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Loyalty Programs Behaving Badly: IHG Devalues PointBreaks

Jan. 31, 2018
7 min read
Loyalty Programs Behaving Badly: IHG Devalues PointBreaks
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At TPG, we like to focus on getting the most value out of loyalty programs as they currently work. There's no value to readers for us to pine over the possibilities of the past. However, sometimes loyalty programs make such negative changes that we have to take a step back to discuss. In the first part of this overdue series, we call out IHG Rewards for making consumer-unfriendly changes to its PointBreaks program.

Years ago, we anxiously awaited the release of each new PointBreaks list, waiting to see which gems would be bookable for just 5,000 points per night over the next few months. While much of the list would understandably be low-category hotels in off-season locations, we could reliably find a couple of InterContinental hotels along with other tempting properties or locations. I've heard from some TPG readers who would wait to see where they would vacation until the PointBreaks list was released.

But, recently, each PointBreaks list has been a disappointment: Each new list includes fewer hotels in generally less-tempting locations. In our efforts to share the best options with readers, we were left highlighting hotels like the Staybridge Suites in Fort Worth and Candlewood Suites in Nashville.

Call me naive, but I was hopeful when IHG announced its "new and improved PointBreaks promotion," revamped to add more levels while doubling the total number of hotels on the list. I figured that this could be a great way for the program to still keep the same ~100 uninspiring hotels it'd otherwise include at 5,000 points each while adding more tempting options at 10,000 and 15,000 points. Sure, the days of getting the InterContinental Phnom Penh at 5,000 points would be over, but this would be a way for IHG to give us the opportunity to book that hotel at 10,000 points per night.

Instead, IHG used this revamp to devalue the list further. Rather than the 100+ hotels it used to include at 5,000 points per night, it listed just 33 hotels at the previously standard rate. That's a drop by over two-thirds. While IHG did double the number of hotels on the previous list — which itself was a low water mark — that was accomplished by adding 116 hotels at 10,000 points per night and 54 hotels at 15,000 points per night.

Hotels like the InterContinental Kiev made their return to the PointBreaks list. Previously listed at 5,000 points per night, it returns at 3x that price. That's not "new and improved."

When looking at the hotels included at 5,000 points per night, you can see how much the program has dried up over time:

Date LaunchedHotels at 5,000
points per night
InterContinental
at 5,000 points
Crowne Plaza
at 5,000 points
Jan 29, 20183306
Oct 30, 2017100010
July 31, 201710617
Apr 24, 201710005
Jan 30, 201712929
Oct 31, 2016127114
July 25, 201613528
Apr 25, 2016140010
Jan 25, 2016171021
Oct 26, 2015190120
July 27, 201516217
May 26, 2015145112
Feb 25, 2015149212

For those wondering if there's a seasonal element to it, here's the total hotel offerings broken out by quarter:

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Hotels at 5,000
points per night
Q1Q2Q3Q4
201833
2017129100106100
2016171140135127
2015149145162190

The IHG Credit Card is Still Worth It

One commenter expressed his frustration with the newest IHG PointBreaks devaluation, saying he'd made a mistake signing up for the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card. While I agree that the devaluation of PointBreaks — and the recent widespread IHG category inflation — has been irritating, that doesn't mean that the card isn't still one of the best deals in travel.

Sure, the points that you earn from the sign-up bonus and spending aren't as valuable as they once were. However, the IHG Rewards Card's benefits still make it well worth the $49 annual fee. Even if you use if for nothing but the free anniversary night, you can get multiples of the annual fee in value from that free night. Plus, you can even save on gas by just having this credit card — even if you use another card for the gas purchase.

Having the card will also generally give you an easy task of "Spend on Your IHG Rewards Club Credit Card" on your quarterly Accelerate promo — requiring just one hotel stay paid for on the credit card to score additional points.

But, my favorite perk of the card is the free Platinum Elite status. While that status might not get you much at US hotels, it regularly scores me suite upgrades, complimentary mini-bars, handwritten welcome letters and many fruit plates in hotels all across the world. Indeed, just this week I was upgraded to a kitchenette suite on the top floor of a hotel in Vancouver just for having status through this credit card.

Bottom Line

I'm disappointed in IHG for making yet another devaluation to its once-great PointBreaks program, especially as it touted an "improved" program. While IHG is discounting more hotels than before, it drastically slashed the number of hotels available at its marquis 5,000 rate.

Plus, this comes just weeks after the loyalty program increased the redemption rates on 499 hotels by an average of 6,844 points per night, offset by dropping just 192 hotels by 5,000 points per night. This one-two punch has us really giving the IHG Rewards program some side-eye.

Thankfully, there's nothing inherently permanent about these changes. Both the reduction in 5,000-point PointBreaks hotels and continuing inflation of hotel categories is a trend that IHG Rewards can reverse going forward. Until then, it's on our list of loyalty programs behaving badly.

If you have a nomination for the Loyalty Programs Behaving Badly series, shoot an email to tips@thepointsguy.com. Please limit your nominations to issues affecting many travelers, not just one-off issues.

Feature photo courtesy IHG

Featured image by Holiday Inn Hotel, Atlanta. (Photo courtesy IHG)

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023