Wow! IHG to offer real elite benefits. Watch out Marriott.

49

IHG has finally released details of their new rewards program.  The new program borrows liberally from Hyatt and, in my opinion, competes very well with Marriott.  Confirmed suite upgrades, free lounge access, and free breakfast are all coming soon…

With IHG’s new IHG One Rewards program, top-tier Diamond elites will get daily free hot breakfast for two.  Compared to Marriott, where you need a cheat sheet to figure out whether you’ll get breakfast, IHG has relatively few exclusions.

Most other benefits are obtained through IHG’s Milestone Rewards.  Sound familiar?  Yes, they copied and pasted from Hyatt’s Milestone Rewards.  In my opinion, that’s a good thing.  Just like with Hyatt, IHG’s Milestone Rewards begin at 20 nights and new milestone awards are available every 10 nights thereafter, up to 100 nights.  And, just like Hyatt, you sometimes get to choose between multiple rewards, and sometimes you get more than one.  And, just like Hyatt, some of the milestone rewards offer confirmable suite upgrades (not as good as Hyatt’s) or lounge access (better than Hyatt’s).

Key dates

  • April 13th 2022: New tier and bonus point earnings begin.  This info will be reflected in all member accounts on or before April 17, 2022.
  • Early June 2022: All new member benefits and Milestone Rewards will be available.  We will update with more specific dates as we learn them.

New name & logo

Over the years, if memory serves, IHG’s rewards program has morphed from Priority Club, to IHG Rewards Club, to IHG Rewards, and now to IHG One Rewards.  And their new logo includes the number 1 styled to look like a bridge.

While I don’t care much about program names or logos, I do think the IHG team has bettered both World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy on both accounts.  Of course, both of those programs set a pretty low bar.  My only nitpick is that while I see a bridge in the logo, my brain doesn’t want to interpret it as the number 1.  That’s probably a good thing since the word “one” is spelled out to the right of the 1-bridge.

New Elite Benefits

The above chart shows the benefits members get with each elite level.  As a reminder, IHG Premier and Premier Business cards offer automatic Platinum status; and cardholders can get Diamond status with $40K annual spend (see: Are the IHG Premier cards worth our big spend?).

Here’s my take on some of the key benefits:

  • Bonus Points: The ability to earn as much as a 100% bonus on paid stays is pretty good.  Personally, I don’t tend to have many paid stays, though, so I don’t get too excited about this.
  • Reward Night Discounts (Platinum and Diamond Benefit): It’s hard to judge how valuable this will be since we don’t know what the discounts will be or how often they’ll be offered.  My guess is that IHG will offer intermittent discounts similar to their recent 20% discount, but only for high level elites.  This has potential to be a very valuable benefit for those who book awards often.  Ironically, for those who own the old IHG Select card which offers Platinum status and inflexible 40K free nights, this benefit may be especially useful since these award discounts will make more hotels available for 40K points or less.
  • Complementary Upgrades (Platinum and Diamond Benefit): This isn’t really a new benefit, but IHG has informed us that they have taken pains to better educate member hotels so that this benefit will hopefully be implemented better going forward.  Free upgrades can include suites, but I don’t believe that hotels are required to offer them.
  • Free Breakfast Welcome Amenity (Diamond Benefit): For those of us who love breakfast, this is huge.  Of the major chains, only Hyatt also offers free hot breakfast for 2 to their top-tier elites with few exclusions.  Sure, Marriott offers free breakfast at many hotels, but they exclude key brands like Design Hotels, EDITION, and Ritz-Carlton; and with some other brands they only offer $10 per day.  IHG has relatively few exclusions.  IHG does exclude limited-service brands that already offer breakfast, Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau)​, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith properties.
  • Early Check-In (Platinum and Diamond Benefit): This could be valuable if many hotels would honor it, but since this benefit is “subject to availability” I don’t have high hopes for it at all.
  • 2pm Late Check-Out (All Members): This “subject to availability” benefit is disappointing.  Where’s the guaranteed 4pm late check out for high level elites?

Missing perks

IHG’s new program does not offer any of the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed 4pm Late Check-Out (Hyatt and Marriott offer this)
  • Free lounge access for high tier elites (Hyatt and Marriott offer this). IHG does offer free lounge access through Milestone Rewards though.
  • Waived resort and destination fees on award stays (Hilton, Hyatt, and Wyndham offer this)
  • Waived resort and destination fees on paid stays (Hyatt offers this to top tier elites)
  • Free parking on award stays (Hyatt offers this to top tier elites)

Milestone Rewards

IHG’s Milestone Rewards are strikingly similar to Hyatt’s Milestone Rewards.  Members begin earning Milestone Rewards once they complete 20 qualifying nights within a calendar year and then again every 10 nights after that, up to 100 nights.

