Can I Use IHG Rewards to Book Award Stays at Kimpton Hotels?
TPG reader Matt sent me a message on Facebook to ask about redeeming IHG Rewards:
“Can I use IHG points to book a stay with Kimpton Hotels?”
When IHG acquired Kimpton in 2014, it was announced that the two brands and their loyalty programs would not be merged — at least, not yet. That plan was reinforced in June 2015, when Kimpton CEO Mike DeFrino explained that Kimpton and IHG would "continue to explore how to best bring these two programs together."
Well, it seems like they're still exploring. For now, IHG Rewards Club and Kimpton Karma Rewards remain completely separate. You can't earn or redeem IHG points at Kimpton properties, and vice versa. There's also no overlap in elite benefits, so even top-tier IHG Spire elite status won't get you so much as free Wi-Fi when you stay with Kimpton (though in fairness, you can easily get it as a Tier 1 member by simply signing up with Kimpton's program).
A December email to Karma Rewards members hinted that things could change in 2017, but didn't offer any specifics. For now, IHG seems content to focus on Kimpton's portfolio: The brand lost several properties in San Francisco last year, but it has a number of new hotels opening domestically. It also recently announced plans to expand globally by taking over the Crowne Plaza Amsterdam City Centre.
I think IHG Rewards would be strengthened by bringing Kimpton into the fold, since the brand's only comparable offerings are the 60 or so Hotel Indigo properties worldwide. However, Kimpton has made a point of keeping the Karma Rewards program unique and highly personalized, and bringing the two programs together could threaten that. There's bound to be some pushback from both management and elite members who want to preserve the Kimpton experience.
There are some similarities between IHG's acquisition of Kimpton and the prospective acquisition of Starwood by Marriott. While Starwood is much larger than Kimpton, the Starwood Preferred Guest program has also helped the brand stand out, and many SPG members are concerned about how a merger with Marriott Rewards could shake out (if it comes to fruition at all). In both cases, your best bet is to let management know how you feel, and hope any adjustments that are made will bring out the best of these programs.