I’d like to think I know most aspects about most of the major airline and hotel loyalty programs. Or perhaps more accurately, at least at one point I knew most things about most loyalty programs. While I try to stay up to date with what’s going on in most programs, there’s no denying I have my “favorite” programs, which I know virtually all the intricacies of. And I do tend to focus on them.
I came across something today which I know I was aware of at some point, though it still caught me off guard.
Most of the major hotel chains advertise “no blackout dates.” This includes Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, SPG, etc.
For example, here’s how Starwood markets their “no blackout dates” policy:
As you can see, they say “blackout dates, never,” and go on to explain that “if we have a room, it’s yours.” And that’s supported in the program’s terms & conditions:
Starpoints rates listed and no blackout dates are for Free Night Awards in standard rooms only (as defined by each property). Upgraded rooms, including upgrades based on size, view, services, and/or suites, are available at a higher Starpoints cost, as determined by each property, and must be booked through your local customer contact center. Starwood Preferred Guest does not limit the number of standard rooms available for Free Night Awards. Free Night Awards are each valid for one free night, single and/or double standard room occupancy at participating properties, and include the cost of your hotel room and room tax/service charge. All other hotel charges are the responsibility of the Member. When using a Free Night Award, bedding and smoking preferences may be requested, but are not guaranteed.
As long as a standard room is available for sale, you can redeem points for it.
I’m simply using SPG as an example, as it’s no longer a distinguishing factor — Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott have similar policies.
But IHG Rewards Club doesn’t. On their rewards night page, they state “no blackout dates,” but that doesn’t mean the same thing to them that it means to the other hotel chains.
Here are IHG’s reward night terms & conditions:
There are no blackout dates for Reward Nights, however, room inventory is limited and subject to prior sale.
In other words, on any given night there will be some reward nights available at some point, but just because a standard room is available for sale doesn’t mean you can redeem points for it. Instead, a hotel allocates a certain amount of rooms towards the award “pool,” and as far as I know the number of rooms in that pool is at the property’s discretion.
Just to give an example of that, take the below stay at the InterContinental London Park Lane, where a free night award is available for 50,000 points per night, and it books into a Classic Room.
However, if you want to stay two nights longer, the Classic Room is still available for sale, yet there’s no free night award availability.
Ultimately this is just something to be aware of if you’re collecting IHG points. Given that most of the major chains advertise “no blackout dates,” it’s easy to assume that this means the same thing to all of them.
It doesn’t, and of the “big five” hotel loyalty programs, IHG is the only one which doesn’t have last room availability for award nights (assuming standard rooms are available, of course).
Does this distinction between “no blackout dates” matter to you when deciding which program to be loyal to?