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IHG Rewards Club is a pioneer when it comes to individually-targeted promotions. Rather than run a standard promotion where everybody – from the business travel road warrior to the casual traveler – earns basically the same bonus, IHG provides each member with his/her own personal promotion. Originally called Big Win, IHG’s promotion then morphed into my personal favourite “Into the Nights” (where you could earn two free nights at any IHG hotel worldwide!) and for the last couple of years has been called “Accelerate”. So what is Accelerate, and what have the experts learned about how it works?
IHG Rewards Club
First of all, you might be wondering what IHG Rewards Club is. It is the loyalty programme covering hotel chains owned by the Intercontinental Hotels Group – i.e. Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, etc.
Even though IHG now owns the Kimpton hotel chain, Kimpton hotels do not, as yet, participate in IHG Rewards Club.
When Does It Run?
IHG usually runs three Accelerate promotions per year. The dates might not perfectly link up, leaving a gap between promos, but the promotion will usually cover a three to four month period.
If you have a stay that starts before, or ends after, the promotion period in question, it will usually not qualify for meeting an Accelerate target, although you might get lucky for stays where your check-out date falls within the period.
How Do I Participate?
Registration is required in order to participate. The link changes with every iteration of the promotion, but InsideFlyer UK will always write about Accelerate when the latest version goes live. IHG Rewards Club members will also receive an email or two regarding the promotion, unless you’ve set your account to refuse all promotional email. Once you register, you will find out your own personalized targets. It is worth taking a screenshot, since IHG IT has been known to mix things up (incorrectly) and change targets along the way…
How Does It Work?
Some might answer “not well” as the IT backing up the promotion is somewhat fragile shall we say…
But you will want to pay close attention to your Dashboard, the exact same place where you signed up for the promotion. There you will find your individual targets. As these are fully or partially met, your Dashboard will reflect your progress towards meeting your targets. It is important to remember that most targets are cumulative over the current Accelerate period. For example, if you are supposed to spend $100 on food and beverages, you don’t have to meet the target within a single IHG stay.
Patience is a virtue with IHG’s Accelerate. Your progress will not be tracked until several days after the points from your stay have credited to your IHG Rewards Club account (which is already slower than some other hotel chains). Once you have completed a target, the bonus points might take a further week or two to post to your IHG Rewards Club account. And if neither actually occurs as expected, you will be told by IHG Rewards Club customer service – backed up by the terms and conditions of the promotion – to go away until six weeks after the promotion ends. (even though we all know that manual intervention will ultimately be required)
What Constitutes a Qualifying Stay?
Another element to keep in mind is that you can only meet targets through paid stays that qualify for earning IHG points the usual way. This rules out stays booked through an Online Travel Agency, as well as stays booked with exotic corporate or “friends and family” rate codes that often offer great rates, but at the cost of not earning points. The main exception to this rule are targets specific to reward nights.
What Are the Targets Like?
With a few years of experience behind us, it is easier to generalise about the types of targets being offered to members. Several common targets are:
Members will almost certainly receive this offer each Accelerate cycle. A number of bonus points will be offered for a single stay.
Members will almost certainly receive an additional offer that can only be triggered during the first month of the promotion. That said, IHG will often email members with a follow-on offer. Those who didn’t meet the target during month 1 are often offered a similar bonus for staying during month 2. Thanks to IHG IT, however, these bonus points are less likely to correctly track than the “first month” bonus.
Combining these first two offers generally makes it appealing for an IHG member to complete a stay sooner rather than later, preferably during the first month.
Moving on from the single “one stay” bonus, most members will also receive a target based on the number of nights stayed during the promotion. Again, it’s worth reiterating that these are paid nights on qualifying rates.
In order to attract more nights from business travelers, you will often find a target requiring a Saturday night stay. Unfortunately, this requires a minimum two-night weekend stay, either Friday and Saturday nights, or Saturday and Sunday nights. This target is therefore an exception to the “cumulative” rule – i.e. you cannot stay a Friday night in one hotel and a Saturday night in a different hotel, and expect this target to be met.