What are qualified nights?
Qualified nights are often referred to as "elite nights". With many hotel chains, you can earn elite status by acquiring a number of qualified elite nights each year. For example, IHG requires earning at 20 elite nights within a calendar year to earn Gold status. IHG members also earn Milestone Rewards beginning with 20 elite nights. Qualified nights include free nights booked with points or certificates as well as paid nights booked directly through IHG.

Key details:

  • Once a milestone is reached, members have 90 days to select a Milestone Rewards choice on the IHG Hotels & Resorts website or IHG One Rewards app.  If a Milestone Rewards choice is not selected within 90 days, the Milestone Rewards choice for that milestone expires and will no longer be available.
  • All Milestone Rewards selections are final.
  • Food & Beverage Rewards and Confirmable Suite Upgrades are valid for 1 year from selection.
  • Annual Lounge Membership is good for the rest of the calendar year in which it is selected and all of the following year.

Confirmable Suite Upgrades

Each Confirmable Suite Upgrade can be used to upgrade up to 5 nights to a base level suite.  Suite upgrades can be confirmed up to 14 days in advance of your stay.  That means that if you book now for a stay 10 months in the future, you’ll have to wait until the stay is two weeks away before you can call to confirm your upgrade.

Additional details:

  • Time window: An upgrade to an entry-level suite, if available, can be confirmed from 14 days before the stay, up to 24 hours before check-in.
  • Number of nights and rooms: The reward is valid for a stay up to 5 nights and available for 1 room per stay.
  • Alternatives: If an entry-level suite is not available, a member has the option to confirm a premium room as an alternative.
  • Valid 12 months: Once a member selects the Confirmable Suite Upgrade as their Milestone choice, they have 12 months to redeem their reward.
  • Paid stays only (at first): Initially, suite upgrades will only be applicable to paid stays, but IHG tells us that their intent is to allow award stays in the future.

Comparison chart:

IHG Marriott Hyatt
# Nights Upgradeable 5 5* 7
Earliest upgrade can be confirmed 14 days in advance 5 days in advance At booking
Upgrade points stays? Not yet Yes Yes
Upgrade free night certificate stay? Not yet Yes No

* Marriott offers 5 1-night Suite Night Awards as a Choice Benefit at 50 elite nights and again at 75 elite nights each year.

Annual Lounge Membership

Annual Lounge Membership is available as a Milestone Reward option at 40 and at 70 nights.  Once a member selects this reward, they will receive Club Lounge access where available, for the registered member plus one additional guest.  Lounge Membership will be valid for the rest of the calendar year in which the reward was selected and all of the following calendar year.

Annual Lounge Membership does not include InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau) or Mr & Mrs Smith properties.

Food & Beverage Rewards

Each Food & Beverage reward is worth $20 in food & beverage credit.  So, when the choice is for 2 Food & Beverage rewards, that is equivalent to $40 in credit altogether.

Benefit Exceptions

There are some exceptions to IHG’s breakfast, lounge, and suite upgrade benefits, as follows:

Free Breakfast Exceptions

For their amenity choice at check-in, Diamond Elite members will have the option of a free daily hot breakfast for up to two guests.  Exclusions:

  • Limited-service brands that already offer breakfast
  • Candlewood Suites
  • Select Kimpton properties. Update: IHG has informed us that all Kimpton properties will offer the free breakfast amenity.
  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations
  • InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau)​
  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith properties

Annual Lounge Membership Exceptions

If a member selects the Annual Lounge Membership as their Milestone Reward at 40 or 70 Nights, they will receive Club Lounge access for the registered member plus one additional guest.  Exclusions:

  • Annual Lounge Membership does not include Club REGENT or Club InterContinental amenities or services beyond the physical Club Lounge.  Note: To be clear, Annual Lounge Membership does include access to Club REGENT and Club InterContinental lounges, but not to additional services (free pressing, farewell amenity, airport transportation, etc.) that may be offered under the same names.
  • InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau)
  • Mr & Mrs Smith properties
  • IHG properties with a restricted Club Lounge due to renovations, closures, or other facility updates.

