There was a time in the somewhat recent past when you could earn IHG points via a credit card. Currently, the only hotel credit cards in Canada are the Marriott Amex and Best Western MasterCard. I know many keen points and miles collectors like using credit cards as their primary accumulation method, so the loss of the card was disappointing. For me, the credit card was never in the picture.
Most of my hotel point redemptions over the years have been through IHG Rewards and its predecessor, Priority Club. Although the program has undergone many changes since I started paying attention, it’s still a good points currency. That’s especially true if you’re a budget traveller with some flexibility in your trip planning.
Below is some information about IHG and why Canadians should still consider it despite no ability to earn points through credit card spend.
IHG Rewards are the points you earn and redeem at the following hotel brands that comprise InterContinental Hotels Group:
Holiday Inn Express
Note that Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites award 5 IHG Rewards points per USD whereas all the rest award 10 points per USD.
In the past, point redemption rates varied little within brands. For example, when I started collecting points (by converting Air Miles by phone), all Crowne Plaza hotels were 25,000 points per night. London, Paris, New York, Moncton – all of ’em. Those days are long gone. There are now Candlewood Suites that require more points than InterContinentals. It all depends on the location.
Moreover, in contrast to programs like Marriott, Hilton, Choice and Best Western where redemption rates can vary with the season, month, day of the week etc., rates at IHG hotels are static across the calendar. I’m aware of at least one exception but in general they have not yet veered toward dynamic point rates.
This means you’ll get great value for your points at certain times and poor value at others. I recall checking out of a Holiday Inn Express in New York when the guest in front of me seemed quite pleased that he redeemed points for his stay. That hotel charges 40,000 points per night because it’s Manhattan and cash rates are typically high. However, it was the middle of January and the rate was in the $90 USD range so he likely would have been better off saving those points for a future use.
Points & Cash
If you don’t have enough points you can make a points & cash reservation. It’s a good idea to do the math and determine if it’s actually worth it to book points and cash. The cash amount might be disproportionately high in relation to the hotel’s regular rate.
Also, you are effectively buying the extra points to make the booking. If you cancel the reservation you will only receive points back, no cash. Occasionally there will be a promotion with a discount on points and cash rates and it could potentially work out better to “buy” some points this way than through the regular method of purchasing points.
As above, sometimes it can make sense to buy the points for a booking. This is especially true when there is a bonus promotion. For example, from now until November 16, 2019 you’ll get 100% bonus if you buy at least 7000 points. Because the transaction is processed by Points.com which is a Canadian company, you’ll need to pay HST.
For me, PointBreaks are the star of the show. This is a list of hotels released every two or three months with discounted redemption rates at 5000, 10,000 and 15000 points. Until last year they were all 5000 points, but, as regular redemption rates went up with devaluations, the list became a shadow of its former self. Anything good was snapped up within minutes. The 5000 point hotels now are mostly properties in mainland China. But there have been good options in the 10,000 and 15,000 categories that often represent a 50% discount on the normal redemption rates.
I’ve taken many trips based on PointBreaks. Fortuitously, sometimes a hotel on the list has fit into pre-existing travel plans. They are a terrific way to stretch your points balance and make a trip happen that otherwise wouldn’t.
The new list is usually released at 1 pm Atlantic on the last Monday of the month in which the previous list ends. It’s a good idea to be at your computer when it goes live and lock in anything that looks good. You are limited to two reservations per hotel but they can be of any length of stay.
IHG Rewards does not promote PointBreaks via email. If it weren’t for points and miles forums and blogs, I would not be aware of their existence.
IHG is feast or famine when it comes to promotions. They typically run targeted promos with a list of tasks to complete. The moniker used lately is “Accelerate” but it’s just variations on a theme. If your promo particulars line up with your travel plans then you can really load up on points.
IHG may also have additional point promotions that you can stack. They are often brand specific or geographically limited.
Another one gives you 1000 points upon your first stay, 2000 on your second, 3x points on the 3rd stay and 4x points on all remaining stays till the promotion ends January 31, 2019.
