IHG Rewards recently scored the top spot in NerdWallet’s rankings for Best Hotel Rewards Program for 2021. Now, IHG is rolling out even more traveler-friendly policies — both for those who are getting back on the road and for those staying home during the pandemic.
IHG is making it easier to earn elite status in 2021 through reduced requirements and rollover elite nights from 2020. There’s also good news for those who aren’t traveling yet: IHG is further extending the validity of free night certificates and extending the pause on point expirations.
Here’s what you need to know about these changes.
Reduced elite qualifications for 2021
IHG is reducing the requirements for earning IHG Rewards elite status in 2021 by 25% or more. This matches the lowered elite status requirements that IHG put in place for 2020 due to COVID-19.
In 2021, IHG Rewards members will need to meet one of the following thresholds to earn elite status:
In addition to lowering requirements, IHG is helping members reach these thresholds in two ways: Earning rollover elite nights from 2020 and earning bonus elite qualifying points for stays in early 2021.
Rollover elite nights from 2020
In 2020, several hotel loyalty programs announced that hotel elite nights earned in 2020 would roll over to 2021. IHG Rewards wasn’t one of these programs. However, in today’s announcement, IHG surprised elite members by announcing that their 2020 elite nights will also count toward 2021 elite status. IHG said that these rollover nights will be automatically applied.
It’s worth noting that IHG typically offers a different form of rollover nights to elite members. In a normal year, only excess elite night credits carry over to the next year. That means if a member stayed 55 nights in a typical year, they’d earn Platinum Elite status (normally 40 nights) and roll over the 15 excess nights. But for 2021, this member would start the year with 55 elite nights — and automatically qualify for Spire Elite status under the reduced requirements.
» Learn more: IHG Rewards: More value for the frugal traveler
Extension of free night certificates
IHG is also extending the validity of free night certificates that have an original expiration date in 2021 through Dec. 31, 2021. However, it is key to note that this policy change doesn’t extend the expiration on all active free night certificates.
Certificates originally set to expire in 2020
In early 2020, IHG paused the expiration of free night certificates. Any certificates set to expire after March 1, 2020 were originally extended through Dec. 31, 2020. Then, in December, IHG further extended all free night certificates that were set to expire on Dec. 31 to be valid until Aug. 31, 2021. That means all certificates that were originally set to expire after March 1, 2020 have been extended at least to Aug. 31, 2021.
Certificates originally issued in 2020
In addition, all certificates issued in 2020 were valid for 18 months. With the new requirements, that means any certificates issued in 2020 have a validity of at least 18 months and now won’t expire before Dec. 31, 2021.
IHG Rewards point expiration pause
Good news if you were feeling rushed to redeem IHG points that are set to expire because you didn't travel at all over the past year. IHG Rewards points expiration is paused through June 30, 2021. For members that haven’t been traveling, this gives you more than five months to find a way to generate activity to extend the validity of your points.
As a reminder, IHG points typically expire if a member doesn’t have earn or redeem activity in the past 12 months. You can generate activity by transferring points in from another program (such as Chase Ultimate RewardsⓇ), buying as few as 1,000 points, transferring points to airlines or redeeming points through one of many other options.
IHG points never expire for elite status members. So, if you carry the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you won’t have to worry about your IHG Rewards points expiring. That’s because cardholders are granted Platinum Elite status just for having the card.
The bottom line
Through these changes, IHG is helping both travelers who are back on the road and those staying put during the pandemic. Members who earned elite nights in 2020 are being rewarded with rollover elite nights, and those hitting the road in the next few months will get bonus elite qualifying points toward elite status. Plus, IHG has lowered the threshold for re-earning elite status.
If you’re waiting a bit longer before traveling again, the good news is that free night certificates should be valid at least through Aug. 31, 2021. Plus, IHG Rewards point expiration is on pause through June 30, 2021.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card