A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me a question by email about the IHG Rewards Club award availability and no black out dates question.
You can access IHG Rewards Club here.
Here’s the email from the reader:
First of all…like many road warriors out there – no doubt – I read all of your stuff…and just wanted to commend you for a super job all round! Cudos!!!
So…here is my issue de jour:
I have tended to stay in the last couple years – for a variety of reasons – mostly at IHG/Hilton…(btw – I just recently got fed-up with a Holiday-Inn Express in Malvern, PA that doesn’t have a washer/dryer…which in this day-and-age is kinda is on the unacceptable side!) but am making the move over to Hilton for the rest of the year (i.e. triple points just announced for Diamond VIP’s!!)
However – having racked up 500K of IHG points in the past year or so – I was excited that I finally have a good upcoming opportinity to use some – and wanted to book a room at the “Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Clearwater Beach” FL.
“Check-in” was slated for June 17th 2017 for 1 night.
However – I was rather irked to see – that there are obviously rooms available at the hotel for $202.86 USD (see screenshot below) but, more to the point – no points rooms!! D’oh!!
For my next move I was able to – quite easily – find multiple – IHG Rewards Club ads on the internet – that boasted – uhem – “No blackout dates.”
Now I admit – I’m not an expert on blackout-dates – but to me, a hotel that a) has plenty of rooms available for $202 USD and b) is not allowing you to use your hard earned points – is – for a lack of a better term – “blacking out” – the use of points?
Next – I called the IHG reservations desk…and was told – rather quickly and efficiently – that when hotels get “busy” (yet are not sold out) you cannot necessarily use your points.
Tim – “So..I can use my points, unless the hotels are getting kinda busy then I have to pay cash? Correct?”
IHC – “Well…(throat clearing) – Yes. Yes that is how it often works…now – we do have other hotels – a few miles away from your desired property – that have rewards club availability on June 17th…<fade to black>”
Thus – my main question – I just wanted to check and see if you have any tips or advice on this particular issue?
There are several issues when it comes to award availability at hotels and I’ll try to explain them below.
There are several types of “no black out dates”:
1. Marriott Rewards advertises no black out dates that merely means that there are no chain wide black out dates. Individual properties may have blackout-dates and there is no requirement to have award rooms available for as long as there is standard rooms available for sale.
2. IHG Rewards Club requires properties to make minimum of 5% of their room inventory available as awards. For smaller properties, this could mean less than handful of rooms per night. There is no requirement that award rooms must be available as long as standard rooms are available for sale.
3. Hilton, Hyatt and SPG all now have award rooms available using points as long as standard rooms are available for sale. Both Hilton and SPG also have premium rooms available using points (sometimes incredibly high point requirement) if standard rooms are not available using points or if member prefer higher category rooms or suites. Hyatt allows one to book club rooms or suites using points (higher points requirement obviously).
Hotels can easily manipulate the standard room availability by categorizing standard rooms as view rooms etc. and it seems that hotel programs have no control over this.
In case of IHG, many hotels make far more award rooms available than the minimum 5% required by the program because they then get higher than the standard reimbursement from the IHG.
Hotel award availability used to be huge issue but most chains (looking at Marriott and IHG that are outliers) have moved to standard room availability = award rooms are available that is fair to all parties.
As I pointed out above, some hotels are playing with this by recategorizing standard rooms as special ones or selling their standard room inventory to third parties.
Unfortunately there is not much that the reader can do here unless he is willing to drive to the IHG property that has availability using points. The reader should also check daily if the award availability opens up for his preferred IHG property. Members often cancel award nights (remember that usually no penalty) when they plans firm up and this opens up availability for others.