IHG Launching Auctions for Once in a Lifetime Experiences (With Some Great Values to Start)

Late last month IHG Rewards Club reached out to let me know about a new program they’re launching shortly:

In mid-May, IHG Rewards Club will be launching an exciting new program for members – IHG Rewards Club Auctions. Members will be able to bid on such things as insider sporting events, concerts and unique experiences only they will have access to as IHG Rewards Club members.

They invited me to poke around. Today seems to be the first day of beta testing the site, and there are a few auctions loaded.

A few of them look pretty cool, and depending on the final price others could be fantastic values.

For instance, with a 10,000 point starting big (that I value at ~ $60):

BMW One-Day M School: Spartanburg, SC

Spartanburg, SC Location – Package includes lessons for two (2) people at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, SC.

M cars represent the zenith of BMW. And at the rightfully titled M School, the unmatched performance of all our M models will hone your skills for an especially spirited driving experience. Get ready to focus on the same skills that professional drivers practice every day. You’ll become smoother, and your reaction times will decrease with sessions in Cornering, Downshift, Drifting, and Timed Laps.

One Day M School retails for $1550.

IHG Rewards Club Auctions has 3 ‘reward levels’

  • Aspire “once-in-a-lifetime experiences and lavish nights”
  • Indulge “in weekend getaways, VIP access and hospitality”
  • Explore “great local events and restaurants”

I expect there to be some fantastic deals at first.

  1. They’ll usually start with phenomenal offerings. There’s usually a big marketing push and investment at the outset. As a result these sorts of offerings get too much investment at the outset to make them successful, before someone decides the economics aren’t favorable enough to the program and before the folks running them settle into a (more boring) routine.
  2. Few members are aware of the deals. Fewer bidders mean thin markets and not many people bidding up the price of those great deals.

While my bet is that long-term these don’t turn into a top place to look for bargains, I’ll predict that there will be worthwhile packages where you can get real deals for at least a short period at the outset.

For instance, I don’t especially care about an ‘American Girl Experience’ but it throws in Intercontinental’s Ambassador status which retails for $200 at a starting bid of just 1000 points.

Or for a starting bid of 2500 points there’s Ambassador status and two nights at the Intercontinental Miami.

As with SPG Moments, this is exactly the sort of redemption add-on option I like to see.

As I explained in The Craziest Things You Can Do With Your Miles, and Why You Don’t Want to Do Them travel redemptions are far better than getting your loyalty program to buy you ‘stuff’ because programs have to go out and buy the stuff, their costs to do it are high, and so you’ll always get a poor value for your points.

There are very few exceptions to using airline, hotel, and credit card loyalty points for something other than travel.

Most of those exceptions come under the rubric of ‘life experiences’ — the idea that you can leverage the relationships of a big company to gain access to things you probably couldn’t do on your own.

Don’t use your points for a new LCD toaster. Do consider using your points (when it won’t break the bank) for an up close performance, with just a few other folks, by a world-renowned artist if that’s the kind of thing that interests you. Or go to the Oscars, because without the contacts your bank has when in the world would you ever get to otherwise?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I would like to bid on one of these auctions. However when I sign in, I get a message that these auctions are only open to select members due to the program being in beta. Any chance of your being able to help me get an invitation? Thanks!

  2. I get the same beta message. You say it starts in May but these auctions all conclude before then. So who is bidding on them? Lucky for those who got invited when the rest of us can’t even participate. I’m jealous!!

  3. i am actually allowed to bid even tho i never got any email about this… i assume it’s because i have their credit card.
    sadly none of the packages seem all that interesting…

  4. I’m permitted to bid, and some of these (like the Miami package) could be a great deal although it’s already somewhere north of 20,000 points. You can’t tell what the current high bid is because the system uses proxy bidding and the displayed high bid is 1,000 points higher than the next higher bidder, even if the current high bidder has put in a much higher maximum bid.

    Interesting to note that the terms state that you have to settle the points from a winning bid within 7 days, meaning you don’t actually have to have the points in your account to bid, or to win.

  5. Wish I was a select user and could bid on the BMW driving school. Even thought the bid is already north of 50K. It would be a fun waste of points.

  6. I signed into my account and was not allowed to bid. I would love to bid on the BMW school. Only 1 1/2 hours from my home.

  7. I got the invite, but everything that interested me was already bid higher than I would have gone, and there’s a week or more left on the auction. No deals there.

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