I’ve been a member of the IHG Rewards Club for a couple of years, but haven’t made much of an effort to earn points or status. Most of my hotel stays are booked through hotels.com as I’m a big fan of their reward scheme and the fact that I can earn airline miles by booking through them. Our bargain trip to Venice was partly paid via hotels.com. Hotels.com also offers rooms across all chains and I’m usually a price sensitive traveller, so will look for hotels with decent rates, not just a certain chain.
However, every quarter, IHG run an Accelerate promotion and sets each of their members a range of targets to boost their loyalty points balance and encourage you to stay with them. You need to register for the promotion to be able to see your targets. For the past few years, my targets have been completely unachievable so I haven’t bothered to take part. For an infrequent leisure traveller with an eye on price, I couldn’t commit to spending 20 nights in any hotel in a 3 month period, let alone an IHG hotel. This quarter is different. The challenge is on.
I’m a big fan of the Crowne Plaza brand of IHG. They tend to be decent 4* & 5* hotels, aimed at business travellers which generally means that they’re nice and quiet during weekdays and have favourable rates at weekends. If I’m flying out of Manchester Airport, I often use the Crowne Plaza there and me & mum stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Delhi during our Golden Triangle tour. IHG had obviously picked up on that and incorporated that in to my target. As me & the other half were planning a bank holiday minibreak, it was easy to hit 50% of that target with our stay in Harrogate. As I booked the stay through the app, I was also 50% of the way towards that target too!
The beauty of the Accelerate promotion is that you can hit multiple targets in just 1 night. For example, as the Harrogate stay was in May, that hit the Stay in May bonus target and earned 1500 points. We had to stay once to earn 1500 and earnt 6,600 for booking a Bonus Points Package rate. The Bonus Rate Package comes with 1000 extra points for £5.00 and as the standard rate at the Crowne Plaza Harrogate was cheap anyway, I was happy to spend an extra £5.00 for 7,600 points. From that one stay, which cost the grand sum of £77.00 (including Club Lounge access!), I earned 11,576 points!
I’d been considering taking out the IHG credit card for a little while so when the offer of bonus miles appeared in my target, it was a no-brainer. I decided to go for the free card rather than the premium card which has a £99.00 annual fee as I didn’t really value the additional benefits of the premium card. And I had no appetite to spend £99.00 for a credit card when my other targets involved spending money! The free card comes with 10,000 points for spending £200.00 in the first 3 months, which we easily did by paying for the theme park tickets for our forthcoming trip to Orlando. Add that to the 2000 Accelerate bonus points and the 836 points for the spend on the card, takes the points earned to 12,836.
The 5000 points for becoming an InterContinental Ambassador member requires a bit more thought and careful consideration. InterContinental Ambassador is the loyalty scheme for InterContinental brand hotels, the top end 5* IHG properties. Ambassador is a chargeable scheme and costs $200.00 per year to be a member. The scheme does give guaranteed benefits such as room upgrades, 4pm late checkout, welcome gifts etc but only at InterContinental hotels, not at any of the other IHG brands (Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn etc). I’ve never stayed at an InterContinental, they’re usually out of my price range! However, and this is the exciting bit, on payment of the joining fee, you get a gift certificate for 1 free night at any InterContinental hotel in the world. Used properly, this can easily earn back the $200.00 fee and then some! The voucher is valid for 1 year from joining so I’ll hit that target right at the end of the quarter and the voucher will be valid for stays up to July 2019. As I’m planning to spend £150.00 on Ambassador membership, that’s why I didn’t want to spend £99.00 on the Premium credit card.
As I’ve got another Crowne Plaza stay booked via the IHG app, that’ll hit off 2 more targets, boosting my points balance by around 12,700. The only target I wont hit is Stay More, Earn More as I’ve got no need to spend another 3 nights in hotels this quarter. Plus, I don’t need to hit that target to get the Achievement Bonus of 13,200 points as I’ll already have hit 6 out of the 7 targets.
By the end of July, I’ll have earnt 41,000 points from the Accelerate Promotion, 10,836 points from the credit card and have a voucher for 1 free night at any 5* InterContinental hotel in the world. Not bad for £330.00!
But why does it even matter?!
Well, me & the other half have been talking about going to Paris for a while and IHG has a number of hotels in Paris, including 2 InterContinentals. Both hotels charge around £450-£500 per night, which would put them out of our price range. But by using the Accelerate promotion, I will add enough points to my existing balance to pay for 1 night using points (70,000) and can use the free Ambassador voucher for the second night. We’ll need to pay cash for the first night but the 3-night stay will cost £650.00 (£500.00 for the first night plus £150.00 for Ambassador membership) rather than £1500.00, saving £850.00! Plus, Ambassador membership will get us a guaranteed room upgrade so the saving will be even bigger!
I’m not sure that I’ll take part in future Accelerate promotions; this one has only worked out because we had 2 hotel stays planned for this quarter anyway which enabled us to hit off the targets really easily. We’ll see what the next quarter’s targets look like and make a decision then. Otherwise, I’ll keep you updated on how the plans for our bargain luxury trip to Paris come along!