Going for Diamond: Why I enrolled in IHG's lucrative status challenge
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available.
In mid-May, IHG announced a new status challenge. This status challenge, which requires you to register by July 31, 2022, is relatively lucrative — especially now that the new IHG One Rewards program benefits are live.
Unlike many hotel promotions, you might not want to register now, though. Instead, register shortly before your next stay or July 31 (whichever comes sooner), since your 120-day challenge period starts when you register.
The challenge provides Platinum Elite status during the challenge period, and you can earn Platinum Elite status through the end of 2023 by staying five qualifying nights during the 120-day period. However, if you stay 15 qualifying nights within the challenge period, you can snag Diamond Elite status through the end of 2023.
I shared my IHG One Rewards elite status plans a few months ago, but this status challenge made me reconsider my plans once again.
So, here's why I enrolled in IHG's status challenge and my current plans for IHG One Rewards status and milestone rewards this year.
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Changes to the IHG loyalty program this year
It's impossible to discuss why this status challenge encouraged me to reconsider my approach to the IHG One Rewards program this year without discussing how IHG's loyalty program has changed in the first five months of 2022.
In short, it's been a difficult year for IHG loyalists to make elite status plans. In January, IHG told TPG it would continue offering reduced elite status requirements in 2022. However, two weeks later, IHG announced changes to its elite status tiers, including requirements and bonus earnings.
I wasn't alone in my frustration that IHG moved its elite status goal posts in mid-January. It also didn't help that although IHG said it would introduce new elite benefits later in the year, it couldn't offer any concrete information about the new benefits.
So, I moved my focus — and my stays — to World of Hyatt (where I'm working to requalify for Globalist status) and Marriott Bonvoy (where I'm working to requalify for at least Platinum Elite status) until IHG introduced its new IHG One Rewards program in April.
Highlights of the new IHG One Rewards program include free breakfast for Diamond Elite members as a welcome amenity choice at select brands and more opportunities for elite members to receive early check-in, late checkout and room upgrades.
IHG also introduced milestone rewards, including bonus points, food and beverage rewards, confirmable suite upgrades and an annual lounge membership. IHG members can choose milestone rewards after every 10 qualifying nights stayed, starting at 20 nights each calendar year. Also, the ability to choose an annual lounge membership after 40 nights in a year was enough to grab my attention.
Related: Comparing 4 top hotel elite status levels — and how to earn them in 2022
My approach to IHG One Rewards status before the status challenge
Once I learned of the milestone rewards, I wanted access to an annual lounge membership. Even though I usually stay at properties offering relatively inexpensive award nights or paid rates, I've stayed at numerous Crowne Plaza and InterContinental hotels with club lounges. So, I was eager to earn this milestone perk.
However, I usually travel with my husband, and we both have several stays already booked with IHG for mid to late 2022 and into 2023. Unfortunately, many of the rates have increased since we booked. So, we can't easily shift most of our stays into one of our accounts and then focus on that account reaching 40 nights.
Each of us has the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card, which provides automatic Platinum Elite status as a cardholder perk. So, when I wrote about my plans for IHG One Rewards elite status in April after IHG unveiled the details of its new IHG One Rewards program, I said neither of us would strive for Diamond Elite status. Instead, we'd rely on the automatic Platinum Elite status from our IHG Premier Cards and focus on earning milestone rewards.
In particular, I expected my husband would go for 40 nights to earn an annual lounge membership since he already has Diamond Elite status through the end of 2022. Meanwhile, I figured I'd go for 20 nights to snag a confirmable suite upgrade. However, our plans changed when IHG announced a new status challenge.
Related: Is hotel elite status worth it anymore?
Why I enrolled in IHG's status challenge
In short, IHG's current status challenge was too good to pass up. Some travelers I know are simply enjoying the Platinum Elite benefits during the 120-day challenge period and potentially staying five nights to earn Platinum Elite status through the end of 2023.
My husband and I will keep Platinum Elite status for as long as we keep our IHG Premier Cards, though. Also, I'm happy to pay the annual fee on the IHG Premier Card since I can easily get more than the card's $99 annual fee from its anniversary night certificate each year. Plus, we get significant value from the card's fourth-night reward benefit. So, getting or earning Platinum Elite status through the challenge isn't valuable to us.
However, snagging Diamond Elite benefits through the end of 2023 would be valuable. Compared to Platinum Elite status, the primary benefits of Diamond Elite status to us would be more bonus points earned on paid stays and breakfast as a welcome amenity at full-service and select-service brands (including Regent, InterContinental, Hualuxe, Hotel Indigo, voco, Crowne Plaza, EVEN Hotels, Holiday Inn and Kimpton).
Although we often stay at Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites — none of which will benefit from the new Diamond Elite breakfast perk — we also stay at a decent number of InterContinental, Hotel Indigo, voco, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn properties while traveling abroad.
Related: Quick points: Shortcut elite perks with status matches
Securing 15 qualifying nights in 120 days is a very reasonable target for me to reach, especially since I'd already booked an 11-night IHG stay in Bangkok this July. I'd redeemed IHG points for my 11-night stay in Bangkok, but was able to cancel my award and book a paid stay at the same property for just $51 per night. Best of all, IHG's current bonus points promotion lets me earn double base points on my second through fifth qualifying nights and triple base points on my sixth through 11th qualifying nights.
Then, I'll need just four more nights to complete the challenge. I booked a four-night stay in Phuket, Thailand, for just $45 per night that would work. We're also spending time in Dubai, Seoul and Johannesburg over the next few months, and there are also reasonably priced IHG hotels in each of these destinations.
In fact, between the status challenge and bonus points promotion, my husband may also enroll in the status challenge and stay 15 nights during his 120-day challenge period to extend his Diamond Elite status through the end of 2023.
You may wonder why we'd both want Diamond Elite status. It's not necessary, as evidenced by our willingness before IHG announced the challenge to stick with the automatic Platinum Elite status we get from our IHG Premier Cards. However, we both have a sizable balance of IHG points right now. And pre-pandemic, we often maxed out the number of IHG points you can buy per account in a calendar year.
So, we prefer to book award stays using both of our accounts. We could book expensive paid stays and stays at full-service brands where we want breakfast with the Diamond Elite account and other stays with the Platinum Elite account. But, especially considering we're on track to earn the other hotel elite statuses that we want, using IHG's status challenge to each snag Diamond Elite status through the end of 2023 is appealing.
Related: 5 of the easiest elite statuses to earn, and why you want them
Earning top-tier IHG One Rewards elite status after just 15 qualifying nights during this status challenge is an amazing deal. Of course, the new IHG One Rewards benefits just launched on June 8, so we've yet to see just how good the complimentary upgrades for Platinum Elite and Diamond Elites, free breakfast at select brands for Diamond Elites and late checkout for all members will be.
However, especially considering the excellent value I'm often able to get when redeeming IHG points — frequently much higher than TPG's valuation of 0.5 cents per point — I'm hopeful that the new IHG One Rewards program will continue to provide good value to me.