Hi, guys! I hope you’ve all enjoyed your winter break. I was sick as a dog with a massive infection, my father-in-law had a stroke (he is doing better now) and yesterday we found a poisonous copperhead snake in the backyard. Otherwise, everything is dandy.
In not-so-dandy news, IHG is up to its old tricks. It’s a new year and a new devaluation, er, category adjustment. Except, I don’t see the date on when the changes will go into effect. That’s why it’s imperative that you don’t delay redeeming your points if you have a specific hotel in mind.
You can see the full IHG announcement here As usual, it’s poorly formatted and hard to analyze. Which is why I recommend this excellent post on The Gate that breaks it all down according to color. Red=bad, green=good. This is “2018 IHG massacre for dummies”, and I mean it as a compliment.
Winners and losers
There aren’t too many surprises here. If your desired hotel is located in downtown area of a big city (New York, Boston, San Francisco), chances are, it will cost more in a near future. But wait! Some hotels already cost 60,000 points per night, so it can’t get any worse, right? I’m glad you asked.
Turns out, IHG is introducing a new category which will require 70,000 points per night. The program is inching closer and closer to Hilton in terms of astronomical points cost in popular locations. Except with the latter, when paid rates are low, the award rates will be reduced as well. Not so with IHG. Also, IHG award availability can be spotty if you don’t book far ahead.
To be fair, in some places the increase definitely makes sense. French Polynesia is a very expensive market and right now, you can still book an overwater bungalow in Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora property for a mere 60,000 points per night. That is if you find availability (good luck with that!) Soon it will cost 70,000 points, which is still a crazy hot deal.
The IHG properties in Moorea and Papeete will go up from 40,000 points per night to 50,000 points. It’s still a terrific value, especially if you accumulate points at a cheap rate. By comparison, Hilton program charges 80,000 points per night in its properties in Bora Bora and Moorea.
Of course, most of you are probably not heading to French Polynesia and are primarily interested in hotels in US, Mexico and Caribbean. It looks like Holiday Inn Resort Aruba-Beach Resort & Casino will go up from 35,000 points per night to 40,000 points. At a new rate, it could still be worth it during high season and holidays.
I was sad to see that Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay All-Inclusive will go up from 40,000 points to 50,000 points per night. Ouch! We vacationed here in spring of 2017 for only 35,000 points per night, and enjoyed it immensely. If you’ve been thinking about going, now is the time to burn the points.
If you happen to have a Platinum status with IHG chain (via co-branded credit card), you will most likely get upgraded to a suite. I do think 40,000 points per night is a good deal for a family of four where kids are 12 and under. Unfortunately, it looks like Holiday Inn Express where we stayed at during our short New York getaway will increase from 15,000 to 20,000 points per night. I’m not surprised because I thought it was a very good value.
So, that’s basically the crux of the matter. If you see an unusually good hotel redemption, expect it to get gutted at some point. While these changes seem quite drastic, they are not really surprising to anyone who has been following IHG for the last four years or so.
The program had promotion after promotion where you could acquire points dirt cheap. Savvy people made sure to take advantage of them. As a result, we (miles and points folks) ended up with an unusually high supply of IHG points and chasing after few outsized redemptions.
There are some bright spots, of course. If you are planning to do a road trip and just need a hotel near a highway, chances are, you will still find something in 10,000-15,000 points range as long as you are flexible. IHG has a huge footprint, and there are many good deals to be had.
If you scroll all the way down in that article on The Gate I’ve linked to, you will see many hotels that will soon be cheaper as a result of the adjustment. I was surprised that Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando At Seaworld will go down from 20,000 to 15,000 points per night. This will be one of the best IHG deals in Orlando area.
Should you give up on IHG program?
It really depends on your travel plans. If you see a good deal that will not be affected by this devaluation, by all means, look into collecting IHG points. I tend to think that the worst is behind us and IHG has mostly adjusted everything it was going to adjust. That said, no-notice devaluations are not uncommon in any program. I saw one IHG hotel go up from 25,000 to 35,000 points per night, with no advance warning. That’s why I wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket, as in collect IHG points with one property in mind.
Personally, at the moment I’m bearish on IHG currency and currently have only 23,000 points left. I’ve been ignoring recent Accelerate promotions and don’t plan to change course, especially in view of this latest devaluation. That said, I still think IHG points can be valuable under the right circumstances. If I see a way to acquire them dirt cheap, I will probably bite. What exactly is dirt cheap? For me, it would be a price of 0.25 cents apiece or less, which is about half of what IHG program sells them for.
