Is There More To The Latest IHG Rewards Changes Than Meets The Eye?

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IHG has announced an upcoming change to its IHG Rewards program. The change is due to take place in March 2022. Because of a premature leak of its plans, IHG was forced to go public earlier than intended. As a result, we haven’t received too much detail of the “new” IHG Rewards.

The much-maligned “Spire” status name will disappear, to be replaced by “Diamond”, and there will be a new entry level status called “Silver”.

There is also an update to the thresholds needed to reach / renew elite status with IHG Rewards.

What has changed?

With the major hotel chains, one usually expects to earn / retain elite status based on the number of nights stayed during a calendar year. With IHG Rewards this isn’t the case. The best method of earning Platinum status is to buy Intercontinental Ambassador status for ~£150 ($200) – even better if you sign up during a promotion, such as the one I wrote about yesterday

For Spire status, you should generally spend your way there…  The Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) method was always the easiest, particularly if you hold a co-branded credit card. The points earned from your card would count for status. Click here to be reminded of all of the methods of picking up IHG Elite Qualifying Points.

Apart from the re-branding to Diamond, the most noticeable change is the EQP requirement. Instead of 75,000 EQPs – reduced to 55,000 EQPs during the pandemic – you will now require 120,000 EQPs for the top tier of IHG Rewards status.

What about benefits?

IHG loyalists might remember the introduction of “Spire” status in 2015. With the introduction of a new tier ABOVE the previous top tier status of Platinum, it was logical to expect additional benefits. These were hinted at, but they never really arrived.

IHG is once again making hints about “enhanced elite benefits” and allowing elite members to “pick perks”. With cost-cutting rampant across the hotel chain loyalty space, this might seem a strange time for IHG to introduce valuable benefits such as complimentary breakfast or lounge access. But there is no doubt that IHG currently struggles with the “status conscious” market – frequent travellers who spend 50+ nights per year in hotels and expect to be rewarded with status benefits such as lounge access – so perhaps IHG intends to make a genuine effort this time to attract that market segment.

What about Intercontinental Ambassador and Kimpton Inner Circle?

No changes. Despite the complexity that puts off many observers, it is also clear that Royal Ambassador and Kimpton Inner Circle are the elements of IHG’s loyalty strategy that actually build something resembling loyalty. So they stay…

Bottom line

To be fair to IHG, they probably weren’t ready to make an announcement, but a leak in China forced them to announce whatever they could. If some rebranding of elite status names is all we get, IHG shouldn’t be surprised if these changes have little to no impact. But, if the higher qualification requirements are linked to the introduction of genuinely valuable new benefits, this could be very interesting indeed.

What elite status benefits would you like to see IHG introduce?

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