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Why InterContinental Ambassador is a loyalty programme I am happy to pay for

Last Monday was the renewal date for my InterContinental Ambassador membership.  I was happy to hand over $200 for another year of membership and I thought I would explain why.

InterContinental, the luxury hotel brand inside IHG Rewards Club (which also covers Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and others) is a little odd when it comes to loyalty schemes:

As part of the Holiday Inn / Crowne Plaza group, it participates in IHG Rewards Club

InterContinental does not officially recognise your IHG Rewards Club status.  In reality, they often do, but it is not guaranteed.

InterContinental also has its own loyalty scheme – Ambassadorwhich costs $200 to join!

InterContinental Ambassador

And yet, despite the $200 fee ($150 to renew), I consider Ambassador a good deal and have been a member for a number of years.  This article summarises why it works for me.

The key thing about Ambassador is that, once you are a member, the benefits are GUARANTEED on paid stays. They are NOT guaranteed on reward stays, but most properties do let you have them. These benefits are:

A certificate for a free weekend night when you join and each year when you renew. In one swoop, you can save your entire membership fee with this benefit. To use the voucher, you need to book a 2-night weekend stay and pay the Best Flexible Rate for the other night. The letter of the rules says that only standard rooms can be booked. However, many hotels let you book club rooms or suites.

(As Best Flexible Rate is more expensive than a non-refundable Advance Purchase rate, your free night is not totally free if you would otherwise have booked a pre-paid rate as you have paid a few Euros or $ more.  It is totally free if you would otherwise have booked at Best Flexible Rate though.)

GUARANTEED one-level room upgrade – this is usually processed before you arrive and is visible online

A voucher for 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points when you join and each year on renewal

4pm check-out – this is a guaranteed benefit and comes in very handy on a weekend break with an evening flight back home

A free pay-TV movie per stay, every stay

Free fruit and mineral water in your room

A welcome gift – varies from chocolates or wine to weird local souvenirs!

Double occupancy for single occupancy rate – useful in Germany, one of the few countries where they still charge a ‘second person’ supplement

Obviously InterContinental Ambassador is not for everyone. You can earn back the cost of membership in just one weekend stay, though. It may even be worth it even if you had just one long stay booked and wanted to guarantee your upgrade. Ambassador members also receive Gold status in IHG Rewards Club, although that doesn’t get you far.

I used my 2016 free night at InterContinental Le Grand in Paris in August.  I book two nights for cash, using the weekend night voucher, and then booked a reward night immediately afterwards.  As expected, the hotel let me keep my upgraded room for all three nights.

Renewal is even cheaper, at just $150, and you receive another ‘free weekend night’ certificate and another 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points.  More interestingly, on renewal you are offered a second option:

Renew for $200 instead of the standard $150

Receive 15,000 points instead of 5,000 points

Receive a 10% points rebate on all of your redemption bookings – across all brands – for the following year.  I find that this really adds up which makes the $200 renewal option the best choice for me.

You can learn more about InterContinental Ambassador here if it sounds interesting.

There is an option to use 32,000 IHG Rewards Club points instead of paying $200 in cash.  With the fall in the value of the £, this payment route is looking more attractive than it was.

There is also an invitation-only premium level called Royal Ambassador, where the benefits include free mini-bar access and higher level upgrades. Unless you are doing over 60 nights a year in IHG Rewards Club properties with a fair proportion in IC’s, though, you will not be invited.  Royal Ambassador is due to be relaunched in 2017 with new benefits and new criteria for achieving it – I will write about this when the details are confirmed.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. I can honestly say that this was the best $200 I spent last November. 5 stays in the year,2 fantastic upgrades, Bordeaux and Berlin, 1 poor Madrid. Voucher booking was easy, club access not free.
    Will renew next month including the extra fee for the points rebate.
    I did not need my ambassador certificate

  2. It says you get Elite Status with IHG…. not worth a lot but better than Gold for a few bonus points. We’ll be paying for this next month for trips we plan to make next year and to maintain my Elite IHG status for another year.

    EARN & REDEEM REWARDS:

    Complimentary weekend night certificate*
    Elite status in IHG® Rewards Club
    5,000 bonus IHG® Rewards Club points
    Redeem points for rewards, including free nights

  3. Sorry if already been answered, if I were to use the 241 voucher on this card say IC Barclay for example, could I choose the free night to be Saturday night, pay for Sunday and then use creation ihg credit card free night for Monday night and stay in the same upgraded room? I have platinum status if that makes any difference. Thanks

    • Most hotels are ok with this, yes, but not 100% certain.

    • Gounadave says:

      AFAIK the first night is always the paid night . Staying Saturday in NYC will probably be more expensive than Sunday thus lessening the value of the certificate . I stayed in NYC this year at Times Sq IC over a weekend and Friday night was cheaper than Saturday but Friday was still the paid night making the certificate even better value .

  4. Have been considering the Ambassador card for some time, stay in Hi and HIE frequently but not so often at the IC. Have booked the IC Boston for our honeymoon in a couple of weeks time with a club room. Is there any benefit in taking out the Ambassador membership for this?

    • It would get you a definite upgrade and great attention. So depending on how many nights you are staying it could well be worthwhile

    • the real harry says:

      Congratulations on your forthcoming wedding. Let’s keep the human species going. Happiest day of her life, no doubt.

  5. I am more than happy with this programme. I renewed at the end of September and used 24,000 IHG reward points to do this instead of $150. I have just received my renewal pack and 241 voucher and a code for 10,000 bonus points.

  6. Have you had any experience of when someone has not had a chance to use our 2 4 1 voucher in 12 months will IHG allow us to carry it forward into the next year of membership?

  7. Can I still transfer my Virgin points to gain IHG status? If I signed up for the Ambassador programme I would gain Gold Elite status, how many points we I have to transfer to gain Spire Elite?

    • If starting from 0 IHG qualifying points, 75k virgin. If doing this, perhaps wait till 1 Jan to do it then get status till 31 Dec 18.

      • I am currently have 55k IHG points and planning to transfer 20k virgin points to IHG in Dec so that I can achieve the spire elite status. Will this enable me to get the status till 31 Dec 18?

  8. My Ambassador membership expired Sep30th. Unless I have an immediate need for the cert, typically I wait a few weeks after expiration to renew. That way the 241 cert is valid through next November

    Also, I renew using 24,000 points, receive a voucher for 10K and rebate of 2,400 points for the (renewal) points redemption given to IHG credit card holders. Even with my limited stays at IHG properties, I find value in being an Ambassador

  9. Bigglesgirl says:

    What’s the view on the AccorHotels version (Business Plus)? I’ve just had an email from them with regard to my Platinum membership offering me a 15% discount on the card