Pros & Cons Of IHG Rewards Club

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There have been quite a few changes to the IHG Rewards Club program in the past 12 months and unfortunately I have added far more new cons this year than pros.

ihg-rewards-club-pros-cons

IHG Rewards Club can still be very rewarding program IF you can work the promos of earning points and using them for Point Breaks hotels at 5,000 points per night.

You can access IHG Rewards Club webpage here.

What do you like and don’t like about IHG Rewards Club? Please leave your comments and opinions below.

Pros

– Point Earnings – Points, Points & More Points

– Easy Status Match (New)

– Number of Properties

– Kimpton Hotels (NEW)

– Working Website

– Worldwide Coverage

– Dining Rewards (NEW)

– InterContinental Brand

– Award Availability

– Points Breaks Social Flash & Last Minute Rewards Nights (Expanded)

– Type of Awards

– Number of Points Earned At InterContinental Hotels (NEW)

– Any Hotel Any Time

– Number of Discount Programs

– Friends & Family

– Consistent Lower Brands

– Stay/Point Postings

– Best Price Guarantee

– Points never expire

IHG Rewards Club Pros and Cons Brands

Cons

– Social Media Representation

– Customer Service – Philippines

– IHG Rewards Club Club Vs. Ambassador

– Elite Treatment at Properties

– No Status Match (NEW)

– Promotions (can register but don’t always work)

– Closing Accounts That Register For Promotions (NEW)

– Elite Benefits on Award Stays

– Ambassador Accelerator & InterContinental 100% Bonus (For Royal Ambassadors) Gone (NEW)

– Points Earnings are not Uniform

– Big Win, Into The Nights, Set Your Sights Etc.

– Communication (NEW)

– Holiday Inn/Crowne Plaza Hotels in North America

– Targeted Promotions & IHG Rewards Club IT (NEW)

– No hip brand

– Best Price Guarantee (Getting worse)

– No list of properties moving up/down

IHG Rewards Club Pros and Cons Brands First

Positives of IHG Rewards Club

Point Earnings – Points, Points & More Points

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

Easy Status Match (New)

If you have status with a chain that IHG Rewards Club matches, you can get Platinum status match easily (read more here).

Number of Properties

InterContinental Hotels Group has around 4900 properties under its brands as of December 2014.

Kimpton Hotels (NEW)

InterContinental Hotels Group purchased the US based boutique hotel chain Kimpton Hotels. It is unclear when and if they are integrated to IHG Rewards Club (I would imagine so).

Working Website

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

Worldwide Coverage

The group has a good presence around the world.

Dining Rewards (NEW)

IHG Rewards Club has launched/relaunched its Dining Rewards program in many countries in Asia. You get one category status bump, one free night cert at any IHG hotel and other benefits for a set fee.

InterContinental Brand

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

Award Availability

I have never really had award availability problems with IHG Rewards Club. Sometimes the discounted Point Breaks or Social Flash award room inventory is gone very fast, however.

Points Breaks, Social Flash & Last Minute Rewards Nights (Expanded)

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

IHG Rewards Club also has Last Minute Reward Nights for the first weekend of each month at 50% off. Social Flash sales at 25% to 75% off took place few times at the end of 2013. We’ll see if they make a return in 2014 as well.

Type of Awards

In addition to Point Breaks, IHG Rewards Club has regular awards, Points + Cash, you can use points for gift cards, flights etc.

Number of Points Earned At InterContinental Hotels (NEW)

Many used to complain that it was unfair that you would earn the same flat 2,000 points per stay at InterContinental hotels regardless of the length or price paid.

Any Hotel Any Time

You can use IHG Rewrads Club points to redeem for Any Hotel Any Time branded stored value cards. You can use these to pay for any hotel.

Redeeming for these can be very lucrative if IHG Rewards Club has a promotion for discounted Any Hotel Any Time cards like they did years ago.

Number of Discount Programs

IHG Rewards Club has a number discount plans for Europe and other regions. They also tend to have sales around the holidays in Europe and China. The most popular one is the of 2-4-1 for Europe (read more here).

Friends & Family

InterContinental Hotels Group has a public Friends & Family program that is open to anyone (read more here). Note that these rates do not qualify for points or stay credits. 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 brands.

