Are ‘Your Rate’ and cheap breakfasts undermining the InterContinental Ambassador free night voucher?

InterContinental Ambassador is a special loyalty scheme which is ONLY valid at InterContinental hotels.  It works alongside IHG Rewards Club and you still receive points for your stay as usual.

Ambassador has two differences to the usual loyalty scheme:

First, you need to pay to join ($200 or redeem 32,000 IHG Rewards Club points) but there are no stay requirements

Second, Ambassador benefits are guaranteed and non-negotiable by the hotel except on reward nights where they can – but rarely do – block them.  Benefits include a guaranteed 4pm check-out, a guaranteed upgrade, free fruit and mineral water and a free Pay TV movie

You can find out more in this HFP article and on the Ambassador website here.

One of key elements of the InterContinental Ambassador package is the ‘free weekend night’ voucher which comes with your membership kit and also when you renew.  On the face it, the voucher makes the $200 Ambassador annual fee a no-brainer.

When you book a two night weekend stay at any InterContinental, one night will be free when you use your voucher.  That’s your $200 back right there – in theory.

InterContinental Ambassador review

Recent changes to the way that InterContinental price their rooms have started to undermine its value, however.  There are two issues which are starting to concern me:

the launch of cheaper ‘Your Rate’ deals for IHG Rewards Club members

the inability to add a heavily discounted breakfast to your booking

Let’s take InterContinental Paris Le Grand for 29th to 31st July, and assume I want an Eiffel Tower View Superior Room.

Using the voucher, the cost is €442.50 for two nights.  Breakfast is NOT included and there is no way of adding it later.  If you want to eat breakfast in the hotel it is €40 per person per night and you will need to pay it on both nights.  Your total cost for two nights with breakfast for a couple is therefore €602.50.

Let’s assume, instead, you pay cash.

The same room on a Weekend Escape package with breakfast is €343.35 per night.  That is a total cost of €687.10.  Your voucher has only saved you €85.  I admit that the Weekend Escapes rate is technically non-refundable but as you can book it up to two days before arrival that is unlikely to be an issue.

But let’s forget that and concentrate on an exact ‘like for like’ booking.

Using my 2-4-1 voucher, I am paying €442.50 per night, albeit the 2nd night is free, plus €80 per day for breakfast.  The total cost for two nights is €602.50.

Because IHG now discounts ‘Best Flexible Rates’ for IHG Rewards Club members, calling them ‘Your Rate’, the alternative for booking exactly the same Best Flexible package for cash looks like this:

Best Flexible ‘Your Rate’ – €398.25 (compared to €442.50 cost when using the voucher)

Breakfast – €35 for two when added at time of booking (compared to €80 when using the voucher)

Total cost for 2 nights:  €398.25 x 2 + €35 x 2 = €866.50

You are still making a saving of (€866.50 – €602.50) €264 when using your Ambassador free night voucher.  However, the saving is considerably short of the €442.50 you think you are saving.

What should Ambassador do?

I think there are two changes which need to be made to the 2-4-1 voucher if Ambassador members are to continue to treat it as valuable:

the price charged must be the Best Flexible ‘Your Rate’ and NOT the standard non-member Best Flexible Rate

there should be an option to add breakfast to the booking for the standard rate, and so benefit from a free breakfast on the 2nd night as well

Make these two changes and the Ambassador package will continue to be valuable.  Leave things as they are and the benefits will start to look more and more like a swizz …..

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  1. I’ve been an Ambassador for years but have been thinking along the same lines recently. I’ve also noted that more rates are specifically excluding using the 2-4-1 voucher and the $ exchange rate makes membership that bit more expensive. I’ll give it more thought when my membership expires but I might not bother renewing when that time comes.

  2. Our_Kid says:

    Hi Raffles from IC O2!

    I’m due to renew at the end of August – the $200 offer for me includes 15K IHG points plus 10% rebate on reward stays using points. This seems pretty good on top of the 2 for 1 I reckon.

    Would be interested in your view

    • Is the 10% rebate a standard/common benefit and does it apply to all Ihg reward stays or just IC rewards?

      • I have done this for the last 2 years, it is only offered on renewals. It applies to ALL redemptions at any brand. It has been excellent value for me – I will get 12k back from my 2 nights at The Barclay for a start.

