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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 – September 2021:

Get bonus points: IHG Rewards is not currently running a global promotion.

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.

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)

  • Kathy says:

    I noticed the 5k points had disappeared from the website a couple of weeks ago. Oh well, it doesn’t change the maths much.

  • Jean Claude Z says:

    My wife has been booked in an eligible Club World class by her corporate travel agent.
    How could she request the upgrade to First? I can’t find the answer on the BA link above…

    • Rob says:

      It has to be done by the TA. Note that the ticket may need to be cancelled and a new one booked as it must be issued after 6 September.

      • john says:

        Also upgrading an existing booking doesn’t sound possible from the T&C:

        “7. Eligible Participants must request the upgrade at the time of booking.”

        • Jean Claude Z says:

          Too bad, ticket has been issued after the 6th but since she didn’t know about the offer, the upgrade wasn’t requested at the time of booking…
          Thank you both for the replies!

  • BLT says:

    I’ve got the SPG Amex and having spent 25k to receive the free weekend award – it seems more than useless. Cat 1-4 and weekend only makes it pretty much unusable and so low value. Makes you appreciate the BA 241 and IHG CC free night.

    • Genghis says:

      I really like the SPG card for churning and then put quite a bit of spend through in the short term. I do feel the card could have been so much more. These arguments have been used before but breakeven excluding any year 1 sign up bonuses at 1.5p / SPG is £5k of spend and the kind of person who would spend £25k on such an Amex card (c. £100k+ income) is unlikely to see at Cat 1-4 as an ‘aspirational reward’.

    • Alan says:

      Yes, I don’t find it worth trying to hit anything more than sign-up bonus earn target then churn with this card. The high spend offers are poor as you say.

      • JamesB says:

        IIRC Rob said he has raised the issue with amex regarding ongoing benefits and earning rarates on the SPG card numerous times but nothing changed.

        • Rob says:

          I have! I found a document I wrote for them 3 years ago recently on my computer explaining how to make this card a decent deal ….. nothing changed!

    • mark2 says:

      Surely you were aware of this when you decided which card to use for your expenditure.
      Personally I consider all of these long term offers, except BAPP 241, to be poor value compared with churning.

      • the real harry1 says:

        I guess the Gold card 10K anniversary bonus for hitting £15k spend would count as ‘long term’ & I feel that’s worth hanging on for

        idea being to bank the 10,000 MR points, upgrade to Plat for another 20K points and hopefully close a/c before any fees become payable – and if something is payable, it’s pro rated back as a refund so not that big a deal

        in before: sure, serial churning might work better but I’m against that idea

      • mark2 says:

        Also, you have had 25,000 points which will get you two nights in a cat 7 Marriott.

        • Alex W says:

          Plus the 10,000 points sign up bonus = 35k SPG. So your half way to getting a decent Marriott travel package.

          • Alex W says:


          • mark2 says:

            true, but you have to stay for seven nights in the same place.

          • BLT says:

            I did realise that the free night was only cat 1-4 and didn’t spend the £25k for this, I’m still spending on the card as thought I would diversify my points and quite fancy the option of a Marriott travel package (Should have 500k+ Marriott points soon, so any good options welcome!). However, once, I received the free night voucher I loooked in to options, and the UK options are dire, I’m sure there wouldn’t be a much greater uptake if it were not limited to weekends, also you need to phone to make the booking. Still like the SPG Amex option though.

  • Alan C says:

    I renewed using points in June as part of my Accelerate Challenge. Got a voucher for 10k points with the pack. Tried to add to my account but got an error message.
    Amb email reply said it should only have been 5k. Pushed for a GOGW and got the 10k in full.

  • Dan says:

    I joined the Ambassador programme a few weeks ago. There was no 5000 bonus point coupon in my welcome pack, though the person at IHG Ambassador I emailed said there should have been and credited my account with the 5000 points anyway.

    • John says:

      So your pack arrived within “a few weeks”?

      I’m thinking of joining now for a stay in November so need the BOGOF cert to arrive before I depart the UK… but am worried from reading reports that say it still hasn’t arrived after months.

      • Bariummeal says:

        It can take upto 8 weeks. Though I got mine within 3 weeks this time.

      • Leo says:

        2016 – never saw the pack but still used the weekend 241 deal in Bangkok. Just contacted the AMB team. No problem this year – took about 3 weeks to turn up.

      • Dan says:

        I can’t remember how long it took exactly, maybe a month.

  • Vicky says:

    I’ve got a fully flex business class ticket already booked – do you know if this then disqualifies me for the upgrade to first? I’ve already flown the first leg but am not due to fly the return leg until November. I tried reading the T&C’s but it wasn’t entirely clear.

  • Aron says:

    Is it Gold status you get when you purchase IHG Ambassador or Platinum status?

  • Alex W says:

    OT. I want to apply for the Amex Plat again, but I’m about to move house. Never been declined before, but my credit rating has dipped a bit to 878 after the mortgage application.

    Am I more likely to succeed with the application if I apply now using the old address, or after I’ve moved house, re-registered to vote etc? I should have a week or two overlap where I can still access the old property to pick up mail. Thanks.

    • Dimitri says:

      Alex, you have much better chances with the old address. Royal mail redirection for a month might also be a good option for you since Amex is not using any couriers.

      • Genghis says:

        I think Royal Mail redirection for 6 months is worth it. I’m pretty diligent when it comes to admin and also tight as a duck’s **** but it’s worth paying to mitigate any fraud risk.

        • Peter K says:

          Completely agree about paying for the redirection. It’s amazing how you forget opticians, dentists and other occasional places you visit when you move.

      • Alex W says:

        Thanks guys.

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        Amex will most likely be instructing Royal Mail that card are non-redirectable and they will be returned.

    • John says:

      Credit rating numbers are meaningless since Experian etc don’t issue credit cards.

      You’ll still need to enter the old address for the next 3 years so it’s not like they won’t know who you are. Even if that was a problem, the Amex online form is good in that it lets you enter the number of another Amex, so they definitely know who you are.

      Furthermore, if you have an existing Amex they probably won’t even credit-check you (costs them money!)

      With charge cards I think they aren’t too strict anyway, I assume you are in good standing with them so it really shouldn’t matter.

      • Alex W says:

        So would you say it’s better to apply after I have changed my address? Thanks.

        • John says:

          Well my view is that it probably won’t make a difference, so I would just apply when the dates work for me.

          But I never have worked for Amex and don’t know anyone who does, so I can’t say for sure, all I can say is that my wife got an Amex 3 months after moving despite having not been added to the electoral roll at the new address yet (some councils only update it once a year)

        • Peter K says:

          One thing to think about is not applying just before a mortgage goes through as it can affect your credit rating at the last minute and the mortgage may fall through. A risk not worth taking!

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