I Have To Go – Why I’m Moving Away from IHG One Rewards

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IHG One Rewards Program

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.

Quick Devaluations

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.

IHG One Rewards Program
IHG’s free night certificates from their Chase cards can be confusing.

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).

IHG One Rewards Program
I guess I better not get used to this.

Middling Service

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.

IHG One Rewards Program

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.

Conclusion

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?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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47 COMMENTS

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47 COMMENTS

  1. Chase now has a requirement that you must use your IHG credit card at least once a month otherwise your card may be subject to being canceled. Just another mail in the coffin.

  2. Booked a room in Cheyenne WY & get there & room was supposed to be two queens & was a queen & sofa. Cancelled. Booked a room in AZ get there & they are remodeling an old junkie hotel. Terrible experience. Guess they are remodeling a lot of old hotels. No reward nights available seems to be a consistent theme. Still love it when we do land a free night. We are Diamond elite & don’t see many perks for that. Loved Helena Montana hotel that was clean, offered gluten and dairy free options. They should look to that hotel & set it as their model.

  3. IHG Devaluation. I booked a free night at Holiday inn Express Cotula Tx. (I got email confirmation 2 weeks in advance). The day of check in (Sept. 17, 2022) the woman in front desk invalidate my free night, charged my credit card at full rate. Nothing of courtesy. Just bad service/racist attitude against Hispanic people. I present reservation and called IHG but they didn’t solve the issue. Really IHG is getting devalued.

  4. I have been accumulating point for my upcoming honeymoon, and I’ve been Spire Elite, now Diamond Elite for almost a decade because I always imagined to spend our honeymoon at one of the Intercontinental properties at the Polinesia Island, for years those properties offered reward nights, but guess what, after CoVid, they completely removed the option, if you try to book any date, it will tell you that there are no reward nights available to exchange on those dates, no matter what dates you select, that’s the same answer you will get, calling Thier concierge service is no better, so long for this millions points accumulated and loyalty given to IHG, despite I experienced some of the worst stay in Holiday Inn hotels during CoVId.

  5. Have noted fewer and fewer reward nights are supposedly available, yet you can purchase a room. What the he’ll are points good for if you are not able to use them.

    • As a current IHG employee, I can assure you that our reward night requirements (based on the number of rooms in the hotel) have not changed. So, if you’re seeing fewer available, it’s because more people are travelling/planning further ahead.

      • I get it. But when you tout no blackout dates as one of the key features of your program, it’s frustrating to constantly see “rooms are not available for Rewards Nights on one or more of the selected dates.” And with no real transparency, a hotel could, in theory, only make one room available for rewards on a particular night. Hilton has no capacity controls, so if a room is available, you can book it as a reward night.

        • I assure you that hotels absolutely cannot block the first X number of Rewards Night rooms from being booked each & every night. If you see it as not being available, it because X number of Rewards Night room have already been booked.

          • I understand. I’m just saying there’s no way to know what X is. So from our side, it could be anything. As long as X rooms are available for rewards (where X could be 1 for all we know), they can say no blackout dates. Hilton doesn’t cap it. Makes it easier to use your points. That’s all I was saying. It’s just semantics I guess but it’s frustrating when you try planning way ahead (months ahead, even almost a year out in some cases) and still run into the issue.

        • I concur Chris H, as there is no way to know how many rooms are available to use IHG points at, it makes it very difficult. As you mentioned, Hilton for example has no cap, if there is a room available you can book it with points. I do like the IHG program but the inability to book an available room with points has resulted in most of my spending no longer being at IHG, its just too frustrating.

  6. I’m a diamond elite IHG Member and I have the the same feelings this year. I’m weighing switching to Best Western membership as my primary because their BW plus and other upper brands have impressed me a lot. They also offer a lot more free nights programs and so on…It’s between them and Hilton for me and I’m not sure where I will switch my membership to. Ihg member since 2014.

  7. I travel for work so I’m in a hotel 22 days a month. I’ve always preferred IHG for the perks, and have been a top tier for years. I finally switched to Hilton Honors (Double Tree is my favorite). Less than 2 months and I’m already a Diamond. Amazing perks. I love the executive lounge and food credits.
    My biggest frustration with IHG besides the old outdated hotels is the points. I use to get a $100 Amazon gift card for my wife every 2 weeks for 49k points, now everything is unavailable. The last one took 2 months for delivery because they were “out of stock” ummm… It’s Amazon!

