IHG Rewards Club pushes up the price of InterContinental Ambassador hotel status …. if you pay with points

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It seems that even IHG Rewards Club admits that it has devalued its points with the changes to reward pricing over the last couple of years.

Joining Ambassador used to cost $200 or 32,000 IHG Rewards Club points.  Without notice, that was increased to 40,000 points last week.

Even more startling was the rise in renewal costs.  Renewal is usually $150 or 24,000 points.  It has now jumped to $150 or 40,000 points.  I actually recommend you take the 3rd option for renewal, which is to pay $200 but receive 15,000 points back plus a 10% rebate on all of your points bookings for the year.

This change is not hugely surprising.  Whenever IHG was running a 100% ‘buy points’ last year (and it has got addicted to these offers recently) it was cheaper to buy the points than pay for Ambassador for cash …..

buy ambassador intercontinental with points

What is InterContinental Ambassador?

If you don’t know how the Ambassador scheme works, read on.  (If you do, scroll down to the next story!)

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 or 40,000 points to join

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, most hotels let you book club rooms or suites – this is an important benefit, especially if you have children and want larger rooms.

(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

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!

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.

(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.)

What am I reviewing in the Middle East next week?
How to get the train and tube from Heathrow to Upminster (Zone 6 to Zone 6) for £1.50 .....

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  1. I thought it was incredibly unreasonable not to provide notice of the increase from 24k to 40k for renewal.

    Long story short but they have agreed to let me renew for 24k (40k cost with 16k added as goodwill). It did take several emails and a phone call from a supervisor.

  2. We have just come back from 6 nights at the JW Marriott Marquis, impressive hotel & business lounge, food is great & the views fantastic. If check-in is busy you can go to the 37 floor to as you can check-in in there at the lounge, make sure you’re in Tower A, If you’re there on a Friday the 068 Brunch at Prime 68 which is fabulous, the food just keeps on coming!

  3. IC Ambassador status never really appealed to me for a number of years, but having used it for the past year, and using the free night certificate on a club room to get max value as a treat then it does have a decent value to it. The 4pm late checkout has been of real benefit for long weekend breaks effectively allowing most of the last day to be part of the holiday. 4pm late checkout also means i get to keep using the club lounge, so again, a little bit extra benefit. The IC Madrid lounge was great, especially on a Sunday where they get a lot of the food from the main restaurant’s Sunday buffet!

  4. I doubt we are going to use our Ambassador “free” night this year. There just aren’t any ICs in any places we want to go. Not even a single one in Italy yet.

    • Mine is also going to gather dust till it expires in about 6 weeks time. I got value out of the programme this year but the BOGO is not necessarily that useful – unless it is obviously…

      • Are these certificates transferable? I remember reading somewhere that they’re marked now to stop gifting them?

        • Yes, they now have your name on. You could transfer the old ones to other Ambassadors and I occasionally did.

    • I got £800 value out of mine on a Beachfront Pool Villa at IC Samui over Christmas. I also got to keep the villa for my last night which was a redemption booking. They were trying to get me to pay £250 to upgrade but I told them I’d be staying in the room in till 4pm checkout then would call them to move my bags. They decided it wasn’t worth having me move – I was checking out at 7:30am the next morning.

  5. O/T I have downgraded BA Premium to BA Basic Amex, as I had to use my voucher and was going to refer my partner later in the year and get the bonus.

    I have an unexpected £15k to spend on a Travel Company Purchase via AMEX, and I’m wondering should I charge it all to my new Gold AMEX, or charge some to my BA, take it over the 10k threshold and upgrade the card when I want the 2-4-1 activated, can I do this?

    • I would charge £2,000 to the Gold card to get 22,000+ Avios, then upgrade to Platinum here https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/content/platinum-charge/upgrade/ and spend £1,000 to get a further 21,000. You can then cancel if you wish or keep for 18,000 MR referrals e.g. other half for Gold to use remainder to get even more.
      Then put enough on BA to take over 10,000. I would also refer myself for SPG etc.
      Time may be a problem.

  6. I have flown Royal Jordanian several times but not in years. I really enjoyed the Crown Class service on board. This was right after they joined oneworld, I did two separate trips including flights with them. Food was great, crews were great. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it! Look forward to reading what you think.

  7. Does anyone have experience of booking interconnecting rooms with Ambassador status? I’ve managed it for the Intercontinental at JNB but it seems quite fiddly. Does just one room get upgraded?
    And do people have opinions on Intercontinental hotels in Japan? We’ve booked four F seats with Avios in the summer (yes I know it will be humid). Like the look of Ana Intercontinental Tokyo but you have to pay extra to use their outdoor pool. Would we get access with Ambassador (or through booking with Emyr)? An alternative seems to be the New Otani Garden. Anyone been there?