Confirmable Suite Upgrade Exceptions

Confirmable suite upgrades can be applied at all IHG properties except the following:

  • avid hotels
  • Atwell Suites
  • IHG Army Hotels
  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations
  • Six Senses Resorts & Spas
  • InterContinental Alliance Resorts (Las Vegas and Macau)
  • Mr & Mrs Smith properties

Questions and Answers

Do IHG members lose any benefits with these changes?

A lot is gained, but yes, some benefits are lost:

  • Gold elite members no longer receive a Welcome Amenity Choice at check-in
  • Diamond elite members will not receive exclusive Choice Benefits that were previously only for those reaching Spire elite status (now renamed Diamond).  For example, those earning Spire Elite status could previously select 25,000 bonus points.

What will happen to IHG’s Ambassador status program?

For now, the Ambassador program remains the same.  For details about the program, see: InterContinental Ambassador: elite status you can buy.

What will happen to Kimpton’s Inner Circle?

For now, Kimpton’s Inner Circle program will remain the same.

Does IHG offer a benefit guarantee like Marriott does?

No.

What happens if I don’t select my Milestone Reward?

Once you reach each Milestone Reward threshold you have 90 days to select your reward.  If you don’t select it in time, it’s gone.

Do rollover nights count towards Milestone Rewards?

No.  Rollover nights are only used for achieving elite status levels.  Milestone Rewards must be earned in entirety each calendar year.

What happens if I apply a confirmable suite upgrade but then cancel my stay?

Confirmable Suite Upgrade will be reinstated if the stay is cancelled in advance of the hotel’s cancellation policy timeframe.  The original validity dates will apply.

Can I stack a confirmable suite upgrade with a guaranteed Ambassador upgrade?

No.

Do award nights and free night certificate nights count towards Milestone Rewards?

Yes.

How many qualified nights are earned on 4th Night Free award stays?

We have been told that the free night does count as a qualified elite night, but we are waiting for final confirmation.  So, if you book a four night stay with the fourth night free, you should earn 4 elite qualified nights that will count towards elite status and Milestone Rewards.

My Take

In one fell swoop IHG’s elite program has become a legitimate contender.  I think that IHG’s top tier benefits still fall far short of Hyatt’s, but in some ways they’ve topped Marriott and Hilton.  Here’s a mini side by side comparison of the 4 elite programs:

IHG Marriott Hilton Hyatt
Elite nights required for free breakfast 70 50* 28 60
Elite nights required for unlimited free lounge access 40
(via Milestone Rewards)
50* 42 60
Elite nights required for suite upgrade awards 20
(via Milestone Rewards)
50*
(Via Choice Benefits)
N/A 50
(via Milestone Rewards)
Elite nights required for guaranteed 4pm late check out. N/A 50 N/A 60
Key Credit Card Shortcuts $40K annual spend to get to Diamond status (free breakfast), but no shortcuts for Milestone Rewards) Consumer + Business card = 30 elite nights per year Gold status with $95 Surpass or Business card. Diamond status with $450 Aspire card. World of Hyatt card offers 5 elite nights per year plus 2 nights per $5K spend. Business card offers 5 nights per $10K spend.

* Marriott has many, many brand and individual hotel exceptions where this benefit doesn’t apply.

The reason that I think Hyatt is still way better is that they offer a number of extremely valuable perks in addition to those shown above for top tier elites.  These include waived resort fees on paid stays (additionally, resort fees are waived for all Hyatt members on award stays), free parking on award stays, and Guest of Honor bookings.  Plus, and this is huge, Hyatt still has award charts.

When comparing IHG’s elite program to Marriott’s, I think that IHG is looking pretty darn good.  Marriott has a distinct edge in that there are many shortcuts to Marriott elite status, most of which will result in the 50 nights needed for free breakfast, lounge access, and suite upgrades.  Sure you can spend $40K on IHG’s card to get Diamond status (which offers free breakfast), but you’ll have to earn Milestone Rewards (suite upgrades & lounge access) the hard way.  On the other hand, Marriott has so many exceptions to their benefits that their benefits can be really hard to use.  For example, Ritz-Carlton hotels don’t provide free breakfast, lounge access, or suite upgrades to 50 night Platinum Elites.  And, many individual hotels within brands that should provide these things do not.  If IHG fulfils these benefits as widely as advertised, they’ll be way ahead of Marriott in my book.

When comparing to Hilton, things are less clear.  Hilton’s benefits are far easier to obtain (simply sign up for the Aspire card to get free breakfast and lounge access!), but Hilton doesn’t offer free hot breakfast (their benefit is for continental breakfast outside of the U.S. or a small food & beverage credit within the U.S.).  And Hilton doesn’t have any mechanism to confirm suite upgrades.

