of the year.
Also, don’t forget that you will need quite a few Kimpton stays in 2018 to hope to get the invitation to Inner Circle for 2019. My best guess is that you’ll need the same as today: 14 stays or 40 nights. The good news is that the other requirement – Spire Elite status – isn’t too hard to accomplish.