How I maximised the value of an IHG reward night, including free lounge access

I have just finished three nights at InterContinental Le Grand in Paris, a hotel which I rate highly for its frankly epic public areas – including the most astounding ballroom you will ever visit – and great location.

I successfully pulled off one of the best tricks you can do to maximise the value of a reward night – stacking it behind a paid night and assuming that the hotel will continue to honour your existing room and benefits.

In actual fact, this is what I did:

Friday night – paid for a Club InterContinental room

Saturday night – used my InterContinental Ambassador free weekend night certificate

Sunday night – redeemed my IHG Premium Visa free night voucher for a standard room

I spent my 4th night, in case anyone is wondering, at a non-descript place near Gare du Nord.  With a 4pm check-out from the InterContinental and an early train, it wasn’t worth splashing out.

The InterContinental did not blink an eyelid about letting me keep my Club level room.  More importantly, they didn’t blink an eyelid about me continuing to use the Club lounge on my reward night.  They could have done, because Le Grand sells lounge access as an add-on for €120 per room per night for Ambassador members (€140 for non-members).

InterContinental Paris Le Grand

The club lounge is a big deal here.  The staff are excellent, especially Gilles.  There is food available pretty much all day, as well as free flow champagne at breakfast and in the evenings.  The food is of high quality, although does not vary much so got a little repetitive by my third night.  Because the hotel is so central, it is easy to pop back in during the day for a top up!

This technique is one solution to the problem of how to book ‘premium’ rooms for IHG points.  It is also a solution if you want to bring children with you but a standard room cannot sleep more than two people.  Book yourself a larger room for cash for the first night and then book redemption nights behind it.

It is not 100% foolproof.  I hear the odd story about people who are asked to change rooms.   In general, you WILL get away with it.  Of course if you book a suite for one night and then book a standard room on points for seven nights then you should expect trouble!  In my case, I had booked two cash nights – although the Ambassador voucher made one of them free – so extending the benefits for one reward night was not asking much.  I could almost certainly have added at least one more reward night without fear of being moved.

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  1. Can you use the Ambassador free night voucher at the Venetian/Palazzo in Las Vegas? (Wknd nights are typically twice the price of weekday nights)

    • Yes but to use the certificate you must book the other night at a specific rate which is usually much more expensive, somewhat negating the benefit.

    • barrycutters says:

      And the palazzo/venitian are so cheap anyway its not really a good use . I always stay at the palazzo, even the small rooms are massive!! Infact I normally pay about the same as what I’m paying in holiday inn express Lincoln tonight.

      • I wish that was the case – the dates we are going in Sep are average $270

        At the moment there is only one rate available – no advance payment ones so it might just work out better

  2. how much did the fri night cost ?

    • Raffles says:

      Standard Best Flex

      Which, of course, is now more £ than ‘Your Rate’ Best Flex ……

  3. I am currently finding no value to the visa reward night because as you say, I cannot book a room large enough for my whole family. Are you therefore saying that on the second night I can book a standard room for two peole and not diclose that I have children?

    • Some hotels will change it to a room for 4 after booking, just email and ask if they refused it can be cancelled

    • Raffles says:

      Yes, would be fine usually. Use common sense though – if a hotel only has one room that sleeps 4, there is nothing to be done if someone books that for cash on your 2nd night.

      If a hotel has 300 rooms and 50 would take 4 people then you’re fine.

    • Used mine at the HI Maidstone/Sevenoaks for a room for up to six…it may not sound that glamorous but our 6 y.o said the patio was like being in Italy or Spain (full disclosure: He’s never been to Italy or Spain).

  4. Raffles, on the subject of the IHG Premium Visa free night voucher. I’m I correct in thinking that as long as I book a room before the voucher expires, I can use it past the voucher expiry date?