    • Jeremy,
      Thanks for the business traveler point of view. No hotel program is perfect, but I definitely prefer Hilton for my situation.

  8. Well I’ve accumulated plenty of points for a free room, my problem is always been booking the hotel. When I pick a hotel even if I go out close to a year there are no points rooms available. I really want to use the points for stays but it’s becoming more and more difficult.

  9. I too a multitude of problems. Transformer blew no electricity turned in for smoking over $150. My next hotel had black mold under the toilet rim and cannot be refunded. IM DONE

  10. I use to like IHG but there point redemption drives me bonkers. I especially don’t like the fact individual hotels can cost how many times are available for point redemption or certificates. Much of the time there is plenty of times but I cannot use points to get the rooms. This is unlike Hilton ( and many other chains) where if there is a room you can book it with points.

  11. I’m on a 21 day tour of Spain all using IHG and have few complaints. I’m staying at INDIGO (2 in Madrid) and Mr & Mrs Smith luxury boutique properties. All free and cost me about 380,000 points all accumulated during 20 & ’21 &’ 22. We have been in Madrid, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Mallorca and next is Seville with side trip to Jerez de La Frontera.
    If you are using IHG mostly for HIExpress in the states you are doing it all wrong. The better Kimpton, I-Continental, Indigo, Mr & Mrs Smith properties are all in other countries. I pay for my HI Express stays which I use mainly for business, and redeem points and exclusive properties. I’ve done this in 2019 (Spain, Porto, Barcelona), 2018 (Mexico City) 2017 (Montreal&Quebec)… Etc

    • Frank,
      Outstanding redemptions – I’m glad that works for your situation. But again, IHG’s most practical use in our current life season is domestic, mostly for HIE’s. Not wrong, just different strokes for different folks.

  12. IHG award redemptions for Intercontinental in Europe, and Kimpton pretty much everywhere, are reason enough to keep, use, and build with IHG program and card(s). The Ambasador paid membership also is a unique usually worthwhile benefit too.

  13. IHG on their old scheme seemed great. Since covid I have not needed to travel as much. However in the last week I did. To cut a long story short I use a booking company through work for hotels and my ihg account is linked. The hotel I booked was shut when I turned up. Closed for 12 months for a government. After a 45 minute period I got a new hotel 20 minutes away.
    I called diamond support for ihg members to complain. Stating hotel was on my ihg app saying booked, no cancellation was received and hotel could still be booked online directly with ihg. I asked for points compensation for the stress and was told its between me in and the hotel. I explained the hotel did cancel and sent it through to ihg Central bookings who did not pass cancellation onto me. The issue was with ihg not the hotel. They refused to budge even when I asked for a response to why this had happened. I am totally disappointed in their customer service. Not the hotels fault but ihg itself

  14. I worked at one of the properties and if they start respecting their staff more things could be a lot better. Marriott values their workers, Hilton as well

    • AJ I know what you mean. I also worked at one and the management was horrible. They did not really care about the staff. So I quit. And now I’m working at a different hotel branch. And the management are so amazing. They show their staff that they really do care about them.

  15. I recently used points to reduce my cost of room down to $140, then found out that, I didn’t get points for the $140 I spent towards the room. I will never do that again. I will use points for whole cost, deplete my points and move on to new hotel chain.

  16. Top tier since 2002.
    Very sad experiences this year:
    – accumulated points are more and more devalued
    – most hotels are older, drab and sad
    – they might greed you as a diamond Elite, but they don’t offer any perk of upgrades (“Hotel Management Decision”…..)
    – prices at times don’t make sense for the value.

    They are going rapidly the way of Advantage. Now I buy the best itinerary with the most convenient time and the cheapest business fare, and forgot about loyalty.

    • Upset ExPlat,
      As a longtime top tier member, it must be even more frustrating seeing this latest downturn. Thanks for reading!

  17. I have been pretty loyal to Holiday Inn properties for years and used two free rooms I had last October Yet I have extreme difficulty in accessing their website from both their online portal and also through their app. I finally gave up two weeks ago and booked a Wyndham property.

