We’ve known for some time that eventually Kimpton’s loyalty program would be subsumed into IHG Rewards Club. The acquisition happened three years ago. Combining loyalty programs is going to happen in early 2018.
IHG has a good earn and burn program, but is weak on elite benefits. Kimpton’s program offered unique recognition, and anyone who has been loyal to Kimpton has made that choice for a reason. They never considered wanting to be an IHG Rewards Club elite member.
Bringing Kimpton into the IHG fold means much more choice for earn and burn. Kimpton guests will be able to redeem for a far broader portfolio of hotels. IHG Rewards Club members will be able to redeem for Kimpton properties, a great new option. And Kimpton hotels should have better reward availability under IHG’s rules, too.
Credit: Hotel Palomar, DC
How Points and Elite Status Will Transition from Kimpton to IHG Rewards Club
Kimpton currently awards a free night every 7 stays or 20 nights.
Kimpton free night awards you’ve already earned will be converted to IHG Rewards Club Reward nights with the same expiration date.
IHG will convert nights you’ve earned towards free nights into points.
- Base Kimpton members will receive 1000 IHG Rewards Club points per earned night.
- Elites will receive 2000 IHG Rewards Club points per earned night.
An IHG Rewards Club point is worth about 3/5ths of a cent, so an earned night will be worth either $6 or $12 depending on status level. Let’s assume anyone with 20 nights has elite status, that will be worth 40,000 points worth $240. That’s the low end of what a Kimpton property will cost to redeem under the IHG Rewards Club program. The non-elite conversion rate is offensively bad. The elite conversion rate isn’t super generous (it would have been appropriate, I think, to convert at 3000 points per night).
Kimpton elites will receive IHG Rewards Club elite status.
- Tier 1 -> Gold
- Tier 2 -> Platinum
- Inner Circle -> Spire elite
Additionally Kimpton will retain its Inner Circle status as an ‘invitation only’ level the way Intercontinental Hotels has a separate Royal Ambassador status which is invitation only.
Existing Inner Circle members will become Spire Elites with Inner Circle status for 2018. (It’s unclear whether or how many Spire Elites will receive an invitation for Inner Circle in 2018.)
In the future Inner Circle status will be subject to invite with no public criteria announced. Here they make the program more complicated and less transparent.
Kimpton hotels will honor ‘raid the bar’ for all IHG Rewards Club elites (general members lose this perk), and all program members will be offered a $30 spa credit at Kimpton properties. Raid the bar means a $10 credit ($15 in New York) for use at the hotel’s bar or in-room minibar.
However IHG Rewards Club has little in the way of formal elite benefits. There’s no guaranteed late check-out even as part of the program, and the benefits that do exist largely don’t have to be honored on reward stays.
Compare that to the current Kimpton elite program:
This is Good for IHG, Could Have Been Better for Customers
Folding Kimpton into IHG gives the small hotel chain a platform to expand. They announced 3 new hotels in Asia this week, for instance. It will let them market the hotels to more customers, too. It makes business sense to provide a single offering.
The problem for customers — and this is a problem for guests at other IHG hotels, too — is that the program simply lacks the features on the recognition side that competitor loyalty programs provide like club lounge access, breakfast, and late checkout to name three. It’s not a platform that’s prepared to take on guests coming over from a recognition-heavy offering.
Even top tier Spire Elite, which is supposed to be about recognition, really just gives bonus points or the ability to gift lesser tier status (which lacks recognition) to someone else. Although they’ve trialed actual benefits on a limited basis at some hotels.
Still this move is good for existing IHG Rewards Club members (more redemption options), but it’s not good for Kimpton Karma Rewards members (sanitization of what’s unique about their recognition program).
It’s difficult to get too worked up over it though since we’ve know this was coming. We’ve had 3 years to go through all the various stages of grief. So it’s time for acceptance.