Is IHG Diamond Status Elite? My Experience Over 10 Stays At 5 Brands


Last year, IHG introduced its “new and improved” rewards program, IHG One Rewards. At the same time, they unveiled significant changes to their elite program, the most exciting involving the renamed, top-tier Diamond status. Now, high-level elites would receive guaranteed free breakfast as a welcome choice as well as the promise that suite upgrades and late checkout would move towards becoming the rule rather than the exception. In addition, new Milestone Rewards gave the opportunity for confirmed suite upgrades starting at 20 nights and an annual lounge membership starting at 40 nights.

All of these changes seemed to be quite positive, although there’s been “clarifications” to some of the elite benefits that have made it a bit less exciting than we’d originally hoped. There was also the question of how frequently and consistently these new benefits would be honored by the respective properties. When IHG originally rolled out One Rewards, they acknowledged that properties had been uneven in their previous application of elite benefits, but that it would improve dramatically with the new program.

We’ve been curious to see if that would be the case. So, we decided to check it out ourselves. Between late-2022 and eerly-2023, I visited ten different IHG properties across five different brands to see how the Diamond reception would be. Here’s what I found.

Note: All lodging was paid for using my own points. My IHG Diamond status was earned through a promotion last Fall and extended via purchasing Ambassador Status at the end of last year. I received no gifts or compensation from IHG.

a plate of food with a checklist

IHG On-Property Diamond Benefits

First, let’s review the on-property elite benefits for IHG Diamond Members:

  • Complimentary Upgrades: IHG had informed us that they have taken great pains to better educate member hotels so that this benefit would be more evenly and generously applied.  Free upgrades can include suites, but hotels still aren’t necessarily required to offer them. Still, what we heard from IHG led us to believe that the majority of the time standard suites should be in-play as upgrades for Diamond Members.
  • Free Breakfast Welcome Amenity: Diamond Elite members get free breakfast at almost all properties with relatively few exclusions.  IHG excludes limited-service brands that already offer breakfast as well as Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau)​, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith properties.
  • Early Check-In (Based on Availability)
  • 2pm Late Check-Out (Based on Availability)

It’s worth noting that the only thing truly guaranteed to Diamond Members is free breakfast (which is a healthy step-up from the domestic “free” breakfast that’s offered by Hilton and Marriott). The other three benefits fall somewhere in the realm of, “we’ll do our best!” Technically, late checkout and upgrades were already available before the program switch, the big change was how they were going to be honored for top-tier elites moving forward.

How do IHG Diamond Benefits compare across brands?

I wanted to see how these benefits would be applied across multiple brands, specifically in the US (as my experience is that most chains offer a MUCH better elite experience overseas). So, over the last 4ish months I’ve completed 10 stays across 5 IHG brands, specifically excluding Kimpton, since Greg and Nick had already checked one out as Diamond Members late last year.

a plate of food with a spoon and a spoon
Nick’s Diamond Breakfast at the Kimpton Surfcomber South Beach

I decided to break it into two groups, concentrating on Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Intercontinental as properties that usually offer full-service restaurants. I also had a couple of stays at Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Inn and Suites to see what, if any, difference Diamond status made at properties that provide complimentary breakfasts to all guests, usually without a full-service restaurant.

The main things that I wanted to find out were:

  • Would upgrades be given proactively (without having to ask at the front desk)?
  • Would suite upgrades be awarded when available?
  • Would there be standard suites or preferred rooms specifically off-limits to Diamonds?
  • Would breakfast be proactively offered and executed as advertised?
  • Would late checkouts be given on request?


Here’s a table summarizing what happened:

Brand Proactive Upgrade Upgrade to Suites Upgrade Exclusions Free Breakfast 2pm Late Checkout
Crowne Plaza 100% 0% 100% 100% 50%
Holiday Inn 33% 33% 66% 100% 66%
Holiday Inn Express 50% 50% 50% n/a 50%
Intercontinental 100% 0% 100% 100% 0%
Staybridge Inn 100% 100% 0% n/a 100%
Overall 70% 30% 60% 100% 50%

Complimentary Upgrades

The application of complimentary room upgrades varied tremendously. Interestingly enough, all of the Crowne Plaza and Intercontinental properties that I visited proactively upgraded me to a preferred room, in each case based primarily on view (although I did receive a fireplace room at the Intercontinental Monterey). Also, although each of the properties that I visited had superior rooms and standard suites available, each one of them told me that those rooms were not available to Diamond members as complimentary upgrades.

