I Thought Points Transfers Were Free — Reader Mistake Story

Mar 1, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Seung, who misunderstood IHG’s rules for sharing points with family:

My wife has an IHG credit card, and she received an offer to invite others and earn a 10,000-point referral bonus. We are taking a trip to London this May, so we planned for me to get an IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card with a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points using her referral, and to pool points from both our accounts to book a four-night stay in London. We picked a hotel that cost 35,000 points a night, so with the fourth night free benefit we needed 105,000 points total.

After a few months of normal spending and collecting my sign-up bonus, we were ready to transfer my wife’s referral bonus and remaining points over to my IHG Rewards account to make the reservation. In the past, we’ve had no issues with transferring points between our SPG/Marriott accounts, so I assumed it would be the same for IHG. To my dismay, as I was getting ready to finalize the transfer, I realized that IHG charges a fee to transfer points!

They charge $5 per 1,000 points, which brought our total to $65. What was supposed to be free accommodations suddenly didn’t feel so free, but we had no choice other than to bite the bullet and pay. The lesson learned here is not to assume loyalty program will have similar policies, and always read the fine print before making moves.

Seung’s story will seem like an obvious oversight to experienced award travelers, but mixing up program rules and assuming different programs function similarly are common mistakes for beginners. Each loyalty program comes with its own quirks, and knowing what separates one from another is key to maximizing your rewards. Even rules that seem like they should be universal may have exceptions, like airlines that don’t allow one-way awards. Getting familiar with each program is essential, and as Seung points out, you should do it when your trip is in the planning stage. Don’t wait until you’re ready to book, because at that point changing course will be more difficult.

While many programs let you pool points and miles at no charge, IHG isn’t among them. You can transfer points to other IHG members, but you’ll have to pay 0.5 cents apiece for the privilege, which is equal to my most recent valuation of IHG Rewards. That’s a poor deal given that you’re paying to use points you already have, especially since you can sometimes buy IHG points outright for less. I wouldn’t typically recommend transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to IHG, but it would have made sense in Seung’s case thanks to the value added by the free fourth night.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Seung a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Photo by Uca Michelii via Unsplash

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