It goes without saying that IHG co-branded credit card is still a keeper, even more so now. For $49 annual fee you get a certificate valid at any property, so devaluations won’t affect you at all. You also get other perks like Platinum status (possible upgrades) and 10% rebate on redemptions. I saw some commenters say that they plan to cancel IHG credit card because of this devaluation. Why? To send IHG a message? I doubt they will care. You will have to pry that card out of my cold dead fingers.
To sum it all up: life goes on, and devaluations are part of miles and points reality. There are much more important things to worry about. So, evaluate your upcoming plans and see if you can utilize your IHG stash while it’s worth more. Otherwise, I wouldn’t rearrange my life just to burn hotel points.
Readers, who is affected by this change?
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Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.
I’m super low on points, but the free annual night always comes in handy especially since we’re using it in NY for 1 night where the stay would have cost me 40,000 points. Not the best use of the certificate, but I had no other plans for it, and we get free parking and free breakfast (score!)
@Stephanie Yes, annual cert on IHG card is the best thing since sliced bread! Sure, some folks will let them expire due to change in circumstances or lack of award availability. But for those who travel even a few times per year, it is darn hard to beat. Couples can get a nice weekend getaway for very little money. I live in Florida, and we have a ton of options here. I tell everyone to get this card, but very few listen.
As far as redeeming the cert on a property that costs 40,000 points, I’ve done it multiple times! Don’t view it as not maximizing it to the limit but rather getting a decent hotel in NY for $49 all-in.
@Leana…just read the 1st paragraph completely thru….I skimmed the middle as this is my first week back to work 🙁 Sounds like you had an awful winter break…I’m so sorry about everything. Hope it gets better.
@Stephanie Oh, it’s OK! Thank you for your concern, though. I wasn’t sure if I should even mention it. Things are better now. I feel healthy, the snake is dead and my FIL is recovering. He even started driving today. We feel blessed because it could have been much worse. He lost some memory and couldn’t read for few days. But he is slowly learning how to do stuff again. It really made us all realize how we can’t take time with my in laws for granted. This stroke came out of nowhere. Kind of puts Points devaluations and all these other silly hobby developments in perspective.
So sad about Montego Bay!! I stayed for 35k a night Jan 2017 and quite enjoyed it!!
@Clyn6 I know it! I was actually debating on whether to try to accumulate some IHG points with this resort in mind, but not now. At 50k Points per night it’s no longer a steal. Add to it exorbitant taxes on flights to Jamaica, and I think we’ll be sticking to local Florida hotels. Not that I’m complaining!
Nick @ Personal Finance Digest says
After years of hoarding IHG points, I recently used them (plus some I bought) for two rooms / two weeks in Nicaragua thanks to a fortuitously timed Pointsbreak promotion. In retrospect, it seems my IHG strategy has been to hoard and wait for a Pointsbreak opportunity, and that worked out pretty well.
@Nick Nicely done! Yeah, you can’t go wrong with PointBreaks promo. I just wish IHG would announce the list of participating properties years in advance! 🙂 It really is awesome when the stars align and there is a nice property for 5k points where you need to be at anyway. Sadly, it’s been a long time since PointBreaks worked out for us. But I have nice memories of vacationing in beachfront Crowne Plaza in Florida for 5k points per night. Can’t beat that.
Nick @ Personal Finance Digest says
I have literally waited years for a good Pointsbreak opportunity. But the points are cheap enough to buy that I’m not in a hurry to get more, so I’ll continue enjoying the “free” night for credit card holders.
I haven’t been very loyal to IHG recently. All my promo offers lately require a lot of stays for what seems like a small amount of points. I’m also bummed that even seven months out, there’s no availability at the hotel I wanted to stay at in Seattle on certificates.
@Jennifer I hear you. I’m not loyal to any of them, to be honest. I’ve gotten decent value out of IHG over the last few years, but don’t go out of my way to collect the points anymore. You are right, award availability can be spotty. That’s a big negative, for sure.
Not happy about the devaluation. HI in Zion national park is going up 10,000 points! This makes points plus cash likely a good deal.
Ugh, sorry about that! Yeah, IHG has mostly lost its luster, unfortunately. The sweet spots are few and far in between these days. Beachfront hotels in Florida really took a beating in the last few years in terms of points cost.
How do I “lock in” my dates when they aren’t bookable yet?
@Natasha Unfortunately, if they are not yet bookable, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. I’m not sure when the new rates will kick in, probably in a week or two. So, if your dates are far off, you will be stuck with the new rate. Sorry!
I was able to move things around a bit and book the HIE Zion National Park for $99 for one night next month. We will be in Vegas so I figured it’s worth the 3 hour drive to see Zion especially since we’re staying over night. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m also using my ihg bonus to stay at the Palazzo. (60,000 points)
@Natasha Sounds good! My in-laws visited Zion national park and said it was terrific.