Oddly enough, the two best upgrades I received were at the Staybridge Suites in Ann Arbor (on a Michigan football weekend, no less) and at the Holiday Inn San Diego Bayside. In San Diego, I was upgraded to a huge, bay-view suite and in Ann Arbor, we were given a two-bedroom, three-bed suite that allowed me and my two companions to all share one room instead of having to use two. I was also upgraded to a suite at one out of the two Holiday Inn Express hotels…the other HIE told me that they didn’t have any benefit programs for elite members outside of welcome points.

Probably the worst examples I encountered were a Holiday Inn in Queens and the Intercontinental San Diego. In each case the front desk agent had no idea that there were any upgrade benefits that applied to Diamonds.

Free Breakfast

All told, I think that this is one area that IHG Diamond shines clearly above Marriott and Hilton, at least in the US. All of the full-service properties gave me a voucher for a free breakfast for two in the hotel restaurant that included coffee/espresso, juice and a hot item. In the case of both Intercontinentals, the breakfasts were easily on par with some of the best domestic Hyatt breakfasts that I’ve had as a Globalist.

The consistency here is what sets IHG apart from the Byzantine World of Bonvoy Brekkie or the food and beverage credits that Hilton supplies domestically (but that rarely seem to actually cover the cost of a full breakfast, unless you like muffins and coffee).

The breakfast benefit wasn’t immediately well-known in IHG-land. Last November, when I went to my first Intercontinental, the front desk agent seemed confused about why I would get a free breakfast and I had to talk to a manager in the morning to get a voucher. The front desk agent at the Holiday Inn Queens seemed flabbergasted that I would even want to eat in the restaurant, telling me that there’s much better food at a deli around the corner!

That said, over the last 2-3 months, there’s been zero confusion about the breakfast benefit and it’s been proactively explained to me at all full-service properties that I’ve been to.

2pm Late Checkout

Along with suite upgrades, this was an uneven benefit across the board. No one really seemed to think that late checkout was a benefit that they should try to offer. Both of the Intercontinentals said that they couldn’t accomodate one and, overall, half of the properties I went to refused to even provide a 1pm checkout. Given that IHG only specifies a 2pm late checkout (as opposed to 4pm by Hyatt), this seems like it should be a fairly simple request to accomodate and a place that IHG has much room for improvement.

a patio with chairs and a grill on a deck
Outdoor firepits at the Intercontinental Monterey

Final Thoughts

After staying at ten different properties as an IHG Diamond, I came away more impresssed than not. I was pleasantly surprised with the consistency (and quality) of the free breakfast benefit; at the Intercontinentals it was genuinely delicious.

At most properties, there was a noticeable room upgrade proactively applied to my reservation as well. I was actually quite surprised at the consideration given to rooms at the lower-end properties, who generally seemed to make an effort to get me into a better room.

That said, it’s certainly not perfect. I think the biggest improvement that IHG could make is to remove the uncertainty from upgrades and late checkouts, at least for top-tier elites. If a standard suite is open, give it to them…or at least clearly define what a Diamond member can expect. And for heaven’s sake, guarantee 2pm checkout, except at resorts. Neither of these should be incredibly difficult to execute and would keep most top-tier elite members from feeling as though they have to fight for their benefits.

The other downside of IHG is simply the lack of of great properties domestically. The Intercontinentals I went to were lovely and I continue to be surprised by recently re-modeled Holiday Inns (as well as Kimptons). Overall though, there wasn’t much to be excited about. While I was surprised at the room upgrades and late checkouts provided by the middle-tier properties, most were functional and weathered and not inspiring in the least.