  3. Dominic says:

    Another thing that is undermining use of the Ambassador voucher is actually getting it. I renewed some while ago, but have yet to receive my new Ambassador pack, and I gather this is far from uncommon. I am not sure I am going to bother with it in future years…

    • chris says:

      @Dominic – 6 months no kit this year for me. The Ambassador helpline is utterly hopeless when you question them about it.

      • dgsupersonic says:

        Still waiting for mine since September last year. I’m gradually moving my stays to Hilton and Marriot/SPG as I’m struggling to trust IHG group these days.

      • Genghis says:

        Wow! I only signed up a few days ago to use 241 next Easter. I was told 6-8 weeks for delivery of the pack. Sounds like it could be a S75 claim after 3 months…

        • I joined in January, got the benefits in Jan from a stay at park lane IC. Got the pack in May and the membership is until end of March.

      • marly says:


    • I’ve never seen my pack. But I did redeem my AMB night with the assistance of the helpline the AMB team just liaised with the hotel and I followed up with the IC BKK myself. They did also credit me the 5000 points and after a bit of continued moaning on my part extended my membership year by 2 months as a good will gesture. Which will actually come in handy for the IC Bali in March. So overall I’ve done okay out of it – got me late check out in NYC if nothing else. I agree it’s been a faff but overall I’d renew – it’s only 27000 points to renew after all.

      • dgsupersonic says:

        Free night vouchers are often popping up for sale on ebay. The average price for new ones is £60-£70.
        The ones nearing expiry date can be sold for as low as £20. That would be good value for money for someone looking for a last minute stay.

        • Some people have had their IHG accounts closed down for using multiple certificates. Not 2, I admit. Using multiple certs at the same hotel would be very silly as it would be easy to spot and, as you are defrauding the hotel of revenue, they would report it.

        • Waribai says:

          On the subject, I’ve got a 5 night stay coming up at IC Hua Hin I was thinking of using two of my free nights at the hotel but they are from two different IHG accounts. Is this risky?

        • Yes, I think so.

    • Funnily enough I received my pack yesterday via UPS air courier.

      Having complained several times since renewal last September, I’ve received 15,000 in goodwill IHG Reward Club points, one lot of 5,000 and one of 10,000.

      Having finally received the pack I was pleased to see that the usual enclosed letter had a code, not for the expected 5,000 IHG points for renewal, but for 15,000 points. The AMB weekend certificate expires at the end of May, 2017.

      So, overall, some grief, but it’s actually ended up ‘paying me’ an extra 6,000 points (renewal was 24,000 points).

  4. Jonty says:

    Pretty poor analysis Rob.

    You assume that one would actually pay €160 for breakfast over two days, when anyone with half a brain would just wander down the street to a cafe and have breakfast for €15-20.

    • Kipto says:

      i think the ambassador programme needs to amend its terms and conditions so that reward nights have guaranteed upgrades as well. I have found that inter continental hotels are content to hide behind this. I have a reward stay coming up in Los Angeles century resort inter continental and emailed the hotel who replied saying they don’t upgrade reward night stays.

      • Kipto says:

        Amendment to the above, Los Angeles Century City, not century resort

      • Singapore expect you to move rooms if you have part of your stay in a non-upgraded room and part of it in an upgraded room paid in cash. Fortunately, most IC properties are more sensible

      • marly says:

        Yes they do, I have always been upgraded may it be on rewards or pay stays. I guess the Spire status may have something to do with it…

    • I can’t understand the mindset of people who would pay €602.50 for 2 nights in a hotel, and I don’t think anybody is saving €442.50 anywhere.

      • I’ve paid that price for 1 night at the Raffles in Singapore. For breakfast we walked out the back, crossed the road to the McDonalds for a $20 mega meal! Now that’s a bargain 😉

      • I had lunch with one of the regular posters on here recently who was about to head off for a £40,000 holiday. I bet you that the average income of HFP readers is higher than, for example, any national newspaper website.

        • Whiskerxx says:

          More money than sense then eh. Seems to be the inference

        • dgsupersonic says:

          I presume this regular poster did not bother with the recent avios promotions on ink cartridges, etc.. Or any to be honest since money is not an issue.

        • It seems quite common for people to think money isn’t an issue for people who have a lot of it – when of course they would probably never have accumulated it if penny-pinching wasn’t an ingrained habit.

        • Fenny says:

          That’s the thing about averages, though. As many below as above.

    • Waribai says:

      Not necessarily so. With very young kids in tow and/or at IC resort type properties. The local caff is often not an option!

