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Bits: BA ‘Upgrade to First’ back, SPG / Marriott merger clue, IC Ambassador bonus goes

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News in brief:

British Airways brings back ‘Upgrade To First’

BA has brought back its regular ‘Upgrade To First’ promotion.

This offer is only suitable for people travelling for business, as you are required to book a flexible or semi-flexible Club World ticket (in R, D, C or J ticket buckets) in order to qualify.

The rules are:

You must book by 10th December for outbound travel by 23rd December and return travel by 31st December

You must book a return Club World ticket, of which one leg (your choice) will be upgraded to First Class

The offer is also valid on American Airlines flights from the UK to the US, Canada and Mexico when booked under a BA flight code

The upgrade books into the ‘A’ ticket bucket in First Class.  If there are no seats available in the ‘A’ ticket bucket, you cannot upgrade, even if other seats in First Class are available for sale.

You cannot book this offer on – it must be booked via BA’s call centre or a travel agent

You can take advantage of this deal as often as you like

You will receive First Class Avios and tier points for the upgraded leg

Full details are on here.  Remember that only selected British Airways routes have a First Class cabin!

British Airways First Class middle pair

Clue to the Marriott / SPG merger date

If you were wondering when Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest will finally merge into a brand new programme – which may or may not be an improvement on what we already have – there is a little clue.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express has, all year, been offering double points on stays at Marriott hotels until November 2017.  This wording has now changed to say:

Earn 2 Starpoints for every £1 of eligible purchases charged to your Card at participating SPG & Marriott Rewards hotels. Until 31 December 2018.

This could imply that both programmes will continue as they are until the end of next year.  This makes sense because launching a new scheme in the middle of the year – when status requalification is based on calendar year stays – would be crazy.

This also means that the Starwood Amex should survive for at least another 15 months which is good news.  My review of the SPG Amex card is here if you want to look at what it offers.

InterContinental Ambassador

InterContinental drops 5,000 point Ambassador bonus

I have written about InterContinental’s ‘pay to join’ Ambassador loyalty programme numerous times – my last article was here.

I find InterContinental Ambassador good value and have been a member for many years.  The free weekend night voucher (really ‘buy one get one free’) offsets the $200 joining fee by itself.  Renewing is just $150.

New members used to receive a voucher for 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points as an extra bonus.  This now appears to have ended.  A reader told me that he did not receive a code when he joined recently, and the IHG contact centre has confirmed that these points are no longer offered.  All mention of 5,000 extra points has been removed from the IHG Ambassador website here.

The bonus points were never a key reason for joining Ambassador so I can see why IHG may have decided to drop them.  What I don’t understand, however, is why they still continue to charge an extra $50 for first-time joiners.

Bonuses for renewing members are unchanged.

The Ambassador website is here if you want to find out more.

IHG Rewards update – August 2021:

Get bonus points: The current IHG Rewards promotion is ‘Triple Your Points’ – our full article is here. It runs from 15th May to 16th August. You receive double base points on your second stay and triple base points on your third and subsequent stays. You can register on this page of

New to IHG Rewards?  Read our overview of IHG Rewards here and our article on points expiry rules here. Our article on ‘What are IHG Rewards points worth?’ is here.

Buy points: If you need additional IHG Rewards points, you can buy them here.

There is a 75% bonus when you buy IHG Rewards points by 13th August.

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

Comments (111)

  • Robert says:

    Was still offered bonus points for renewing last week though (5000 in my case as I renewed using 24k points).

    • Nick says:

      I renewed with points a couple of weeks ago and received the renewal pack on Friday, which had the 5K points code. Sounds like it could be just new members then (?)

  • Richy says:

    I renewed and got my pack last week. Renewed with points and the letter with the pack had a code for 15k points.

  • Andrew M says:

    Does the upgrade to First require the ticket to originate in the UK? I think that’s been the case in the past but I don’t see any mention of it in the conditions on the BA site.

  • Richard says:

    The BA offer is only available to UK residents with UK issued tickets. Presumably this will exclude using any “ex-eu” business class fares. This is normally the case for this offer which BA regularly run.

    • Andrew M says:

      I wonder if UK resident buying the ticket in the UK but with the flight starting in say Cairo, would get the upgrade?

      • Andrew M says:

        The upgraded sector might be from London to the US but with original the departure point being Cairo.

        • David says:

          I was upgraded without asking to First at the gate on one leg of a journey to Australia last year. When I returned I asked for (and got) BA Tier points for the upgraded portion, although I’d paid for the cheapest business class fare I could find…

  • Emad Elias says:

    Rob, it is possible they still charge new joiners an extra $50 to dissuade existing ones from leaving and rejoining the scheme.

  • Alan says:

    Excellent news on SPG Amex front, will try and squeeze in some more churns!

  • Capt Hammond says:

    I joined the Ambassador scheme recently (redeeming points rather than paying $200). I didn’t get the code to claim the 5000 bonus points but after a couple of emails they were credited to my account as a ‘goodwill award’…

  • Nick M says:

    I currently have SPG gold from spending £15k last year… my qualifying year for spending finishes in early Dec and I don’t think I’ll meet the threshold this time. I do have a Platinum Amex at the moment, but planning to cancel fairly soon…

    If I claim Gold status via Platinum, will it be valid for a year from today? Or will the request simply be ignored until December?

    • Genghis says:

      I ‘updated’ my SPG Gold from Amex Plat a few months ago and my status is now valid until Feb 19. Certainly worth a try and you’ve nothing to lose.

      • JamesB says:

        Where do you see your expiration date please? I applied for status with all chains via amex platinum in July although I already held them, I’m hoping it means they will all get extended another year when current status expires next year. In particular I hope it means my Hilton status will only drop from diamond to gold.

        • Genghis says:

          For SPG on the updated physical card that I received. Also on the SPG app on my iPhone, if you add to Wallet and then click the ‘i’ in the bottom RHS, and then scroll to the bottom it gives “valid until” info.

        • Liz says:

          That’s what I was hoping for too – I registered with all the hotel chains again when I got my platinum card a couple of months ago but never heard anything from any of them. I am Diamond till March 2018 but recently received an email saying my status is about to change – no mention of a date. I have emailed them saying not to downgrade me before March but I have not received any response. Will just reapply again next year when I get another Platinum card.

          • JamesB says:

            I never got any email confirmations either but figured that might still be because I already had the same or higher status. Still hoping though, time will tell. I never got such an email from Hilton so perhaps just an error. Will get referred to PRG late December; upgrade to platinum late February and apply status again in March.

      • Nick M says:

        Thanks as always! Tried to do this earlier but kept asking me to re-login… will try again later/tomorrow though!

    • Relaxo says:

      Requests will probably be ignored. I’ve tried twice+ OH tried once….neither of us have heard back

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