There's a big difference between how all the big groups focus their programs, jerryl.
SPG concentrates it's fire on in-stay benefits so it's earn and burn rate is not so good unless you can make its (very demanding bearing in mind it's small footprint) Plat75 level. Even then it's earn and burn is still short of the Marriott and IHG.
IHG oddly runs 2 schemes, Ambassador, a paid for scheme that brings only in-stay benefits at only one of its brands, namely the Intercontinentals. The benefits do however include GUARANTEED upgrades and at Royal Ambassador level there's free minibar, lounge and suite upgrades. Most Ambadassadors say they get very good value out of the annual $150 fee.
Note that SPGs and IHG Ambassadors seem exceptionally happy with their programs and very strongly attached to them.
IHGs other scheme, IHG Rewards applies across all the IHG brands including Intercontinental but guarantees nothing except points. No mandated lounge access. No free breakfasts. No mandated upgrades. In practice I've visited a couple of Holiday Inns that provide free breakfast to top-tier Spire and a couple of Crowne Plazas that provide lounge access to Spires. But that's out of about 50 different HIs and CPs. Ive also had suite upgrades twice in my 200 nights over 7 years with them. Room upgrades to larger rooms and corner rooms are more common but I doubt I've been upgraded 50 times over my IHG membership. But IHG Rewards isn't really about in-stay benefits, it's about points. 10 per $ and doubled for Spire plus two or three annual "scavenger hunt" type promos that can gain 5,000-7,000 extra points per night, even on a $50 Holiday Inn Express. Just 20 nights at IHG pa costing $80/nt (total $1,600) can gain with promos 120,000 points. That's 75 points per $. As a Marriott Plat that would be 35,000 plus maybe a couple of cat 1-5 certs. A similar spend at SPG as a Plat50 would raise less than 20,000! Yes, IHG points are worth less than either of the other 2, about 80% of an MR point, but even so it's easy to see the value here.
Marriott Rewards, like Hilton HHonors is more of a hybrid, giving a genuine mix of points and benefits. Alas, whilst HH is perceived as doing pretty well on in-stay benefits it's earn and burn is, following its gaspingly bad 2013 devaluation, actually worse than SPGs (remember, points earn and burn are of secondary importance in SPGs scheme). Marriott is perceived as doing pretty badly on in-stay benefits, though not as badly as IHG (remember, in-stay benefits are of secondary importance in IHGs scheme). Though Marriott upgrades are frequent at FS and 7-day breakfast and lounge access are great, there's a steadily building list of exempt properties at weekends and of course, resorts are totally exempt, just at the time you'd really appreciate that lounge and breakfast. No wonder the backlash from SPG loyalists who have chosen to follow the in-stay benefits program are unhappy with the Marriott takeover!
Having followed these schemes now for about 10 years I'd say that the SPG and IHG Ambassador schemes have the very happiest membership and the points biased ones, especially IHG where Spire is so meaningless when staying, attracts the most complaints. Personally, I appreciate the points more than the in-stay benefits though I really like the Marriott International lounges and would be loathe to give up that access.
I find I'm getting best value from Marriott as my main scheme but using IHG to fill in where Marriott doesn't have a property. With my excellent - for the UK - IHG card (2 points/£ general, 4/£ IHG and International + 1-night anywhere cert after £10,000) and my free Marriott card (10 EQN and 2/4 points on UK/Int'l Marriott spend) plus my total 50 paid nights I can maintain Spire at IHG and Gold/Plat at Marriott, which is the best mix possible.
So, don't be fooled, jerryl Wes and I aren't talking about Marriott points here (if only eh, Wes!) but it's good all the same and the value knocks Marriotts highly demanding (after the Cat 5 cert) megabonus out of the field.
Awwww, wesleywc mines not through yet but hopefully I'll see it turn up soon. The fact yours follows on straight from Accelerate is good as I've already got a (somewhat pricey) Crowne Plaza stay booked early May and the end date beginning Sept is especially good as I have a mixed biz/family trip to Canada coming up during August and IHG figures quite heavily there too, so a target of 10-12 nights should be possible for me this time round. Since I'm also Spire elite hopefully my dates will be the same as yours, though as we both know, I'm no "big dog" like you so my targets, and points won't reach your heady levels.
OH, and how is the SBS "Mixx" Wes? Would be interested in a rundown and your comparison between that and the RI...
Yuk, not another promo that misses out the whiney Brits?
Now I am getting points-drooling!
Mind you I seem to remember there was a "share together" promo in US a few years ago that was repeated internationally but without the sharing points bit, can't remember what it was called, but I do think bearing in mind that precedent much of this promo will be offered internationally. I hope so as I'm well ready to top up my IHG account with another 50k or so points over the summer.