I’m Downgrading IHG “Stock”

No, I’m not saying: Sell! Sell! Sell! In my post last week I’ve mentioned that I don’t speculatively hoard hotel points. Well, what I meant to say was I don’t accumulate them unless the price is dirt cheap. But what exactly qualifies as “dirt cheap”? Everyone will have  a different answer  based on their goals and upcoming plans. But let me share with you what I consider to be a bargain when it comes to IHG currency and why my speculative price is now lower than it was before.

Last week I’ve decided to book a 1-night getaway during President’s Day weekend. The kids are off that Monday and my husband was on-board (shocker!) I wanted something close by, which is why IHG program made the most sense. In spite  of all  its flaws, it has an outstanding coverage. We wouldn’t be leaving for 11 days, and it’s not a major holiday, so surely,  they would be  plenty of availability via IHG program. Nope.

You can’t have our nice hotels!

I looked at Indigo Sarasota and it had no award rooms available. This particular hotel will cost 10K points more after February 17th, so I was kind of hoping to take the kids there before devaluation. No such luck. Several other decent hotels in the area were also sold out, some for several weekends in a  row.

I have also noticed a very alarming trend where  some IHG hotels are blocking award rooms. One of my readers has alerted me that Holiday Inn Sanibel (see my review of this property) has zero availability for the next year, and it’s true:

sanibel HI availability

And it looked that way during the other nine months. BTW, I even put 2 people in the reservation and still nothing. I’ve also been stalking Holiday Inn Club Vacations Marco Island for a year and I’m yet to see any award availability EVER. All hotels in IHG chain are required to release 5% of their rooms into award pool, but clearly, this isn’t the case.

In fact,  I’ve mentioned in this post that one IHG property  manager once told me they only release 1 room per night during summer months and they happen to have 200 rooms. Simple math will tell you that it’s not 5% but rather 0.5%. Well, at least there is a number 5 present.

So, the question comes up: what good is outstanding coverage if you can’t ever book the hotels you actually want? Sure, there will likely be something available by the highway, but what family wants to spend  their vacation near an interstate? I’m certain most people would rather  stay in IHG resorts or beachfront hotels, and those are the very places that are blocking awards.

Is the situation bleak all over the state of Florida?

No, I wouldn’t say that. If you are heading to Daytona area, there are three properties there, and  availability is usually pretty good as long as you book way ahead. But that part of Florida is fairly cheap. It’s Sanibel island that can cost a good bit of money if you are staying during peak season.

Generally, if you are looking to vacation on the East coast of Florida, you should be able to find something by the beach. West coast can be problematic. There are only a few beachfront properties and award rooms get booked up months in advance.

If you are looking at cities like Orlando, you shouldn’t have any issues, but once again, that area is fairly cheap and affordable condos are all over the place. Not to mention, IHG has raised award prices significantly over the last few years where it hardly makes sense to burn the points aside from handful of properties (see this post for more on this).

The strategy to beat IHG at their own game

1) Book far in advance

This goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway. If you have the dates set, just book the rooms. You can always cancel and get your points back.

2) Think carefully on whether you should speculatively collect IHG points via mattress runs

Perhaps consider getting IHG credit card sign-up bonus  rather than going through nuisance of booking rooms you won’t be staying at and risk your points not tracking etc. Check this post on Doctorofcredit on how you might be able to get 80K points offer. I still think this credit card is a no-brainer.

3) Determine your price and stick to it

Personally, I won’t be collecting IHG points unless I can acquire them at 0.25 cents each. I don’t really want hotels by the highway, that’s not why I go after these deals. I was actually debating on whether I should participate in the current Accelerate promo. I could acquire around 40K points for $135 via mattress runs. That comes out to around 0.34 cents per point.

In the past, I probably would accumulate them at this price, but not anymore. That said, we are taking advantage of Accelerate offer on my husband’s account, but only because we were actually planning on redeeming points for these nights. So, all things considered, the price worked out to be 0.25 cents per point. I’m a buyer.

4) Make sure you are flexible if you can’t commit to dates till the last minute

Have several properties in mind. I actually did end up reserving a hotel which may end up being the best thing since sliced bread (will post a trip report at some point).

5) Keep calm and carry on speculatively buying points for the right price

If you decide to go ahead with Priceless Surprises promo, IHG points will end up costing you around 0.11 cents each, which is a steal. Remember, you have to mail in your entries by February 15th! I honestly don’t see how you could go wrong acquiring them at this price. Of course, you do have to fill out those darn cards.

For around $56, you can potentially stay 2 nights  at a beachfront Holiday Inn Express  in Daytona (costs 25K points per night). Oh, and it includes free breakfast. If you redeem IHG currency for PointBreaks hotels (cost 5K points per night), you’ll make out like a bandit. Now if we can just get IHG to put pressure on its franchises to live up to the requirements on award rooms quota. Twitter war? Who is with me?

Bottom line

IHG is still a good deal for families, but you now have to work harder to find sweet spots and availability can be non-existent at times. Earn and burn, or at least have a plan. IHG stock is not worthless, but it’s  worth less.

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6 thoughts on “I’m Downgrading IHG “Stock”

  1. We’ve been happy with the IHG program but also found that booking a year in advance gave us the best options. We’ve also tried the Wyndham program and hated it. Do you suggest any other hotel program?



    • Michelle, I’m also (for the most part) happy with IHG. We got tremendous value out of their points over the years. As long as you are aware of quirks and limitations, you can do very well. Unfortunately, most people will not do their homework when it comes to IHG and may end up disappointed.

      I hear what you are saying about Wyndham. That’s another quirky one! They promise the sky, but many times fail to deliver when it comes to their nicest properties. Still, I did get some amazing deals via Wyndham program and will have a post at some point. I recommend you keep checking your desired properties because availability may open up.

      As far as what other hotel program to recommend… This is a tough one and really depends on your travel plans. Overall, if you are searching for a credit card bonus, take a look at Hilton Surpass. Here is my post http://milesforfamily.com/2016/02/04/should-you-consider-amex-hilton-hhonors-surpass/ It can be a a good deal as long as you are looking at Cat 1-3. They do have some beachfront properties, but they usually cost 40K points (plus) per night. It really does depend on your unique situation, though.

      Overall, if you are not sure about your plans, I recommend you go for a program that has good coverage, like Hilton. Check my post that lists various hotel bonuses http://milesforfamily.com/2013/07/08/the-best-keeper-credit-cards-for-family-right-now/ Fairmont card will be discontinued at some point, so it could be worth a look as well.


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