IHG Hotels and Resorts introduces its new IHG One Rewards program
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Editor’s note: The free breakfast welcome amenity choice will be available to Diamond Elite members at full-service brands, including all Kimpton properties. This post initially stated that some Kimpton properties would be excluded.
In January 2022, IHG announced several changes to its elite status tiers. We learned about new tiers, requirements and earning rates that would be implemented in March, although IHG Hotels and Resorts later delayed the implementation to April.
IHG also noted that we could expect some changes to its loyalty program later in the year. Today, IHG unveiled its loyalty program changes, including some exciting improvements.
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New IHG One Rewards program
IHG says that the IHG One Rewards program “will offer industry-leading value and relevant benefits for members to enhance their stays.” Before getting worried, know that most of the IHG Rewards program’s elite benefits are still part of the new IHG One Rewards program. But, here’s a high-level overview of what’s new and changing:
- New tier and bonus point earning structure (originally announced in Jan. 2022) will start today (stays from Jan. 1, 2022, will count; IHG will update your account by April 17, 2022).
- Improved elite benefits (starting in early June 2022):
- Free breakfast for Diamond Elite members as a welcome amenity choice.
- Exclusive access to reward night discount promotions for Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members.
- More opportunities for elite members to receive early check-in, late checkout (if available) and room upgrades (to suites, if available, or another premium room type for Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members).
- Milestone rewards are available for every 10 nights stayed, starting with 20 nights and up to 100 nights (available in early June 2022).
- A new IHG One Rewards mobile app (launching “in the coming weeks;” current app users will be prompted to update their app on their device).
I’ll discuss the new tier structure, improved elite benefits and milestone rewards in more detail in subsequent sections of this article. But, you can also visit IHG’s new IHG One Rewards website and watch a promotional video.
Also, remember IHG and Chase introduced several new and enhanced benefits on the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card and IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card (and launched the IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card) in late March 2022. One of the biggest highlights is that IHG Premier and Premier Business cardholders can now add unlimited points to anniversary free night certificates, allowing members to use these certificates at a wider variety of hotels.
IHG One Rewards elite tiers
In Jan. 2022, IHG announced changes to its elite tiers. However, IHG didn’t implement these changes until today.
Now you’ll need to meet the following requirements if you want to earn IHG One Rewards elite status:
- Club: Requires 0 nights.
- Silver Elite: Requires 10 nights; gives a 20% bonus on top of base points.
- Gold Elite: Requires 20 nights or 40,000 elite-qualifying points; gives a 40% bonus on top of base points (required 10 nights or 10,000 elite-qualifying points in 2019).
- Platinum Elite: Requires 40 nights or 60,000 elite-qualifying points; gives a 60% bonus on top of base points (required 40 nights or 40,000 elite-qualifying points in 2019).
- Diamond Elite: Requires 70 nights or 120,000 elite-qualifying points; gives a 100% bonus on top of base points (required 75 nights or 75,000 elite-qualifying points in 2019 for Spire Elite).
If you held Gold Elite or Platinum Elite status yesterday, you would keep your current tier name through its expiration. But, if you held Spire Elite status yesterday, you’ll soon see your status change to Diamond Elite. IHG says it will update all accounts before or on April 17, 2022.
IHG will consider stays from Jan. 1, 2022, when calculating your elite status tier using the new requirements. However, note that these changes likely put you much further from your desired elite tier. For example, I went from being over halfway to Spire Elite status with 28,132 of the required 55,000 elite-qualifying points to just 23% of the way.
Finally, there’s only one change to which points are elite-qualifying. Sadly, spending on IHG credit cards will no longer earn elite-qualifying points. When asked about this change, an IHG spokesperson noted that spending thresholds to obtain higher elite status levels on select IHG cards effectively replace the ability to earn elite-qualifying points through credit card spending.
Improved IHG One Rewards elite perks
The new IHG One Rewards elite tiers and earning rates described above start today. But, the new elite perks won’t begin until June 2022. Here’s an overview of the new perks you can expect:
We had questions about some of these new perks. So, we interviewed an IHG spokesperson and learned the following about how select perks will work in practice:
- Free breakfast for Diamond Elite members as a welcome amenity choice at full-service brands: If a Diamond Elite chooses breakfast as their welcome amenity, they’ll get daily hot breakfast for up to two guests. However, this perk isn’t offered at timeshare properties, InterContinental Alliance hotels, Mr and Mrs Smith properties and Six Senses properties. The IHG spokesperson noted that most Six Senses stays include breakfast, and kids eat free at Holiday Inn properties.