All in all, IHG Diamond status is, at the very least, much more compelling than the old Spire Elite used to be. IHG seemed to want to put a shot across the bow of Marriott and Hilton with the way that they redesigned their program and, with a little more consistency, I think they’re well on the way to doing that. With the two other major brands’ continued movement towards lesser, more inconsistent benefits for their domestic elites, IHG Diamond has an opportunity to assert itself as one of the most desireable elite statuses in the US.

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Carl L

In order to secure an upgrade, I will usually reach out to the GM of the property by e-mail. In the case of the IC San Diego, for example, they gave me a corner view room with expansive city views. At the breakfast, they even comped my wife’s two mimosas. If I hadn’t reached out to request upgrades in advance, however, it is unlikely that I would have received the suites that I have mostly received upon request.

My experience of IHG Diamond is that the breakfast benefit has been consistently better than that offered by Marriott or Hilton. However, in order to get the breakfast benefit, you can’t complete the online check-in, or you will only get the points.


I’ve stayed at two CP’s as a Diamond member. Both times, they gave breakfast vouchers but I was still charged for them at checkout. For the most part, the rest of my stays as a diamond member have been HIX.

IHG sad diamond elite

I stay at a different IHG property every week.
My experience as diamond elite has been sad. Best luck is with hotels in small towns. In large markets with plenty of competition, they are stingy and flat out tell you that their management has decided not to provide any perks


@Tim Steinke Is the free breakfast every day of your stay or only once? Kinda a stupid question but just checking. IK with marriott it is for props that have a choice between pts or breakfast.

Last edited 1 year ago by Scott

Every day.


Thank you.


Actually good question. I had problem at Holiday Inn in Queretaro Mexico with breakfast. They tried to avoid giving it to me at first, then tried getting away with one, finally at check out after contacting manager they deducted all breakfast charges.


Why doesn’t IHG offer a chance at any type of “lifetime” status? All of the nights I’ve spent at IHG could’ve made me Marriott Lifetime Platinum or above. They have fallen to stay at last resort for me. I’ll come back once I complete Lifetime Hilton Diamond in 2024 and Marriott Platinum (not sure when).


I am currently a globalist and was wondering if you would recommend IHG vs marriott vs hilton just from credit card status? Typically stay at hyatts domestically, so mostly internationally.


Depends on where? Internationally, all of the chain’s properties provide much better benefits than the USA properties do. Intercontinentals in Asia are much nicer than the US. They are generally not as fancy as some of the premium hotels from Marriott or Hyatt but they can be 20-30% less expensive. I have a preference for IHG properties in Asia, especially Japan. For Europe, it is hard to beat Marriott’s properties. Every city has multiple Mariott properties at all price levels.


In CHina Marriotts are top notch. So are Hyatts but Hyatt pricing went up, pre-covid experience. Internationally The Intercontinentals and even the Holiday Inns are better than in US where the Holiday Inns and Holiday Inn express can be hit or miss. Some of the franchise holders should be fired from IHG for dirty and not well maintained properties. I even had 1 that contacted me at 4 pm in afternoon when I was enroute to tell me that my reservation was cancelled because someone decided to extend their stay; that was in Memphis, damn Indian (as in India) franchise owner. IHG wasn’t very much help in resolving that issue. Had to travel 30 miles out of way to get hotel because hotels filled up by early evening. Been bitter about IHG ever since but I have a lot of points so still stay there when points used. Now when paying out of pocket, I go to nice ocmpetitive class or better.


Does Intercontinental Ambassador guarantee 4 pm late checkout at Intercontinental properties? Did you stay at the two Intercontinentals before purchasing Ambassador Status?

Teresa Henning

I received the free breakfast but was charged 4.00 for orange juice. Only allowed one drink I did have coffee. Diamond Status

John Widdicomb

Please…lose “That said”. iI adds nothing to your commentary . You used that useless cliche twice.


Nobody like a pedant.


Meow, Mister Crankypants


Is there a link that I can still sign up for this?


My personal experience has been good. Hotel Indigo in El Paso upgraded to a higher view and given vouchers for free breakfast at the restaurant downstairs.

