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Review: why InterContinental Ambassador is a hotel loyalty programme I am happy to pay for

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This is our review of the InterContinental Ambassador hotel loyalty programme.

What is InterContinental Ambassador, and is it worth paying a $200 annual fee to join a loyalty programme?  I thought it was worth taking another look as we haven’t focused on the benefits of Ambassador for while.

InterContinental, the luxury hotel brand inside IHG Rewards (which also covers Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo 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

InterContinental Ambassador review

InterContinental hotels do not officially recognise your IHG Rewards status.  In reality, they often do, but it is not guaranteed.

InterContinental also has its own loyalty scheme – Ambassadorwhich costs $200 to join

And yet, despite the $200 fee, I consider Ambassador a good deal and have been a member for a number of years.  I did skip a year in 2018/9 as I took some time out to run down my Marriott Bonvoy balance whilst I was still Titanium Elite, but I am now back in the fold.  This review summarises why it works for me.

What does InterContinental Ambassador cost to join?

You can sign up here.  The cost is $200.

For new members, there is an option to use 40,000 IHG Rewards points instead of paying $200 in cash.   Given my 0.4p valuation of an IHG Rewards point this is a fair deal, although it is always possible to exceed 0.4p at peak hotels on peak dates.

How does InterContinental Ambassador work?

What are the benefits of InterContinental Ambassador?

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 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, 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 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.  If the hotel cannot provide an upgrade, you receive 10,000 IHG Rewards points compensation or a $50 food and beverage credit.

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 the hotel cannot provide late check-out, you receive 10,000 IHG Rewards points compensation or a $50 food and beverage credit.

A $20 food and beverage credit per stay

Free mineral water in your room

Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards (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.

During 2021, the free weekend night voucher has also been redeemable at Kimpton and Regent hotels.  There is no word of this being rolled over for 2022.

You now receive benefits at Six Senses hotels too

A major improvement to Ambassador in 2021 was the integration of some Six Senses hotels and resorts.

For participating hotels, you will receive:

Breakfast for two people

An amenity for a 50 minute massage for two people or a ‘local experience’

A one category room upgrade

A welcome platter on arrival

4pm check-out, subject to availability

10am check-in, subject to availability

Free internet access

In terms of ‘participating’, any Six Senses which is bookable on IHG Rewards points will respect these benefits.  You may also find them respected at other properties.

Ambassador benefits are weaker than they were

Ambassador underwent numerous changes in 2018.  Whilst there were improvements, a bigger issue was the weakening of the ‘guaranteed’ upgrade and 4pm check-out benefits.

Before the changes, the hotel was obliged to provide these benefits – no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’.  There was no mechanism to deal with a failure to deliver.

Following the changes, hotels were obliged to give you 10,000 points (which I only value at £40) or a $50 food and beverage credit if they could not give you an upgrade or a 4pm check-out.  You might see this as an improvement. However, some hotels have decided that it is cheaper to hand out 10,000 points rather than upgrade a member or give a 4pm check-out.

This happened to me at InterContinental Porto, pictured above, in February 2020.  A direct one-level upgrade was not available.  It was clear online that the hotel did, however, have numerous top suites available.  Before the changes, the hotel was obliged to give me a better room even if it meant offering the Presidential Suite.  Instead, I was given 10,000 points.

In this particular case I wasn’t too bothered.  Porto is not expensive so the points were a decent rebate on the price I paid.  I was on my own so a huge suite would have been a bit of a waste.  I was also not planning to spend much time in the hotel.  In other circumstances, however, it would have been an issue.

At hotels costing £500+ per night, being able to ‘pay off’ a member with £40-worth of points to free up an expensive room which can be sold to someone else is very tempting ……

What is InterContinental Ambassador?

Does Ambassador cover Regent?

No, not yet.

We don’t yet know how the recently 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 when it reopens in 2022/3.

This situation cannot continue long term.  In my view, there needs to be a reshuffling of IHG’s high-end brands (perhaps moving the InterContinental beach resorts into Regent, for example) with all of the hotels coming together into an expanded Ambassador programme.

What does it cost to renew InterContinental Ambassador?

The initial fee to join Ambassador is $200.

The current renewal options are:

Renew for $200 and receive 15,000 bonus IHG Rewards points

or

Renew for 40,000 IHG Rewards points

For clarity, you receive a new free weekend night certificate each year when you renew.

Is InterContinental Ambassador worth it?

Obviously InterContinental Ambassador is not for everyone.  However, you can earn back the cost of membership in just one weekend stay by redeeming the free night voucher.  It may even be worth it if you had just one long InterContinental stay booked and wanted to guarantee your upgrade.

Ambassador members also receive Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards.  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.

You can learn more about InterContinental Ambassador, and sign up, here if it sounds interesting.

PS.  There is also an invitation-only premium level called Royal Ambassador, where the benefits include executive lounge access, $50 of mini bar credit per day and higher level upgrades.  Whilst the criteria are not published it is requires $five-figures of annual spend at InterContinental properties.  We don’t cover Royal Ambassador on Head for Points because it is so exclusive.


IHG One Rewards update – December 2022:

Get bonus points: You will earn bonus IHG One Rewards points on stays between 13th October 2022 and 31st December 2022. You can choose between 2,000 points for every two nights or 10,000 points for every four nights (not cumulative). Read this article for full details. You can register here.

New to IHG One Rewards?  Read our overview of IHG One Rewards here and our article on points expiry rules here. Our article on ‘What are IHG One Rewards points worth?’ is here.

Buy points: If you need additional IHG One Rewards points, you can buy them here.

