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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 a while.

InterContinental, the luxury hotel brand inside IHG One Rewards (which also covers Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo and others) is a little odd when it comes to loyalty schemes:

InterContinental Ambassador review
  • 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 points 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 One Rewards points instead of paying $200 in cash.   Given my 0.4p valuation of an IHG One Rewards point this is a fair deal, although it is always possible to exceed 0.4p at peak hotels on peak dates.

InterContinental Ambassador review

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.
  • 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 One 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 One 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 One 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 and 2022, the free weekend night voucher was also redeemable at Kimpton and Regent hotels.  This is no longer the case.

How does InterContinental Ambassador work?

Three things to know about the ‘free weekend night’ benefit

  • 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.
  • If you are thinking about buying Ambassador for a specific trip, you can check weekend night voucher pricing and availability (some hotels cap weekly voucher bookings) before joining via intercontinental.com/ambweekend
  • You can book a weekend night voucher stay without being an Ambassador member. If you are booking well in advance, it makes sense to book the stay first but only buy Ambassador status nearer your arrival, in order to maximise your membership period.

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 One Rewards points – which isn’t many of them – will respect these benefits.  You may also find them respected at other properties.

InterContinental Ambassador review

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. I’m not so sure.

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 ….

Does Ambassador cover Regent?

No, not yet.

This situation cannot continue long term, especially with Regent Hong Kong and Regent Cannes – both converted InterContinental hotels – now open.

What is InterContinental Ambassador?

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 One Rewards points

or

  • Renew for 40,000 IHG One 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 One 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.

PPS. There is another unofficial benefit on joining Ambassador. For a number of years, buying Ambassador has locked in your existing IHG One Rewards top tier status. If you are currently Diamond Elite in IHG One Rewards and worried that you will not retain it, paying $200 to join Ambassador is highly likely – based on precedent – to give you an extension for 12 months.


IHG One Rewards update – June 2024:

Get bonus points: IHG One Rewards is not currently running a global promotion.

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.

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 (64)

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

  • Andrew J says:

    Meant to post this as a reply to an earlier post

  • Aliks says:

    I was an ambassador for many years, but dropped out in 2019 as the status benefits were just too weak.

    Since you don’t get free breakfast or automatic club access, the benefits amount to a small discount on the rack rates. On top of this the Intercontinental hotels were often a bit plain and ordinary, falling behind the competition.

    I moved across to Hilton Diamond and had quite a bit of value from status. That’s all gone now so I’m looking round for the next sweet spot.

    • JohnG says:

      My feelings are reasonably similar. I used to get Ambassador each year, now I get it if/when I have a use for the free night voucher. Admittedly the fact that I now get Platinum without it is part of the reason, and I was only staying at ICs 2-3 times a year, so it’s not just the strength of the package.

  • Rob says:

    Amsterdam took 4 months to take a voucher last year. Boston has not taken them yet from Easter.

    • SammyJ says:

      What would happen if after six months they still hadn’t taken it and you used it again, and then they decided to come for it after that? I guess you’d be charged something for one of the not-meant-to-be free nights?

      • Rob says:

        Good question. Not planning another weekend IC stay at moment so temptation not there …..

        • meta says:

          Used it twice in 2021. Once at IC Porto and once at IC Sofia. IC Porto didn’t know how to apply it to the reservation, they called GM who also didn’t know, so they let me keep it. IC Sofia took it straight away at check-in. I guess it depends on the hotel and their internal systems.

      • Alex Ma says:

        I still have my voucher after using it at Kimpton. So tempted to use it again…

  • memesweeper says:

    I’m in my first year of membership, and have had some decent upgrades – and a very useful late checkout. However, the free night is never available when I want to use it. Makes renewing for me a very touch-and-go affair. If it was every weekend without block out dates then I’d have booked one more weekend with Intercon this year, and almost certainly renewed. Their loss.

  • Richard Peters says:

    Doh! Went to sign up and already a member and yes free weekend dates in some cities are like hen’s teeth.

    • meta says:

      Never had an issue using the AMB weekend voucher and have stayed at most European ICs including the popular ones.

      • Rob says:

        Has got harder. Amsterdam particularly bad. That said ensure you only search for 2 night stays.

        • meta says:

          Really? I booked Amsterdam pretty easily for the weekend after next in early March.

        • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

          Isn’t it undergoing refurbishment at the moment so rooms may be limited due to that.

          Also a rumour on flyer talk that once that has finished it may deflag as an IC and switch chains,

    • NorthernLass says:

      The George in particular seems to have an awful lot of blackout dates, seemingly most school holidays, bank holidays, Xmas markets, etc! Makes it very difficult to use the certificate if you can’t use it abroad and don’t fancy London for whatever reason.

      • Rob says:

        In my experience it isn’t a black out, it is a cap on the number of bookings.

        When we were in Amsterdam last year I made one booking and was offered literally any room type in the hotel. After I’d done that I went into my wife’s account to make a booking to find ‘no availability’. It is therefore driven by a room allocation and not the number booked into any particular room type, or indeed availability of a particular room type.

      • The real Swiss Tony says:

        I looked a few weeks back and the George had space on August bank holiday weekend. Admittedly at quite an eye popping rate, but would still have made for quite the bargain that weekend.

  • Dave says:

    Is there a link to renew ambassador? Mine expires in August and I have a bit of card spend I need to do and $200 would be quite useful. I see online it says you can renew within 92 days of expiring but can’t see how to in my account etx

  • Dace says:

    The 4pm and the £15/€15/$20 f&b credit is valuable for me. I still take this all the time as those benefits with the voucher make it well worth it for me.

  • Sam says:

    We just got back from a 6-night stay at the Intercontinental in Ras Al Khamiah.
    Got upgraded to one of the Villas (we only booked the Classic Sea View room).
    Also booked it via a travel agent, not direct with IHG but reiterated to the hotel re. my IHG Ambassador status.
    My IHG membership number is quoted on the invoice so maybe the points will post too? Bonus if they do.
    But definitely worth the 40,000 points it cost me to get Ambassador.

    • Andrew says:

      Great! Did you free access to the club lounge.
      I stayed at the property last Christmas and it was lovely.

      • Andrew says:

        Did you get ? I meant

      • Sam says:

        No unfortunately the lounge access wasn’t included but I’ve read all the positive reviews on it. We’d definitely return back here at some point. Truly outstanding resort, honestly one of the best we’ve stayed at.

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