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When it comes to getting the most out of your travel experiences, hotel elite status plays a key role, ensuring that your hotel stays are both comfortable and rewarding. However, it can be challenging to arrive at an actual numerical value for this status given the array of different perks. Today I’ll wrap up the 2019 version of my annual series that evaluates each of the major hotel chains to try to accomplish this exact task. Previous posts included Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt, and my final entry today will focus on IHG Rewards Club.
Before getting into the calculations, I want to remind readers that this approach represents just one methodology for determining the value of IHG elite status. You may put more or less value on the benefits I outline below, or you may be entirely loyal to a single brand in the IHG portfolio (like Kimpton and its fantastic properties). It all depends on your individual circumstances and typical travel patterns, so as always, please adjust the numbers to more closely reflect your own preferences.
In addition, like all of the previous entries in this series, the numbers I’ve included below reflect the value you’d get after reaching the given status level and then continuing to requalify in future years. Many of you may be starting from scratch and wondering how to modify the analysis given that your benefits will incrementally improve as you climb the IHG elite status ladder. To help those of you in that boat, I have included a link to an Excel spreadsheet below that will estimate the value you’d get as your status changes.
Finally, it’s important to note the key assumptions that I’m using to arrive at a final value for each tier of IHG elite status:
- You spend 20% more nights than the minimum required for the given status level.
- You spend an average of $150 per night.
- Your average stay is 2 nights.
I’ll also use the consistent assumption for IHG Rewards that I used for other programs:
- Your stays are evenly split between full-service properties (like InterContinental or Crowne Plaza) and limited-service properties (like Holiday Inn Express).
Please adjust these assumptions if your typical travel patterns are significantly different.
Two final details before jumping into the calculations…as always, I’m using TPG’s most recent valuations for any bonus points earned, with IHG points coming in at 0.5 cents apiece. In addition, I’m rounding all values to the nearest $5 to make the math a bit simpler.
With all that out of the way, how much value can you get out of the IHG Rewards Club and its three elite status tiers? Here’s my analysis:
IHG Gold Elite ($60)
The lowest tier in the IHG Rewards Club is Gold Elite status, which is typically earned after 10 qualifying nights or 10,000 elite-qualifying points. For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 12 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
- Bonus points ($10): As a Gold member, you’ll earn 10% more points than non-elite members, giving you an additional point per dollar spent at most properties (0.5 extra points at Staybridge and Candlewood Suites locations). With $150 per night across 12 nights, you’ll spend $1,800 and thus earn 1,800 extra points, worth $9.
- Late checkout ($20): All elite members are eligible for late checkout within the IHG portfolio. However, neither the benefits page nor the program’s terms and conditions specify how late this is available. There are also two disclaimers indicating that it “may not be available in all regions” and is “subject to availability.” As a result, I’ll peg this at the same value I used for Marriott.
- Points don’t expire ($10): An interesting aspect of the IHG Rewards program is that your points don’t expire as long as you hold elite status, whereas regular Club members will lose any points they’ve earned after 12 months of inactivity. It’s pretty easy to earn (or redeem) points in some way each year, but it’s nice to not worry about it. I’ll peg this at $10.
- Priority check-in ($10): Gold members also have access to a priority check-in line, though I have rarely found this to be a valuable benefit at any chain where I’ve held elite status, so I’ll peg this at $10.
- Welcome amenity ($10): The final perk offered to Gold Elite members is a welcome amenity. Unfortunately, the program’s website and terms & conditions only specify what this entails at Kimpton properties (a “Raid the Bar” or “Raid the Mini Bar” credit). At other brands, the offering varies but generally includes a choice between bonus points or a drink/snack choice. I’ll peg this at $2 per stay.
IHG Platinum Elite ($880)
The second tier in the IHG Rewards Club is Platinum Elite status, which is typically earned after 40 qualifying nights or 40,000 elite-qualifying points. It’s also included as an automatic benefit on the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (which is no longer available to new applicants). For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 48 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
- Bonus points ($180): Platinum members enjoy a 50% point bonus on paid stays, resulting in an extra 5 points per dollar spent (2.5 additional points at Staybridge and Candlewood properties). Spending $150 per night across 48 nights means a total spend of $7,200 and 36,000 bonus points, worth $180.
- Late checkout ($80): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Points don’t expire ($10): Same benefit and valuation.
- Priority check-in ($40): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Room upgrades ($480): You’re also eligible for space-available complimentary room upgrades as a Platinum member, and the program’s terms and conditions indicate that this is up to the individual hotel but specifically excludes suites. It’s also not available on award stays. I’ve never been wowed by upgrades as a Platinum member, and given the lack of applicability on award reservations, I’ll peg this at just $10 per night.
- Guaranteed availability ($20): Just like with most other programs, Platinum members are guaranteed a paid room with 72 hours of notice, though this contains the usual drawbacks: not applicable to special events, high revenue rates, etc. As a result, I’ll value this at the same $20 used in my prior analyses.
- Welcome amenity ($70): Platinum Elite travelers also enjoy a welcome amenity for every stay. Like the above offering to Gold members, it’ll be a Raid the Bar/Mini Bar credit at Kimpton properties and a choice between bonus points or a food/drink voucher. Since the point offerings are a bit higher, I’ll bump this to $3 per stay.
IHG Spire Elite ($2,185)
The top tier in the IHG Rewards Club is Spire Elite status, which is typically earned after 75 qualifying nights or 75,000 elite-qualifying points. For this analysis, I’ll assume that you complete 90 nights, split evenly between full-service and limited-service properties.
