InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) or IHG Hotels has been consistently trying to break into the luxury segment first by acquiring Kimpton, and then Regent Hotels and Six Senses.
IHG Rewards Club, the loyalty program for the group, however, is not calibrated correctly to provide loyalty benefits in addition to rewards for members that are used to top elite tier benefits at Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, or even Accor hotels.
You can access IHG’s page for loyalty benefits here.
Here’s the benefits matrix:
So, what is guaranteed for IHG Rewards Club’s elite members? Only bonus points and nothing else.
How does this compare with competitors that offer:
2. Club lounge access
3. Space available & guaranteed suite upgrades
4. Guaranteed 4 PM check-outs
5. Lifetime status
None of these are guaranteed or available even for top-tier IHG Rewards Club members outside of the paid Ambassador-program or the invitation-only Royal Ambassador-level.
Also, IHG tries to run three semi-separate programs; IHG Rewards Club (points and some benefits), InterContinental Ambassador (only for three brands with set benefits and paid) and InnerCircle for Kimpton.
Here’s what IHG need to do:
- Introduce the benefits outlined above, and;
- Combine IHG Rewards Club, InterContinental Ambassador & Kimpton Inner Circle-programs.
As the name “IHG Rewards Club” suggests, IHG Hotels don’t really have a loyalty program, but a rewards one.
Nobody cared about the distinction between these two when IHG used to shower us with points, and they didn’t have luxury hotels such as Regent or Six Sense, where loyalty benefits would genuinely matter. Offering merely rewards was enough when most hotels were standardized boxes such as Holiday Inn Express or Candlewood Suites. These select service hotels at all chains have very little to offer to elite members.
If you merely stay at select-service brands, IHG Rewards Club is a good program. You can earn free nights quite fast, especially if you live in any of the markets where IHG affiliated credit cards are available.
The Ambassador program with the guaranteed one-category upgrade and 4 PM check-out is solid for someone who cannot qualify for top tier status with any of the main competitors (Accor, Hilton, Hyatt, or Marriott), but comes as a cost of $200 or 40,000 points yearly.
I had Royal Ambassador status for years but gave up the other year when I decided that I would not put up anymore with any substandard hotel in markets where better hotels exist. The InterContinental spend that year ($12K+) was not enough for re-qualification.
Quite frankly, I should have given up on IHG Rewards Club & Royal Ambassador-program years earlier, as I would have already by now earned lifetime status with both Hilton and Hyatt, adding to my Marriott and semi-lifetime with Accor.
If you travel a lot, IHG unfortunately doesn’t have much to offer on their loyalty program side. You should have a serious look at one of their competitors.