  5. LostAntipod says:

    IC Sydney are very strict on this topic. I have done the same booking as Raffles did in Paris several times. They generally will charge you $50/night to stay in your next-higher higher status room instead of moving to a standard room for that reward night, and, you don’t get club status for that night (having said that, I did not try to blag my way into their club room to test that idea). On the third time I did it, they waived the fee, on the basis that I was a “regular”. And similar to the IC Park Lane, they have a couple of layers of room category that are almost identical in reality, so their upgrade from a standard room is nothing to shout about

  6. I’m in Dubai for a week.No Wyndham status but Ramada JBR let us book a Club Room for the same 15,000 points as a Standard room. Upgraded to a huge 2 Bedroom Suite. Well impressed.
    Last 2 nights we were booked using the AMB certificate at IC Dubai Marina. Noticed the hotel is selling a 2 for 1 rate on the website at DHS 950 ++ for a Clubroom so going for that and keeping certificate.

  7. JoshBosh says:

    Do you get an upgrade with the AMB weekend cert? I’ve booked a club room under the AMB weekend rate for this friday and saturday, and currently its showing the room a booked. In Hong Kong and Tokyo on normal stays it showed an upgrade within a day or two of booking.

    • I had trouble with this at LeG because there is no club floor (well, obviously there are rooms on the floor where the club is, but they are not demarcated). A Club room is basically whatever decent normal room they can find with lounge access added to your profile.

      So … an Ambassador upgrade from a Club Room is not a junior suite, despite the room hierarchy shown online. It is a nicer bigger club room. I rejected the first two I was given, and it is very rare I reject two rooms (fairly common I reject one room!).

      As per the Instagram feed, I ended up with a south facing top floor room with a balcony and Eiffel Tower view. This is after I rejected a tiny twin room (didn’t need 2 beds and they filled literally all the space) and a standard King (very dark, internal view). I ended up getting the lounge staff to allocate my 3rd room as the reception staff didn’t care less.

  8. When I stayed here for just two nights on a free-weekend-night certificate (Fri-Sun), what I did was to pay the Club upgrade at 10am on the Saturday morning, which meant I only paid for one night’s use.

    This gave us the opportunity to have a nice meal out in Paris on Friday evening as we had no lounge access then, but got full use of the lounge all day Saturday and all day Sunday, covering all our food/drink needs on those days.

    • Good thinking. It only really works if you are around in the evening, if not you might as well splurge the cash on the far bigger breakfast downstairs.

  9. You are in my head. I was planning exactly the same redemption, at the same hotel, but with two IHG credit card free nights. Maybe it’s an overkill now…

  10. I assume you just mention upon checking in that you have two bookings and can you just stay in the same room throughout?

    • Yes. I also put it in the comments to the original bookings, including (on booking 2) listing the confirmation number for booking 1.

  11. shadowfixer says:

    Hi Raffles;
    Can you elaborate on *how* you managed to book the paid night and then the two reward nights on the same booking please?


  12. Worth flagging that not all hotels are as generous- I have had stays on a mixture of bookings before where the hotel had expected me to move rooms I.e. Recognising ambassador benefits only for nights paid in cash direct with IHG, and downgrading me for adjacent nights booked on points, with vouchers or through 3rd parties. One can’t complain as them’s the rules, but it’s still a pain and inevitably I end up having to pay cash to upgrade the points nights so I don’t have to change rooms mid-stay

  13. When booking with the AMB certificate (which i am still waiting on arriving) on website, and on the AMB booking page/rate, my booking shows at the full rate for 2 nights although it does reference the AMB certificate i.e. it looks like being charged for both nights. Is this normal?

    Looking at booking the IC Nha Trang for 3 nights using the same approach as Raffles. The debate i am having is going with a standard room and paying for the huge breakfast spread or paying the inflated Ambassador rate, using certificate, and going all out with an Exec room and lounge access.

    • Genghis says:

      I asked this last week and was informed that it’s perfectly normal. Present your AMB voucher on arrival and the bill gets sorted out.

    • It is confusing I agree – as a first time user I emailed the hotel direct for an explanation, which they happily gave – confirming that the AMB night does not actually make it onto the final bill which it didn’t. It was a simple process even without having a physical certificate due to non-arrival of pack.

  14. SAY WHAT?
    “Le Grand sells lounge access as an add-on for €120 per room per night for Ambassador members (€140 for non-members)”

    • This is a good deal for a couple given you get fed all day and there is free flowing champagne and decent wine.

      • That makes 60 pP which is indeed a better ratio :)
        I was thinking of how much champagne I had to drink on my own for 120…

        • Euro 120, so £50 each. I actually paid the full £100 just for myself when I was there in May – but I did get evening food and (lots of) drink, breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea snacks on both days (had 4pm check-out) for that.

