IHG Rewards was historically one of the weakest hotel loyalty programmes on the market, so when they teased some “big changes” earlier this year, you’d have forgiven me for being skeptical.
But credit where it’s due, because the new IHG One Rewards is here, and it’s actually an improvement. Elite members can now look forward to complimentary breakfast and milestone rewards including club lounge access and confirmed suite night upgrades. There’s also a more robust upgrade policy, and the promise of discounted award nights.
|IHG One Rewards
IHG One Rewards’ new tiers and bonus point structures have already gone into effect, but the enhanced elite benefits will only start in “early June 2022”.
What are the tiers within IHG One Rewards?
IHG One Rewards has five different tiers, starting with Club and maxing out at Diamond.
Two main things to note here:
- A newly-added Silver tier now stands between Club and Gold
- Those who have Spire Elite status will see their status renamed to Diamond Elite.
IHG has already extended existing elite status till February 2023, and if you currently hold Gold or Platinum Elite status, you’ll retain your current tier name through to its expiry (e.g. Golds won’t be bumped down to Silver, even though Silver is the entry-level elite tier in the new IHG Rewards).
Here’s a summary of the benefits by tier. Once again, do note that the benefits tagged “new” will only come into effect from early June 2022.
Under the old programme, even top-tier Spire members didn’t enjoy complimentary breakfast. That changes with IHG One Rewards, as Diamond members can select breakfast as their welcome amenity.
This will cover a hot breakfast for two guests. Alcoholic beverages or speciality coffees may be excluded by hotels (even if they’re offered to all other breakfast-paying guests), but at least the wording means we shouldn’t see any continental breakfast shenanigans.
Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, InterContinental Alliance properties (in Las Vegas and Macau) and Mr. and Mrs. Smith properties are excluded from the breakfast benefit.
IHG One Rewards “requires” hotels to upgrade Platinum and Diamond members to a suite or premium room type, subject to availability. That’s what the PR team is saying at least, though hopefully the verbiage means enforcement will be stronger.
Hotels are also “encouraged” to upgrade guests ahead of arrival, ideally at the 48 hour mark. We’ll need to wait for data points to see how robust this benefit turns out to be.
Discounted reward nights
Platinum and Diamond members will enjoy discounted reward night promotions several times per year, though we don’t know any details beyond this. One offer we recently saw was a 20% discount off award stays of three nights or less, so that could be the template going forward.
It’s disappointing IHG hasn’t followed Marriott or Hilton and offered a fifth night free on redemptions though.
A 2 p.m late check-out benefit is offered to all members, but I wouldn’t get too excited since it’s subject to availability. Presumably they’d give Diamonds higher priority over Silvers, but the wording of the benefit makes it clear this isn’t an entitlement for any tier.
IHG One Rewards will also be introducing Milestone Rewards, a way for members to earn confirmed suite upgrades, club lounge passes, F&B credits and bonus points.
A Milestone Reward will be granted for every 10 elite nights earned per calendar year, starting from 20 and maxing out at 100.
These rewards are worth US$20 each, and offset from any F&B charges to your room folio
- Awards are valid for 12 months after selection
- There is no limit to the number of awards that can be applied per stay
- Awards can be used for food, beverage and gratuities
- IHG Points will only be earned on the nett F&B spend after the award has been offset
Since 1 IHG point is roughly worth 0.5 US cents, I’d say you’re better off choosing the F&B rewards instead of IHG points where the option is available.
Confirmable suite upgrades
These rewards will upgrade your booking into an entry-level suite on paid stays (excluding advance purchase rates; reward nights are also not eligible).
- Awards are valid for 12 months after selection
- Each award can be used for stays of up to five nights
- Multiple upgrades can be used on a single stay; e.g. if my stay is 10 nights, I can use 2x awards
- Upgrade awards can be applied to a booking between 1-14 days before arrival by calling up IHG One Rewards customer service (online functionality is in the works)
These upgrades cannot be stacked with the guaranteed upgrades for Royal Ambassador, Ambassador and Inner Circle members.
Annual lounge membership
This reward grants lounge access for the member and one guest during on both award and paid stays (bookings made via third-party websites will not be eligible)
- Membership is valid for the current and subsequent calendar year. For example, if you choose this award in June 2022, the validity will run till 31 December 2023
- Membership is non-cumulative and can be selected only once (either at the 40-night or 70-night milestone)
- Membership does not include Club REGENT, or Club InterContinental amenities or services beyond the physical lounge, e.g. free pressing, airport transport etc.
My take on IHG One Rewards
I was never a fan of the old IHG Rewards Club. It speaks volumes that even though I was a Spire member at one point, I never went out of my way to stay at IHG properties. And why would I? With no breakfast, no club lounge access and a nebulous shot at an upgrade, I might as well be a regular member.
The new IHG One Rewards, on the other hand, looks a lot more promising. It’s not perfect- I’m quite disappointed that lounge access isn’t an automatic benefit for Diamond members and has to be earned, and that late check-out isn’t guaranteed, but the addition of breakfast and confirmable suite upgrades might be reason for top-tier members to stay more often. Milestone Rewards also start at notably lower thresholds (20 nights) than Hilton (30 nights) and Marriott (50 nights).
We’ll need to wait for June to see how good the perks are in practice, however. Will hotels honour the upgrade policy, or look for ways to weasel out of it? Will breakfast be the same thing offered to any paying guest, or will a watered-down version be carved out? Will 2p.m late check-outs really be a thing, or just another one of those illusionary benefits?
Naturally, some properties will be more generous with offering perks while others will seek to do the bare minimum, but either way we’ll have a sense of what’s what soon.
The new IHG One Rewards tier names and earning structure have gone live, although benefits will only start to be enforced from early June 2022. On the whole, I’d say this is a big improvement for IHG, though the erstwhile IHG Rewards didn’t exactly set a very high bar.
I also wonder what the implications will be for the InterContinental Ambassador programme, a separate paid membership with guaranteed perks at InterContinental properties. They’re going to have to up the value proposition to retain members, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a refresh soon.
What do you make of the new IHG One Rewards programme?