The IHG Rewards program is one of my favorite hotel programs (you can read my review here) – they have lots of properties around the world, they run frequent rewards promotions (here) and you can get status and a free night per year with the Chase IHG Rewards MasterCard (here). It’s a useful program (and credit card) even if you don’t travel a lot and want to get a few perks when you do! Now, as has become common in the awards world, they are making changes, and – also as usual – they are not that great:
First of all, they are changing the award category of 452 hotels, with about 2/3 of them going up and the rest going down. Unfortunately, a lot of the hotels going up are upscale properties in desirable locations, taking away some of the good deals out there. For example the InterContinental Hotel Ko Samui, Thailand, which I booked for a stay in November is going up from 25,000 points per night (which is a great deal, with rooms around $350) to 35,000 points/night. A lot of the hotels that went down are at the budget or mid-scale properties in less desirable locations. While that is expected in general, it’s still sad. This change is effective May1 and you should check the list out and make bookings before the deadline to lock in the old rates (or rebook if rates are going down)! PointsWithACrew has a great searchable list to make it easier here!
Another change for the worse is that points will expire in the future, similar to other hotel programs. You can avoid that by earning/redeeming points once a year, which is pretty easy considering the long list of partners and programs, like dining. Even easier is to sign up for the credit card and never worry about the expiration again.
They are also making changes to the benefits and elite levels of the program, which are a mixed bag. IHG has one of the more confusing programs, with 3 general levels (Club, Gold, Platinum) as well as the Ambassador and Royal Ambassador levels specific to InterContinental hotels. The credit card gets you Platinum level status, which made it the only one to give you top-level status in any hotel program. That will be over soon, as they are introducing a new level (black in the announcement), with yet to be determined benefits. It’s a good change in that the Platinum level benefits were limited compared to other hotel programs, for example no breakfast. It’s bad news in that now your “Platinum” level courtesy of the credit card will not be top-status anymore. I received a lot of upgrades and great service around the world with “Platinum” status and I expect that to be much less so going forward.
If you want to dive into the details, you can find all them and FAQ here.