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Although InterContinental hotels are part of the IHG group (Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza etc…) and therefore are part of the IHG Rewards loyalty program, they also have their own, separate, loyalty program called InterContinental Ambassador.
If you think that’s strange then wait until you hear that InterContinental Ambassador isn’t a status you achieve so much as a status that you buy…..for $200.
I Have IHG Status So Why Would I Want InterContinental Ambassador Status?
That’s a question I hear a lot and the answer is simple: Because InterContinental hotels, although part of IHG rewards, don’t have to recognise IHG Rewards status. Some IC properties show a bit of compassion and do recognise IHG status but it’s definitely not a requirement for them to do so.
Put simply, you’re unlikely to get much guaranteed special treatment at the InterContinentals around the world if you only have IHG Rewards status. Even those with the new top-level IHG status (Spire) mostly have their status ignored at InterContinental properties.
Conversely, if you have InterContinental Ambassador status you’ll quickly find out that it generally gets you zero added benefits at other IHG hotels. It’s all very strange.
InterContinental Ambassador Status Benefits
As per the InterContinental Ambassador page:
- Guaranteed room upgrade
- Fresh fruit upon arrival
- In-room water
- In-room gift
- Single-room rate for double occupancy
- Extended checkout—up to 4pm
- Dedicated Ambassador check-in area
- Complimentary pay-TV film per stay**
- Complimentary newspaper, delivered daily
- Instant checkout
- Complimentary weekend night certificate*
- Elite status in IHG® Rewards Club
- 5,000 bonus IHG® Rewards Club points
- Redeem points for rewards, including free nights
Ok, straight away you can probably see that a number of these benefits aren’t that special at all but there are a few that stand out.
Guaranteed room upgrade – that’s definitely better than what you get with IHG status where the room upgrade is at the hotel’s discretion
Complimentary weekend night certificate – details of this comes in the welcome pack that’s sent out to all IHG Ambassadors and, as the name suggests, give you a free weekend night at any InterContinental around the world…..
….but there is a catch:
The certificate is only valid for a second weekend night and the first weekend night has to be a “paid stay” (i.e. cannot be an award night). On top of that you can’t simply book the cheapest rate, you have to book the “best flexible rate”.
Still, you get this certificate when you first sign up for Ambassador status and you get a new certificate every year that you renew your status….that makes this a pretty valuable benefit.
Extended checkout up to 4pm – This is a nice benefit but isn’t as good as the similar benefit you get from Hyatt Diamond status. The key words here are “up to” so, according to the T&Cs, you’re not guaranteed to get a checkout as late as 4pm….although you often do.
It’s important to remember that these benefits are, strictly speaking, only meant to apply to paid stays and not award stays. In practice, however, a lot of the InterContinentals are great at recognising Ambassador Status even when guest are on award stays.
InterContinental Ambassador status costs $200 or 40,000 IHG Rewards points for the first year of membership.
When it comes to renew there are three options:
- Renew for $150
- Renew for $200 and get 15,000 bonus points and 10% of reward nights
- Renew for 40,000 IHG Rewards points.
Is It Worth It?
Mostly that depends on how often you stay at InterContinental Hotels but it would be fair to say that you can make up the cost of Ambassador membership with the free night certificate. Most of the better InterContinental hotels around the world will charge more than $200 for a weekend night (and definitely more than the $150 renewal fee) so there’s definitely value to be had.
If you add on the value you assign to the 5,000 IHG points you receive when you sign up (and each year upon renewal) and whatever you think an extended checkout is worth then Ambassador status begins to make sense.
If you happen to have the IHG credit card you can use the free night that you get from that alongside the certificate from Ambassador status to book a great long weekend away:
Friday night – book with the free night certificate from the IHG credit card
Saturday night – book with cash
Sunday night – book with the InterContinental Ambassador certificate
If you enjoy staying at InterContinental properties then Ambassador status is probably something you should be considering. It’s not that tricky to get considerably more value out of the benefits than the $200 joining fee so, essentially, it’s possible to say that the status is free…..but it’s only free if you would be staying at InterContinental properties anyway.
If by having Ambassador status you find yourself booking more expensive hotels than you otherwise would (InterContinental properties aren’t know for being cheap!) then you’re missing the point and Ambassador status isn’t for you.