          • Plus, if you know your going to be around the hotel for a large chunk of the day you at least shield yourself from an unexpected bar tab once your too merry to turn down another (10).

  15. Raffles, the hint on booking a room when travelling with children is great.
    Have you thought about putting together an article on travelling with kids? I have 2 young kids now and when 4 of us are travelling the usual tricks don’t work.

  16. trickster says:

    It’s always worth asking in advance on things I find.
    I managed to get an upgrade and lounge access at the CP Liverpool based on my Plat status, when booking a free night from my wife’s standard Club account!

  17. barrycutters says:

    Off topic.
    I’m staying at a holiday inn tonight for one night. Needed two rooms , one for myself and one for a worker. Booked them both separately, but both under my name and on my ihg app. Therefore I’m hoping I will get points , and accelerate credit, for both these nights. Is that likely to happen. If so do I even have to bother booking as two separate bookings?. Thanks in advance

  18. Dannyrado says:

    I’m guessing the IHG 72hr summer sale rates that are currently available, do NOT qualify for accelerate?? Does anyone have experience?

    • Check the small print. IHG has started adding to the T&C’s ‘Rate will earn IHG Reawrds Club points’ in many cases. If that is not there, assume No.

      If this was an old offer, check my article.

      • Sididdly says:

        Slightly OT but still IHG related. I had a stay at Intercontinental London O2 last week and spent £610. For this I received a paltry 5880 base points. I looked at the earning details and the bill in no way resembled my spend e.g. it had £50 worth of phone calls on (who uses hotel phones?!)
        I complained and IHG Ambassador informed me that they were delighted to have corrected my mistake. When I checked I had an adjustment taking away 202 points (101 base)! I assume this was a change in the exchange rate in the past week on the still incorrect phantom bill.
        How many points do you think I should earn. At time of booking it forecast 7590 base points and I spent an extra £36 on a meal.

        • In that case, just under 8,000 plus status bonus.

          • Sididdly says:

            Agreed. Also, I obviously booked it through your link but I am not overly optimistic about getting the correct double points posted. By my calculations I should have had roughly 8000 points x3 for base, elite bonus and HFP bonus. I’ll be happy if I can get my base/elite bonus right for a starter.

  19. Andrew A says:

    I used my Ambassador free night in Times Sq New York this year and tagged on 4 free/reward nights but emailed the hotel beforehand so got upgraded to Sky view and kept the same room for 6 nights. I would like to go to the Le Grand in Jan next year so i was thinking I could renew my Ambassador membership 4 months early, get another certificate so spend 2, hopefully 3, nights in a junior suite with lounge access for €650 plus $150 for the membership. I will have spent £10k by then on IHG card for a free night. So can I renew early and get the free night again?

  20. nicely done! as you say it doesn’t always work!

    I booked 4 nights at century city in LA

    night 1 – free visa night
    night 2 – paid for suite
    night 3 – paid for suite
    night 4 – rewards night

    and had to move 3 times … I wasn’t happy but they weren’t able to help…not helped much by the fact that the hotel was undergoing refurb at the time!

    so I lucked out !

  21. Worked along the same lines with Hilton Phuket for me.

    Diamond Status

    Night 1-3 booked a Suite for cash
    Night 4-7 used points and cash
    Night 8-9 booked the lowest rate std room

    All 3 reservations have been upgraded to a Deluxe Suite! Result!

  22. I’m contemplating using an AMB award weekend +3 paid nights, along with 4 nights (free night vouchers/points at Pool View). With the AMB award weekend + 3 paid nights (5 “paid” in total) I have booked one level above the standard reward night (Ocean View). This is for a stay at the IC Presidente Cozumel.
    Is it likely, I will retain the AMB upgrade (Ocean Front?) for all 9 nights? Or would I be given Ocean Front (?) for the first 5 paid nights, and a Pool View for the remaining 4 nights on points/free nights?

    • Sididdly says:

      I have a two night stay in Kuala Lumpur coming up in a couple of weeks. Thinking of doing a paid club room followed by a reward night. Do you think I’m likely to get club both nights? I know that sometimes they are rigidly ‘by the book’