Pros & Cons of Priority Club (InterContinental Hotels Group)

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This is one of the chains that I have had a love hate relationship over the years.  I didn’t have stays for couple of years (had lot of stays from 2006 to 2010) and then started to stay again late last year and had probably around 100 nights this year. I have already booked one Point Breaks hotel for a month starting early January.

ihg-brands

Overall, the program is VERY rewarding IF you can work the promos of earning points and using them for Point Breaks hotels at 5K Priority Club points per night. If you are Royal Ambassador and have one night stays at InterContinental Hotels, the program is very good on both earning points and status recognition.

My main gripes are the lower end hotels like Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inns that are very inconsistent especially in North America. You never know if the Holiday Inn is a three or  four and a half star one before staying at.

Pros

Point Earnings – Points, Points & More Points

Easy Status

Number of Properties

Working Website

Worldwide Coverage

InterContinental Brand

Award Availability

Points Breaks

Type of Awards

Any Hotel Any Time

Cashback

Number of Discount Programs

Friends & Family

Consistent Lower Brands

Stay/Point Postings

Best Price Guarantee

Points never expire

 

Cons

Social Media Representation

Customer Service – Philippines

Priority Club VS Ambassador

Elite Treatment at Properties

Promotions (can register but doesn’t work)

Elite Benefits on Award Stays

Points Earnings are not Uniform

Holiday Inn/Crowne Plaza Hotels in North America

No hip brand

Best Price Guarantee

No list of properties moving up/down

No stay/night credit for award stays

Positives of Priority Club

Point Earnings – Points, Points & More Points

Priority Club is the easiest program to rack up points and really fast by signing up for numerous overlapping promos that I have written about there on LoyaltyLobby.

Easy Status

Up until the end of this year, all the points earned have counted towards meeting the Gold or Platinum status requirements. Next year, this will change, however.

Number of Properties

InterContinental Hotels Group has more than 4500 properties under its brand as of November 2012.

Working Website

The website and mobile websites are quite functional. The InterContinental.com, however, is not the easiest one to use to make bookings.

Worldwide Coverage

The group has a good presence around the world.

InterContinental Brand

For some reason, I really like the InterContinental brand. It was found by Pan Am and first hotel opened in 1946 in Belem Brazil.

Award Availability

I have never really had award availability problems with Priority Club.

Points Breaks

This is absolutely the best deal when it comes to hotel rewards. Every two to three months Priority Club releases number of Point Breaks hotels for bookings in the following couple of months. Best properties tend to go fast. These are only 5K points per night regardless of the usual number of points required for night.

Type of Awards

In addition to Point Breaks, Priority Club has last minute awards, regular awards, you can use points for gift cards, flights etc.

Any Hotel Any Time

You can use Priority Club points to redeem for Any Hotel Any Time Amex branded stored value cards. You can use these to pay for any hotel that is classified as lodging on Amex’s systems. These can be very lucrative if Priority Club has a promotion for discounted Any Hotel Any Time cards like they did ew years ago.

Cashback

You can normally get anywhere from 9% to 20% back of your booked hotel value form as cashback by using number of online cashback sites. The cashback is deposited to your cashback account and typically paid out by PayPal or check couple of months after completed stay.

Number of Discount Programs

Priority Club has number of 2-4-1 for Europe and other regional discount programs.

Friends & Family

InterContinental Hotels Group has a public Friends & Family program that is open to anyone. Note that these rates do not qualify for points or stay credit. Status related benefits may be extended depending of the hotel in question.

Consistent Lower Brands

IHG’s most consistent brands are limited service Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites.

Stay/ Point Postings

Priority Club stays seems to post without follow up requirement consistently.

Best Price Guarantee

Although the terms and conditions of this guarantee have changed several times during the past year, they are still offering a completely free night IF you can find a lower comparable rate in the same currency. The first night is completely free and there is no requirement to book more than one night.

Points never expire

Points never expire. At least they do not for now.

ihg-brand-focus

Negatives of Priority Club

Social Media Representation

Priority Club totally lacks social media participation. Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood all have representatives replying to concerns about program and properties. They  typically help program members to fix problems as well.

Customer Service – Philippines

The Priority Club Service Center is located in Philippines and the associates replying to emails, if you ever get a reply, or manning the lines, have probably never have stayed at IHG property.

The first reply is normally a blurb of text that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the question on hand. On a rare case that I have needed to solve a problem, it has usually been fixed after couple of rounds of emails.

Priority Club VS Ambassador

This is the part that is quite difficult to understand because it is unique for IHG. InterContinental Hotels have a different program for status recognition than other IHG hotels. You need to buy an Ambassador membership that costs $200 or get it through a promo. Ambassador status gets you instant Gold with Priority Club. You will earn Priority Club points at InterContinental hotels but the status benefits are per Ambassador T&C’s

Elite Treatment Inconsistency at Properties

There are very few hard benefits beyond some extra points based on the Priority Club Gold or Platinum status. Internet access, breakfast, club lounge access or early/late check in/out are not Priority Club Gold or Platinum benefits. Priority Club announced a set of Gold/Platinum benefits that are confirmed but they are only applicable for Priority Club properties in Greater China.

This doesn’t mean that the properties won’t extend any benefits as many do. There is just not consistency.

Promotions (can register but doesn’t work)

Priority Club allows you to register for many promotions that you are not eligible for. Quite a few this will post but not all. You really don’t know before you have done the stays what works for your account and what doesn’t.

If you weren’t originally targeted for the promotion but registered successfully, there is no recourse for points not to post.

Elite Benefits on Award Stays

Officially, most of the (nonexistent) elite benefits do NOT apply on award stays. Most of the properties do extend them but they don’t have to.

Points Earnings are not uniform

You earn 2000 base points regardless of the spend at all InterContinental Hotel properties outside of the Americas. In the Americas, you will earn 10 points per dollar spend at InterContinental Hotels, but only 2000 at the InterContinental Alliance properties.

Holiday Inn/Crowne Plaza Hotels in North America

Although IHG has spent considerable amount of money trying to bring these two brands to brand standards, there are still great number of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels that have seen their better stays and should be either fixed up or reflagged.

No hip brand

IHG doesn’t have a hip brand like W or Hyatt’s Andaz. The only brand that I can be proud to stay at is InterContinental.

Best Price Guarantee

This is both the positive and the negative at the same time. The premise of getting a complimentary night if you find a lower price elsewhere is a good one. The hoops that you need to go through to take IHG on their promise, is not.

No list of properties moving up/down

All other programs provide a list of properties moving up and down on the award chart. Earlier this year, IHG didn’t release a list for competitive reasons. This was absolutely ridiculous. For the minimum, they should have provided this as all the other chains do.

No stay/night credit for award stays

Priority Club doesn’t give you stay/night credit for award stays like SPG and Hilton do.

Conclusion

If you can live with not very well defined elite benefits and ambiguity, Priority Club can be very rewarding program. I take advantage of all the promotions and point earning opportunities. You can easily earn around 7K points per one night stay if you prorate the promotions per stay.

I try to only stay and redeem at InterContinental Hotels. There are nice Holiday Inns and Crowne Plaza hotels, but they are so inconsistent property and elite treatment wise.

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