- Exclusive access to reward night discount promotions for Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members: These promotions will be offered several times each year and will be similar to the recent 20% off award stays of three nights or less promotion. Typically, IHG cardholders with Platinum Elite or Diamond Elites status will get access first, but the promotion will eventually become available to all Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members.
- Complimentary upgrades for Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members: This perk is subject to availability and hotels are allowed to determine availability. However, the IHG One Rewards program requires hotels to upgrade Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members to a suite, if available, or to another premium room type (once again, if available). And the IHG spokesperson noted that IHG is monitoring data from properties regarding upgrades. Hotels are encouraged to process upgrades at 48 hours out, although some may do so at 24 hours or less.
- Late checkout, subject to availability: All IHG One Rewards members will soon be eligible for 2 p.m. late checkout, subject to availability. However, the IHG spokesperson said higher-level elites would get priority. But, hotels will determine their availability based on various factors, including incoming guests and available cleaning staff.
The IHG spokesperson confirmed that elite tier benefits apply to paid and award stays equally. And, for tier benefits, it doesn’t matter whether you earned your elite status via nights, elite-qualifying points, a cobranded credit card or a status match. We asked whether IHG had any status match plans in the works, but the spokesperson had nothing to share.
IHG One Rewards milestone rewards
Finally, IHG One Rewards members will be able to earn milestone rewards based on the nights they stay each calendar year. In particular, IHG will offer milestone rewards beginning in early June 2022 as follows:
- 20 nights: 5,000 bonus points, two food and beverage rewards or one confirmable suite upgrade (choose one).
- 30 nights: 5,000 bonus points or two food and beverage rewards (choose one).
- 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).
- 50 nights: 10,000 bonus points or five food and beverage rewards (choose one).
- 60 nights: 10,000 bonus points or five food and beverage rewards (choose one).
- 70 nights: 10,000 bonus points, five food and beverage rewards, two confirmable suite upgrades or one annual lounge membership (choose two, although you can only choose the suite upgrade or lounge membership once at this milestone)
- 80 nights: 10,000 bonus points or five food and beverage rewards (choose one).
- 90 nights: 10,000 bonus points or five food and beverage rewards (choose one).
- 100 nights: 10,000 bonus points or five food and beverage rewards (choose one).
These milestone rewards are only available based on the nights you stay; there’s no way to shortcut the requirements with an IHG credit card. We had various questions about these milestone rewards and learned the following from an IHG spokesperson:
- Food and beverage rewards: This reward offers $20 off food and beverages charged to your room folio. You can select this reward digitally through your online IHG account or the IHG app.
- Confirmable suite upgrades: This reward offers a confirmed upgrade into an entry-level suite on paid stays. You can apply this upgrade up to 14 days before arrival by calling IHG (eventually, you’ll be able to do so online). Each upgrade is available for up to five nights. But, on longer stays, you can use multiple upgrades, pay to upgrade to a suite for the extra nights or agree to be downgraded for the extra nights. If an entry-level suite isn’t available, you could opt to use an upgrade for a premium room type. You’ll need to call IHG customer service to determine which suites are entry-level.
- Annual lounge membership: This reward provides lounge access for you and one guest during the current and next calendar year. You’ll only get lounge access at hotels with club lounges. However, lounges at InterContinential Alliance properties in Las Vegas, Mr and Mrs Smith properties, Six Senses properties and Regent properties are excluded. We confirmed with IHG that members with an annual lounge membership could get lounge access on award stays.
Interestingly, when asked whether it is possible to buy an annual lounge membership, an IHG spokesperson told TPG that although doing so isn’t possible now, it may be in the future.
How does IHG One Rewards compare to other programs?
Although it’s been possible to get plenty of value from IHG points, the program has lagged behind competitors like Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt and Hilton Honors when it comes to elite benefits. And yes, the new IHG One Rewards program looks to close the gap some.