San Diego Intercontinental upgraded to a higher view facing North so we could watch the San Diego Christmas boat parade. Also free breakfast in the Lobby restaurant.

Will be at the Hotel Indigo in Austin shortly. Not expecting any upgrades due to it being sold out for MotoGP.


There must be a million posts on the blogosphere about how great Hyatt Globalist is. It’s nice see see an article looking at your experience with IHG Diamond.

Frequent Miler Superfan

What is the difference between IHG Diamond and IHG Ambassador? I thought Diamond was top tier?


There is Diamond and Diamond Ambassador. Ambassador is specific to the IC Hotel brand IIRC.


What are your thoughts on IHG diamond status vs Hyatt Globalist? I currently have 20 nights already with IHG this year, and will have 20 stays in the next two months, which would make me eligible for the 40 elite night reward (Club Access +Suite Upgrade). However I saw that Hyatt had the 20 night globalist challenge and wondered which one would be more worthwhile, as I wouldn’t get free breakfast during that time.

FNT Delta Diamond

The biggest problem with Hyatt is actually two problems.

First, it’s the footprint. In most markets I go to, the only Hyatt option if there is even a Hyatt option is a dumpy Hyatt Place. I go out of my way to avoid Aimbridge properties. Aimbridge manages many, if not most, Hyatt Place properties. I would much rather spend the night at a Holiday Inn Express or Holiday Inn than a Hyatt Place.

Second, Hyatt doesn’t consistently award points for F&B incidental spending. When I stay at a full-service property, I typically eat at the hotel. Often I’ll order a bottle of wine if there isn’t something drinkable by the glass. So figure $40-$50 for a bottle of wine and $20-$35 for an entree before tip and tax. That’s $85 in qualified spending for points. I also regularly entertain clients or prospects if the full-service hotel has an acceptable bar or restaurant. If I’m entertaining, we could be talking about a $100 bottle of wine, appetizers, entrees, and desserts before tip and tax. I’ve regularly had $700 in dinner charges before tip and tax.

Points from food and booze add up after a while.

I’m not going to stay at a chain that cheats me on my spending for points. And at IHG, my customers, clients or prospects would laugh if I offered to take them to dinner at the Holiday Inn or a Crowne Plaza.

Last edited 1 year ago by FNT Delta Diamond
Points Adventure

Interesting comment on Hyatt Place. I stay in a lot of limited service hotels, and HP is probably my favorite brand. All the ones I’ve been to have been great, including Provo, Ashville, Moab, Phoenix-Mesa, St George, Cabo, and more. Staybridge is another consistent winner for me. HIE and HI are a notch below, but I appreciate them when there’s often no HP around.


Stybridge is good and consistent.


Forgot to mention I am already a Diamond Ambassador so there is an oppurtunity cost too for participating in the challenge, but in general have not really stayed in hyatt hotels before mostly crowne plaze intercontientnal or holiday inn


Jay, if you already have 20 nights at IHG this year, and are Diamond Ambassador, I’d stick to IHG. You’d be giving up 20 nights of free breakfasts and potential upgrades to switch to Hyatt now, and free lounge is a valuable benefit. Finally, all the nights you are doing at IHG will count towards Royal Ambassador.


There’s such a big difference between elite benefits domestically and outside the USA – even as a Platinum before last year’s Diamond promo, I would generally get a significant upgrade (even to junior suites, occasionally) and had great luck with early check-in/late check-out in Asia and Australia, even though those weren’t guaranteed benefits. I’m really curious to see how that shakes out this summer with higher travel demand (but higher status) when I travel this summer.


I came to say this. As just a platinum ambassador over the past 5 years or so, we are probably 80 percent suite upgrade in places like Kenya, Egypt, Japan, Spain and Greece. Mostly Intercontinental’s but some Crown Plaza’s. I would like to put that down to unfailing polite Southern hospitality but I honestly think smiling and small talk may cost you points in Europe at least. I certainly don’t count on it but am always pleased when it happens. We also find the front desk always willing to help with late checkout.