My biggest gripes with IHG’s new program are that resort fees are still unavoidable (true with Marriott too), and that there is no guaranteed 4pm late checkout.  I’d also like to have a way to earn elite nights with credit card spend (but that’s less of a gripe than a nice-to-have).

Overall, I’m impressed with IHG’s new program… at least on paper.  The proof, though, will be in the pudding (which may be in the lounge?).  Will we really get the promised suite upgrades, free breakfast, free lounge access, etc.?  Will properties really have learned better how to upgrade high tier elites?  We’ll see!  I’m looking forward to trying it out…

5 4 votes
Post Rating

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

49 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
jiacheng

For the diamond status from $40k spend, do you know when will it expire? Would it be just for this year or until the end of the next year?

ssss

It is not right to lose the 25k points as they were about to post with no warning.

S&S

Thanks for this great write up Greg.
Always a pleasure to read your takes.

The table is handy too.

The changes definitely make IHG worth more than a second look.
Downloading the IHG app right away!

Award Stay Discounts for Elites:
Taj from India used* to offer this benefit for Gold (15% discount( and Platinum members (20% discount), if my memory serves me right.

Not sure which other hotel brand does.

*Appears to be unavailable after a recent transition to something called NeuPass, which unites all Taj brands.

Cheers!
S&S

Seb

The fact that the milestone suite awards are not redeemable on award stays is a huge deal breaker for me. Not to mention as an elite with IHG you would still need to pay for resort fees and parking on award stays and you can’t even combine points for free between family members. Seems like IHG introduced some nice elite benefits but it’s focused on only letting you take advantage of them if you pay for your stay.
At the end of the day competition is always great for the consumer but this just doesn’t move the needle enough for me to switch nights over from the other programs.

Don

I have never offered a continental breakfast at any Hilton hotel, certainly not in the Maldives, Seychelles etc. Does this CB exist?

iamhere

This is clickbate. When you say “wow” it usually means that there is something that will be good. Many of the IHG gold benefits relate to Marriott Platinum and none include the late check out and lounge access. …

[…] afternoon everyone.  I just read about the new IHG One Rewards program and decided to try to book a free night certificate that was above 40,000 IHG Points per night.  […]

Ethan

Can you use the F&B credits when not staying at an IHG hotel?

Aaron

Spent some more time going over the terms and noticed one other oddity – rollover nights are described as “counted towards the Member’s Elite status qualification for the following calendar year”, but there’s no mention of rollover nights counting / not counting towards the next year’s milestone rewards tiers.

Is it safe to assume that 2021 rollover nights will not count towards 2022 milestone rewards tiers? Or similarly rollover over nights from 2022 not counting towards 2023 milestone rewards tiers etc.?

John

I have enjoyed having the Globalist. Should I try for IHG nights or Globalist nights. Easy pick, Globalist. Overall nicer hotels with Hyatt.

Benn

Nice changes but even with six senses (most of them unbookable on points), they’re still lacking a premium footprint.

As bad as Marriott is, they still have a huge edge in terms of their properties which is ultimately the #1 factor for most.

Last edited 5 months ago by Benn
Raylan

I’ve said it elsewhere, but it is extremely disappointing that IHG elected not to permit free transfers of points between household accounts. All of their competitors offer this
and only Marriott limits the volume of points that can be transferred. That’s a glaring omission in my view.

Drew

@Raylan Maybe they will add it later?

Last edited 5 months ago by Drew
LarryInNYC

“And their new logo includes the number 1 styled to look like a bridge.”

No, it’s the number 1 stylized to look like the number 11. Which isn’t confusing at all, IHG.

T. Jones

Lots of nice changes for sure. Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott all offer elites a path to lifetime status – such as they are. I have to wonder. Is IHG planning any changes on this front?

usernamechuck

May be worth noting that credit card bonuses do not count toward point totals (but credit card spend does).

Also interesting: Transfer of IHG® Rewards Points Upon Death. When an IHG Rewards Member passes away, the Member’s Points may be transferred to the IHG Rewards account(s) of the Member’s beneficiary(ies). The request for transfer should be sent to the IHG Rewards Service Centre by the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate, along with court documents showing authority, or by a sole beneficiary, along with copies of the decedent’s will and death certificate. The request must be received within one (1) year of the date of death. Transfer fees will be waived.

Aaron

If you hit 70 nights in mid October – December 2022 can you select annual lounge access on January 1, 2023 and have lounge access for full 2023 and 2024 calendar years?

