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Changes Make IHG Rewards More and Less Rewarding

SmarterTravel

The headline of the latest press release from InterContinental touts “Enhancements to Its Award Winning Loyalty Program – IHG Rewards Club.” Indeed, there are some changes that qualify as enhancements.

For many IHG Rewards members, however, the bigger story is anything but an enhancement: “To enable IHG to reward our guests who stay with us most often, starting from May 2016, IHG will expire all points for IHG Rewards Club Members if they have not earned or redeemed any points at all in the previous 12 months.”

Elites are exempt from the 12-month expiration rule.

Whereas the harsh new expiration policy will negatively affect infrequent travelers, the enhancements apply to IHG’s most frequent customers: those who have a chance of qualifying for elite status.

  • The requirement to qualify for Gold status is lowered, from 15 nights or 20,000 points to 10 nights or 10,000 points.
  • The requirement to qualify for Platinum status is lowered, from 50 nights or 60,000 points to 40 nights or 40,000 points.
  • A new top-tier elite level will be introduced (name not yet determined) for travelers logging 55 nights or 75,000 points. Key benefits: 100% bonus on points earning; 25,000 annual points bonus or gift of Platinum status to a friend.

The revised and new elite tiers will be in effect from July, with all points earned from the beginning of this year counting toward qualification.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Lowering elite thresholds—assuming that the perks remain the same—is certainly a plus for IHG customers. More perks for more people. And the new top tier looks promising, although IHG still hasn’t yet revealed the full list of associated benefits.

On the other hand, the new 12-month points expiration rule puts IHG Rewards among the most restrictive hotel-loyalty programs, alongside Hilton and Starwood, which have comparable policies. The programs of Carlson, Hyatt, and Marriott, by contrast, give their members 24 months of inactivity before deleting their miles.

Overall, the changes are a modest win for active IHG Rewards members, and a modest loss for program members with spotty stay activity.

Reader Reality Check

How do these changes affect you?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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