(Update: Changes Delayed) IHG Rewards Updating Loyalty Program; Initial Changes Announced

One Mile at a Time is reporting that IHG has distributed an internal memo saying that the scheduled award program changes will now be delayed until at least late-April.  At this point, the timeline for credit card changes is still the same.

IHG Rewards has announced today that changes are coming to its loyalty program. They haven’t divulged information about all of the changes yet, but there are some details we know about already.

IHG Rewards elite program changes

You can find their announcement here. The page states that the changes are coming in March 2022, but there’s no specific date given and so we don’t know yet if that means March 1, March 31 or some time in between.

Here’s a summary of what’s been announced so far.

Status Tiers

The main change they’ve provided information about today relates to their status tiers and earning requirements:

IHG Rewards status tiers

There are a number of changes here:

Club – Unchanged

Silver Elite – This is a brand new category level…maybe. You have to stay 10 nights at IHG properties in order to earn this new status level which is the same number of nights you normally need to earn their existing Gold status (requirements have been reduced since 2020 due to COVID).

What’s a little different is that earning enough elite nights is the only way to qualify for Silver status – you can’t earn it through earning enough points. Silver status will also earn you a 20% bonus on base points for paid stays, whereas the old Gold status only earned a 10% bonus. Depending on what other benefits are provided with Silver status (those are still to be advised), this could end up being marginally better than old Gold status due to those increased earnings on paid stays.

Gold Elite – Although IHG Rewards currently has a Gold status level, it looks like Gold under the new program setup will be different. That’s because you’ll need to stay 20 nights or earn 40,000 qualifying points in order to get that status versus 10 nights or 10,000 qualifying points for the old version of the status.

That leads me to believe that new benefits might be getting added for Gold members but, given IHG’s track record of having a loyalty program that doesn’t reward loyalty, I’m not holding out too much hope as to what those benefits would be.

What we do know is that Gold members will earn 40% bonus points on their base earnings which is higher than the 10% they currently earn, albeit with much higher status earning requirements.

Platinum Elite – This is another existing IHG Rewards elite tier status, but one which is seeing some changes. Outside of the reduced COVID status earning requirements, you currently have to stay 40 nights or earn 40,000 qualifying points to get Platinum status.

With the changes coming in March 2022, you can still earn the status when staying 40 nights, but you’ll have to earn 60,000 qualifying points if you want to earn Platinum status that way.

There’ll be a slight increase in how many bonus points you earn from paid stays too. Platinum members currently get a 50% bonus on base points for paid stays, but that’ll be boosted to 60% from March 2022.

Platinum status is currently received from the IHG Rewards Premier credit card, so it’ll be interesting to see if that continues or if it’ll award the updated Gold status level. I find it hard to believe that they’d downgrade a card benefit from Platinum to Gold status, but this is IHG so who knows.

Diamond Elite – Under the old IHG Rewards program, the top tier was Spire Elite status. That’s being renamed Diamond Elite and will have different earning requirements.

Spire Elite normally required 75 elite night credits or 75,000 qualifying points whereas Diamond Elite will require 70 elite nights or 120,000 qualifying points. Top tier status earning will therefore be getting better on the elite nights front, but significantly worse if you’re trying to get the status by earning enough qualifying points.

Bonus point earnings will remain the same though – Spire Elite members earn a 100% bonus on base points for paid stays and that 100% bonus will be there for Diamond Elite members when these changes are implemented.

No Reduced Requirements For 2022, But Continued Rollover Nights

The landing page for this announcement states the following (my bolding):

In the meantime, we’ve already extended your current status and we’re extending the reduction of our current tier criteria until the new structure goes into effect. And even better news? All of your stays beginning January 1, 2022 will count toward your new-and-improved status when it goes live.

The FAQs also state the following:

Will I be downgraded if I haven’t achieved the new nights threshold?

