Group, or more commonly known as IHG, is one of the largest hotel groups in the
world and include well-known brands such as the Intercontinental Hotels, Crown
Plaza's, and the very well-known Holiday Inn brands. Other less well known
brands include the Aloft, Even Hotels, Staybridge, Candlewood, and Hotel
Indigo. In Asia, IHG is trying to build a new brand called HUALUXE which so far
seems to be mostly in China. In 2014, IHG purchased (for $430 Million) the
Kimpton brand but we have yet to seen any type of integration as of this post.
They have been slow in that regard and we don't know how the Karma (Kimpton
Loyalty program) and IHG's rewards club will gel in the future.
IHG is often cited being
unique in that it offers two somewhat distinct loyalty benefits/tiers within
one program. The Ambassador program is a top tier loyalty program that is
recognized only at Intercontinental Hotels and provides for a slew of benefits
that I will get to later. The rest of the properties/brands recognize a more
traditional tiered system consisting of Gold, Platinum, and their recently
release tier called Spire.
EQ - Elite Qualifying
Let's start with the Ambassador Program.
The program is broken up
into 2 tiers.
Ambassador - This status
is purchased for $200 or 32,000 points. Afterwards, you can renew for $150 or
Guaranteed room upgrade (One step up - so regular room to view
Fresh fruit upon arrival (This is pretty cool)
In-room water (Usually 1 large bottle of a nice branded water)
In-room gift (Usually local candy/chocolates)
Single-room rate for double occupancy
Extended checkout—up to 4pm (This is a great benefit)
Dedicated Ambassador check-in area
Complimentary pay-TV film per stay (I have yet to use
Complimentary newspaper, delivered daily
Complimentary weekend night certificate (BOGO certificate, 2nd
Elite status in IHG® Rewards Club (They auto-grant you
5,000 bonus IHG® Rewards Club points (They send you a
certificate w/ code to redeem online)
You get 10% back on award redemption's. (Great for expensive
redemption's, 50,000 points becomes 45,000 points)
Royal Ambassador - Crème
of the crop...usually top few % of all IHG loyalty members. To qualify, you
must stay 75 nights with at least 30 of them being in an Intercontinental
Hotel. That means you can't just do 75 nights in a Holiday Inn Express...30 of
them has to be in their top tier hotels which means a lot more $$$. It also
makes sense considering that the Ambassador program is only designed for
Intercontinental hotels anyways. The other brands won't recognize your
Ambassador status and will instead look at your Priority Rewards Club status.
That being said, if you hit this tier, you will likely achieve the top Priority
Club status of Spire anyways.
get all the listed benefits above with the Ambassador Program plus
All you can drink MiniBar (Although, in certain cases, the hotels
will empty out the minibar and put select items in or cheaper items)
Complimentary Upgrades (Two steps up instead of the one step up that
Sometime in 2013/2014,
they got rid of the referral certificates which allowed a RA member to give RA
status to another member. Even the referred members got referral certificates
which allowed for a chain of referrals. You get the picture...they got rid of
it cause it was too good to be true. In 2015, they upped the RA requirement to
be 75 nights with 30 of them in Intercontinental hotels. It used to be 60
nights with 20 nights in an Intercontinental. As you can see, they are upping
The tier program is
broken up into 3 tiers.
Gold (10 nights or
10,000 EQ Points) - Priority Check-In areas and 10% bonus on points earned on
Platinum (40 nights or
40,000 EQ Points) - Priority Check-In Areas and 50% bonus on points earned on
stays. You also get elite rollover nights, guaranteed room availability, and
upgrades (if available).
Spire (75 nights or
75,000 EQ Points) - You get everything that Platinum gets but the main
difference is 100% bonus points and you get a choice benefit once you hit this
status. Currently, it is 25,000 points or you can give Platinum status to
someone else. I choose the points, cause unless you have a spouse who doesn't
travel with you...there is no real benefit to giving someone else status.
