Today (December 12, 2014): Travel Series: Intercontinental’s loyalty program (IHG Rewards Club) explained.
IHG Rewards Club is the complimentary hotel loyalty program of the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) group. Members earn points and exchange them for valuable rewards when they stay at more than 4600 hotels & resorts, across IHG’s 11 brands in more than 100 countries: Intercontinental, Crown Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Hualuxe, Even Hotels, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Resorts, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites.
In this overview, I explain the IHG Rewards Club loyalty program:
- Membership tiers
- Earn IHG Rewards Club points
- Redeem awards & travel for free
- Pros & things I like about IHG Rewards Club
- Cons & things I don’t like about IHG Rewards Club
- Key points
IHG REWARDS CLUB EXPLAINED: MEMBERSHIP TIERS
IHG Rewards Club is a top class awards structure offering a 4-tier system of awards points. Club is the first level, Gold the second, Platinum the third, and Spire Elite membership is the top-level. Each level has benefits and as the member moves from Club to Gold to Platinum to Spire Elite, they become more valuable.
- Club is the base level and will earn you 10 Base Points for every eligible US dollar spent on your room at IHG hotels (5 points for every $1 atCandlewood & Staybridge Suites). In addition, Club members also enjoy the following benefits:
- Late check-out (when available).
- Complimentary weekday newspaper.
- Access to a toll-free service line.
- Free internet.
- Gold is reached after completing 10 nights or 10,000 elite qualifying points in a calendar year. Gold members receive the same benefits as Club members, plus the following:
- A 10% bonus on all the Base Points you earn.
- Priority check-in.
- Platinum is reached after completing 40 eligible stays or 40,000 elite qualifying points in a calendar year. Platinum members receive the same benefits as Club members, plus the following:
- A 50% bonus on all the Base Points you earn.
- Priority check-in.
- Elite rollover nights: if you earn more nights than you need for elite membership, they’ll count toward next year.
- Complimentary room upgrades.
- Guaranteed room availability.
- In 2015, IHG announced a new, 4th membership level, Spire Elite, achieved after 75 nights or 75,000 points, with the following additional benefits: a 100% bonus points on top of your base points, and a choice of either a 25,000 annual points bonus or gift Platinum to a friend or family member.
IHG REWARDS CLUB: EARN POINTS
There are a couple of ways to earn IHG Rewards Club points and boost your account.
- You an earn Base Points when you stay at a hotel of the IHG group. You earn 10 Base Points for every US dollar spent on your room rate and other eligible room charges, including telephone calls and room service. An exception applies for stays at Candlewood and Staybridge Suites, where you earn 5 Base Points for every US dollar spent.
- IHG Rewards Club elite members automatically receive extra Bonus Points on all the Base Points they earn: a 10% bonus once they reach Gold Elite status, and a 50% bonus once they achieve Platinum Elite status.
- The IHG Rewards Club is famous for its many promotions & codes that can earn you thousand of Bonus Points with one single stay. To apply these IHG Rewards Club codes, you will have to search for them on the internet, and/or subscribe to miles & points bloggers that will keep you updated about active codes.
- You can earn Bonus Points with selected travel partners, such as car rental and online survey companies. You can find the list of travel partners here.
- IHG Rewards Club members – who are also members of a partner airline frequent-flyer club – may choose to earn miles instead of points for every qualifying stay. Mileage earning rates may vary per airline.
- You can also earn Bonus Points by means of credit card when you apply for an IHG Rewards Club (Premium) VISA card.
- You can also buy Bonus Points. Click here to find out more.
IHG REWARDS CLUB: REDEEM POINTS & TRAVEL FOR FREE
The IHG Rewards Club program offers many ways to use points:
- You can use your Points to book a free or discounted standard room at anyof the IHG hotels and resorts worldwide, with no blackout dates.
- You can redeem free nights without black dates, starting at just 10,000 Points for a night to a maximum of 50,000 Points. The number of points required is seasonally and hotel dependent, and can be verified here.
- You can stretch your Points with “Points&Cash Rewards” and book a seriously discounted hotel room using a combination of your Points and cash. The exact value of this varies from hotel to hotel, and can be checked here.
- Award stays do count toward elite status qualification.
- You can spend Points at selected merchandise: redeem them for brand name merchandise, gift certificates to popular retailers and restaurants, or even instant music and entertainment downloads with Digital Rewards.
- The IHG Rewards Club program allows you to convert your Points to frequent-flyer miles on over 40 major airline partners, where you can redeem them for free plane tickets or upgrades. Redeeming points for miles has to be arranged through the IHG Rewards Club Customer Care Center. Points-to-miles transfer rates vary per airline.