    • That’s not how it works in the real world. Take your partner to a luxury hotel and then suggest you go the local cafe because you’re too tight to pay for the huge hotel buffet and see how long that relationship lasts ….. 🙂

      On my own, I agree. My wife won’t stand for that nonsense though (’why are we staying here if you’re moaning about paying for breakfast?’ etc) and when there are kids involved as well don’t even think about raising it ……

      Do you remember me writing about my £95 breakfast bill at the IC 02?! Even my 5 year old had to pay full whack (although he eats like a pig to be fair 🙂 )

      • Genghis says:

        Mrs Genghis is much better trained!

      • Whilst you can get some amazing breakfast buffets in the hotels we tend to vary where we eat, especially if you stay in the same hotel a lot.

        My relationship is still going strong because I vary things Raffles 😉 . The hotel might be great, great location, brilliant facilities but menu fatigue soon sets in for me and I crave something different like chicken curry and paratha, sitting on a broken plastic seat felling like a local and my young daughter loves the immersion in to something totally alien – Once the local thing has worn off I’m back to the la la land of luxury sipping a cocktail by the pool.

      • xcalx says:

        “That’s not how it works in the real world. Take your partner to a luxury hotel and then suggest you go the local cafe because you’re too tight to pay for the huge hotel buffet and see how long that relationship lasts ….. :-)”

        Done that many a time. 40 years married next July.

        • mrtibbs1999 says:

          MrsTibbs went and got me a Mcdonalds breakfast at the Waldorf Astoria in Edinburgh last week and brought it back to the room. She is way too sensible to pay £21 for a breakfast. We once paid full whack at the Cavalieri WA in Rome and it was a disappointment. A Lovely breakfast but not worth the price of lunch.

        • You missed out on the breakfast at the WA Edinburgh? It’s a wonderful buffet breakfast everytime I’ve been. I do get it free though as I’m diamond.

      • James67 says:

        The problem I have with your rationale is that it’s almost always a buffet breakfast which in my view spells mediocre at best regardless of the hotel. My partner and I always prefer a local cafe, a beachside restaurant or anything with some charm that can cook a breakfast to my specific requirements.

        • harry says:

          feck me all these partners these days – respect & good luck to you all.

          myself? – 3 kids & a moany wife lol.

          I can quite see why divorcés mostly prefer a cocker spaniel next time round 🙂

        • To be honest, €35 for two at InterCon Le Grand in Paris – which is what they charge as the ‘add on’ to a cash booking – is an outstanding deal, even with the current rubbish exchange rate, unless you are just popping in for a yoghurt.

          I also point you to my photos of Park Hyatt Hamburg and its brekky from earlier in the week which, in proper German fashion, also comes with unlimited champagne!

        • James67 says:

          …red-faced confession time – I forgot how much I was enjoying my free buffet breakfasts that came with Hilton diamond!

      • RIccati says:

        That’s way too determined, “since we came here then we must have eat here.”

        • Why pay €400 a night for a hotel if you intend to spend every waking moment including breakfast somewhere else?!

    • The_Real_A says:

      I wander down the street and eat for 5euro with great coffee 🙂 for some people its just not a consideration, but i guess Rob has a point that if you balk at the high breakfast price then perhaps a more economical hotel would be a better choice.

    • Mr Dee says:

      It comes down to what is acceptable to each person and their budget, if your budget allows you to pay for an expensive hotel and breakfast then fair enough. The prices of these hotels are what they are for a reason and because people have and are willing to pay the prices (In most cases) and you will have business customers who will give the bill to their company.

  5. Emily says:

    My Ambassador year ends in July but the voucher was valid until Aug, when I’m using it at Le Grand. Do you think they will honour Ambassador benefits (upgrade, late check out etc) as it’s an Ambassador weekend, or do you think they’ll be strict and not do so as my membership has technically expired?!

  6. I made a booking with my voucher yesterday and was thinking this. The rate is really quite silly: not only is the ihg member rate significantly lower, but there is also a lower rate again for bookings made on mobile devices.

    And one other whinge: why state prices before taxes and service charges? It is all calculated on a per-night basis. Come on IHG, just state the price up-front! It’s a pity that uk legislation does not require them to do this for rooms sold through their uk website at least. Bizarre that some uk properties are advertised net of VAT while most are vat-inclusive.

