How IHG Has Gone From Hero To Zero Very Quickly


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It was way back on 12 March that IHG Rewards was the first major loyalty program (from the hotel or airline industry) to take measures to make it easier for its members to earn/retain status this year but that appears to have been the end of the program’s interest in looking after its members and guests.

Dropping The Ball With Elite Status

When IHG Rewards lowered the targets for earning/retaining elite status in 2020 the hotelier looked pretty good…

…but since that announcement, we have seen Radisson Rewards, Hilton Honors and the World of Hyatt all offer their members one-year status extensions. If you’re a Radisson, Hilton, Marriott or Hyatt elite your status benefits will be available to you into 2022 while IHG Rewards members are currently still expected to requalify…somehow.

If you’re based in the US this isn’t a massive issue because you can get IHG Rewards Platinum status just from holding the IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card but for everyone else, this is simply not good enough.

What’s worse is that, at the time of writing, there has been absolutely no news out of the InterContinental Ambassador program (which costs $200/year) so we can only assume that no partial refunds or extensions will be forthcoming.

Certificate Extensions Mess

I currently hold an IHG Rewards free night certificate courtesy of my IHG Rewards Credit card which is set to expire in the middle of this month.

A couple of weeks ago there was a rumor going around that people contacting IHG and requesting extensions were getting a further 6 months in which to use their certificate. When I tried this it led nowhere.

Now there are reports that IHG Rewards is finally extending the validity of free night certificates as follows:

  • Free night certificates expiring from 1 March 2020 onwards can now be used through 31 December 2020
  • Free night certificates issued in 2020 will all have an 18 month redemption period

Here are my issues with all of this:

  • If IHG Rewards was offering extensions to people who messaged in (which I believe it was) why was the program not publicizing this? Why was it trying to keep it quiet?
  • Why has there been no direct communication from IHG rewards about the latest news regarding free night certificate extensions? A variety of blogs have published the news because it was quietly uploaded to IHG’s Covid-19 policy update page the other day, but where’s the announcement to members?
  • IHG hasn’t said what will happen to the free night certificates which, for one final year, are valid for any IHG property worldwide. Will IHG be guaranteeing that holders of those certificates will still be able to book any property through December 2020?
  • There has been no announcement to let InterContinental Ambassador members know what will be happening with their free weekend night certificates.

Hilton announced that it was extending its free night certificates through the end of the year on 16 March (over 3 weeks ago) and yet here we are still waiting for IHG to email members confirming their new policy. What’s the holdup? Where’s the communication?

Worse Cancellation Policies

At the time of writing, IHG’s current cancellation policies (found here) are as follows:

Existing bookings (bookings made through April 6, 2020) at all IHG hotels can be changed or cancelled for stays up to June 30, 2020

Cancellation fees for existing and new domestic bookings at all IHG hotels in Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and the Taiwan region will be waived for stays up to April 30, 2020 

For new bookings IHG has introduced a new rate called “Book Now, Pay Later“:

This new rate offers flexibility and savings. With no deposit required and cancellations possible up to 24 hours before your stay for direct bookings, travel planning is commitment free. Guests benefit from 5% or more off our Best Flexible Rate for bookings made up to September 3, 2020 for stays until December 30, 2020 (excluding Greater China).

Now let’s compare these policies to the other major hotel chains:

Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott are all matching IHG’s offer to allow guests to change or cancel existing bookings for stays through 30 June but they are applying this policy to all of their properties – IHG’s policy for Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan is more restrictive.

Where IHG is allowing guests to make new cancelable bookings through the end of the year, Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott are allowing all of their rates to be canceled penalty-free for any future arrival date (i.e well into 2021).

IHG’s flexible reservations policy is worse than the policies of all three of the other major hotel chains and when you’re worse than Marriott at taking care of your guests you know you’re bad!

Bottom Line

There are two things that I feel every time I look into what IHG and IHG Rewards are doing:

  • I feel that IHG Rewards thought that it could get away with making a small concession on elite status earning and then never have to revisit the policy again – I don’t think it foresaw the hugely positive moves that we have seen from Hilton and Hyatt.
  • I feel that IHG and IHG Rewards are being driven to do more for their guests and elite status holders by the other hotel chains and not out of any genuine interest to be helpful or good. Both appear to be doing as little as possible and then doing those things very reluctantly.

IHG currently sits on a par with Marriott when it comes to comparing what each has done for guests and elite members (I’ll be writing a separate post on how bad Marriott has been) and when you drop to the lowly service levels that Marriott Bonvoy offers that’s a very bad sign indeed.

To be frank, I’ve had enough of IHG.

I’m not going to be renewing my InterContinental Ambassador status when it expires in May, I’m not going to be making any effort to earn any more IHG Rewards points and I plan to minimize my visits to IHG properties as much as possible (probably one 1 or 2-night stay per year).

