InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has come up with what is perhaps the most innovative award scheme: Any Hotel, Anywhere, which lets members of its Priority Club redeem points at more than 500,000 hotels, even those operated by competitors.

Priority Club members can exchange points for American Express prepaid lodging cards—in denominations of $100 and $250—that can be used as payment at any hotel that accepts American Express (the parent company of Travel + Leisure).

Steve Sickel, an IHG senior vice president who oversees Priority Club, says the concept—counterintuitive, since it could encourage guests to try competing brands—was initially met with skepticism at InterContinental. However, the company found that its members were staying in IHG hotels more often. He says, "Our points are valuable to them, and they want to earn more."

According to Sickel, Priority Club members are using Any Hotel, Anywhere to stay in vacation hot spots like Hawaii and Las Vegas, and across Asia where the IHG brands have little presence. "The customer wins, he has more options; hotels win, because they get more of our members’ room nights; and the loyalty program wins, because it gets more vested customers."