- Late checkout ($150): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Points don’t expire ($10): Same benefit and valuation.
- Priority check-in ($75): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Bonus points ($675): Spire Elite members earn a 100% bonus when staying at most IHG properties, resulting in 10 extra points per dollar spent (5 additional points at Staybridge and Candlewood locations). Spending $150 per night across 90 nights means a total spend of $13,500 and 135,000 bonus points, worth $675.
- Room upgrades ($900): Same benefit, more frequent utilization.
- Guaranteed availability ($20)
- Choice benefit upon qualification ($125): When you reach the qualification threshold for Spire status, you can select one of two choice benefits: 25,000 bonus points (worth $125) or gifting Platinum status to a friend or family member. While the status may appear to be significantly more valuable based on the numbers above, remember that my calculations are based on using the benefits on enough stays/nights to requalify each year, and since Platinum status is easily attainable with a single credit card (and an $89 annual fee), I’ll assume you select the bonus points.
- Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star upgrade ($50): You’ll also be able to upgrade your Hertz Gold Plus Rewards status to Five Star after reaching Spire status, giving you one-class upgrades and bonus points on rentals. This can be a nice perk if you frequently rent from Hertz, but I’ll keep it at a conservative $50.
- Welcome amenity ($180): You’ll also enjoy a welcome amenity on each stay as a Spire Elite member, and while the bonus points are generally the same as the Platinum offering, the food/drink option is typically upgraded. As a result, I’ll bump this to $4 per stay.
What if I’m starting from scratch?
Of course, as I mentioned earlier, all of the numbers above represent values for those of you who have already earned these status levels. However, many of you may be starting from scratch without any IHG Rewards status at all. If this is the case, you won’t enjoy any benefits until you have spent 10 nights and earned Gold status. After that, you won’t enjoy additional benefits until you hit 40 nights to earn Platinum status. How can you quantify this climb up the ranks?
Just like I did for my airline elite status series, I have attempted to answer this by converting the above calculations into a value per night, as follows:
- IHG Gold: $60 / 12 nights = $5 per night
- IHG Platinum: $880 / 48 nights = $18.33 per night
- IHG Spire (minus $125 — explanation below): $2,060 / 90 nights = $22.89 per night
I then created an Excel spreadsheet that uses these numbers to calculate how much value you’d get from the different levels of IHG status given a certain number of nights. All you need to do is change the number in cell A2 to represent the number of nights you expect to stay in 2019, and the spreadsheet will update accordingly.
As noted above, I lowered the IHG Spire valuation in the spreadsheet by $125, since that is a flat amount of value earned with the Choice Benefit at 75 elite-qualifying nights. As a result, you’ll see a separate line item for this.
For example, you’ll see that I have pre-loaded 60 nights. If you’re starting from scratch, you’d get no benefits for the first 10 nights, then enjoy Gold benefits for the next 30 nights (at a rate of $5 per night) and then enjoy Platinum benefits for the last 10 nights (at a rate of $18.33 per night). This means that if you’re starting from scratch and estimate that you’ll spend 60 nights in IHG hotels in 2019, you’d be able to get roughly $516.67 worth of perks from the program.
Again, feel free to update the numbers for each tier (loaded into the “Base Data” tab of the spreadsheet) based on your own personal valuation.
Is it worth it?
So given these values, is it worth pursuing elite status (or the next tier of elite status) with IHG Rewards? Just like with any analysis we undertake here at TPG, there isn’t an easy answer to this, as it depends entirely on your individual situation. However, here are a few over-arching questions that can help you arrive at a decision:
- How much will you travel in the future? When you’re pursuing elite status, it’s critical to think about how much you’ll be traveling in the future. If you push hard to earn Spire Elite, for example, the valuable perks outlined above only apply when you actually travel.
- What’s the incremental value of one tier over another? Many of you may wind up within striking distance of the next tier, so be sure to consider whether the benefits are worth pushing for it. There’s no sense in going out of your way for perks that don’t matter to you.
- How well does IHG’s geographical coverage match your typical travel patterns? There’s really no point in pursuing elite status with a hotel chain if you can’t feasibly stay at one (or more) of its properties on a regular basis. Be sure to consider IHG’s hotels in and around your common destinations.
- How sensitive are you to price and convenience? There are many tradeoffs in this hobby, and one of the most common is deciding whether to use your preferred airline or hotel chain when it’s not the most convenient or cheapest. Would you stay at a Holiday Inn or Crowne Plaza if there was another brand that was cheaper and/or more convenient to where you need to be? If the answer is no, it may not be worth going out of your way to earn elite status with IHG (or elite status with any hotel chain, for that matter).
- Is a credit card a better option? As mentioned above, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer available) give you automatic Platinum status for as long as you’re a cardholder. As a result, you may be better off simply opening the IHG Premier Credit Card and utilizing the benefits without worrying about qualifying (or requalifying) the hard way.
These questions are also not easy to answer, as there are many different factors that come into play with each of them. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile exercise to evaluate your own situation as you determine if IHG elite status is for you.
Hotel elite status can be a terrific way to maximize your earning potential and enjoy a variety of on-property perks for your next trip, but it can be challenging to put a number on just how valuable the different status levels are with a given program. If the Marriott issues or any other reason has gotten you thinking about shifting your loyalties to another chain in 2019, hopefully this post has given you an idea of how much you can get out of each tier of the IHG Rewards Club over the course of the year.
Featured photo courtesy of the InterContinental Hong Kong.
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