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What is IHG Rewards Elite Status Worth in 2016?

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If you’re wondering whether it’s worth meeting the requirements for a specific hotel program status, it helps to know what sort of value you can expect as an elite member. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen continues the hotel portion of his series on elite statuses by examining how much value you can get with the different levels of the IHG Rewards program.

Here at TPG we’re constantly asked questions like, “Is it worth it for me to earn ____ status with ____ airline/hotel chain?” It can be quite difficult to answer this question definitively, as everyone values the perks that come with elite status differently. Last month, I kicked off an update of last year’s series that quantified the value of elite status at the various hotel chains by looking at the Hilton HHonors and Hyatt Gold Passport programs. Today, I’ll continue the series with the loyalty program for Holiday Inns and InterContinental properties: IHG Rewards.

ihg
What is IHG elite status worth?

Before we get to the analysis, a couple of disclaimers. First, it’s important to note that these mathematical analyses represent just one way of calculating the value you’d get out of a given elite status level. You probably have your own way of calculating how much value you can get from these programs; if you travel exclusively for work and rarely spend time in your room, you may not care about upgrades, and if you aren’t a big breakfast eater, the free breakfast benefit probably won’t matter much either. Just like with any analysis, feel free to adjust the numbers to make it more relevant to your own personal situation.

Second, these numbers are all based on the benefits you’d enjoy after achieving the given status level and continuing to qualify each year thereafter. If you’re starting from scratch or if you suddenly have a drop-off in your travel, the calculations become significantly more complicated.

IHG Elite qualification
For this analysis, I’ll assume that you overqualified by 20% for each of IHG’s elite levels.

This brings me to the third and final critical part of this analysis: the underlying assumptions I’m making. To really hit a value for benefits, I have to assume a certain amount of traveling and a certain amount of spending with the given hotel chain. For the sake of the hotel portion of the series, I’m making the following assumptions:

  • You complete 20% more stays than the minimum required for a given status level.
  • You spend an average of $150 per night on qualifying charges (note that I am using nightly spending instead of total spending per stay given IHG’s qualification criteria).
  • You spend 40% of your stays at full-service properties (like InterContinental) and 60% at discount properties (like Holiday Inn Express).

As always, be sure to adjust these numbers based on your given travel patterns. Those who stay almost exclusively in InterContinental properties may wind up paying significantly more per night, while those who typically travel outside of major metropolitan areas will probably stay in more discount properties.

Three final bits of information: For the sake of this analysis, I’m valuing any bonus points earned based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg IHG points at 0.7 cents apiece. In addition, I’m rounding all of the individual benefit valuations to the nearest $5 to make the math a bit simpler. Finally, I’m not including benefits offered to all guests, like the complimentary internet perk that was extended to all properties as of July 2014.

So, all that being said, where do the three levels of the IHG Rewards program land? Here’s my analysis:

IHG Rewards Club Gold ($25)

ihg
You’ll earn bonus points on paid stays at all IHG properties as a Gold Elite member.

The lowest level in IHG’s program is Gold Elite status, which is typically earned after 10 nights or 10,000 elite-qualifying points. For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on completing 12 nights (five at full-service, seven at discount properties) and spending $150 on each one (so a total spend of $1,800).

  • 10% point bonus ($15): Gold members will earn a 10% point bonus on paid stays, and since regular members earn 10 points per dollar, this equates to an additional point per dollar. With $1,800 in spending, you’d take home an extra 1,800 points, worth $12.60.
  • Priority check-in ($10): As a Gold member, you can take advantage of priority check-in when you arrive, though I’ve found that this rarely results in an expedited process. I’ll peg this at $10.

IHG Rewards Club Platinum ($770)

Holiday-inn-bali
Platinum Elite members can enjoy room upgrades, but don’t count on a suite or specialty room.

The middle level in IHG’s program is Platinum Elite status, which is typically earned after 40 nights or 40,000 elite-qualifying points. It’s also included as an automatic benefit on the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card. For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on completing 48 nights (19 at full service, 29 at discount properties) and spending $150 on each one (so a total spend of $7,200).

