Maximizing IHG Rewards Club for Family Travel
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
The InterContinental Hotels Group, better known as IHG, features more than 5,200 properties in over 100 countries. Other than InterContinental, its most prominent brands are Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo and Kimpton. In addition, its offer some budget brands such as Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, and Staybridge Suites.
Advantages of IHG Rewards for Families
IHG Rewards Club offers a fairly straightforward rewards program, awarding points and elite status based on spending and the number of nights you stay. Here are some of the ways that IHG properties cater to family travelers:
1. The Sheer Number of Properties
While Club Carlson, Hyatt and Starwood all offer great value in terms of rewards per dollar spent on their associated credit cards, families frequently come up short when searching for properties at their destination within these much smaller brands. IHG Rewards Club members have no such problem, and can often find several different IHG hotels at various price points in a given location.
2. Kids Stay and Eat Free at Holiday Inns
Children 12 and under enjoy a free meal at Holiday Inn restaurants when traveling with an adult around the world (11 and under in some countries). Hotels that charge extra for additional guests also allow children up to 18 years old to stay for free. Charging extra for kids is not common in the United States, but it happens all the time in Europe, so this policy can provide good value when traveling abroad. You can find more details here.
3. Free Internet Access
If you think that this is more of a business amenity, you haven’t traveled much with kids and their gadgets lately. Sure, most of us have internet access on our phones, but service can be very expensive in other countries, so it’s nice that IHG hotels all include basic Internet service to all members of the IHG Rewards Club.
4. Holiday Inn Resorts
Of all the IHG brands, the Holiday Inn Resorts seem to be the most family-friendly. Many include water parks for kids, and activities such as cooking classes, arts and crafts and a kid’s club.
5. Decent Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus
Earning free nights through credit card spending is vital for families and leisure travelers who don’t rack up as many points on paid stays as business travelers. The IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card offers 60,000 points as a sign-up bonus after you spend just $1,000 within three months. It also features a free night each year after the cardholder’s anniversary. Finally, it offers a 10% rebate on redeemed points, taking a little of the edge off the steep prices on the IHG award chart. There’s a $49 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
6. Holiday Inn Kids Suites
Many Holiday Inn properties offer special family rooms with Kids Suites. These can be as simple as a small partition with a separate television and Xbox for the kids, or as elaborate as a separate, themed bedroom. These look really great if you can find them!
The Downsides of IHG Rewards Club for Families
In several ways, IHG Rewards Club doesn’t compare very favorably to other hotel brands for families, or other travelers for that matter. Here’s why:
1. Gold Elite Status Offers Few Benefits
To earn Gold Elite status, you must do one of the following:
- Stay 10 qualifying nights, which include award nights
- Earn 10,000 elite-qualifying points
In exchange, you merely get priority check-in and a 10% bonus earning on top of base points. There are no free breakfasts (which Hilton offers both Diamond and Gold elite members at its full-service properties), and no complimentary room upgrades (which just about every other hotel loyalty program offers).
2. Platinum Elite Is Uncompetitive for a Top-Tier Status
Moving up to Platinum Elite status requires one of the following:
- 40 qualifying nights
- 40,000 elite qualifying points
- Obtaining the IHG Rewards Club Select Card from Chase
So this is the only program that essentially offers 50-night stay credit just for having their co-branded credit card, with no annual spending requirement. At that level, you do get:
- Complimentary room upgrades
- Guaranteed room availability on paid stays with 72 hours’ notice.
- 50% bonus earnings.
- Elite rollover nights (which is moot for those who have the credit card with the $49 annual fee).
These benefits might hold some value to business travelers, but other than the room upgrades, they offer very little to family and leisure travelers. In contrast, other programs offer late checkout, welcome gifts of food and beverages or access to a club lounge.
3. Reward Nights Have Capacity Controls
The IHG Rewards program boasts “no blackout dates,” but that policy isn’t very helpful, as hotels can simply limit the number of rooms available for an award (the same way airlines limit award seats). The result is that families may not find their award points usable at popular vacation destinations during peak times, exactly when they need them most.
4. Credit Card Points are Hard to Earn
The IHG Rewards Club Select card offers just 1 point per dollar spent on most purchases, yet IHG’s award chart tends to require far more points than other programs for a free night stay. Again, this program appears to offer more to frequent business travelers on paid stays rather than family travelers and other award travel enthusiasts who rely mostly on points earned from their credit card.
Finally, another problem I have with many IHG properties is that rollaway bed charges may apply. It would be nice if hotels made this inexpensive amenity available to families at no cost. Thankfully, many IHG properties in the US seem to do so, but it’s not uncommon to find IHG properties overseas charging outrageous prices for what amounts to the use of a spare cot.
The IHG Rewards program seems oriented toward business travelers who accumulate most of their points based on paid stays. Unfortunately, many families and award travel enthusiasts rely on credit cards and other promotions to earn points, and this program is not particularly attractive in that regard. Nevertheless, their most family-friendly properties do seem to offer plenty of amenities to keep kids (and their parents) happy.
Featured image courtesy of the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba – Beach Resort & Casino.
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