All Elite statuses have been extended through February 2023. However, once the new program has launched, if you did not reach the qualified nights or points threshold between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022, your status will be downgraded in early 2023.

That means the reduced requirements we’ve enjoyed for the past couple of years will be coming to an end.

Rollover nights will continue to be offered though, so that can make it easier to earn/maintain status each year going forward.

Status Benefit Changes – To Be Confirmed

The announcement page also states the following:

Stay tuned for the official launch of the new IHG Rewards program in a few months. You’ll hear more about our new benefits and all the updated ways to earn and redeem. And when it comes to picking perks, the choice is all yours.

I’m mildly optimistic about this section, but it remains to be seen what IHG will introduce. The IHG Rewards program can provide excellent value on award stays; I’ve anecdotally noticed fairly low award rates over the past year or two and if you can take advantage of the 4th night free benefit from the IHG Premier or Traveler credit cards and the 10% points rebate on the old IHG Select credit card, the value significantly increases. As a result, my wife and I bought 1 million IHG points a few months ago because I know that we’ll get much better value out of the points than the 0.5cpp we paid for them.

While I love the value we can get on award stays, where IHG has always fallen down is elite member recognition. It’s simply terrible. For starters, they’re non-committal about room upgrades – we’ve stayed 190 nights at 32 different IHG properties since 2018 and I can literally count on one hand the number of times we’ve gotten a room upgrade.

There’s also no such thing as a free breakfast unless you’re staying at one of their brands that offers free breakfast as standard for all guests (e.g. Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites). If you stay at a Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, etc. you’ll be paying out of pocket for breakfast unless the hotel is unexpectedly generous and offers free breakfast anyway.

There are no suite upgrades, no free parking, no guaranteed 4pm (or even 1pm!) late checkout, etc. IHG Rewards can therefore be great for award redemptions but poor if you want any kind of elite recognition during your stays.

That might be changing. As can be seen in that quoted section above, IHG is stating that there will be new benefits and that there’ll be some kind of semblance of choice as to which perks you can choose. We can all hope that free breakfast will be one of those options, but that remains to be seen.

I’m also curious about how much choice they’ll give you as to what benefits you receive. I’ve a feeling that there’ll be two parts to this – that there’ll be standard elite benefits but also one (or possibly more) benefits you can pick, similar to how you earn Choice benefits with Marriott at the 50 and 75 night levels.

IHG already has form for this because when you earn Spire Elite status you can pick between 25,000 bonus points or the ability to gift Platinum status to someone else. Hopefully they introduce other Choice benefits like this for their new Diamond Elite level and possibly for Platinum members too. If they do that, I suspect you’d need to qualify based on elite nights or qualifying points rather than simply holding their credit card, but this is all speculation right now.

The reason I think they’ll have some kind of Choice benefits is because that paragraph on their website refers to benefits, but also getting to pick perks. The fact that they’re referring to the ability to pick perks rather than benefits makes it seem like they might be two different things.

There could be a slightly different kind of setup for the perks you can choose though as they might be more akin to Hilton’s MyWay feature. That lets you pick your welcome amenities like bonus points, bottles of water, snacks, etc., so perhaps that’s what IHG has in mind for the customization aspect of their updated loyalty program.

No Ambassador & Inner Circle Status Changes…Yet?

In addition to their regular IHG Rewards program, IHG has a separate loyalty status called Ambassador, as well as an invitation-only Royal Ambassador level. That status used to only be valid at their InterContinental brand, but that’s been extended in the last year or two to incorporate Kimpton and Regent. Their Kimpton brand also has its own invitation-only Inner Circle member recognition program which is still alive and kicking.

IHG has stated that they’re not making changes to Ambassador, Royal Ambassador or Kimpton Inner Circle “at this time” which presumably means there won’t be any changes in March 2022. However, that “at this time” wording sounds like political-speak for “changes will be coming, just not yet”, so perhaps there will be some kind of changes further down the road.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published