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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. We did this in the Willard in DC. Booked a suite using the AMB voucher followed by the the redemption on a separate booking. We sent them an email in advance to confirm they were back-to-back bookings and they kept us in the same room throughout.

    • Apologies, this was supposed to be a Reply to Matt @5.45

      • What’s the Willard like?
        Have a trip to Washington soon and always look at ICs first but see there’s a new IC in the city. Any comparisons?

  2. Jovanna says:

    Does transferring Virgin miles still count for IHG status points?

  3. “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.”

    If you take this route then you, presumably, still get the Weekend night certificate? So swapping 40,000 IHG points for a night in an IC (plus the other benefits)?

    • There was an offer that made it only 32000 when I signed up earlier in the year, with the 10000 point certificate this made it net 22000 which was great value.

    • Yes, but I would still look at it as swapping 40k for $200!

      • It’s like a lot of things Rob, if you are points rich then it’s definitely worth doing, points poor the pay the fee. I’ll be up for renewal and based on this year alone would have had 25000 points back on the 10% rebate so it’s a no brainer.

      • Genghis says:

        I’m willing to sell IHGs at 0.4p so 40k vs $200 = £156 isn’t too far off.

  4. With the drop in the GBP vs USD I’d say 40k points (which I’d value at £160) is a fairly reasonable exchange for $200.

    Have a few months to go before first renewal, definitely interested in the 10% back option, although depends how good the Accelerate targets are on paid stays as to how many redemption ones I’ll make (plus of course variable recognition on redemption stays if staying at ICs)

  5. Nigel the Pensioner says:

    “A GUARANTEED one-level room upgrade on every InterContinental stay – this is usually processed before you arrive and is visible online”

    So booking an IC for cash, in a room that is one below a room giving Club access, gives a guaranteed upgrade to a room that has Club access AND Club access will be authorised too?
    True or False?
    There are some groups that give you the room upgrade, but deny you Club Lounge access!!

    • False. They’ll usually upgrade you the next level without Club access (which may even be a level not advertised on the website).

      • Nigel the Pensioner says:

        So in my books Ambassador is a complete waste of time…… You have to pay a non discounted (flexible) room rate for one of your weekend days (with the other being via the voucher) and your upgrade is pretty pointless, unless you sadly spend all of your time away in your hotel bedroom!
        Im afraid that late check out is another benefit for agoraphobics or Rip Van Winkle! Get out and have lunch – enjoy the city; concierge will look after your luggage!

        • Obviously all subjective but you don’t have to try very hard to save a fortune with the BOGOF voucher. And the 4pm business – it’s great to be able to have a long morning out and about, nip back to the room and have a shower before concentrating on getting to JFK or HKG etc where the flights are always late.

    • False – this was specifically prevented by the Ambassador rules which came out in October 2016. You will have to pay separately for the “Club Intercontinental Experience”.

  6. “It is totally free if you would otherwise have booked at Best Flexible Rate.”

    Notionally correct, but given by definition every hoder of an AMB cert is a IHG member, then the refundable Your Rate will be available. This is generally 5% less than the BFR, and sometimes cheaper than that. So it isn’t totally free..

    Also, assuming CB is available, there is 6-15% being lost by going to the amb weekend booking page directly.

  7. Decided to renew this year for 40000 points – will get 5000 points back as renewal was a Q2 Accelerate target and 34000 @ 10% rebate for IHG stays already booked, so have already almost broken even. Last years voucher was used at IC Warsaw where we were upgraded to a suite, a decent bottle of wine & very nice chocolates were the gift plus usual fruit/water every day. Always book lounge access room with paid rate & have breakfast in there.

  8. Prins Polo says:

    One annoying thing about ‘guaranteed upgrades” is that they are increasingly often not real upgrades to the next category, but to a better room within the same category (which are otherwise not bookable online). That happened to me at IC Singapore and a few other properties.

  9. Think the 10000 points on renewal isn’t happening any more. I didn’t get it anyway when I renewed last month and when I called them they said that had stopped. Perhaps I need to call again and get a different agent if it’s definitely still supposed to be included.

    • Thanks. I know it has stopped on new memberships but I thought they were still giving it on renewals – I will find out in October.

    • Lady London says:

      Until you said that I was giving IC Ambassador some serious thought as an option instead of moving my stays from IHG and Accor to Hilton. If they’re not giving the 10,000 pts anymore than this changes it for me as in an average year I’d have very few reward stays to earn the 10% of points back on. A pity I was seriously considering it.

  10. If I’am ambassador and book the night with Free Night Voucher which comes with credit card, I will still get the upgrade and 4 pm checkout?

    • Genghis says:

      Just one night using the Free Night Voucher? 4pm checkout guaranteed. Upgrade not but from experience you’ll likely receive one.

      Front the free night voucher with a cash booking / AMB “241” then more likely to receive a better upgrade.

      • Thank you Genghis. I just used AMB “241” last weekend in Amstel, so I was planning to go 1-2 nights with points and then finish it with Free Night Voucher in La Grand later this year. I can survive ‘no upgrade’ but the 4pm checkout is super useful for these short stays. Although upgrade would be nice.

        • As I say above I had an odd experience at Le Grand where I was initially refused a 4pm check-out on a free night cert. Eventually this was sorted but it was odd. Not had this issue elsewhere. Stand your ground if required.

  11. Richard Hurley says:

    With the Free night at the weekend, does it have to be a Saturday/Sunday or can it be Friday/saturday.

    Thanks for the help.

    • Genghis says:

      Either. In ME I think it’s Thu/Fri, Fri/Sat.

      • Note that the rules are that you pay for the first night and get the second night free. It is not the average price of both nights divided by two. This can make a difference if pricing jumps around during your stay.

        • Quite – worked out very nicely for me in Lisbon where the Saturday night was significantly pricier than the Fri 🙂

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