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 – Ambassador – which costs $200 to join!
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.)