I’m currently planning a trip for my parents to Turkey. They both had 60,000 IHG points, and I wanted them to have a “splurge” trip rather than staying at a cheaper hotel. I was trying to book them two nights at the Intercontinental Istanbul, which costs 50,000 points per night. This is where I met an incredibly frustrating problem – IHG minimum nights for award bookings.
For example, the IC Istanbul requires on some nights, but not all, a minimum 2-night stay. So when I search for 1 night, it will show no award inventory available. However, if I search two nights consecutively, there will be award inventory, even on the initial night that didn’t have award space initially. My parents only had sufficient points for 1 night from each account, and IHG charges an obscene $5/1,000 points to transfer – they don’t offer a spousal waiver for transfers like Marriott or SPG.
In the first instance I called IHG without result. Eventually, I discovered the “secret” phrase to get directed to the empowered USA-based call centres, rather than the disempowered and frustrating Asia-Pacific call centres: “I’d like to speak to a Customer Service Manager please.”
Once connected to a USA-based agent, they suggested a way to “cheat” the 2-night minimum requirement. They loaned one of the accounts with 40,000 points so it would have a balance of 100,000 points, sufficient to book the 2 award nights, booked the nights, then split the reservation between the two accounts, deducting 50,000 points from the other account and adding 10,000 to the initial account. This led to perfect accounting, and reservations that were in each account holder’s names without bypassing the points transfer rule.
Of course, after I did this, my parents changed their minds, wanting to save points and stay at a lesser hotel. So I cancelled those Intercontinental nights. And of course, my parents being the most indecisive people I’ve ever met, they changed their minds again and decided to go back to the Intercontinental.
I tried to get the Intercontinental back by using the same trick. However, the agents refused to, stating that the “points loan” was a one-time exception. They were adamant that they couldn’t do it again. HOWEVER, after eventually speaking to a Charleston based agent (who was absolutely lovely!), explaining my dilemma, she said “honey, why don’t I just close out one account and transfer the points to the other?” I didn’t want to pay the $300USD fee to transfer the points over, and she said not to worry. She closed out one account and transferred the points over to the other, allowing a booking within the 2-night rule.
Everything worked out perfectly in the end. The lesson here is to always try and speak with an empowered agent, who are usually based in North America. Further, if IHG has granted you a “points loan,” note that it’s a one-time thing.
It never hurts to ask for consideration. The agent who transferred the points granted me a $300USD nicety, for which I am extremely grateful. This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t push through the call centre pyramid and keep asking. Last, my parents are not allowed to change their minds again (you hear that mom and dad!?), and they will damn-well enjoy their stay at the Intercontinental Istanbul 😛