It wasn’t long ago that IHG Rewards–the loyalty program for Holiday Inn, InterContinental, and a host of other brands–charged only 50,000 points per night for even its best hotels. That made it a great deal when trying to book luxury travel on a budget. While the benefits of IHG Rewards elite status weren’t all that great, you could at least buy and redeem points cheaply. There was no reason to pay more than $350 even for a flagship property.
But last year IHG raised the top rate, and it’s doing it again this year. Point Me to the Plane notes that almost 500 properties will go up in price by 5,000 to 10,000 points. The new top rate will be 70,000 points per night and applies to such notorious locations as the InterContinental Hong Kong, InterContinental Bora Bora, and London Park Lane. An additional ~200 properties will see rates drop by 5,000 points. The Gate has a color-coded list of these changes.
Despite such large numbers, keep in mind that IHG is the world’s largest chain with over 5,000 properties. Changing rates on ~700 of them is not that unusual. Other chains have at times adjusted award prices on closer to 20% of their portfolio. But it is unfortunate to see the upper bar increase further.
The IHG Rewards credit card from Chase typically sees sign-up offers in the range of 60,000 to 80,000 points. That used to reliably offer two free nights at all but the best hotels. Now you might be lucky to get one night. My wife and I enjoyed a stay at The Clement in Monterey this summer, and it’s among the properties going up to 70,000 points. Right now there is no announcement as to WHEN the changes will take effect, so you may still have a window to book award nights at the current, lower prices.
There are some bright spots for IHG. The program is integrating the Kimpton Hotels portfolio, which had continued to operate an independent loyalty program for a couple of years after the chain was acquired. I was a big fan of Kimpton, and even though Kimpton Karma is being phased out I think that the addition of these unique properties will make IHG more attractive overall.
IHG also continues to offer big earning potential, so high redemption prices are matched by high earn rates and don’t necessarily mean you’re getting a bad deal–just not as good a deal as before. The best advice I can give you hasn’t changed: never transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to IHG Rewards. There are just so many better uses for your points, including booking directly through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal.