IHG One Rewards: Breakfast, Suites and Club Access!

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IHG has today revealed the full details of its renewed loyalty program, which we have been waiting for a while. This is a supplement to the fact that the credit card portfolio has recently been updated.

Historically, IHG Rewards has not been very competitive with Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy and the World of Hyatt. That’s finally changing and I’m really impressed. IHG has greatly improved elite perks, including free breakfast for elite members at the highest level, plus the introduction of Milestone Rewards, which offers confirmed suite upgrades and club lounge passes. Let’s go through all the details.

IHG Rewards becomes IHG One Rewards

To begin with, IHG’s loyalty program is renamed IHG One Rewards. This is part of a larger focus from IHG to promote unity and emphasize that we all share one world.

The new IHG One Rewards logo

To coincide with the launch of the new app, IHG is launching a new mobile app that members should start seeing in the coming weeks. IHG promises a much improved experience through the app, so hopefully that is the case.

Six Senses Fiji

IHG One Rewards has five membership levels

IHG One Rewards has five membership levels, as follows:

IHG One Rewards membership levels

Below is a chart comparing the membership benefits by elite level.

IHG One Rewards membership benefits

While most of the new perks come in the form of Milestone Rewards, and although breakfast is a huge new perk (I will cover both below), let me just note a few things about the other perks:

  • Early check-in and late check-out are not something to get too excited about as it is not guaranteed for any elite tier but rather relies on availability
  • Members of the IHG Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite will have access to give night discounts several times a year, similar to the offer we recently saw; however, there are no specific promises as to how often we will see these
  • IHG Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite members will receive suite upgrades up to standard suites; but I have been told that there is actually no policy change here compared to the old rules, but rather the hotels will just be better coached and encouraged to try to upgrade guests, including up to 48 hours before arrival
  • IHG Diamond Elite members will have access to a dedicated phone number, which should provide better customer service

While members should see their level names updated in the coming days, the new elite fringe benefits are valid from June 2022, so they do not take effect immediately.

Kimpton Paris

IHG Diamond members receive free breakfast

One of the most exciting features of the new IHG One Rewards program is that select elite members will finally receive free breakfast. Specifically, Diamond Elite members will be able to choose breakfast as their welcome facilities:

  • This will include a hot breakfast for two people; hotels may exclude certain items (such as alcoholic beverages or specialty coffee), but this appears to be a “real” breakfast and not a diluted continental breakfast
  • The only properties excluded from this are limited service properties that already offer breakfast to all guests, plus Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, InterContinental Alliance properties (in Las Vegas and Macau), select Kimpton locations and Mr. and Mrs. Smith Properties

I would consider it huge that IHG is finally offering free breakfast as an elite perk, and that’s a pretty legitimate offer.

InterContinental Los Angeles

IHG One Rewards Milestone Rewards Program

The most exciting aspect of the IHG One Rewards program is the introduction of Milestone Rewards, which is a way for members to get confirmed suite upgrades, club lounge passes and more. Specifically, members will receive perks for every 10 elite nights they earn in a calendar year, from 20 to 100.

For 20 elite evenings, IHG One Rewards members can choose one of the following:

  • 5,000 bonus IHG points
  • Two food and beverage rewards worth $ 20 each
  • A confirmatory suite upgrade

At 30 elite evenings, IHG One Rewards members can choose one of the following:

  • 5,000 bonus IHG points
  • Two food and beverage rewards worth $ 20 each

For 40 elite nights, IHG One Rewards members can choose two of the following:

  • 10,000 bonus IHG points
  • Five food and beverage rewards worth $ 20 each
  • A confirmatory suite upgrade (limited one)
  • An annual lounge membership (limited one)

For both 50 and 60 elite evenings, IHG One Rewards members can choose one of the following:

  • 10,000 bonus IHG points
  • Five food and beverage rewards worth $ 20 each

At 60 elite evenings, IHG One Rewards members can choose one of the following:

  • 10,000 bonus IHG points
  • Five food and beverage rewards worth $ 20 each

For 70 elite nights, IHG One Rewards members can choose two of the following:

  • 10,000 bonus IHG points
  • Five food and beverage rewards worth $ 20 each
  • A confirmatory suite upgrade (limited one)
  • An annual lounge membership (limited one)

For 80, 90 and 100 elite nights, IHG One Rewards members can choose one of the following:

  • 10,000 bonus IHG points
  • Five food and beverage rewards worth $ 20 each
IHG One Rewards Milestone Rewards

It is important to note that IHG Milestone Rewards is specifically tied to how many elite nights you earn in a calendar year. So if you receive status via a credit card, you will not automatically be eligible for Milestone Rewards.

