InterContinental has launched a special offer to encourage you to join, or indeed renew, your membership of their InterContinental Ambassador loyalty scheme.
If you join or renew before 15th November, you will receive a voucher for a free reward night (costing up to 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points) when you stay at any InterContinental, Kimpton or Regent hotel by 31st January.
For clarity – this offer is good for renewals too. Ambassador usually lets you renew 30-60 days early, so you may be able to take advantage of this deal even if your membership does not expire by the closing date of 15th November.
How does the new Ambassador sign-up or renewal offer work?
InterContinental has gone out of its way to make this offer more complicated than was absolutely necessary!
For a start, it hasn’t bothered to mention the offer on the Ambassador website. It IS outlined in the small print, and InterContinental has been emailing people to promote it, but it isn’t helpful that it’s not on the landing page.
The ‘free night’ is also conditional:
you have to stay, for cash, at an InterContinental, Kimpton or Regent hotel before 31st January
the voucher can only be used at a hotel where reward nights cost no more than 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points (this should cover hotels up to the £175 mark)
the voucher must be used by 30th April 2021
It would have been a LOT easier if IHG had just dropped 40,000 points into your IHG Rewards Club account as soon as you signed up, but obviously that wouldn’t drive any fresh stays.
What is the small print of the Ambassador free night offer?
If you scroll to Clause 42 of the Ambassador terms and conditions here you will find this:
InterContinental Ambassadors who enrol in the programme or renew their programme membership between 30 July 2020 – 15 November 2020 and then complete one Qualifying Stay at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, or Regent Hotels by 31 January 2021 will be awarded a Reward Night redeemable for a Reward Night priced at 40,000 points or less. The Reward Night will be deposited into the Free Nights section of the member’s account within 72 hours after check-out from the qualifying, paid stay and will be valid until 30 April 2021. This Reward Night is in addition to the complimentary weekend night that is already included as an InterContinental Ambassador member benefit. Ambassador benefits are not honored at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants globally or at Regent Hotels & Resorts in Greater China.
The Reward Night must be consumed by 30 April 2021 and cannot be extended or transferred. The number of points required for a Reward Night at IHG hotels varies by date, brand and individual hotel and is subject to availability. Taxes and fees apply and the member may be required to pay such taxes and fees even for a Reward Night. IHG Army Hotels, Mrs and Mrs Smith properties, and Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas are excluded from this Offer.
This Offer is not valid for InterContinental Ambassador membership enrolments or renewals obtained on a complimentary basis or using the IHG Employee discount. Ambassador members must be within their standard renewal window in order to take advantage of this Offer. A Qualifying Stay is defined as a paid, minimum 1-night stay booked under a Qualifying Rate, with total spend exceeding US $30 per night. Reward Nights do not count as Qualifying Stays. A Stay is defined per IHG Rewards Club Membership Terms and Conditions as one night or consecutive nights at the same hotel, regardless of frequency of check-in/out. Only one room per member per Qualifying Stay will be eligible to earn the member a Reward Night under this Offer. If more than one member checks into the same room, only one member may use it as his or her Qualifying Stay for this Offer. No credit will be awarded for Stays completed prior to the member’s enrollment or renewal.
How does InterContinental Ambassador work?
InterContinental and Regent, the two luxury hotel brands inside IHG Rewards Club (which also covers Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo and others) are a little odd when it comes to loyalty schemes:
As part of the Holiday Inn / Crowne Plaza group, they participate in IHG Rewards Club
InterContinental and Regent hotels do not officially recognise your IHG Rewards Club status. In reality, they often do, but it is not guaranteed.
InterContinental and Regent also have their own loyalty scheme – Ambassador – which costs $200 to join
For new members, there is an option to use 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points instead of paying $200 in cash. Given my 0.4p valuation of an IHG Rewards Club point this is a fair deal, although it is always possible to exceed 0.4p – often by a large margin – at peak hotels on peak dates.
Via this new offer, of course, you are virtually joining for free. You could pay 40,000 points to join but, if you triggered the free night voucher, you would receive a voucher worth 40,000 points back. The snag is that the voucher has an April 2021 expiry date and there is no change given if you use it for a hotel which is cheaper than 40,000 points. You also can’t ‘pay the difference’ by booking somewhere more expensive.
The key thing about Ambassador is that, once you are a member, the benefits are virtually 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 night (BOGOF) 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 stay (weekend only at InterContinental, any day at Kimpton Hotels and Regent Hotels) and pay the Ambassador Certificate Rate, which is 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 Certificate 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. For clarity, the free night is the 2nd night. It is NOT the average of your two nights.)
A GUARANTEED one-level room upgrade on every InterContinental and Regent stay – this is usually processed before you arrive and is visible online. If the hotel cannot provide an upgrade, you receive 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points compensation at an InterContinental. There is no compensation at a Regent.
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. If an InterContinental hotel cannot provide late check-out, you receive 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points compensation. There is no compensation at a Regent.
A $20 food and beverage credit per InterContinental stay (not valid at Regent)
Free mineral water in your room
Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards Club (usually requires 40 nights or $4,000 of qualifying spend)
The benefits package is slightly different for stays in Mainland China, including free restaurant breakfast for one person.
Is InterContinental Ambassador worth it?
Obviously InterContinental Ambassador is not for everyone. Even without this special offer, however, you can earn back the cost of membership in just one stay by redeeming the free night voucher. It may even be worth it if you had just one long InterContinental or Regent stay booked and wanted to guarantee your upgrade.
Ambassador members also receive Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards Club. This will make your future Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo etc stays a little more pleasant although it is unlikely to lead to major upgrades or lounge access.
Does this new offer change the maths?
Joining InterContinental Ambassador is a lot more attractive under this offer – IF you are sure that you can complete an InterContinental, Kimpton or Regent night by 31st January 2021 to trigger the voucher.
In the UK, you would be looking at the InterContinental hotels in London or Edinburgh, or the Kimpton hotels in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow or Manchester. There are no Regent hotels in the UK.
You also need to fairly confident that you can use the free night voucher by 30th April 2021, for a hotel costing no more than 40,000 IHG Reward Club points.
If you can manage all this then Ambassador looks good:
Cost to join for 12 months: $200 (£156) or 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points
Value of 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points certificate after your qualifying stay: £160 (conservative, based on 0.4p per point)
Other benefits: ‘buy one get one free certificate’ valid at InterContinental (weekends only), Kimpton and Regent; Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards Club; attractive upgrade, check-out and in-hotel credit offers at InterContinental hotels
Looked at another way …. if you use 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points to join Ambassador, you will get those 40,000 points back (admittedly in voucher form with an expiry date) after your first stay. The other Ambassador benefits are therefore ‘free’ for a year.
You can learn more about InterContinental Ambassador, and sign up, here if it sounds interesting. Remember that this offer is NOT shown on their landing page, but the terms and conditions make it clear that it exists! I’ve also seen the email at IHG is sending out, which is where the top image above comes from.