Another frequent target is Globetrotter. The terms are expressed in a much clearer manner today than they were at the beginning. You must stay (paid) in a specific number of foreign countries and your home country will not count. Those IHG members who don’t regularly travel internationally are not big fans of this target! Some try to get clever and set their IHG account address to a foreign country, so that stays in the UK count for Globetrotter. (but this must be planned well in advance)
IHG members are often incentivised to stay at specific brands, or a certain number of IHG brands. The most common misunderstandings are:
- Holiday Inn Express is a stand-alone brand
- Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Club Vacations and Holiday Inn Resorts are all the same brand (usually called Holiday Inn)
- If targeted with stays at a specific brand, you must stay at different hotels. i.e. 2 separate stays at the same Intercontinental hotel will only count as 1
IHG offers a specific rate that comes with bonus points. Sometimes this is a great way to acquire additional points at a reasonable price, with the advantage that these bonus points qualify for elite status purposes. At other times, this rate package is a waste of money, especially since the bonus points are rarely, if ever, offered on the cheapest prepaid rates. Not every hotel offers it, but you can usually find it by scrolling down until you see the “bonus points” logo.
My own personal bugbear… Members might be targeted with applying for the IHG Rewards Club credit card. Or if you already hold the credit card, you might be targeted with using it at an IHG hotel.
In my opinion this is the most unfair target regularly offered, as many people don’t want to waste their credit limit on an IHG credit card, or have their applications declined. The IT behind this target is also a bit dodgy, as essentially you need to apply for the credit card, receive it, use it and hope that the points from your first credit card statement reach your IHG Rewards Club account during the promotional period.
Another regular target aims to tempt members into booking their hotel stays using the mobile phone (or tablet) App. Booking a room via the App means that you cannot earn one of InsideFlyer’s favourite things… cashback.
App bookings are also one of the targets that often runs into technical difficulties with correct tracking. So, even though booking via the App is a relatively easy target to meet – assuming that you own a smartphone or a tablet – I usually breath a sigh of relief when I don’t receive this target.
Since IHG Rewards Club does not offer free breakfast or lounge access to its Spire or Platinum elites, you might find yourself charging food to your room when staying at a full service IHG hotel. If you make that mistake, you might find that you subsequently receive an Accelerate target requiring a substantial amount of food and beverage spend, yet offering a minimal number of bonus points. Luckily you have the length of the promotion to meet the target. You also can meet the target by spending money on food during reward stays.
These final two targets are those that involve spending points on reward nights. An interesting nuance to remember is that you don’t actually have to wait for the reward stay. In fact, you can book using Points & Cash for a date near the end of the promotion, wait for your target to trigger, and then subsequently cancel your award reservation.
How Do I Meet Targets?
Well, you do what the target requires. Luckily, one paid hotel night can qualify for multiple targets at the same time. For example, a one-night paid stay at an Intercontinental hotel would help you along the way to meeting:
- the one-stay bonus
- one night towards your total nights target
- one brand towards a brand target
- one night towards an Intercontinental-specific target
- one country for a Globetrotter target
- etc. etc.
What is the Achievement Bonus?
The bonus points offered for each individual target are not usually terribly thrilling. The real value from Accelerate comes from completing all of your targets (or often all less one).
Some members might receive a mere 4 targets, and therefore only require meeting 3 in order to reach their achievement bonus. Other members mights receive 7 or 8 targets, requiring the member to meet a substantial 6 or 7 in order to grab that achievement bonus.
Can I Change My Targets?
No. I have never heard of any exceptions ever being granted.
Accelerate penalises loyal IHG members. The more you stay at IHG hotels, the harder your Accelerate targets will be… Sometimes this nuance is compensated for by higher bonuses, but often it is not. On the one hand this makes sense; IHG wants to incentivise additional stays, not pay out bonus points for business they would already be getting. But, on the other hand, it is rather foolish to penalise your most loyal members.
If you think your targets are excessively difficult, you have no choice but to register your displeasure by refusing to stay at IHG hotels. This is especially true if two of your targets cannot be reached, ruling you out of the achievement bonus. In my experience, two or three Accelerate cycles are sufficient to train IHG’s IT systems to provide you with more attainable targets, but only next time…
Beginners might find it daunting to be faced with a number of individual targets, rather than a simple “double points” or “free night after two stays” type of promotion. But as you can hopefully see from my run-through of every target I or a family member has seen over the last couple of years, most of them are relatively straightforward and easy to understand. Usually you can earn enough bonus points for a free night at any top-end Intercontinental hotel, making it well worth the effort.
The next time I write about Accelerate, I’ll look at another passion of travel hackers… meeting the targets with the bare minimum of nights/spend.