If you can combine a good discount rate such as the current Cyber Sale with points promotions, that’s even better. Annoyingly, those sales typically involve non-refundable rates that I generally avoid.
Rates with additional bonus points included are a regular thing with IHG as you’ll see on the website as your explore the various rate options. These range from 1000 to 5000 elite-qualifying points. Occasionally there is a promotion (such as the current 25% bonus) where you can get a extra (non-elite qualifying) points on these rates.
If you search carefully, you’ll find certain hotels offer their own bonus point package rates up to 10,000 points per stay. I know of two hotels that offer larger bonus point package rates. One is the Holiday Inn Express Manhattan Times Square South with a 30,000 point per stay rate. Unfortunately they’ve apparently changed the terms so the rate only shows up for stays of at least 3 nights. That kills the deal. But the Indigo Brooklyn has a 25,000 point package rate applicable to one night stays. Bonus point package rates don’t always post correctly so be prepared to follow up with IHG if you don’t see them in your account.
To register for e-Rewards you need an invitation from a loyalty program. My invitation link came from IHG so I’m able to redeem survey dollars for IHG points (and many other types of loyalty points). $100 in e-Rewards gets you 4000 IHG points. Unfortunately, they no longer post as elite qualifying.
IHG Rewards elite status levels are Gold, Platinum and Spire. The eligibility requirements are:
Gold – stay 10 qualifying nights or earn 10,000 qualifying points
Platinum – stay 40 qualifying nights or earn 40,000 qualifying points
Spire – stay 75 qualifying nights or earn 75,000 qualifying points
If you like significant standardized status benefits then IHG is not going to make you happy. I’ve been Gold, Platinum and Spire and it really depends on the particular hotel what you will actually get for your “loyalty” to the program. Aside from a percentage bonus on points earned from the stay, the main benefits are those given to all IHG members like rate discounts, free internet etc. I’ve stayed at 7 different IHG brands and the best upgrade was as a Gold member to a 2 level suite with a full kitchen and 2 bathrooms at a Holiday Inn Express on a PointBreak stay.
The InterContinental brand also has its own status system. You can purchase Ambassador status for $200 USD or 40,000 points. (It includes Platinum status). Then, if you qualify based on your Ambassador activity you are invited to become a Royal Ambassador.
IHG in the Maritimes
There are a number of IHG properties in the Maritime provinces so it’s convenient if you need a hotel stay close to home.
Holiday Inn Sydney – Waterfront (25,000)
Holiday Inn Express Stellarton – New Glasgow (15,000)
Holiday Inn Truro (15,000)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Halifax Airport (30,000)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Halifax – Bedford (25,000)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Halifax – Dartmouth (20,000)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Moncton (20,000)
Crowne Plaza Moncton Downtown (20,000)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Dieppe Airport (20,000)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Saint John Harbour Side (20,000)
Crowne Plaza Fredericton – Lord Beaverbrook (20,000)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fredericton (15,000)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Charlottetown (35,000)
The 15,000 and 20,000 point hotels are a pretty good deal. Of course, it depends on the cash rate on the date in question, but generally those are a decent value, in my opinion. The Charlottetown hotel has an awfully inflated point rate even for summer if you ask me.
Unlike various other hotel loyalty programs, it’s not possible to transfer points from one account to another at no cost, so pooling points with friends or family to get enough for a free stay is not an option.
This is more of a pet peeve but I wish “Holiday Inn Express” had been given a different name without the “Holiday Inn” part. The Express hotels are more of a budget brand and are similar to a Hampton Inn. There is typically no restaurant but a basic breakfast buffet is included for all guests. Holiday Inns don’t include breakfast and tend to vary more from one property to the next. There is a wide gap between the poorest Holiday Inn I’ve stayed at and the nicest. People often refer to both as “Holiday Inn” and this is a problem when promotions include specific offers for each brand.
I like IHG Rewards but whether it’s worth adding to your points portfolio depends on how you like to plan your trips and what types of hotels you prefer. If you’re a promo chaser or bargain hunter then it might be a good loyalty program to consider.