Stay/ Point Postings

IHG Rewards Club stays seems to post without having to follow up most of the time.

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 Rewards Club Pros and Cons Brands Global Scale

Negatives of IHG Rewards Club

Social Media Representation

IHG Rewards Club lacks in 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 they are having.

Customer Service – Philippines

The IHG Rewards  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 an IHG property.

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

IHG Rewards Club VS Ambassador

This is the part that is quite difficult for many 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 IHG Rewards Club.

You earn IHG Rewards Club points at InterContinental hotels but the status benefits are per Ambassador T&C’s

Elite Treatment at Properties (Getting better)

There are very few hard benefits beyond some extra points based on the IHG Rewards Club Gold or Platinum status. Internet access, breakfast, club lounge access or guaranteed early/late check in/out are not IHG Rewards 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.

IHG Rewards Club Gold & Platinum members have been eligible for complimentary internet since mid 2013. All IHG Rewards Club members have had complimentary internet access from January 1, 2014.

Some properties will go beyond what is required by the program T&C’s, when it comes to treating elite members.

No Status Match (NEW)

IHG Rewards Club used to be very liberal with status matched and what counted to the point minimums (all points earned). This all changed in 2014, however. No status matches anymore and only base points and bonus points packaged continue to count.

There are credit cards in many markets, however, that continue to give holder Gold or Platinum status.

Promotions (can register but doesn’t work)

IHG Rewards Club allows you to register for many promotions that you are not targeted for. Quite a few 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.

Closing Accounts That Register For Promotions (NEW)

A couple of years ago, the head of loyalty for IHG claimed that travelers that register for promotions are smart. Nowadays, however, IHG Rewards Club may freeze and/or cancel your account for registering promotions that you were not originally targeted for,

Elite Benefits on Award Stays

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

Ambassador Accelerator & InterContinental 100% Bonus (For Royal Ambassadors) Gone (NEW)

IHG Rewards Club ended the Ambassador Accelerator bonus points program for 20,000 points every 15 nights without any announcement (read more here). Now, they seems to have ended bonus points for stays at InterContinental hotels without any communication as well (read more here).

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.

Big Win, Into The Nights, Set Your Sights Etc.

Big Win made its debut (really the old Crack The Case) in the fall of 2013, returned for the spring of 2014 and became Into The Nights in the fall of 2014.

The number of stays, brand or other promotion requirements made it onerous for some members to complete it that stay a lot with IHG. Non-frequent members received generally better offers.

Communication (NEW)

IHG Rewards Club has made number of negative changes to its program without ANY communication to the members. I try to cover them all here on LoyaltyLobby with the help of readers.

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 days and should be either fixed up or reflagged.

Targeted Promotions & IHG Rewards Club IT (NEW)

There were number of issues with the Into The Nights promotion that IHG Rewards Club had in the fall of 2014. Some members had their targeted offer change number of times, the promotion dashboard didn’t update for more than a month, the hurdles didn’t always have proper information how to complete them, customer service was useless most of the time resolving the issues and I could go on and on.

IHG Rewards Club should make sure that they have the IT and competence to properly run these promotions before launching them.

No hip brand

IHG doesn’t have a hip brand like W or Hyatt’s Andaz. The only IHG brand that I like is the InterContinental. IHG tries to market Indigo as a boutique’ish hip brand, but I am not entirely sold on it.

Best Price Guarantee (Getting worse)

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.

IHG Rewards Club tweaked the Best Price Guarantee several times in 2013 and made online submissions the only way to file for a one. The Best Price Guarantee department is not properly manned (on purpose) and getting a reply from them can take days.

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

IHG Rewards Club started offering stay/night credits for award nights as well that count towards the status qualification..

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

Conclusion

I really would like to be more positive towards IHG Rewards Club and the Ambassador program, but the changes in the past 12 months have been mostly negative.

A friend of mine who holds top status in a handful of chains asked me if it was worth purchasing the the Ambassador membership and/or pursuing Royal Ambassador status.  A few years ago this would have been a definite yes, however the recent “enhancements” have changed my opinion and I would just say “maybe”.

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