    • The problem is with Chase as much as ihg
      Chase has become arrogant and unhelpful.Worse their training and understanding of the very cards they are selling is unacceptable
      Even upper management act like thugs offering no assistance
      Call ihg and they say call chase,call chase they say call ihg etc
      They are both guilty of rotten customer service when it comes to terms and conditions of their offerings.
      That said the sweet spot with IHg is to simply not stay with them when their dynamic pricing is sky high and instead jump in when the hotels are at low occupancy only.I’ve booked some fantastic deals with them knowing just when and where to redeem
      They are always my rainy day program and I avoid them as they run a poor program compared to the others.That said there have been some very modest improvements in ihg one despite the unacceptable limitations you mention.And I see your point not wanting to engage as a primary program.In that regard I agree fully

      • I have found I can not do any business online with Chase. They will find any excuse they can not to answer a question or take care of a problem. For me the best solution is to go into a local branch and get with a personal banker who ends up making several phone calls within Chase and they usually can correct whatever the problem is.

        • @ John
          Great suggestion but a lot of work if you don’t bank with Chase.
          Management has created a toxic culture for customer service.I have to think it’s poor training.Years ago I signed up for a Hyatt credit card and their was confusion about threshold bonuses.Chase Marketing reached out to assist.Now it’s 1800 we don’t give a fook

  18. I have a pretty low bar, 96% of my business with IHG is at HIE or occasionally HI, almost always in the rural US. In post COVID travel Ive always found the breakfast to be the same as ever (oddly, I prefer the HIE breakfast to Hampton Inn, unlike Benjy. I admit housekeeping has not been back to normal, but I’m usually on in one hotel for two or three nights, so that doesn’t bother me much. In my most recent road trip in May and June, I found that rates were higher especially in points, but for an overseas trip I’ve got a great redemption at an Intercontinental in Perth this winter. I’ve actually got a bit of a bad attitude towards Hilton, the removal of free breakfast and minor shortages have annoyed me there lately. Hilton and IHG are the two hotel programs I try to focus on, so these are important to me!

    • Mike B,
      I can definitely see the IHG draw a bit more with Intercontinental properties, but unfortunately, I’m just not currently in that life season.

  19. I agree the the hotels have gone way down in service and are getting very aged. I couldnt eat another hie breakfast ,too many over the years. I recently stayed at a H.I property called Even. It was newer and had exercise equipment in the room. No free breakfast. There was breakfast to purchase but they were out of everything. The biggest concern for me is how bad there rewards catalog has become. I have millions of points and was hoping to use it on some items that are no longer available. Definitely have been thinking about moving to another company

  20. I agree with you about the housekeeping and breakfast issues. It is also time consuming to understand all the rules pertaining to different credit cards and their benefits. What also bothers me are the soap and shampoo dispensers are almost always empty. I find it a hassle to request they be refilled because it usually requires me to wait.
    I do still find value with IHG because I have both the old IHG Select card with an annual fee of $49 and it gives me a free up to 40,000 point night and also rebates me 10% of the points I redeem for stays. But I also have the IHG Premier card with a $99 annual fee and a 40,000 point night that I can add additional points for a redemption that costs more points. But the best benefit is giving me my 4th night free when redeeming points. Having both cards allows me to get the 10% points rebate and my 4th night free.
    I don’t use either credit card much so I generally buy the maximum number of points when IHG runs a sale giving 100% bonus points. I buy the maximum amount each year and it works out to a half penny per point. Comparing what I would pay if I used credit cards and how much I pay using points that I pay half a penny for, I find the room paid for in points is a much better value. The points paid for room also includes the hotel tax which can be substantial.
    As long as they continue to allow me to benefit from both cards I will probably continue to stay in their properties.

    • john,
      Good perspective! While we’re moving away from IHG, we’ll hold on to our Premier cards for the same reasons.

    • John, I agree with your points and my wife and I have both IHG cards for the same reasons. I also buy points when they go on sale for .5cpp as well and can usually get over 1cpp with the 4 for 3 and 10% back features. Also, their high end properties of Intercontinental, Kimpton, Hotel Indigo, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith are very nice in my opinion.

    • I agree with you. Both my wife and I have the Select and the Premier cards. The 4th. night free and 10% point rebate and the multiple annual point sale with 100% bonus make it worth while. We normally stay at Kimptons and Indigo properties and IC. We get well over 1cent per point redemption rate.

      I don’t have any confusion in regards to the Select card FNC vs. the Premier card FNC and with IHG and other hotels we average around $225-250 value per FNC.

  21. So far I’ve had reasonable redemptions for IHG in the Palm Springs area for the Indian Wells tennis tournament and more recently last month in Glasgow at the Kimpton where I used by annual certificates plus a few thousand points for a lovely 2 night stay. As Platinum members through the credit card they upgraded us to a large room and gave us free breakfast at their fabulous buffet. We also had full housekeeping services and the staff in every way was professional and accommodating. I highly recommend that property.

