This Is Why I Like IHG’s New Variable Pricing Awards


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I’m not exactly one of IHG biggest fans nor am I a fan of award pricing that’s based on the cash price of a booking, so I’ve been more than a little surprised to find that I actually quite like IHG’s new dynamic price awards. IHG’s variable pricing may not work for everyone but, for me and for quite a few other people, it looks like it may actually improve the value we get out of IHG Rewards and, just as importantly, out of the free night certificates issued by IHG co-branded credit cards.

IHG Dynamic Price Awards

IHG Rewards introduced dynamic award pricing in April of this year so the cost of an award stay at any IHG property around the world is now linked to the cash price that you’d be expected to pay for the same stay. A key point, however, is that IHG’s most expensive properties (usually its InterContinental properties) continue to cap the cost of an award night at 70,000 points.

IHG’s dynamic award pricing in action

A negative aspect that’s often associated with dynamic award pricing is that it can make getting outsized value from points a lot harder because, by the very nature of how the system is supposed to work, the nights that cost fewest points will also cost the fewest number of dollars. But the system doesn’t eliminate the ability to earn outsized value completely. With awards at top-tier properties still capped at 70,000 points per night, there can still be great value to have when these properties are charging astronomical cash rates and, as I’ll show below, IHG has definitely not killed off the ability for travelers to get outsized value.

This Is Why I’m Loving IHG’s Dynamic Pricing

There Are Still Very Good Deals Out There 

Despite the fact that the whole point of dynamic award pricing is to peg the cost of an award night to the cash cost of the room, I’m still seeing some very good deals on IHG.com.

Here’s the cost of an award at the InterContinental Sydney (reviewed here) for January next year:

And here’s the cash cost for the same night:

AU$331.24 is approximately US$228, so by paying for this particular booking with points, an IHG Rewards Club member would be getting 0.65 cents of value out of each point used…and that’s not bad considering IHG frequently sells points at 0.5 cents each.

On a randomly selected night in May, the Kimpton Nine Zero Hotel in Boston is charging 60,000 points for an award booking and $670 + taxes for the cheapest cash rate:

When taxes are added in (and the amenity fee ignored) the cheapest cash rate comes to $770.17:

Paying for this night with points would see an IHG Rewards Club member getting an incredible 1.28 cents of value out of each point used and I can’t remember the last time I saw such value available out of IHG’s currency.

Sometimes, when booking travel, it can be less about getting the maximum value out of each point that you have and more about saving cash. If all you really want is to be able to book your stays with points (regardless of what the cash cost would have been) and for as few points as possible, there’s good news – I’m seeing great opportunities to do just that at some very popular hotels.

Here’s the Kimpton La Peer in West Hollywood for just 42,500 points/night (traditionally, an expensive place to stay):

Here’s the Kimpton Fitzroy in the heart of London (often mentioned as the best IHG property in the city) for just 45,000 points/night:

And here the Crowne Plaza Albert Embankment (also in London) priced at an incredibly cheap 27,500 points:

Dynamic award pricing may be in place but it hasn’t killed off the great deals.

Chase Free Night Certificates Are A Lot More Useable

The popular IHG Rewards Club Premier Card and the legacy (no longer available) IHG Rewards credit card both offer card holders an annual free night certificate at properties costing up to 40,000 points per night. Before the introduction of dynamic award pricing, the 40,000 point cap was a serious obstacle to card holders being able to use their annual free night certificates at high-end properties or at properties in expensive cities (like London)…but not any more.

I’ve already shown the InterContinental Sydney priced at just 35,000 points per night and the Crowne Plaza Albert Embankment priced at just 27,500 points, so here are some more examples of how dynamic pricing can bring the higher-end properties into range of the free night certificates from Chase:

Dynamic pricing has now made the free night award that comes with the IHG Rewards Club Premier Card a lot more valuable as it’s suddenly a lot easier to use and it can be used at properties towards the higher-end of the IHG portfolio. We’re never going to go back to the days when one of these certificates could be used to book a night at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa, but considering how much these certificates have been devalued recently, it’s great to see them finally regaining a little value.

Bottom Line

I genuinely feared the worst when IHG introduced dynamic award night pricing but, for now, it looks like it may have been a move that’s actually quite beneficial to a lot of travelers. The key thing to keep an eye on is how this changes as the world begins to recover from the current crisis. It will be interesting to see if the current lack of travel is suppressing award pricing to such an extent that what we’re seeing now just a temporary blip. Hopefully that’s not the case and we’ll continue to be able to get great value out of our points balances and free night certificates…but with IHG you always have to be on your guard.

9 COMMENTS

  1. The Even hotel in downtown Pittsburgh has an extreme example of value for IHG points. A room is going for 20,000 points or $332 (before taxes), which is 1.6 cpp.

    I’m not sure why the cash price is so high. The nearby Kimpton is only $188 per night (or 45,000 points.)

  2. Just wait until the pandemic passes. They will screw everyone. This is all a trick to make us think dynamic pricing is a good thing. It absolutely is NOT. Burn as fast as you can before the massive devaluation takes effect.

  3. I agree there are great values especially when you use the 4th night free option for award stays. Nothing high end but I stayed at a Holiday Inn in Jacksonville FL last week 4 nights for 37,500 points. Cash price w taxes was $381 so over 1 cent/point.

    Yesterday I booked a Holiday Inn in Baltimore for an October trip. 4 nights was 45,000 points. The cash price for a refundable stay (which matches the points cancellation policy) was $581 so over 1.2 cent a point. IMHO this is great value for IHG points.

    Obviously best if you can take advantage of the 4th night free option (as opposed to Marriott and Hilton w 5th night free).

  4. It was way better up thru last week. There were some absolutely phenomenal deals – I got one of the top Kimpton’s in Miami for 4 nights Dec 29 thru Jan 2 for 110k points (incl 4th night free) when the cash price was, and still is, $2,380, so more than 2c a point. That same stay this week is 165k points (with 4th night free), so now only 1.5c a point. Still not bad, but certainly not as good as it was.

  5. While I’m sure that there are outlier examples of getting good value, I think that it’s pretty unrealistic to say that this is anything but a devaluation. If this benefitted the customer instead of the company, IHG wouldn’t have done it.

    • These aren’t outliers. I found these examples with little to no effort and on multiple dates. That’s not to say that there aren’t going to be negatives to this move by IHG but there are very obvious positives too (as things stand).

  6. Nope nope and nope. Don’t believe it. 2nd time I’ve tried to use my points to cash in on my free stays I EARNED, just for them to take my points and charge me anyway. Last time, more than the room normally went for. When I called customer service, she said I should have read the small print!

    • Please clarify: Are you saying that you made an award booking, the points were deducted AND they charged you cash? (that seems incredibly unlikely)

      Also, what was the small print?

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