  • 50% point bonus ($250): As a Platinum member, you’ll get 50% more points than a regular member, an extra 5 points per dollar spent. With $7,200 in spending, that equates to 36,000 bonus points, worth $252.
  • Priority check-in ($20): Platinum members will enjoy the same priority check-in as Gold members, though again this benefit is rarely worth anything significant. Still, I bumped up the value to $20 given more frequent utilization.
  • Complimentary room upgrades ($480): You’ll also be eligible for complimentary room upgrades as a Platinum Elite member. The terms and conditions of the program indicate that this is up to the individual hotel, and “might include rooms on higher floors, corner rooms, newly renovated rooms, or rooms with preferred views.” However, it excludes suites and specialty rooms and doesn’t apply to reward reservations, so I’ll assume a relatively conservative estimate of $10 per night.
  • Guaranteed room availability ($20): This benefit is similar to those offered at other chains, where you’re guaranteed a room at least 72 hours before arrival. However, like others, these rates can be quite pricey and hotels do have an out “during special events that result in extraordinary room demand.”

IHG Rewards Club Spire ($2,070)

The hillside InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Vietnam is a great redemption spot
Spire is the newest elite tier in the IHG Rewards Club, but the benefits don’t really compare to other programs’ top tiers.

The top level in IHG’s program is Spire Elite status, which was just added as of July 2015. It is typically earned after 75 nights or 75,000 elite-qualifying points, though some lucky members enjoyed an upgrade to Spire when the sign-up bonus from the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card posted as elite-qualifying points. For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on completing 90 nights (36 at full service, 54 at discount properties) and spending $150 on each one (so a total spend of $13,500).

  • 100% point bonus ($945): Spire members earn the highest bonus of all IHG elite members, taking home 100% more points than a regular member. With $13,500 in spending, that equates to 135,000 extra points, worth $945.
  • Priority check-in ($30): Same benefit, more frequent usage.
  • Complimentary room upgrades ($900): Same benefit, more frequent usage.
  • Guaranteed room availability ($20)
  • Choice benefit upon qualification ($175): When you hit the 75-night threshold to qualify for Spire status, you can select a choice benefit of either 25,000 points or gifting Platinum status to a friend or family member. It’s hard to value a gift of Platinum elite status at more than $49 (since you can effectively gift the status by opening an IHG credit card), so I’d suggest going with the points. At 0.7 cents apiece, that’s a value of $175.

Is It Worth It?

Intercontinental Hong Kong featured 2
Whether it’s worth it for you to earn IHG elite status is entirely dependent on your individual situation.

Given these values, is it worth it for you to push for status with IHG Rewards Club? As with any analysis, there isn’t an easy answer to that question, as it entirely depends on your travel patterns. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help make this decision:

1. How much will you be traveling in the future? If you go out of your way to earn a given elite status level, it would be a shame to not utilize the benefits as much as you’d like.

2. What’s the incremental value of one level over another? If you’re close to qualifying for the next level, consider the additional (or enhanced) benefits you’d get. There’s no sense in taking a mattress run to earn status when the additional perks you’d get don’t matter to you.

3. Would you sacrifice price or convenience for elite status? One of the hardest things to quantify in this hobby is whether or not it’s worth booking with your preferred hotel chain if it isn’t the most convenient or cheapest. If you’re attending a conference in a hotel that isn’t your favorite brand, only you can decide whether you should look elsewhere.

While the answers to these questions won’t give you an absolute answer, they can help bring out the key considerations to be made as you’re deciding whether you want to push for the next status level (or whether you want to earn status at all).

Bottom Line

The IHG Rewards Club has never had the appeal of other programs to many points and miles enthusiasts, but I have had some terrific stays at InterContinental properties, and the program regularly runs lucrative promotions and makes it easy to buy points on the cheap. You can also get some great value from the PointBreaks properties that rotate regularly and are bookable for just 5,000 points per night. Even though the elite status benefits may not compare to those of other programs, it may still be a good fit for your travel patterns, and I hope this post has given you a framework for figuring out if it makes sense for you!

For more information about IHG Rewards Club, be sure to check out the following posts:

How do you value IHG elite status?

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