IHG One Rewards Program
We’ve been on a roller coaster ride with the IHG One Rewards program since its launch earlier this year. IHG grabbed attention, including mine, with their program refresh several months ago. A new IHG Business card was subsequently launched. And amidst all this, IHG started throwing us some curves. After a few more experiences and a bit more thought, my wife and I are moving away from IHG One Rewards. Here’s why.
Soon after the launching their new loyalty program, IHG began messing with it and us. IHG touted complimentary room upgrades for Platinum and Diamond members in their announcement. Elites have received room upgrades to club levels in the past. But just a few months later, IHG advised that upgrades to the club level will not include access to the, um, club. What’s the point of accepting such an upgrade, unless you maybe like riding an elevator longer?
IHG implemented the above limitation on suite upgrades, as well. IHG has also begun chipping away at the welcome amenity choice (read: complimentary breakfast) at full service properties.
Confusing Credit Card Benefits
Chase and IHG have already made it tougher on us by having differing free night certificate policies among their credit cards. The IHG Premier’s (personal and business) annual free night certificate, usually good for properties up to 40k points per night, are now upgradable to more expensive properties by using additional points. The legacy IHG Select card’s free night certificate is limited to a 40k points per night property, but is not upgradable with points. Got it?
If that wasn’t enough to keep track of, a recent new card welcome offer provided a free night certificate which was not upgradable with points. It would be natural for a Premier cardholder to assume that all free night certificates derived from the same card would be have identical terms. We’ll never know how many applicants fell for this trickery. Luckily, this didn’t go unnoticed (thanks, Tim at Frequent Miler).
We’ve received mediocre (at best) service from IHG properties at various stages of the pandemic – mostly from housekeeping. I could understand this a year or so ago, but we recently experienced it again from a property that seemed fully-staffed. A few weeks ago, my family and I stayed at a downtown Holiday Inn property. Our IHG stays have primarily involved Holiday Inn Express properties. We decided to stay at a Holiday Inn for a change, where we expected slightly better service than our usual Express stays. Competence was part of our expectations, but shouldn’t have been, apparently. Despite multiple confirmations and assurances, we did not receive a room refresh from housekeeping on our two night stay.
While we don’t request a full turnover of our sheets and towels, daily housekeeping is our favorite hotel service. It’s unsatisfactory that we can’t count on this basic benefit of staying at a full service IHG hotel even when we coordinate with staff in advance.
A Unique Advantage No More
IHG has historically offered one special item that I’ve never seen at other limited service chains. I’ve loved Holiday Inn Express properties for their warm cinnamon rolls. But they’re an endangered species now – in my experience, at least. A few weeks ago during a stay at a HIE property on the North Carolina coast, I noticed an empty, dim cinnamon roll station. The breakfast attendant advised that the cinnamon rolls were wiped out over the past weekend, and the delivery truck hadn’t arrived to replenish.
Of course, taking into account the health aspect, this outcome was probably for the best. But I won’t ignore my disappointment. Absent of this item, I rate Holiday Inn Express breakfast well below Hampton Inn. Super 8 fare is more comparable, and at least I’m not disappointed by missing items there.
IHG’s Replaceable For Us
Again, our IHG stays primarily involve Holiday Inn Express properties on award redemptions. We don’t ever pay cash for stays, and stays with their other chains don’t currently overlap with our family travel goals. We can do just as well or better with Hilton or even Wyndham properties.
These are just a few reasons IHG is trending downward for our situation. I expect IHG devaluations to continue, big and small. We’ll use up our IHG points balances on future stays, and I’m not investing other effort in the program at this stage. I’m now avoiding IHG points accrual on spending, even at high earn rates or to achieve a big spend bonus. Absent program improvements, I don’t think my behavior will change. Sadly, I don’t expect IHG’s to change, either. What’s your take on the recent devaluations of the IHG One Rewards program?