But, let’s take a first look at how the new benefits IHG is adding compare to similar Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton perks.
|Breakfast||Free hot breakfast for Diamond Elite and one guest at full-service brands (as a welcome amenity choice).||Club lounge access with continental breakfast or daily complimentary full breakfast for each registered guest (up to 2 adults and 2 children) if there is no Club lounge for Globalist.||Usually available for Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite.||Daily food and beverage credit (U.S. hotels only) or continental breakfast (non-U.S. hotels) for Gold and Diamond.|
|Room upgrades||To suites (if available) or another premium room type for Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite.||Up to standard suites for Globalist, upgraded room type for Explorist and preferred room for Discoverist (all if available).||Up to select suites for Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite; up to enhanced room for Gold Elite.||For Gold and Diamond, based on availability at the hotel’s discretion.|
|Lounge access||Annual lounge membership is available as a milestone reward at 40 nights or 70 nights.||For Globalist.||For Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite.||For Diamond.|
|Late check out||2 p.m. for all members (if available).||Guaranteed 4 p.m. for Globalist and 2 p.m. for Explorist and Discoverist (select properties are excluded).||Guaranteed 4 p.m. for Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite (guaranteed); 2 p.m. for Gold Elite (if available).||If available.|
|Milestone rewards||Starting at 20 nights for every 10 nights (up to 100 nights).||Starting at 20 nights for every 10 nights (up to 100 nights, also offers base point thresholds).||At 50 and 75 nights.||At 30 and 60 nights.|
|Discounted award nights||Exclusive access to promotions for Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite.
Fourth-night reward perk for IHG Premier, Premier Business and Traveler cardholders.
|None.||Fifth-night free for Marriott members.||Fifth-night free for Hilton elites.|
Free hot breakfast at full-service brands for top-tier Diamond Elites is a perk some IHG loyalists have craved for years. And, I applaud IHG for not going the voucher route as Hilton did. However, we’ll find out this June how good this IHG benefit is in practice since IHG hotels will decide for themselves how to offer this perk.
IHG is pushing its hotels to improve upgrade consistency for complimentary Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members. On my last few stays, I’ve been pleased as a Platinum Elite to see an upgrade to the best room currently bookable when I checked my app shortly before check-in (even though this perk isn’t officially rolling out until June 2022). My recent IHG upgrades have been approximately the same quality as I get with World of Hyatt Globalist status and Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status, which is encouraging.
It’s disappointing that the 2 p.m. late checkout perk is (1) available to all members and (2) not guaranteed for any members. By making this benefit available to all members, high-tier elites might find no availability if they ask after several lower-tier elites have already gotten late checkout approved. I prefer Marriott and Hyatt’s late checkout method of guaranteeing set time for high-level elites at most properties. After all, late checkout is most useful if you can rely on it.
IHG’s milestone rewards are surprisingly compelling. IHG’s milestones are more exciting (and valuable) than Hilton’s. And, you may find them equally valuable (or perhaps more valuable) than Hyatt’s milestone rewards.
The IHG One Rewards milestone rewards are compelling, as is getting Platinum Elite status with the IHG Premier or IHG Premier Business card. You can also spend $40,000 or more on the IHG Premier or IHG Premier Business in a calendar year to earn Diamond Elite status through the end of the next calendar year.
IHG’s Global Chief Customer Officer Claire Bennett had the following to say about the new IHG One Rewards program:
“This is one of the largest and most comprehensive investments that IHG Hotels & Resorts has made in recent years. It’s also the biggest development we’ve made in the loyalty space since introducing the industry’s first loyalty program. We’re truly transforming guest experiences by giving our loyalty members more of what they want, more value and exciting benefits individually delivered via new technology with our new mobile app.”
IHG noted that its research showed the “most sought-after perks since 2018” were room upgrades and free breakfast, followed by member discounts, flex and bonus points, food and breakfast credit and lounge access. And this research seems to have shaped the IHG One Rewards program.
These new perks and milestone rewards have me debating whether to aim for 40 nights to earn an annual lounge membership as my 40-night milestone reward or go for 70 nights to also snag Diamond Elite status and daily hot breakfast. Stay tuned for more thoughts on this.
Featured image by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
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