- The IHG Flights Anywhere program gives you the ability to directly redeem your IHG Rewards Club Points for an airline ticket on virtually any airline. You will need more Points to book a flight as compared to transferring them to an airlines’ frequent flyer program and book a flight from there, but you will not face the standard restrictions that limit most frequent-flyer awards. Plus, you can search for airline tickets whenever you choose, even during peak periods such as holidays.
- The IHG Hotels Anywhere program gives you the ability to directly redeem your IHG Rewards Club Points for a stay in many non-IHG hotels all over the world. You will need more points though as compared to a reward night at a IHG hotel, and taxes will still need to be paid.
- The IHG Cars Anywhere program gives you the ability to directly redeem your IHG Rewards Club Points for a car rental virtually everywhere world.
- You can donate Points to friends and family.
- You can donate Points to charity.
PROS & THINGS I LIKE ABOUT IHG REWARDS CLUB
- Internet is free for all IHG Reward Club members staying at IHG properties.
- Every two to three months, for a limited time only, IHG Rewards Club releases a number of IHG PointBreaks properties where reward nights are yours for only 5,000 points for a stay in the following couple of months. From time to time, the list includes top properties, such as the Intercontinental Bora Bora. IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks is absolutely one the best hotel points redemptions in the industry!
- IHG Rewards Club is the easiest program to rack up points really fast by signing up for numerous overlapping promos. I collected more than 30,000 points with a single night at a cheap Holiday Inn Express, which is worth a 7-night stay at a 5 star resort in Tahiti, using a PointBreaks offer.
- IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite members who have earned extra elite qualifying nights can take advantage of carrying them over into the next year with Elite Rollover Nights, making it faster and easier to achieve or maintain elite status.
- IHG’s wordwide presence is very impressive, with more than 4600 properties all over the globe, making it quite easy from a geographical point of view to earn or redeem points,
- IHG has a nice mix of hotel brands from luxury to lower end. Intercontinental is IHG’s only high-end luxury hotel brand; Crown Plaza, Hotel Indigo and Hualuxe are in the middle luxury segment; and Even Hotels, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Resorts, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites on the lower end.
- IHG runs a Best Rate Guarantee programs, which means you will always get the best available rate at IHG branded hotels when you book through an official IHG site. Should you find a lower rate on another website, within 24 hours of completing a reservation at the IHG website, IHG will provide the first night’s room price free and match the lower average nightly room price found for the rest of the nights of your stay (in case of a prepaid room, the difference in price will be refunded). You must submit an online claim within 24 hours of booking your hotel room on the official IHG booking website. Finding a better rate is not that difficult, as you can read in our tips how to book a luxury hotel at the cheapest price.
- You do receive stay (or night) credit for award stays (or nights) and these will count towards your IHG Rewards Club elite qualification.
- There are no award blackout dates. As long as there is standard room available, you can book it using your IHG Rewards Club points.
- You can purchase InterContinental Ambassador Membership status for $200 a year. Intercontinental Ambassador Membership comes with benefits such as guaranteed room upgrade, fresh fruit upon arrival, in-room water, in-room gift, single-room rate for double occupancy, extended checkout (up to 4pm), dedicated Ambassador check-in area, complimentary pay-TV film per stay, complimentary newspaper delivered daily, instant check-out, complimentary weekend night certificate, Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards Club and 5,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points.
- You can quickly advance to Elite Status by staying fewer nights at multiple IHG brands with a Fast Track procedure.
CONS & THINGS I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT IHG REWARDS CLUB
- Contrary to Marriott, Starwood and Hyatt, IHG Rewards Club lacks lifetime status.
- Until 2015, points never expired (even when you did not remain active in the program). That all changed though in July 2015: points now do expire when a member does not earn nor redeem points in within a time span of 12 months.
- IHG Rewards Club offers some great benefits to its basic Club members (free internet, late check-out) but the benefits being Gold or Platinum Elite over Club are not great. Except for a earning more Bonus Points, you will not be awarded with benefits such as free breakfast, upgrade vouchers or guaranteed late check-out which are now common at IHG’s competitors (Hyatt, Starwood, Hilton, and Marriott).
- The real benefits when staying at an IHG hotel are not associated with elite status membership but come with Intercontinental Ambassador Membership. The latter can not be achieved through stays but must be purchased ($200 a year).
- IHG lacks a hip hotel brand like W (Starwood) or Andaz (Hyatt), although they are branding Indigo as a trendy boutique brand (unfortunately, it does not alway deliver that way).
- IHG Rewards Club is a well-regarded loyalty program.
- Gold and Platinum Elite status is not that rewarding when compared to what you get at other hotel brands.
- For real benefits during IHG hotel stays, you need to purchase Intercontinental Ambassador Membership.
- Always make a booking using a Best Rate Guarantee to start your stay with a free night.
- The best way to spend your IHG points is to use them for hotel stays during a PointsBreak offer.
- The worst way to spend your IHG pointd is to transfer them to airline miles.