Why InterContinental Ambassador is a loyalty programme I am happy to pay for

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Last week I wrote about potential changes that IHG is considering for the ‘pay to play’ InterContinental Ambassador loyalty scheme.  You can read that article here.

At the time, I promised to run another overview of InterContinental Ambassador for the benefit of those readers who are not familiar with it.  I am happy to hand over $200 for each year of benefits 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 hotels do 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 – Ambassadorwhich costs $200 to join

InterContinental Ambassador review

And yet, despite the $200 fee ($150 or $200 to renew depending on benefits), I consider Ambassador a good deal and have been a member for a number of years.  This review 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 Ambassador Weekend Rate, usually equal to Best Flexible Rate. The rules say that only standard rooms can be booked. However, many hotels let you book club rooms or suites which is especially useful for families.

(As the Ambassador Weekend 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 cheaper pre-paid rate.  It is totally free if you would otherwise have booked at Best Flexible Rate.)

A GUARANTEED one-level room upgrade on every InterContinental stay – 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 or on a trip 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.

Renewal is even cheaper at just $150 and you receive another ‘free weekend night’ certificate.  More interestingly, on renewal you are offered a second option for an extra $50:

Renew for $200 instead of the standard $150, and

Receive 15,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points and

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.

It is worth remembering that InterContinental is returning to Edinburgh next year.  On the other hand, we don’t yet know how the newly acquired Regent Hotels luxury chain will fit in with Ambassador, especially as some InterContinental hotels are expected to be rebranded.  InterContinental Hong Kong is already confirmed to return to the Regent name.

For new members, there is an option to use 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points instead of paying $200 in cash.   I would be looking for more than $200 of value when redeeming 40,000 points but you might have a different view.

There is also an invitation-only premium level called Royal Ambassador, where the benefits include free mini-bar access and higher level upgrades.  Whilst the criteria are not published it is believed to require $10,000 of annual spend at InterContinental properties.

(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.)

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Comments

  1. I have already ‘spent’ my next year’s free weekend certificate and my renewal date is the 1st October. Given the possible changes would you recommend renewing now or wait and see?

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