Quarterly Priority Club bonus: Points or free nights (individualized)

A few times per year, Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG, owner of Intercontinental, Holiday Inn brands, others) does a personalized bonus, based on your stay history and spending patterns with its brands. There are a number of “templates” for offers and you will receive the one that is geared most closely to you.  This quarter’s bonus is called “Accelerate” and can be found hereIf you do not currently have an IHG account, there is a standard offer, which is actually pretty good.

IHG is an exercise in both joy and exasperation. Its loyalty program, known as IHG Rewards, is not as sophisticated as, say, Marriott’s or Starwood’s programs, so it remains both gamable and amateurish. I’ve seen them offer several bonuses/coupons at once and then shut down accounts when people try to use more than one (despite no language prohibiting it). I’ve also seen them change the terms and conditions in the middle of a promo, only to change them back when enough customers apply pressure. Fortunately, this one looks pretty straightforward.

IHG’s bonuses are the industry’s best example of “non-loyalty loyalty” bonuses.* If you stay with them frequently, this quarter’s bonus will be very difficult to obtain. In order to maximize the points, you may stay to have 20-30 nights before December 31, go to particular geographies, visit multiple brands, etc. They know you’re coming back to them, regardless of the bonus offer they give you. On the other hand, for someone like me who rarely stays with them (I only stay at ICH hotels for promos like this one or to use the free night that comes with my credit card.), the requirements were simple (Everything needs to be completed by 12/31.):

  • Stay one night and get 5,000 points
  • Stay five nights and get 6,800 points
  • Book one “bonus package” and get 2,000 points
  • Pay for a night with my PC credit card and get 1,500 points**
  • Do any three of the above and get an additional 34,700 points

It’s that last bit that helps. A Bonus Package is simple: it’s the regular rate, plus $5, and it gets me a thousand extra points. So here’s my strategy:

I find the nearest hotel to me. Turns out that there’s one not too far away that costs about $125, all-in. If I really wanted to search, or was having somebody else check me in at a cheap hotel in a different geography, I could probably cut that in half. But this is a “for example,” at least in a public blog. And that one night checks off three of the four above boxes: By booking the bonus package rate and paying with my IHG credit card, I will also have completed the first requirement of staying one night. With that one night, I did three of the above and will get about 45,000 points, including what I get for the stay. Keep in mind that the most expensive reward night for Intercontinental is 50,000 points, so my one night stay could almost get me, for instance, the Intercontinental Paris for a night, possibly the nicest property in the system.

Ah oui! Merci pour le Promo, Priority Club! Photo from businesstraveller.com

Ah oui! Merci pour le Promo, Priority Club! Photo from businesstraveller.com

 

Are you a new member?

If you do not have an IHG account but open one (It’s free.), the offer for you is standardized, but it’s excellent: Complete two stays and get a free night. Complete two more and get one more free night. The big benefit? You can make your paid stays at cheap hotels and, if you do four of them, jet off to the Intercontinental Paris for the weekend.

 

 

*Companies will refer to their “loyalty programs,” but miles and points are anything but that. They are, in truth, programs designed to drive future behavior, rather than reward past behavior. How many times have you seen a promotion retroactively giving you 5,000 points if you had three or more stays last month, for instance? ICH is not the only one who does this, but it is definitely the worst about sticking it to loyal customers.

**If you do not have a credit card with them, the “pay with credit card” will not be an option. There is an outside possibility that one requirement will be to apply for a credit card. If you do get the card, you will get a 60,000 point additional bonus, an additional free night anywhere and the first year is free. As always, I truly appreciate it if you use my travel cards banner found here.

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