Aaron

It’s be amazing to get clarity on this. If this works for most folks expecting to hit 40/70 nights in a year it’s make sense to avoid crossing the 40/70 night milestone until Q4.

I’m just under 70 nights right now so would actually need to adjust my summer travel plans to avoid crossing the 70 night milestone threshold to soon.

Aaron

Have you heard back about whether or not it’s IHG’s intention to allow members to select a “Annual Lounge Membership” milestone benefit earned in Q4 2022 in Q1 2023? For validity through Q4 2024 I mean?

Similar to timing qualification for a Southwest Companion pass in January to bring the benefit duration to as close to 2 years as possible.

Aaron

Will milestone rewards for 2022 be available retroactively for those who have already completed a significant number of IHG stays this year?

Similarly if I hit 70 nights before IHG rolls out milestone awards in June 2022 (or likely later with delays) will I be effectively ineligible for the annual lounge membership since I will have crossed the last (70 night) milestone this benefit selection is linked to?

I’m currently at 55+ having renewed Spire at the reduced requirements available earlier this year. I am also likely to cross 70 nights before June 2022 unless I have a reason to intentionally hold off.

Aaron

Awesome! Likely going to hit 70 nights for P1 & P2 this year before June so this will be quite a truckload of bennies to unload on launch day

iahphx

Somewhere along the way, IHG gave me Spire status in a promo and (thanks to the pandemic) has extended it. So I’ll be a Diamond. I mostly stay on award points, many of which I buy on their half price promos. They have a current flash sale going on through 4/14 and, unlike their other point sales, this one seems to work through the regular points.com link that you can reach through topcashback. Not sure if I’ll actually receive that 2% cashback (much less automatically), but today’s program changes (free “nice hotel” breakfast — yay) makes me more interested in buying (and using) IHG points. So I bought some today through the topcashback link..

iahphx

My points.com purchase of IHG points this morning at the 50% discount tracked on topcashback. So ,it would seem, another 2% off.

Aloha808

Thank you!

And I don’t know if it’s “key”, but there’s also the shortcut of 1 elite night for every $5k spend on the Marriott Boundless card.

Last edited 5 months ago by Aloha808
Aloha808

Do you think it’s worth revisiting this article: “Are the IHG Premier cards worth our big spend?” since Diamond elites aren’t getting the 25k point bonus, but they are getting the reward night discounts?
This makes me wish the IHG cards would earn elite nights with spend, especially since some of the other milestone benefits look pretty good, too.

Last edited 5 months ago by Aloha808
Cavedweller

How can I get to Diamond Elite and get a 100% rebate in points on my hotel stay ??
I saw 70-120K at the top I can buy those points ?

Or did I read it wrong ??

THANKs

Last edited 5 months ago by Cavedweller
jeph36

That is not a points rebate, that is an earning bonus on a paid stay. So where non-elite regular customer earns 10 pts/$ for paid stay, Diamond Elite earns 20 pts/$.

Jules

Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised by the new benefits that will be offered to Platinum and Diamond members and I will likely choose to stay at IHG hotels more often going forward. However, one significant issue with the confirmed suite upgrades is that they cannot be used for award bookings and this is unfortunate. Also, a free night should have been included as one or more milestone awards (both Hyatt and Marriott offer this).

Sean

I thought this too. Hyatt offers 2 free nights – at 30 & 60, and there’s nothing like that here.

Jim F.

Curious…what percentage of IHG properties have lounges compared with Hyatt, Marriott, and Hilton?

Aaron

Intercontinental & Regent hotels definitely and many if not most Crowne Plaza properties ex-US. I’d guess possibly some Voco and Indigo hotels as well – with both these brands some hotels are distinctively more upmarket than others – Indigos especially can range from bad airport / college adjacent Aloft quality to decent urban Andaz competitors.

Jason

Great writeup, and I agree with your takes! I’m just worried for you, Greg. You’re leaving yourself open to a post roast. Hilton is conspicuously missing from some comparisons. I understand the narrative is “better than Marriott, worse than Hyatt”, but there are areas where Hilton is relevant to mention. For example, when discussing free breakfast, you mention, “Of the major chains, only Hyatt also offers free hot breakfast for 2 to their top-tier elites with few exclusions.” I know no one like the US breakfast credit with Hilton, but they do offer free breakfast (for up to 2) to their top-tier (and a tier below that) elites with few exceptions.

Tony

Thanks for the very good summary and analysis of the new IHG program. I still have one question. For Milestone Rewards, do award stays count?