    It’s still the best loyalty programme out there though. after my next stay I’ll have had 30 nights at IC hotels and paid for only 5 of them (two of those are the free weekend paid nights). I don’t travel for work or regularly stay in other hotels, but picking up points and free nights seems to be a doddle.

  7. Richard says:

    I think I’ve read before that you don’t need to wait until the voucher arrives to book the free night. Has anyone had any experience of this?

    • Correct. Just go to intercontinental.com/ambweekend and book.

      • Genghis says:

        Thanks Raffles. I’m going to book an IC room using AMB in Singapore and when I do the price for both nights is coming up as part of the total.
        SGD330 of the Fri night, SGD340 for the Sat night + the taxes even though the rate type is “Ambassador Certificate”.
        Is this normal? Does this get amended at check in?

        • That is one IC I wouldn’t stay at in my opinion there are many better hotels in Singapore, but if you like walking straight in to a shopping centre or Bugis then it’s “horses for courses”. Swimming pool is small , rooms are small and the road outside can be noisy,

          Then again I spend my first voucher on a weekend in the IC Madrid (this first IC to be opened in Europe in 1950s (interesting fact)). I got a great room, breakfast was a bit naff and it quite far from the city centre.

        • Genghis says:

          Thanks Daz. Where else would you recommend in Singapore? Happy to pay with cash, IHG points, SPG points.
          I could use the AMB night alternatively at IC Amsterdam next year.

        • Its depends really what part of town your after.

          The IC is at the back and just down from the Raffles hotel, I stay at the Raffles hotel when a deal is on in the palm court. It’s not for everyone but I love it and love the champagne brunch on a Sunday. Expensive!

          If your looking for something similar to the IC, the Conrad is quite nice, near Suntec City and Gluttons bay. The Ritz Carlton is at the back of the Raffles and is across from Chjimes with trendy bars and food. SPG wise you have the W on Sentosa but it is out of the way of all the main attractions, the St Regis which is up the top of Orchard road way and the Shangri-la again up the top end of Orchard road is nice.

          Old school hotels: The Raffles hotel of course, The Fullerton is lovely and is near the eateries of Boat quay. The So-Sofitel is in the business district and is nice but small, it’s at the side of Lau Pa Sat hawker centre; however it can be noisy in the evening due to the road being closed and it becoming a hawker food street selling satay. Goodwood Park is another but I cancelled when they wanted $80.00 a night for a roll-away bed.

          Plenty of IHG and SPG hotels, in fact plenty of hotels to blow your mind and money. If you need a hotel at the airport use the Crowne Plaza I paid using points for a night.

          I would agree keeping the voucher for some place like the Amstel.

          Tip: If you want to walk places and the heat is to much go in to the MRT subway and you can walk all over large parts of the city in aircon most tourist don’t figure that one out.

        • Last year i stayed in the Holiday Inn Orchard Road and it was an excellent stay, the best in an any IHG hotel. Was booked on points, but they still wanted to upgrade me which they couldn’t do due to being fully booked. Instead they provided free breakfast for the next morning and advised i could then either upgrade the next day or keep the free breakfast for rest of stay. I chose the upgrade (i like to eat out as much as i can in Asia). So next day went to reception after a day out and they advised i would need to wait till room was cleaned. By way of apology they then gave me the free breakfast and the upgraded room! They then gave me a late checkout of 4pm.

        • Yes, that is normal. You don’t pay for the 2nd night.

    • But you do need the voucher at check-in time, so ensure you take into account the reports of long delays in receiving vouchers.

      • See my above post – I did not have a physical certificate in March but it was dealt with.

  8. Is there any way to use the HFP IHG link to make an Ambassador certificate booking?

  9. Jude1234 says:

    OT I have a Lounge Club pass from my Amex Gold card. Can I use my 2 free visits for myself and my husband or are they only for me? Also do you still pay £15 each for each additional guest even if they are children?

    • guesswho2000 says:

      You can use them for a guest, I used my most recent ones for myself and a friend at LTN. As for additional guests, I assume that’ll be down to the individual lounge.

    • Did you get two physical passes with the card? Mine have never arrived – or are there 2 credits on the account?

  10. xcalx says:

    Its the same issue when booking IHG hotels using points you never get the “add breakfast now option” when booking. I’ve always found this to be poor practice.

    • Jonty says:

      At some UK IHG properties there’s often some kind of deal – a hefty discount or a 2-4-1 – for buying a voucher or booking at reception the day before. I don’t know if they are the same as the online booking offers.

