Will Changes To The IHG PointBreaks Promotion Affect You?

IHG announced last week that they were going to release the list of PointsBreaks hotels for the next three months on the following Monday (as of this writing, two days ago). This is a common occurrence that travel obsessed people look forward to like it’s the arrival of the Sears catalog (or for you younger folks, it’s like when they announce what shows are coming to Netflix). However this announcement caused a huge buzz because of the changes that IHG was making to the promotion. In addition to saying the list would be released, they also announced that instead of the previous price of 5,000 Rewards Club points a night, there would now be three different point categories with rooms costing either 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 points a night. Why was this such a big deal?

What is PointBreaks?

IHG® Rewards Club PointBreaks® is a promotion offered every three months that provides discounted points rates at a certain IHG hotels. The easiest way to explain it is to say it was kind of a clearance shelf of hotels. There were normally around 90-100 hotels located around the world on the list and might be places in off-peak season or just not  common places to travel. Since IHG doesn’t have variable prices for their rewards, it was a way for them to offer a discounted price for a limited time. Just like a clearance shelf, occasionally you’d find a hotel on the list that you needed to stay at anyway, or occasionally there’d be a really nice place you could get for a huge discount.

Points and Miles websites love to tout the PointBreaks program as one of the best travel deals out there. 5,000 Rewards Club points is relatively nothing. For example, I purchased 120,000 IHG points last year for $690. That would mean I could get 24 nights in IHG hotels with those points if I booked only PointBreaks hotels, which would come to $28.75 a night. Now you can see why people loved this program.

Many travelers planned their trips around hotels on the list, booking multiple stays until they could firm up travel plans. Eventually, IHG made it so that you could only make two reservations at each PointBreaks hotel during the promotional period. It didn’t help much, as rooms at the better hotels on the list would book up within a day or even in a few hours after the list was published.

How will this change affect you?

If you’re gotten this far into the article, I’m going to assume that you’re not familiar with PointBreaks. What will the changes mean to you? Is it now worthwhile to start paying attention to the list?

Over the past year or two, it was becoming evident that the PointBreaks program was unsustainable. The quality of hotels offered on the list were getting lower and you just didn’t see any of those hidden gems (and if there were any, they were booked up immediately). If you needed to stay near the airport in Edmonton, book a room off of the M-25 in the UK or were going to Anhui, China you could get a deal but besides that, there weren’t many options. Come on, who doesn’t want to spend some time in Edmonton during the winter.

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For an average traveler, I’d say this change is a positive. The last PointBreaks list only had 100 hotels on it for 5,000 points. This new list has 203 hotels with 33 of them for 5,000 points, 116 for 10,000 points and 54 for 15,000 points. The number of hotels offering big discounts has decreased by 2/3 but the total number of hotels available has doubled.

For example, the Hotel Indigo Newark Downtown is on the PointBreaks list for 15,000 points (normally 30,000 points a night). This historic hotel in Downtown Newark is located near Newark Penn Station, making it just a short train ride away from Newark Airport, New York Penn Station and the World Trade Center. I doubt this ever would have been on a previous list for only 5,000 points.

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Personally, I’d like to see number of hotels in each category be more evenly distributed instead of the bell curve shape with a few 5,000 and a few 15,000, and the rest at 10,000. But then again, I guess they could have raised all hotels to 10,000 points, so this might be as good of a compromise as we could expect.

If you want to look at all of 203 hotels on the list, here’s the IHG website for the promotion. However for a easier way to search the list of hotels, Million Mile Secrets has combined the lists onto a single page, sorted by state and country.

According to Loyalty Traveler only 15 of the hotels have been booked up in the first 48 hours, instead of the previous promotions where many hotels would fill up in the first few hours. While their take is trying to prove it’s an unpopular change to the promotion, I’ll take the view that because of the increased number of hotels offered and different point levels, IHG may have been willing to open up more rooms. It may also be that because with a greater number of hotels and the same number of people looking at them, less hotels were booked up. It might also means that people are not booking huge blocks of stays, only to cancel rooms later on because of the higher point cost. These PointBreaks rooms will now show up at the reduced price when people search for rooms in the upcoming days and weeks and will be available to a greater number of members instead previously going to the few who would previously book them the day of release. That might have been what IHG was going for?

Final Thoughts

While the hand wringing continues online about the changes to the IHG PointBreaks promotion, this is once again a situation where Your Mileage May Vary of how much this will affect you. If you only booked IHG PointBreaks rooms for 5,000 points and planned your trips around that, then this will be a huge negative change. If you are like me and pick where to travel by where you want to go and not because of a cheap hotel rate, then the opportunity to find more hotels at a discounted (but just not as discounted) rate would be a positive development. I’d rather get to book a 30,000 point hotel for 15,000 points once a year than find a hotel for 5,000 points once every five years.

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