Rumor: Changes Coming To The IHG Ambassador Programs Next Year

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The IHG Ambassador Program is made up of a loyalty status that you can pay for (IHG Ambassador) and a status which you can only attain via an invitation from IHG (Royal Ambassador). The former costs $200 to join (more information here) while the criteria for Royal Ambassador are not published and appear to change from year to year.

Flyertalk members chongcao has posted a credible looking rumor about some changes that may be coming to both the IHG Ambassador and Royal Ambassador programs next year.

a sign on a wall

The changes are rumored to be coming in two waves:

Royal Ambassador Changes From 1 February 2019

  • Royal Ambassador early check-in will now be offered from 10:00am (used to be 8:00am)
  • Royal Ambassador members will be guaranteed one complimentary breakfast per night stayed
  • Royal Ambassador members will get two free breakfasts per night if the hotel doesn’t offer a club lounge.
  • Royal Ambassador free minibar benefit will be replaced with a 50USD/200RMB/400HKD credit per day up to a maximum of 200USD/800RMB/1600HKD per stay.
  • Resort/Destination/Amenity fees will be waived for Royal Ambassador members
  • The complimentary weekend certificate will no longer be a paper voucher – an e-certificate will be issued.

IHG Ambassador Changes From 1 March 2019

  • InterContinental Ambassador membership will guarantee Platinum Status in the IHG Rewards program
  • InterContinental Ambassador members will be guaranteed one complimentary breakfast per night stayed
  • The complimentary weekend certificate will no longer be a paper voucher – an e-certificate will be issued.
  • The Ambassador welcome gift will be take away – only a fruit platter will be offered going forward

Ambassador Benefit Guarantees Being Introduced

IHG is enshrining into the Ambassador program a few guarantees for Royal Ambassador and Intercontinental Ambassador members:

  • Guaranteed Room Upgrade: All Ambassador members must be given a food and beverage or Spa credit up to USD50, or 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points per stay if a room upgrade cannot be offered.
  • Guaranteed Late check-out (16:00): All Ambassador members must be given a food and beverage or Spa credit up to USD50, or 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points per stay if a late check-out cannot be honored.
  • If a property cannot offer a Royal Ambassador InterContinental Lounge Access or an alternative Club experience the member must be given a food and beverage or Spa credit of USD100 per night as long as this doesn’t exceeding the Club InterContinental upgrade supplement value.

a building with stairs and a lamp post


There are some positives here but there are a few things that concern me too.

The Positives

Even though InterContinental Ambassadors are only being offered one complimentary breakfast per day this is still an improvement from the zero breakfasts/day that we’ve been offered to date….and I can understand why IHG would limit this benefit to just one individual.

a plate of fruit on a table

InterContinental Ambassador status requires no loyalty to IHG as it can be bought for $200/year. A couple on vacation could easily make that $200 back in one short stay if the breakfast benefit was expanded to two people.

The breakfast benefit is also a positive for Royal Ambassador members too but, as I’ll say again later, I think it’s more than a little mean to limit them to just one breakfast per day.

Waiving the abhorrent destination/resort fees for Royal Ambassador members is the right thing to do. This is a group of people who already hand over a significant amount of money to IHG so charging them these fees (which we all know are completely made up and serve no purpose other than to tax guests) is more than a little cheap.

Having the complimentary weekend certificate turn up via email rather than by snail mail is nice. If nothing else it will end the occasional panic on the day of check-in as members suddenly realise they have no idea where they filed their paper certificates.

The guaranteed IHG Platinum status that now comes with IHG Ambassador status is a nice touch but will only really be useful to members in countries where an IHG Rewards credit card offering the same benefit cannot be found.

a close-up of a credit card

I hold the old version of the IHG Rewards credit card in the US and this gives me IHG Platinum status for an annual fee of just $49/year.

The Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Card also offers this for an annual fee of just $89.

The Negatives

On the face of things it would be easy to say that the new guarantees that are being put into place are positive for Ambassador members….but I can see properties abusing them.

I don’t like the language which appears to allow individual properties to pay to get out of offering certain important benefits.