  22. My wife and I are both road warriors and have been super loyal to IHG for many years but they continue to issue 1,000 cuts to me and my loyalty. I’d guess I have several thousand nights under my belt at IHG properties over the years but lately, the devaluations and properties playing with award night amounts like 41,000 or 51,000 per night are driving me crazy. They also lost some of my favorite properties in a few places which wasn’t really their fault I guess but it didn’t help me. The nail in the coffin is that they have been tempting me and my wife for several years with a measly 10,000-point upgrade offer from our legacy IHG cards but they won’t approve us for a new sign-up bonus on the Premier card so we resisted. We liked the old card enough so it wasn’t worth it to upgrade. Then we recently both got letters congratulating us on being “enhanced” from the legacy card to the new card against our will with no upgrade points at all and also making us ineligible for the SUB of course. Nothing against the new card but we just aren’t seeing the value. We have started burning off our 7 figures of IHG points and will likely move more of our stays to other chains. It’s been a good run but no lifetime status, properties declining and shafted on the card just aren’t helping me be loyal when you mix in dynamic pricing. We stay at a lot of road warrior HIX type properties so we can redeem for vacations and travel to Europe and Israel mostly so we don’t care as much about the club lounges and free breakfast or even the upgrades. We just want to be treated well and taken care of on award stays.

  23. I would agree with your thinking. Many HI properties are older and not well kept. The HIE properties are better because they are newer, however, it’s pushing 20 years for this brand and some properties are looking like they are older. I think Hilton Garden Inns are better kept and generally nicer. However, I’ve not been happy with the TV selections at most of them.

    Last weekend we stayed at a Holiday Inn waterpark – the room was small and one of the bunk beds for the grand guys had bed bugs. They gave us 10K in points. It was a $467 dollar night for this property. I won’t be going back to this property again.

    I know it depends on each property – but where is the HI standards? For a while it had gotten better, but now it’s heading South again.

    • R Johnson,
      I, too, am a Hilton Garden Inn fan – they’re actually my favorite hotel line. Sorry about your recent Holiday Inn experience!

  24. The ONLY reason I have a few upcoming IHG stays are the recent award stay sales they had, where they took away the dynamic pricing for a few hours combined with the point purchase bonus that was going on.

    I was able to get a stay at a HI in NYC for $100/night during a busy convention – and in a fairly close proximity to it too.

    I was also able to get the same on a stay in San Francisco – for about a third of the going rate.

    Apart from that I don’t like IHG. The piss-poor customer service frustrates me.

    • Liam,
      Nice job threading the needle by finding a few specific rates where IHG works for you. Unfortunately, it seems like those IHG opportunities are increasingly few and far between.

      • On a recent trip to Thailand, I actually decided to stay at independent hotels or local chains and had great experiences at much lower prices.

        Stayed at a hotel called Arcadia Suites in Bangkok (run by local company Compass Hospitality) for a week, a few days at The Empress in Pattaya (run by local group LK) and then back to Bangkok, where I stayed at Villa de Pranakorn (the only Relais & Chateaux hotel in Thailand).

        The Empress was good (wouldn’t call it “outstanding” but it was a good value for the location – and some of the included breakfast items were so good). Quite liked the pool and the beachfront location though.

        The Arcadia was much like a Marriott Residence Inn (save for no free breakfast) but at $28 USD/night represented AMAZING value considering what you got – a very good location, and a 420 square foot 1 bedroom suite complete with a kitchen (similar to that at a Residence Inn) and even a washing machine, plus daily housekeeping! Yes – you read that right. Every afternoon, the room got a FULL housekeeping service – 3 housekeepers would show up around 4pm and within 15 minutes the room was sparkling clean.

        Villa de Pranakorn was on another level – the location wasn’t as central (literally a block or two from Jay Fai) but the service…OMG – some of the best I’ve ever encountered – actually anticipating your needs before you even have to lift a finger. And at $60 USD/night including breakfast it was a steal. I don’t think it’s quite that cheap now, but still represents great value. Also, this is the perfect place for germophobes – rooms seem to undergo hospital-grade sterilization.

        The IHG properties in these places weren’t necessarily expensive, but they didn’t seem to represent as great value. Sure, you don’t get points by staying at them, but sometimes you’re just paying for the name.

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