    • Interconnecting rooms is a nightmare, full stop. No hotel chain has it cracked. I have had probably at low budget and off the scale luxury properties. Any promise they give you is worthless as front desk staff will give away one of the rooms anyway. I’ve even been to places where the staff didn’t even know that connecting meant and thought it meant ‘next door’.

      This is what Emyr can book in Tokyo with the extra benefits listed – https://www.virtuoso.com/hotels#FacetLimit=6&SearchTerms=tokyo – on top of usual luxury chain ‘preferred partner’ deals he has with Four Seasons, Mandarin, Ritz Carlton etc.

      • Thank you, very helpful. Kids are now at an age where it isn’t vital but it makes life easier. Seems odd it isn’t something they’re keener to sell up front.
        Virtuoso link is helpful as well.

      • Steve-B says:

        I have to agree – two out of the three times in the past year it has been an absolute hassle. Worst experience at HI Birmingham Bromsgrove where no one seemed to be able to find keys! I’ve given up and now chose family rooms etc. To be fair, IC Budapest was excellent though.

  8. delighted your Swiss First flight wasn’t cancelled – and that you don’t have to sue them !

  9. OT – the age old problem of availability on BA using avios is normally, being flexible not an issue for us but yesterday I spent hours trying to get ex eu on QR to Doha. I’ve tried the usual
    Nordic routes plus I resigned myself to saving avios using CE to IST and then an A320 onwards all in J but no joy. I have been looking at start of April so granted peak time but usually I find something even from places like PRG or OTP. Plenty of Y seats but I wanted J, the only option I did see was from FRA but it was on a 777. I also looked for over October mainly the very end and again nothing in J. I tried lots of dates and lots of airports as I’m not bothered too much where it’s from as I’ll use avios on a RFS to get there.

    Is it just me or any suggestions or experiences from anyone else recently?

  10. O/T – there’s been various comments recently about Amex potentially changing their sign up bonus rules, some of which I might have missed. Today an Amex call centre agent told me explicitly that I would not be eligible for the 20K MR point sign up bonus for the PRG card, even if more than six months after I cancelled a previous one, with the implication being it was a lifetime restriction. When I pointed out the wording on their website about the six months rule, she said it “needs to change” because the “policy was brought in a couple of weeks ago”.

    That might explain why I’ve been denied the sign up bonus for a BA card (the free one) although I hit the target in late December. A different call centre agent said I should have got it, but some back office part of Amex denied it, giving no reason. Looks like the internal departments of Amex don’t communicate well with each other.

    • I thought Rob said he is entitled to be notified (presumably due to the business relationship) before any such changes are implemented?

      • Michael Jennings says:

        If the website is still saying you are entitled to it, there are laws that require that they give it to you, too.

        • I’ve been giving this some thought and my current leaning is that they’re not cracking down on customers but on their own call center staff encouraging customers to churn and putting offers on cards they weren’t supposed to. If so It follows that churning is still in but you if you phone up and ask they have to say no because everything they say is recorded.

      • 100% entitled to get advance notice of APR and sign up and benefit changes. Churning terms could be a grey area but I would expect to know.

    • My wife has just had the sign-up bonus on a Gold card, where she applied only six months and a few days since she cancelled the last Platinum. And the target was reached in less than two weeks; now to upgrade to Platinum and hopefully to refer me for Gold in a few weeks.
      Something probably will change, but we have to wait and see.

    • I have a written statement from the Amex press office saying nothing has changed ‘but might’ …..

      • I had a long very argument with online chat last week about missing small shop credits on a card I want to cancel. She told me that under no circumstances is anyone one the online chat team allowed to do manual credits – this is now their protocol. She confirmed that I would get the missing £10 credit even after the card is cancelled but I won’t get it before 8 wks from end of the promotion. She gave me the reference number of the chat as confirmation we will get the credit on a cancelled card. So looks like they are really clamping down on manual credits.

        • I have £10 still to credit from shop small and was toldhave to wait until mid Feb before chasing again. The agent did do a manual credit though for £50 on the Gucci offer.

        • I got a manual credit for the Costco promo, however it wasn’t only when i was on the phone to amex i realised it was only for the costco website, not the shop! They still gave me the credit.

        • I am missing Small Shop 10 credits in total. Was just trying to push them on this one card to allow me to cancel but she wouldn’t budge. Next argument will be to get the £10 after cancellation.

        • Toby Walsh says:

          The credits will still add after cancellation!

          I cancelled after shop small last year not realising missing credits. Received a postal statement some months later and the account was in credit asking me to call them.

    • On this note, does making PayPal payments to one another still count as a purchase?

      I’d like to make use of he bonus points but don’t have anything to purchase so PayPal payments would be ideal.

  11. Whoa….paying for seat selection in First – how mean!

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      Not sure i’d bother. How bad could First be to want to aviod being allocated a seat? I would hope they are all exceptional

      • If you are travelling on your own then most would prefer a single seat. Long haul sitting/sleeping by a stranger is something you might not want, unless that stranger is Brad Pitt then I’d happily make that sacrifice………

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