Unlike many in the points and miles world, I actually have a soft spot for IHG Rewards Club.
OK, so they nixed my plan to pretty much live in 5,000 point per night PointBreaks hotels on our road trip. However, thanks to having both the old and new IHG credit cards, I get the 4th night free and 10% of my points rebated on our award stays. That means a 4 night stay at a 10,000 point property only costs a net 27,000 points. They also sometimes offer decent targeted Accelerate promotions that can earn you a ton of bonus points when only staying a couple of nights.
The biggest drawback with IHG Rewards Club is elite status. To be honest, that should be written as “elite status” as there’s very little elite or status-like about how IHG rewards their loyal members. If you want free breakfast, IHG responds the same way a Michelin starred chef would if you asked for ketchup on your steak – you might want it, but you’re not gonna get it.
Even if you earn Spire Elite status by staying at IHG properties 75+ nights a year, you won’t get free breakfast unless you happen to stay at one of their brands that includes free breakfast for all guests (e.g. Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites). Hilton Gold and Marriott Platinum members get free breakfast and those aren’t even top tier status levels in those programs.
Lounge access? Nope. Room upgrades? Subject to availability, so no guarantees and nothing in the terms stating that you’re entitled to a suite. Status partnerships with airlines like Hyatt and Marriott offer? Sadly not.
That could all be changing though.
The Frequent Miler team has gotten its hands on screenshots of surveys IHG sent to some members that asks how they could be better rewarded. If some of these changes went ahead, it would be a huge plus in the IHG column.
First off, I should point out that these are just surveys, so there’s no guarantee that any of these mooted enhancements (in the real sense of the word) will be introduced. The fact that they’re surveying members though suggests that it’s certainly something they’re considering and hopefully means that changes are afoot.
What status benefits are they considering? IHG asked the person that provided these screenshots to rank their top 5 benefits from the following list:
Some of those benefits aren’t overly exciting (to me), such as premium internet, upgraded toiletries and a concierge help desk line. A few of them are far more interesting though and in some cases would have IHG showing some initiative and offering something that none of the other major hotel chains give to their elite members.
Here are some of the benefits that stood out to me:
- Free breakfast – This is something that IHG needs to offer if they’re going to entice more people to come over from Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt. Frankly, it’s embarrassing that they don’t offer it at the moment.
- No cancellation fee EVER – including non-refundable rates – This would be huge for me personally and I’m sure would be a welcome enhancement for most other members. Non-refundable rates tend to be the cheapest, so being able to book the cheapest rates safe in the knowledge that you could cancel and get a full refund would be awesome.
- 24 hour stay (check out 24 hours after arrival) – Perfect for those times when you arrive at a hotel late at night, especially if you’re there during a stopover.
- 5 extra points on Chase Credit Card for Holiday Inn stays – I’m assuming this was worded poorly by the survey company and that they meant to say IHG stays rather than just the specific Holiday Inn brand. The IHG Premier credit card currently offers 10x on IHG stays; making it 15x would make it the most rewarding hotel credit card when used for paid stays based on how I value each chain’s points. It would mean Spire Elite members paying with that card would earn 35x on paid stays (10x base, 10x bonus for Spire Elite and 15x from the card), even before taking into account whatever promotion IHG was running at the time. (n.b. it’d be 25x for Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites as they’d earn 5x / 5x / 15x respectively).
- 1/2 off room service – I’m cheap and so I never order room service. Effectively getting a Buy One Get One Free meal deal for me and my wife would be tempting though on nights when I can’t be bothered to make dinner for us in our hotel room.
A few of the other benefits have the potential to be rewarding, but the vagueness of their descriptions makes it hard to assess:
- Reward night best night – I have no clue whatsoever what this might be referring to. It’s therefore doubtful it’ll ever see the light of day as I can’t imagine any survey respondents picked it seeing as they provided no explanation as to what the benefit would entail.
- Amazon gift card – Choice Hotels offers this as one of the optional ‘Your Extras’ for Platinum members when staying midweek. They only offer a $2.50 Amazon gift card though, so if IHG followed suit then it would be boring. Something like a $20 gift card would make it worth considering, although only on one night stays. That’s unless it was offered for every night of the stay which would make it far more exciting, although it’s highly doubtful they’d go that route.
- Uber/Lyft credit – Similarly, Choice Hotels offers Platinum members a $2.50 Uber credit for midweek stays. IHG would need to offer a much larger credit to tempt me into booking with them if I had somewhere else in mind.
- Bonus points – It’s a little strange that this was included as an option in the survey as IHG already offers bonus points as a welcome amenity. To clarify that – I’ve received 250-500 bonus points as a welcome amenity for every stay over the past 18 months. Having said that, it’s not officially listed as an elite benefit, so they might just be looking to codify that.
Once survey respondents had picked their top 5 benefits, they were apparently then asked to compare some of those choices to another hotel’s loyalty program. It seems like the competing program was one they already had status with and those questions were to ascertain which of the benefits would encourage them to move nights from the other hotel chain to IHG.
It’s interesting how the survey tries to present Spire Elite as a far better status than Marriott Platinum or Titanium, despite the fact that Marriott already offers free breakfast, lounge access and premium internet to those members. As Greg noticed, they’ve also stated that Marriott award nights don’t count towards status even though they do.
Don’t be getting your hopes up yet as there’s no guarantee that IHG will add any of these elite benefits. Even if they do, it could well be the less valuable benefits like a free drink and a Kindle book.
However, if they add free breakfast and/or other benefits like a 24 hour stay and no cancellation fees ever, that would definitely encourage me to book more stays with them and I’m sure would make many people reconsider IHG Rewards Club as a viable option for their loyalty.