IHG has released new details of their rebranded IHG One Rewards loyalty program, which were first hinted at a few months ago.
The new loyalty program brings IHG’s offerings more in line with their chief competitors of Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, and World of Hyatt. Let’s take a closer look at details of the newly relaunched program.
The New IHG One Rewards
IHG has a portfolio of over 6,000 properties worldwide, and has continued to expand in recent years, especially in the luxury hotel sector. However, its IHG Rewards loyalty program has traditionally been a major weak point against competitors.
Highlights of the new IHG One Rewards program include a new status tier structure, further enhancements to member benefits, and the introduction of Milestone Rewards.
IHG will also roll out a new mobile app along with the program, creating a more personalized experience with streamlined processes around booking and check-in.
New IHG One Rewards Status Tiers
IHG Rewards previously offered four elite status tiers: Club, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite and Spire Elite. New changes include the addition of Silver Elite and a renaming of Spire Elite to Diamond Elite.
This means that the new IHG One Rewards will offer five membership tiers with new earning structures, as follows:
All IHG accounts should see their status levels updated by April 17, 2022, including Spire Elite status changing to Diamond Elite. Furthermore, all stay activity from January 1, 2022 will count towards status qualification under the new tier structure.
Keep in mind that the US-issued Chase IHG Rewards Premier Card instantly grants Platinum Elite status to cardholders, offering a shortcut to IHG’s second-highest elite status level.
New IHG One Rewards Status Benefits
Along with the updates to elite membership tiers come new benefits and perks, which will start as of June 2022. There’s a wide range of new meaningful perks that address many of IHG’s previous shortcomings in this area.
Complimentary breakfast is one of the most significant new perks, and will be offered to top-tier Diamond Elite members as a choice of welcome amenity. The perk includes a daily hot breakfast for up to two guests.
Breakfast will be limited at some properties, such as timeshare properties, InterContinental Alliance hotels, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith properties, as well as any brands that already offer complimentary breakfast like Holiday Inn.
IHG One Rewards Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members will receive upgrades to a standard suite or a premium room on a space-available basis.
This is a more formalized version of the previous status quo, in which hotels always had the discretion of upgrading elite members, but are now more formally obligated to do so.
In theory, you can expect to get suite upgrades more consistently if you’re a Platinum or Diamond member going forward. We’ll have to see how much this plays out in practice, though, given that the burden of delivering this benefit still falls on individual hotels.
Early check-in & late checkout
All IHG One Reward members will be eligible for a 2pm late checkout, subject to availability; meanwhile, Platinum and Diamond members are also offered early check-in, also subject to availability.
Since both of these benefits are at the hotel’s discretion, we’ll have to wait and see how meaningful they are in practice. Notably, IHG’s late checkout offering still pales in comparison to its peers like Marriott and Hyatt, who offer a guaranteed 4pm late checkout to their higher-tier members.
In addition to complimentary breakfast, the introduction of Milestone Rewards is a significant addition to IHG One Rewards members.
These rewards are essentially a leaf taken out of World of Hyatt’s book. Members will be eligible to earn specific rewards for each set of 10 nights stayed each calendar year.
Milestone Rewards begin at 20 nights and go up in increments of 10, up to 100 nights. They’ll typically take the form of a choice between bonus points, food and beverage rewards, suite upgrade instruments, and annual lounge passes, with two choices offered at the 40- and 70-night levels:
The specific Milestone Reward options work as follows:
- Food & Beverage Rewards give you $20 off food and beverages charged to your room and can be selected online or through the app.
- Confirmable Suite Upgrades can be used to confirm an upgrade to an available standard suite for a stay of up to five nights. This will require calling IHG One Rewards customer support starting from 14 days before arrival, though IHG intends to roll out online functionality in the future.
- The Annual Lounge Membership gives access to hotel lounges for yourself and one guest, and will be valid through the current and following calendar year.
With a new reward every 10 nights, Milestone Rewards can be a great incentive for members to stay incrementally with IHG, without necessarily needing to have a goal of reaching the next tier of elite status.
However, it’s important to note that you need to actually stay the required number of nights to earn a Milestone Reward; you don’t get these just for having the associated elite status level.
For example, if you held the Chase IHG Rewards Premier Card for instant Platinum status (which otherwise requires staying 40 nights), you wouldn’t get the Milestone Rewards associated with staying 40 nights unless you actually did so.
My Impressions of the New IHG One Rewards Program
The changes associated with the transition to IHG One Rewards are largely positive for IHG members. However, I still think there’s some distance to go until the program is competitive with Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt – certainly from a Canadian perspective.
For example, you don’t get breakfast until you stay 70 nights with IHG, which is still a very high threshold compared to the 50 nights needed for Marriott’s Platinum Elite and 60 nights for Hyatt Globalists to earn free breakfasts.
I think IHG’s Milestone Rewards concept is quite strong, and it could make sense for even a non-status member to stay 10 or 20 nights if they don’t have to go too much out of their way to do so, since they’ll get a few small rewards as a result.
Overall, as an IHG Platinum Elite member myself thanks to the Chase IHG Rewards Premier Card, I find this moderately positive and encouraging for the few IHG stays that that I make per year.
Since the IHG credit card comes with a free night award every year, I know I’ll have to make at least one stay per year. With these changes, as a Platinum Elite member, I’ll now have a better chance of getting a suite upgrade, whereas it was previously never part of the terms.
I’m pretty happy about that, even if I’m still a little miffed that there’s no hope of getting breakfast unless I stay a full 70 nights with IHG during the year – which won’t be feasible as someone who already maintains status with Marriott and Hyat, where I already get breakfast and lounge access right now and can rely on doing so consistently.
Lastly, IHG still lacks a co-branded credit card presence in Canada, making it difficult for Canadians to get a meaningful leg up in the program.
The only way to play the game is to get the US-issued Chase IHG credit card, which takes quite a bit of legwork, and there are many Chase cards that might be more worthwhile for you to get before this one.
Unless IHG makes a greater foray into the Canadian market, it’s still going to remain a program that’s largely in the background for most Canadian travellers.
IHG has relaunched their loyalty program as IHG One Rewards, which has been an overall positive step towards greater competitiveness with the other top global hotel loyalty programs.
The most significant changes are the introduction of complimentary breakfast for top-tier Diamond Elite members, formalized suite upgrades for Platinum and Diamond members, and the introduction Milestone Rewards starting at 20 nights stayed with IHG during a calendar year.
With a more fulsome set of elite offerings, IHG would certainly be well-positioned to compete for market share in Canada if they were to launch a co-branded product alongside their strong hotel footprint, and I’d love to see that becoming a reality in the future.
Don’t forget by purchasing an Intercontinental Ambassador status (US$200), you also earn Platinum Elite status with IHG and a free weekend night at IC (B1G1F). A great deal if you have plans to stay 2 weekend nights at an expensive IC (i.e. Bora Bora).