You earn 10 points per
dollar on “eligible” dollar spent at ICs, Crown Plazas, and Holiday Inns and 5
points per dollar at Staybridge and Candlewood Suites. Eligible usually means
excludes taxes and other fees. There are often “Bonus” offers of 1,000 points
or 5,000 points that you can purchase when you are booking. Sometimes they are
worth it, sometimes they are expensive. Your experience may vary depending on
the property and what they offer you. If you have any status, you will also
earn bonus points in relation to your status.
A 250 dollar weekend
stay at a Holiday Inn will equal to 2,500 points.
Gold will earn an
additional 250 points
Platinum will earn an
additional 1,250 points
Spire will earn an
additional 2,500 points.
As you can see, these
points can really add up quickly.
Consider some IC’s that run 300-400 dollars a night and 50,000 points to
redeem, Spire status can help you attain free nights at top properties much
IHG Credit Card (By
The IHG credit card is probably one of my least used credit cards but one
of the most valuable ones in your credit card portfolio. Just by having the
credit card you are given Platinum status in Priority Club, 10% off point
redemptions (stackable with your Ambassador 10%), as well as 5x earnings on
stays and spend with IHG. Throw in the sign up bonus (anywhere between 60-80k
points) and free anniversary night all for just $49 a year and you are looking at
one of the best value for value credit cards available. The free anniversary night
can be redeemed at any hotel/brand including their top tier ones that could go
for 300-400 a night.
Example of a stay at an Intercontinental @ 300 a night for 2 nights @
Platinum Status from Credit Card.
$600 x 10 = 6,000 points + 50% Plat bonus (3,000 points) + 5x CC Bonus
(3,000 points) = 12,000 points. 12,000 points is enough for 2 nights at IHG’s
lowest category hotels (4,500 points/night) or 25% of the way to a top tier
hotel reward for 50,000 points.
Point Breaks &
One of the great thing about IHG is their Points Breaks offer properties
(typically Holiday Inn’s but a few Crown Plaza’s and IC’s come up occasionally)
the ability to book award nights for only 5,000 points. I can’t begin to stress
how awesome that is…sure some places are out of the way and in the middle of
nowhere but there are a lot of hidden gems each quarter. We also sometimes have
flash sales like the Venetian/Palazzo 24 hour sale where award nights were 50%
off (25,000 points)…that was a wonderful promo for those of us wanting to book
reward nights at a top tier Las Vegas hotel.
List of participating
hotels - http://www.ihg.com/hotels/us/en/global/redeem-rewards/pointbreaks
IHG Alliance Resorts
IHG Alliance Resorts are
properties that have an affiliation with IHG but are not branded IHG
properties. My favorite example is the Venetian/Palazzo in Las Vegas where I
tend to end up at least 6 to 8 times a year. There are different sets of rules
that govern what you do get and what you don’t get with stays here. You
typically get a flat amount of points rather than points per dollar. My last
stay as an example was 2,000 points with a 50% platinum bonus (before Spire was
launched) which equaled 3,000 points. I had a back to back booking, which meant
I got 6,000 points rather than 3,000 points the whole weekend.
Free Wi-Fi, Newspapers,
etc. are all part of the resort fee which doesn’t get waved. That being said,
you still get the complimentary fruit and water (they don’t refresh it though),
you do get the 4pm late checkout, and you do get the one step room upgrade
which is HUGE considering the price differences of certain rooms. Your in-room
gift is usually a bag of chocolates (at least the last 3 times I have stayed
there), you still get the free movie, and you get to use the Invited VIP check
in line. Royal Ambassadors have a special RA lounge that they can use to check
in and be all special like – I have yet to be able to see what is inside.
Let's start with the Ambassador Program.
Consider some IC’s that run 300-400 dollars a night and 50,000 points to redeem, Spire status can help you attain free nights at top properties much quicker!
At the End of the Day
With a $200 Ambassador status (or 32,000 points) and a $49 a year annual fee credit card, you could earn good status with IHG with Platinum Ambassador, a buy one get one free certificate, 65k-85k+ points, and a free annual reward night. If you value the points at .7 cents a point that would equate to over $455 in points and 2 free hotels nights at any hotel. If you redeem them even at moderately expensive hotels @ $200/night that is still $855 of value for $249 at the minimum. Not bad right?