IHG One Rewards' new benefits are now live
In January, IHG announced changes to its elite status tiers, including requirements and bonus earnings. IHG implemented these changes in March alongside an announcement of its new IHG One Rewards program.
IHG said the new perks of the IHG One Rewards program would begin in early June — and today's the day. New elite status benefits are now rolling out to IHG One Rewards accounts, and eligible elite members can use them on their next IHG hotel stay. This includes free breakfast for Diamond elite members, Milestone Rewards and more.
When asked why IHG loyalists should be excited about the new IHG One Rewards program, Heather Balsley, senior vice president of global loyalty and partnerships at IHG Hotels & Resorts, told TPG:
We’ve listened to our guests and what they want from a loyalty program, and we’re delivering on it. We know that no two guests are the same, and even the same guests might want different rewards for different trips. So, we’ve redefined the loyalty experience to offer our members – at our 17 brands and 6,000 hotels globally – faster earn plus more choice and flexibility than ever before. With our new benefits launching, members will have access to exciting new experiences and can now choose rewards that matter most to them, making IHG One Rewards more valuable than ever!
I covered all the new program details in my post about the new IHG One Rewards program. But today, I'll remind you of the new benefits, answer some lingering questions and discuss how the new IHG One Rewards program -- including IHG's current status challenge -- is changing my strategy for hotel elite status.
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The new IHG One Rewards program
You can check out my post on the new IHG One Rewards program for details, but here are the highlights of the new benefits that IHG launched today:
- Free breakfast for Diamond Elite members at full-service brands (when chosen as your welcome amenity).
- More opportunities for complimentary room upgrades for Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members (to suites, if available, or another premium room type).
- The hotel team assigns upgrades before check-in or at check-in, subject to availability.
- Not offered at Holiday Inn Express hotels in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, IHG Army Hotels, Mr & Mrs Smith properties, InterContinental Alliance Resorts in Las Vegas and Macau and IHG Residences.
- More opportunities for early check-in for Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members (if available).
- If Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members request an early check-in, hotels will do their best to have the room ready. The specific time is defined at the hotel's discretion, though.
- Late checkout of up to 2 p.m. for all members (if available).
- Available at all brands. Top-tier members get priority.
- Choice of Milestone Rewards after every 10 nights stayed in a calendar year (starting at 20 nights).
- Dedicated Diamond support line for Diamond Elite members.
- Diamond Elite members can access the dedicated support line by logging in to their account management page on the IHG app or website.
Related: What is IHG One Rewards elite status worth in 2022?
IHG started rolling out the Milestone Rewards platform in member accounts last night. So, if you've stayed at least 20 nights so far this year with IHG, you can go into your account or to the IHG app and select your Milestone Rewards.
Food and beverage rewards aren't available for use yet. However, you can still select food and beverage rewards for use later this year.
I asked an IHG spokesperson what happens to members who are midstay on June 8 and want to enjoy the new IHG One Rewards perks, such as the choice of breakfast as a welcome amenity for Diamond Elite members. The spokesperson responded:
We know members who have checked in earlier and are still on-property on June 8 may want to experience the new program benefits (e.g., a Diamond Elite member may request their Welcome Amenity choice of free breakfast). In this case, we recommend a member reach out to the front desk who can help members receive this benefit for the remainder of their stay to ensure they have a great member experience.
Related: 5 ways to get your hotel breakfast for free
I also tried to clarify some of the benefits. For example, I asked whether IHG requires hotels to upgrade members to the best available room type. But I didn't get a clear answer. Instead, an IHG spokesperson told me:
Complimentary Upgrades are subject to availability, at the hotel’s discretion, and will only apply to the member’s personal guest room. Upgrades may include next best available room, such as suites, rooms on higher floors, corner rooms, newly renovated rooms, or rooms with preferred views. Some brands with limited room types – for example, Holiday Inn Express or avid hotels – might have limited ability to upgrade members to a different room category and so an upgrade may be to a higher floor or better view within the same room category.
Some properties will likely be more generous with complimentary upgrades than others. It's unclear at this point whether IHG has changed the incentive system in a way that encourages properties to provide more generous upgrades to elite members.
Finally, reward night discounts are a new benefit of Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite status. Although IHG hasn't announced the first set of these discounts under the IHG One Rewards program, IHG has told TPG that these discounts will be similar to the 20% off reward night discount earlier this year.
Related: IHG's credit card portfolio gets a major revamp — here are all the changes you need to know
My approach to IHG One Rewards status in 2022
I have the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card, which offers automatic Platinum Elite status as a cardholder benefit. But, when IHG announced the new Diamond Elite benefits in March, I seriously considered whether I should strive to earn Diamond Elite status in 2022. But 70 nights or 120,000 elite-qualifying points is a lot — especially considering I'd mostly stayed with Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt in the first months of 2022.
In the end, I decided to chase Milestone Rewards instead of Diamond Elite status with IHG. After all, I will keep Platinum Elite status long-term as a cardholder of the IHG Premier.
I decided to aim for 40 IHG nights, as this would allow me to choose from the following Milestone Rewards:
- 20 nights: 5,000 bonus points, two food and beverage rewards or one confirmable suite upgrade (choose one).
- I'll choose the confirmable suite upgrades.
- 30 nights: 5,000 bonus points or two food and beverage rewards (choose one).
- I'll give the food and beverage rewards a try.
- 40 nights: 10,000 bonus points, five food and beverage rewards, one confirmable suite upgrade or one annual lounge membership (choose two, although you can only choose the suite upgrade or lounge membership once at this milestone).
- I'm aiming for this tier to earn the lounge membership. I'm not sure what my second pick will be.
IHG One Rewards offers Milestone Rewards for up to 100 nights. But, as my goal is only to reach 40 nights this year, I didn't include the other Milestone Rewards options in the above list.
But, IHG announced a new status challenge in May. And this made me reconsider my approach toward IHG elite status yet again.
Through the end of July, members of various other hotel loyalty programs can enroll in a status challenge with IHG One Rewards. Once you enroll, you'll get Platinum Elite status for 120 days. If you stay five qualifying nights with IHG during the 120 days, you'll keep Platinum Elite status through 2023. And if you stay a total of 15 qualifying nights with IHG during the 120 days, you'll get Diamond Elite status through the end of 2023.
I plan to earn Diamond Elite status through the challenge. Award nights don't count for IHG's status challenge, so I canceled an 11-night award stay in Bangkok this summer and rebooked at a paid rate of $51 per night. I'll pick up the final four nights I need either in Dubai or Phuket, Thailand, before my 120-day challenge window is over.
Related: Earn up to quadruple base points with IHG One Rewards' current promotion
The new IHG One Rewards program should be a positive for most travelers. Most elite tiers now feature higher earning rates on stays. Diamond Elite members can now select breakfast for two guests as a welcome amenity at full-service brands. And Milestone Rewards provide some valuable perks, including food and beverage rewards, confirmable suite upgrades and annual lounge memberships.
However, you'll find the new requirements more difficult if you prefer to qualify for Platinum Elite or Diamond Elite (formally Spire Elite) through elite-qualifying points. And if you got value from earning elite-qualifying points by spending on IHG credit cards, know that credit card spending will no longer earn elite-qualifying points.
If you want to give the IHG One Rewards program a try, consider signing up for IHG's current status challenge or opening an IHG Rewards credit card such as the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card. I'm happy to pay the annual fee on the IHG Premier each year and enjoy the Platinum Elite status I get as a cardholder. But I'm also using the status challenge this summer to snag Diamond Elite status after staying just 15 nights.