Taking IHG Diamond status for a spin

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I finally had a chance to try out IHG’s new Diamond benefits!  Earlier this year IHG rolled out massive changes to their co-branded credit cards and rewards program.  Some of the best credit card changes include the ability to top-off IHG Premier card 40K free night certificates with points, a base earn rate of 3 points per dollar (instead of 1x previously), and the ability to earn top-tier Diamond status with $40K spend.  Some of the best program changes include guaranteed free breakfast as a welcome choice for Diamond elites, and Milestone Rewards that include suite upgrades starting at 20 nights, and annual lounge membership starting at 40 nights.  You can find full details in these posts: Wow! IHG to offer real elite benefits and IHG Card Changes: New Biz Card, Higher Earning, Top Up Certs With Points & More.

a bowl of fruit and a cup of liquid
Yogurt parfait. Daily breakfast for two was free as a welcome amenity choice for Diamond elite members.

Nick and I were invited to Miami as part of a Bilt advisory group we participate in. We each paid our own way for flights, but Bilt paid for our stays at the Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel.  I had Diamond status because it was offered to me by IHG when they were rolling out the new program so that I could try out the new benefits.  Nick had Diamond status because he took advantage of an instant status match (no longer available) that he had learned about on our Frequent Miler Insiders Group last week (unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to post details to the blog before the deal died).  Even though some employees at the hotel knew that there were a bunch of “influencers” in the Bilt group, nothing about the stay suggested that they were treating us better than regular IHG elite members, so I feel reasonably confident that our experiences were the new typical for Diamond Elite members.

For my review of this stay, please see: IHG’s Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel South Beach, Miami. Bottom Line Review.

In the following sections I’ll describe various elite benefits that we should get as Diamond Elites, along with what actually happened…

Room Upgrade (No luck)

a bed in a room
Greg’s room
a bathroom with a glass shower and a sink
Greg’s bathroom
a window with a view of a courtyard and trees
Greg’s view
a bedroom with a bed and a chair
Nick’s room

Platinum and Diamond elites are eligible for room upgrades, subject to availability.  It seems that upgraded rooms weren’t available.  We didn’t get upgraded.  As you can see above, I had a regular king room, a tiny bathroom, and no view or ocean or pool.  Nick had a similar room and view.  All that said, as far as I can tell, upgraded rooms have pool views and that means being subject to loud music day and night.  Maybe they did us a favor.

After check-in, Nick checked IHG’s website to see if they were still selling upgraded rooms for that weekend.  They were not.  Therefore, it makes sense that no upgraded rooms were available.

Bonus Points

Diamond Elites are eligible for 100% point bonus on paid stays.  While my points haven’t actually posted yet, the stay details show that I am in fact going to earn those bonus points:

  • Points to be Earned: 16,140
    • Base Earnings: 8,070
    • Elite Bonus: 8,070

Early Check-In (Untested)

This is another Platinum & Diamond benefit that is subject to availability.  Neither of us got there early enough to test it.

2PM Late Check-Out

All IHG members are eligible for late checkout based on availability.  While neither Nick nor I needed it, Shawn Coomer of Miles to Memories asked for late check out and received it without hesitation.

Free Breakfast Welcome Amenity

a plate of food with a spoon and a spoon
“Fancy” French toast
a bowl of fruit and cereal
Acai Bowl

At check-in, we were each offered our choice of Diamond welcome amenities:

  • Daily free breakfast for 2
  • $30 minibar credit
  • 600 points

Since Nick and I were alone in each room, he took the breakfast to share with me and I took the $30 minibar credit.  I didn’t really want anything from the minibar, but I just couldn’t bring myself to take the paltry 600 points.  It’s stunning the difference in value these choices offer.

Each item I tried over 3 days was very good. Nick was given two breakfast vouchers for each day of the stay.  Breakfast vouchers covered coffee, juice, a main item, and tip for the server (no check was brought to the table unless you ordered a specialty drink).  In practice, I was also able to order a side of fruit at no extra charge.  As you can see in the menu below, the savings were big.  The egg dishes ranged in price from $18 to $22 (or more if you add short-rib or smoked salmon to the eggs benedict), coffee was $5, and juice another $5.  After tax and tip, a couple could easily drop $70 to $80 per day, but it was free with Diamond status.  That’s great.

a menu on a red cover

a menu of a restaurant

Conclusion: Diamond status is legit

Marriott has shown that providing free hot breakfast as an elite benefit is a difficult task (Just look at how many exceptions Marriott has).  Somehow, though, IHG seems to have done it.  The only big exception is with Mrs & Mrs Smith properties, but those aren’t really fully part of the IHG program so that’s understandable.  I realize that this was only one test, but I’m sure that if many IHG properties fail to deliver we’ll hear about that soon from readers (and we will then let you know!).  For now, I’m impressed.

I’m less impressed, of course, with the room upgrade I didn’t get.  But this is a tough one to judge.  Were there better rooms available at all?  On the day of arrival Nick checked to see if upgraded rooms were available for cash bookings but found that there were no suites or upgraded rooms available at all.  That suggests that there truly were no upgrade options for us.

While I still prefer top tier Hyatt elite status, by a large margin, IHG’s program has jumped to a near tie with Marriott in 2nd place.  They still have room to improve though.  I’d love to see them offer guaranteed 4pm late checkout like Marriott and Hyatt do.  And, even more awesome would be to waive resort fees on award stays as Hyatt, Hilton, and Wyndham do.

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