Whenever I need a late check-out it’s always worth more to me than $50/10,000 points so I don’t like the idea that a property can withhold that benefit whenever it feels like it by giving me something I value less.

The same goes for a room upgrade.

If I’m only staying one night I’m unlikely to care if a property can’t honor the upgrade guarantee and $50/10,000 would be a nice bonus to have…..but my feelings would be very different if I was on a 5-night stay (for example).

InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam

Over a 5-night stay a property will apparently be able to buy its way out of the upgrade guarantee in exchange for just $10/night and that just doesn’t sit well with me.

Not offering Royal Ambassador members two free breakfasts is just cheap. Most Royal Ambassador members spend considerable sums of money with IHG so why not give them and their partners a free breakfast each?  When you consider the fact that Hilton offers free breakfasts to everyone sharing a room with a Gold member (achievable just by holding the Platinum Card from American Express) you have to wonder what IHG is thinking here.

The new limits on mini-bar spend are interesting – considering how little the mini-bar contents actually cost the various InterContinental properties I’m not sure why they have felt the need to impose spending limits for Royal Ambassadors.

Bottom Line

There are a few positives in here but it’s funny how IHG doesn’t seem able to put through any positive changes without throwing a whole load of negatives in there too.

The breakfast benefit for InterContinental Ambassadors is a definite positive but there are a lot of signs of cheapness here too and, as that cheapness appears to be directed at Royal Ambassadors more than anyone else, I don’t think that’s a clever move from IHG.

Lastly, we’ll need to keep a very close eye on how InterContinental properties use the new guarantees that are coming into force. It may be nice to have some guest rights enshrined in the Ambassador rules but if these rights are used to deliberately withhold benefits just to save a bit of money they’re of no use to members at all.

Travel Rewards Credit Cards


  1. Fantastic changes for those of us who don’t loot the mini-bar. The Ambassador breakfast upgrade is great but would be better to offer lounge access as was the case a couple of decades ago. Th welcome gifts were always mostly useless (eg bad wine) and won’t be missed

  2. It will be important to note whether IHG corrects the big anomaly compared to peer loyalty programs and mandates that all above said benefits for Ambassador/RA are applied for point redemption stays as well or only for paid stays. I have been RA for past 4 years and my biggest pique with the program is that all these benefits are left to discretion of hotel to be offered to RA/Ambassador if it is point redemption stay based no current IHG rules. Therefore, it is big hit or miss most of the time and by default most properties squirm their way out of it.

    That in my opinion is unacceptable and short changing loyal members by IHG. Finally, this year I have started moving away from IHG and dropped my room nights from 75+ in IC hotels to something dramatically lower

  3. The other part of the rumor is that these changes are being phased in, in order to extend them to Kimpton and Regent Hotels. If RA status were extended to them, this will be worth it for me (and for IHG, as I’d start staying in them regularly and not just as hoc at present).

    I’m disappointed by the (alleged) Minibar limits. The good news us they now would extend to snacks, not just liquids. The bad news is that while I probably average one whiskey and one or two sparkling waters a night, well below the $50 hypothetical limit, there are occasions where I “splurge” on a free bottle of champagne or wine, especially when coming in late and ordering room service dinner. And limiting it to $200 per stay is abominable for long stays … sometimes I do Singapore or Tokyo for 10+ days at a time and this would become a hassle. I think they’d force me to check out every 4 days and switch hotels. At least in Tokyo or Singapore there are two ICs between which I could shuttle, but IHG will lose room nights there and elsewhere as I might check into a 4seasons or Ritz or Park Hyatt etc. Stupid stupid stupid on IHG’s part. And it will be awkward since they don’t always check/replenish minibar at the same time daily and I am sure I’ll get into arguments about how much consumed every day on multi day stays and lead to games like hiding a mini bottle or two on “light” days of consumption. Hopefully if they proceed with this lunacy, at least they’ll simplify and just give you $150 per 3 day stay without separating day by day. Better yet, keep it free as is and add snacks. This by far is the biggest differentiator and bragging right of the RA program. It would be daft to kill it. People are far more impressed by “free minibar” than they are by “ingot upgraded to a suite” which I get with a Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt. But free minibar is unique.

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