Hotel and airline program devaluations are a part of the miles and points world, and I’ve mostly made my peace with them. Unless your points are cash points (directly tied to the cash price of a flight or stay, points inflation is just going to happen. There’s a race for bigger and bigger signup bonuses and points earning (to attract customers).
But with more and more points floating around out there, it causes an upward inflationary pressure on the rewards system, and the result is almost always an increase in the amount of miles and points it takes to book a flight / hotel. As reported by View from the Wing, IHG has become the latest chain to drastically increase the cost of using their program.
IHG’s Unannounced Devaluation
So, like I said earlier, I understand that devaluations are going to occur. Even if they take away some of my favorite sweet spots, it’s just a thing that is bound to happen. What I DO have a huge problem is with unannounced or “overnight” devaluations, which, unfortunately, is what IHG did earlier this week.
Again, I get it that our “precious” miles and points don’t actually belong to us and that companies can do whatever they want without any thought for your or my personal feelings. But it does feel like what are called LOYALTY programs should actually be about, you know, LOYALTY? :-). When you change the rules of your program overnight without notice, it truly feels like a slap in the face to all of us who have been participating in the loyalty program. Saving up for that sweet sweet stay at the Holiday Inn Express Butte Montana, only to find its cost move ever so out of our reach …
View from the Wing, in a followup post, shared a few of his thoughts on WHY IHG would choose to devalue right now. I thought he made some interesting points — basically his thinking was that it was an attempt to shore up the company’s balance sheet and encourage members to book paid stays vs. award stays to increase cash flow.
Examples of IHG Devaluation
It wasn’t too terribly long ago that the top level on IHG’s award chart was 60,000 points per night, and these were reserved only for the most luxury and rare properties. Now with dynamic pricing, some hotels are pricing out at 120,000 points per night. Hotels pushing 6 figures in points needed per night are not uncommon.
That’s twice as much as it was only a few years ago. Even lesser brands are charging points costs that would have been topping the chart a few scant years ago
I mean I know I’m a fan of Holiday Inn Express cinnamon rolls (but not Holiday Inns), and I’m sure this is a great location if you’re visiting some of Utah’s national parks, but 59,000 points seems like a ton of points here! Loyalty Lobby shares even more examples of hotels with outrageous points costs. Monkey Miles even reports that many hotels are regularly charging 41,000 points per night — right above the line of where you could use a free night certificate from the IHG credit card.
I also found it (sadly) amusing that just 3 days after reporting on this devaluation, many of the same blogs were touting IHG’s new and improved highest ever credit card offer, as if these two things were not quite interrelated.
What Are IHG Points Worth Now?
So what are IHG points worth now? Frequent Miler suggests that IHG points are now worth somewhere between 0.3 and 0.4 cents per point. That would put IHG points on par with Hilton for having the lowest value of hotel points out there. I’ve also seen a few articles showing that it is still possible to get good value from your points, especially if you combine it with the 4th night free perk that comes with the IHG credit card. Still, that number seems about right — I certainly wouldn’t be speculatively buying points from IHG at just about any level, given its lack of notice with this devaluation.
Update: IHG Rolls It Back?
After I finished writing this post, we got some additional information that perhaps things aren’t as bad as it first seemed. Doctor of Credit, View from the Wing and One Mile at a Time all reported that the prices at many hotels had returned to their prices from the week before. It’s a bit strange since IHG specifically confirmed the earlier devaluation. Remember, now that IHG is using variable pricing, the prices can change at any time and with no notice. Since most points bookings are refundable, if you see a good price, you might as well go ahead and speculatively book it. You can always cancel it if the price gets lower or if your plans change.
What to Do With Your IHG Points Now
If you have a bunch of IHG points, it’s time to start figuring out what you are going to do with them. This is not going to be the last time a points program devalues. As I’ve said consistently over the years, miles and points are a deflationary currency and it’s not a smart idea to hold on to your points. Earn ’em and burn ’em is the name of the game! If there’s an award that seems too good to be true, it probably is and is ripe for devaluation.
What are you going to do with your IHG points now? Leave a note in the comments.
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