You will receive a 100% bonus if you buy IHG One Rewards points by 29th December 2022.

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 (71)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Manu says:

    The most value that was taken away for me was the 10% rebate on the points with an award stay.

    Till it comes back, no new Ambassador for me probably.

  • David says:

    While IHGs dynamic pricing is irritating it has not necessarily destroyed the value available. I have 2 stays in London booked over the next couple of months. One cost 92000 points (vs the 70000 previously charged on all stays). This for a room costing £650 on the night I’m staying (0.7p per point). The other cost 58000 points for a room that costs £370 that night (0.64p per point). Both nights offer substantially better value than Rob’s expected 0.4p per point.

    • John says:

      Would you pay £650 if the room was not available for points? Or would you stay somewhere else / on a cheaper night?

      • Phil W says:

        Ah the difference between a true saving and cost avoidance.

      • David says:

        I’m not cash poor and like the hotel so would pay if I had no points. However, I also have a good supply of points and pay with points if I’m getting good value for them. I then pay £100 per night for club lounge access. When the room costs £650 a night it is almost certainly going to be a good use of points even with dynamic pricing.

        • Anna says:

          But that’s a reasonable rate of return for (presumably) a very nice hotel. 50k points pn for a Holiday Inn is never going to be!

        • TGLoyalty says:

          So it’s the IC PL if I was actually paying £610pn (average cash rate inc club) that’s not where I’d be staying in London at all.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            Just to add I still think I’d pay 75k though @ 0.4p = £300 pn. I’d never get value out of their club offering at £100 but if you do then that’s good, the refurb does look very nice.

            If I wanted breakfast I’d probably just stay at a Marriott/Hilton where my status gets it thrown in.

  • Phil W says:

    I’ve found Ambassador benefits stack well with FH&R and Emyr bookings. At the Carlton Cannes, Estoril, Singapore and HK Grand Stanford we’ve received double upgrades and the F&B credits stack.

    Some hotels do reduced supplements for Club Intercontinental upgrades for Ambassadors as well. From memory O2 and Singapore.

    IHG’s ridiculous dynamic pricing has weakened the overall IHG rewards experience but IC Ambassador will remain in my inventory of travel schemes for the foreseeable.

  • Sharon says:

    I would like to use a free night certificate for a weekend break to Europe start of June 2022. Any recommendations on an IC with good club lounge and reputation for upgrades please?

    • Alex Sm says:

      Try Budapest – we were pleased with the room, service and lounge back in 2016

      • Sandra says:

        +1 for Budapest but book river view room. IC Warsaw was also excellent a few years ago although that’s about a 15 min walk into the old part of town.

        • Alex Sm says:

          Oh yes, I stayed there too. The swimming pool and the breakfast room with local food table were amazing!

          PS I can’t understand your “but” (I didn’t say anything about the river view and we are in agreement on that :))

    • Ralph says:

      IC Sofia has a great club lounge and gave a generous upgrade to a suite.

      Bordeaux IC is very good too.

      • patrick says:

        I spoke to the GM of an IC recently who said he thought that IC Sofía was the best in Europe.

        • Stef says:

          I stayed at IC Sofia for a birthday a couple of years back was a beautiful place. Agree club lounge excellent. Only thing I feel let’s it down is a pool, or failing that at least a sauna and steam room.

      • Alan says:

        I had amazing AMB treatment in Sofia – upgrade, Club access and a meal!

  • Simon says:

    Anyone have any experience of the IC in Mauritius?

    Thanks

    • patrick says:

      I`m hoping to be there over NY and can report back if that helps.

    • Tracy Regan says:

      I arrived at IC Mauritius today. I stayed here because I had a mixture of points and credits card nights. I’ve been given a room with a jacuzzi and it’s very nice if slightly dated. The one thing I’m not keen on is we’re a bit of a captive audience as there’s nothing else around. Is there anything else you want to know?

      • Simon says:

        Thanks, I’m looking at a similar funded stay actually. Thanks for the info, I’d read some reviews saying it was a little dated but I hadn’t realised it was isolated. Do the restaurants seems reasonably priced? Thanks again!

        • Tracy Regan says:

          Hi Simon
          Perhaps you could ask Rob to give you my email address and I’ll let you have a bit more detail. For example we’ve got a taxi driver picking us up to tour the island. It’s a fairly old taxi but that’s fine with us. About £55 per day. He’s sent me a sample itinerary but we can adapt it. Anyway feel free to get in touch if you want to.

  • Justin says:

    Joined The IC Ambassador programme during the summer when they were running the free night promo and certainly had $200 value so far.

    Have a booking for IC Montreal and they have offered discounted Club access 80CAD vs 100CAD per night!

    Also using 2x IHG Credit Card free nights at IC Park Lane and can see room has been upgraded already. Anyone know if I’ll get the F&B credit too?

  • Neil says:

    Not sure if I’ve missed it being communicated but IHG have seemingly extended status until February 2023

    “Your IHG Rewards status has been automatically extended through February 2023.”

  • Graham says:

    Gave up on IHG after 25 years of membership including a few years of being a Royal Ambassador (in the days when the whole minibar was complimentary)

    They finally killed my loyalty when they wrote to me during Covid that you could cancel any booking for a refund. I went ahead and cancelled a Kenya booking, But they never refunded the money. Can’t claim off my credit card or insurance since I cancelled the room. Tried escalating but IHG won’t budge…

    • Benilyn says:

      Doesn’t that communication from IHG about you cancelling for a refund not serve any worth with the credit card co?

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