Updates to IHG Rewards

Yesterday, IHG announced updates to their IHG Rewards program. The changes include:

  • A new top elite tier, yet to be named, featuring: 
    • 100% bonus on reward points
    • 25,000 point bonus or
    • Ability to gift platinum status to a family member or friend
  • Reduction in stay and spend requirements for existing elite tiers
    • Gold status for 10 nights or 10,000 points (down from 15 nights or 20,000 points); retains 10% bonus on reward points
    • Platinum status for 40 nights or 40,000 points (down from 50 nights or 60,000 points); retains 50% bonus on reward points
  • Fast track options to elite membership (allowed fewer nights or points if stays included multiple IHG brands) are eliminated
  • Points now expire after 12 months of inactivity

Additional updates will be announced when the new program goes into effect on July 1.

Overall, these changes appear to be a net positive. As an Chase IHG Rewards MasterCard holder, I receive Platinum status through the card, so the new thresholds do not impact me (assuming no changes are forthcoming to the credit card benefits). The ten-stay requirement is a positive change in my opinion.  I achieved Gold status prior to getting the credit card via Fast Track with 10 stays across three IHG brands. Under the new system, I could have achieved that status had all those stays been with a single brand. 

Regarding the new expiration policy, there are numerous ways to keep your account active, so I have no problem with them expiring points after 12 months of inactivity. Note, the new expiration policy takes effect immediately with the first points expirations occurring in May 2016.

It’s very simple to extend your point balance period - any activity that earns additional points or uses your existing points will extend your 12 month window. Examples of qualifying earn activities include: a qualifying stay at any IHG hotel or resort, purchases on your IHG credit card, earning points via a promotional offer, or earning points with any IHG® Rewards Club partner. Examples of qualifying redemption activities include booking a Reward Night stay, donating points to charity, redeeming points for travel via our Flights Anywhere or Cars Anywhere products, or making a purchase from the IHG online redemption catalogue.
— IHG Rewards Program Update FAQ

UPDATE: Based on several other travel blogs, if you have elite status, points will not expire even under the new policy.

You can read the full program update FAQ here.

The part of the announcement that concerns me the most is the very last bullet they seemed to slip in under the radar:

On May 1 2015, we’ll be changing the point requirements for Reward Nights at approximately 450 hotels. Less than 300 will be increasing by 5-10,000 points and 150 will be decreasing by 5,000 points.
— IHG Rewards Program Update Annoucement

I recently purchased a block of IHG Rewards point through a deal at Daily Getaways. I based this purchase on an analysis of hotel options for trips I am planning this fall. These points should be deposited soon, so I need to get these reservations made before May 1 in case any of the properties I have selected experience an increase in reward rates.