For context, I value IHG points at 0.5 cent points. Therefore, the food and beverage reward generally represents a better value than the points if you try to make a choice. Personally, I would pretty consistently choose the confirmed suite upgrades or lounge passes when they are options.

Hotel X Brisbane

How do IHG-certified suite upgrades work?

It’s exciting to see IHG finally introduce confirmed suite upgrades:

  • These can be used to confirm a suite upgrade for a stay of up to five nights
  • These can only be used on paid stays when booking qualified prices
  • These can be used by calling IHG One Rewards customer support between 14 days and one day before arrival
  • There is no waiting list mechanism here, but if there is a standard package for sale, you can confirm it at that time
  • The upgrade may be up to a standard suite, but if it is not available, you can confirm an upgrade to another non-suite premium room
  • In the future, there are plans for this process to be possible online and for members to be able to upgrade waiting lists

How does IHG annual lounge membership work?

IHG is also finally introducing club lounge upgrades as part of the Milestone Rewards program:

  • An annual lounge membership gives you access to lounges for the entire year in which it is earned, plus the following 12 months (in other words, if earned in June 2022, it will be valid through December 31, 2023)
  • This can be used to access the club lounge for an unlimited number of stays, whether you pay in cash or redeem points
  • This can be used on virtually any IHG property with a club lounge, including InterContinentals

How Do IHG Food & Drink Rewards Work?

The food and beverage credits can be earned over time and will appear in your IHG account. That way, you can choose whether you want to redeem them individually or use several for a single purchase. They are valid for 12 months after they are issued and they retain no residual value.

My bid for the new IHG One Rewards program

The new IHG One Rewards program greatly exceeds my expectations. As mentioned above, I did not previously consider IHG to have competitive elite advantages, but that has finally changed:

  • IHG finally offers breakfast as an elite benefit and it sounds like it is a complete, hot breakfast rather than a continental breakfast
  • Members can earn up to four confirmed suite upgrades a year, plus can gain unlimited access to the club lounge if they earn at least 40 elite nights a year, which is exciting
  • The fact that you earn your first confirmed suite upgrade on 20 elite nights is quite remarkable as it is the easiest to achieve confirmed suite upgrade in the industry
  • It sounds like IHG is instructing hotels to be more proactive about suite upgrades for elite members, but there is still not much in the way of warranties, except when using a confirmed suite upgrade

So am I ready to shift some loyalty to IHG?

  • My biggest problem is that I find IHG’s portfolio rather uninspiring; apart from limited service properties, I like Kimpton and Six Senses (although Six Senses is not fully integrated into IHG yet), but I think most InterContinental properties are pretty sad
  • It is unlikely that I would earn the 70 elite nights a year to achieve Diamond Elite status, even though I could spend $ 40,000 a year on a co-branded credit card to achieve status; although this would give me free breakfast, the problem is that it would not get any of the valuable Milestone Rewards
IHG’s portfolio of 17 brands

All in all, I’m really impressed with the program. This will not make me switch my loyalty fully to IHG, simply because I do not find the portfolio so interesting. But it will make me stay a little more on IHG properties.

I can not help but wonder what the future holds for the InterContinental Ambassador program. This is a separately paid membership program that offers perks on InterContinental properties. With IHG’s new loyalty program offering more robust perks on InterContinental properties, I imagine we’ll see a significant update of this over time.

Staybridge Suites Savannah

Bottom line

Details of IHG’s new loyalty program have just been announced and I’m impressed. The new program is called IHG One Rewards. With this, we see the introduction of free breakfast for Diamond Elite members at the highest level. In addition, we see the introduction of the Milestone Rewards program, which offers everything from verifiable suite upgrades to unlimited access to the club lounge.

IHG’s loyalty program has finally evolved to the point that it’s competitive and it’s exciting.

What do you think of IHG’s new loyalty program?

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