  11. Tubbs says:

    Is there any need to wait for the welcome pack? The free night can be booked online. Assuming the Ambassador status shows immediately, a new card requested from IHG should arrive in 2-4 weeks. What else does the welcome pack include?

    • Dave R says:

      Nothing to stop you booking online but you need a physical voucher (contained in the welcome pack) when you check in or the hotel will refuse to honor the Ambassador Weekend rate and charge you for both nights. Apparently, some people that have managed to get IHG to contact the hotel when they haven’t received their certificate so they don;t get charged for both nights but personally I wouldn’t feel comfortable relying on that.

  12. Dave R says:

    To get the best value from the voucher, where possible, I book a room with lounge access. Then you are also getting free lounge access the 2nd night. Although the difference in price at the hotels I use between a standard room and club room is slightly higher than the discounted ambassador daily rate for lounge access so it;s not quite 2for1 lounge access.

  13. For the ones in Paris next week, here are some events you may be interested in:

    All are FREE, outside (not inside any building), and with no booking needed.
    You can go in and go out at any time during the event.

    Friday 29th of july:

    paris quartier d’été festival
    7pm BATAILLE show
    50 minutes
    Sucker punches, uppercuts, dives, ducks and smacks come flying in this malicious danced fight club
    bercy village/ metro SAINT EMILION (line 14) in front of the UGC cinema theater
    follow boards of direction from the exist of the metro
    7pm Naissam Jalal + guests
    Jazz/ rap concert
    90 minutes
    Musée qu quai branly
    In the outside garden theater in the outside museum garden
    I let you find the metro station for it
    follow boards of direction inside the area of the museum

    In the evening, cinema:
    En plein air/ La villette/ can have pic-nic here/ nice grass/ fresh air
    metro station Porte de Pantin (line 5) (not porte de la villette on the other metro line)
    Starship troopers 1998 Paul Verhoeven
    Au clair de lune/ this evening in Sacre-heart/ montmartre
    metro station ANVERS
    KING KONG 1933

    Saturday 30 july:

    In the evening, cinema:
    En plein air/ La villette/ can have pic-nic here/ nice grass/ fresh air
    metro station Porte de Pantin (line 5) (not porte de la villette on the other metro line)
    Au clair de lune/ this evening in Square LOUIS 13 Place des vosges
    metro station SAINT-PAUL
    signs of direction will be at the exist of the station
    ANNE HALL 1977 Woody Allen (in english for sure)

    Sunday 31 july

    In the evening, cinema:
    En plein air/ La villette/ can have pic-nic here/ nice grass/ fresh air
    metro station Porte de Pantin (line 5) (not porte de la villette on the other metro line)
    A Letter to Three Wives 1949 Joseph L. Mankiewicz
    Au clair de lune/ this evening in parc de montsouriq
    RER station (inside paris) CITE UNIVERSITAIRE line B
    signs of direction will be at the exist of the station

    Monday 1rst of august

    paris quartier d’été festival
    6pm LANDSCAPE show
    40 minutes
    When a strange ratating metal machine is brought into the open landscape and invested by two circus artists, meditation and movement come together with ths scenery to bring e renewed ans sensitive perception
    metro BROCHANT (line 13)
    follow boards of direction from the exist of the metro
    bus 31 or 66 BROCHANT-CARDINET stop
    Train from SAINT-LAZARE station stopping at PONT CARDINET

  14. George says:

    This is not strictly related to Ambassador, but I’m working towards accruing two annual Free Night awards, by having triggered one already via the Barclaycard and hoping for a second via the Creation equivalent.

    I’m not an Ambassador as I don’t stay at ICs to justify it, but if I were to combine the two free nights towards an IC stay, could I hope for any sort of status recognition/benefits from being Spire? Or should I stick to Crowne Plazas?

    Or, would it make sense to become Ambassador, get an extra free night, combine it with my other two and pick a three-night stay at an IC somewhere?

    • The AMB night is a bogof so you need to be paying for a night to be able to use it – you’d be looking at a 4 night stay somewhere if you wanted to use 2 free certificate nights as well.

  15. Just to point out, you can usually book some pretty expensive suites on the 2-4-1 voucher which seeks to be pretty good ‘value’ as long as you think a suite is worth it

  16. Alex W says:

    When booking the ambassador free night, do you earn IHG points on the paid portion of the stay?

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