Over recent years (and now during this crisis) IHG and IHG Rewards have shown themselves to be interested in one thing and one thing only – squeezing as much out of customers as possible and giving as little as possible in return…so why deal with them?

Any stays I may have made with IHG in the future will now go to Hyatt – a hotelier which at least attempts to do the right things by its guests and loyalty program members.

15 COMMENTS

  1. @ Those at IHG reading this blog — I am a 16-year Royal Ambassador, and you will lose my business forever if you don’t step up soon with a one-year status extension. I will absolutely not risk my health or that of my family just to keep my status, so you need to drop your selfish “reduced” status re-qualification nonsense and just give a flat-out one-year exertion if you want to have any customers come 2021.

  2. Yeah seems like mess over at IHG. Messaged in to IHG and was able to get an agent in China extend an expiring 31 March 2020 cert to 10 October 2020 (which still may be useless). A newly issued anniversary cert on 31 March 2020 currently expires 31 March 2021…going to sit this one out for awhile and gotta keep things in perspective.

  3. My Ambassador membership and Weekend Certificate were expiring on May 1st so I reached out to IHG at [email protected] and they extended both til Aug 1st. Not much of a grace period, but maybe I can get them to extend it further ;(

  4. On the email IHG sent out today has a direct link to the page showing the Covid19 updates. I don’t think you’re giving them a fair shake on this. They have been doing a decent job under the circumstances.

    • So, just to clarify…

      IHG hasn’t issued status extensions while Hilton, Hyatt, and Radisson have
      IHG has worse cancellation policies than any other other major loyalty programs
      IHG hasn’t given Ambassador extensions (membership or weekend certificates)

      …but I’m not giving them a fair shake because you have received an email from them about the recent updates? (an email I still haven’t received)

      Really?

  5. Everyone quit whining!!! IHG has done a great job of responding to my need to cancel a number of reservations including non-refundable ones and some w points. All were cancelled without a problem and any amounts paid, even initial deposits for non-refundable reservations, quickly credited back.

    The issue of extending status is new and there are almost 9 months left in 2020 so don’t get your panties in a wad just yet. I’m sure IHG will extend it and/or gave promotions to easily earn status card in 2nd half of 2020.

    I’d like to think there is a lot more going on than worrying about something like this. On the other hand the travel bloggers have to post click bait and stir the pot. A positive of the travel slowdown is hopefully about half of them go out of business!

    • What a charming person you must be (wishing people to go out of business)…hard to take your comments seriously when you defend a corporation lagging behind most in its sphere but wish ill on individuals. Stay classy AC.

    • Very well said I couldn’t agree with you more!!! They have cancelled all four of my reservations that I paid for in advance and have been refunded my full deposit back! I called them and they took care of it quickly they were very understanding!! This talk about extending membership is just Nonsense!!! I couldn’t care less about that right now giving this crisis going on. My money I paid for rooms in the future I do care about cause everyone needs every dime they can get! The ones complaining about extending membership must have money and time to waste while others are suffering due to this virus!! Shame on you it is just ridiculous to even have an article about it and a WASTE OF TIME TO MENTION POINT BLANK!!!

      • Oh give me a break and get off your ridiculously high horse.
        The discussion of status extensions isn’t impeding the fight against the virus so why do you care if it’s being discussed? And why are you just picking on that part of the post and not the other points I make against IHG?
        Moreover, as someone who seems keen to accuse others of having time to waste, you’re the one reading and commenting on a miles and points blog which would seem to suggest you’re the one with time to waste. Shouldn’t you be using that time in a more practical way considering you think there are vastly more important things going on right now?

        Your one and only argument in favor of IHG appears to be that they did for you what every single other hotel chain is doing for their customers too and you conveniently gloss over the fact that other chains have done considerably more.

        If you love IHG and think they’ve done great by you that’s fine, I’m happy for you. But please take your virtue signaling nonsense elsewhere.

  6. So I find this article laughable. IHG has extended my ambassador and reward night until 2021 and from what I understand this is going across the board for members whose ambassador is up for renewal this year.

    • I know 16 InterContinental Ambassador members (including me).

      Not one has had any communication from IHG about their membership.
      Not one has had any communication from IHG about their free weekend night.
      Not one has had any communication from IHG about their Chase CC free night.

      On top of that, IHG Rewards was the last major hotel program to stop points expiring and is now the only major Hotel program that hasn’t extended everyone’s status.

      If anything is laughable here it’s IHG’s lack of response to changing circumstances and it’s inability to communicate with its customers.

  7. @Karen: Is this extension a published policy or a lucky one- off which you were given? I spoke with Ambassador recently to extend a free night cert and I was given 3 months on the free night and no extension on my upcoming Ambassador renewal.

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