Elite status, be it with an airline or hotel loyalty program needs to be earned. There are some exceptions and of course various shortcuts and fast-tracks etc but for the most part, companies like their customers to earn their status the hard way.
That’s why InterContinental Ambassador status is quite unique.
InterContinental hotels participate in the IHG Rewards Club program. You can earn and redeem IHG points at InterContinental properties as well as other IHG hotels worldwide. On top of this, there is a dedicated paid-for status level called Ambassador that offers a range of guaranteed benefits specifically at InterContinental hotels.
What does Ambassador status get you?
‘Buy One Get One free’ weekend certificate
This is without a doubt the standout benefit of Ambassador membership.
A minimum two-night stay is required to use this voucher, with the first-night booked using the Best Flexible Rate. This is likely to be a more expensive rate than the cheapest non-refundable Advanced Purchase price. Given that your second night is entirely free though, you should still attach significant value to the certificate.
The certificate is valid for 12 months from the date of issue.
Guaranteed room upgrades
Again a valuable benefit. But largely because IHG is one of the more stingy loyalty programs in terms of upgrading its elite members. Generally, there is no official upgrade policy for IHG members, not even for top-tier Spire Elite members (?!).
IHG Ambassador status does offer a guaranteed upgrade – a minimum of a one-category room upgrade that may well be confirmed prior to the stay.
Free Pay-TV film per stay
Guaranteed 4pm late checkout
Another important benefit. One of the things that put me off booking the InterContinental Amstel earlier this year was the inability to guarantee in advance a late checkout for our early evening flight back to London.
However, had I been staying for longer than just a single night (and could’ve looked at using the free night voucher), this Ambassador benefit would have been compelling.
Welcome amenity, fresh fruit, sweet or savoury snack and water in their room on arrival, with mineral water replenished daily.
Personalised welcome letter and in-room gift
By invitation only – Royal Ambassador
Sitting above Ambassador status, Royal Ambassador is the highest level of membership and entitles members to additional benefits at InterContinental Hotels and Resorts. Royal Ambassador is granted to Ambassador members by invitation and at the sole discretion of IHG® Rewards Club.
- Use of all in-hotel health club facilities (where available) shall be complimentary for Royal Ambassadors.
- Beverages are complimentary from the mini-bar in the Royal Ambassador’s personal room only and for in-room consumption by member only (benefit excludes non-beverage items). Void where prohibited by law.
- Early check-in (8:00 am) shall be available to all Royal Ambassador members.
What does Ambassador status cost?
The cost is $200 in the first year and then $150 to renew in subsequent years.
Alternatively, if you are flush with points you can redeem 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points for Ambassador status with the option to use the same amount each year for renewals.
Is it worth it?
Ambassador status isn’t for everyone. Though $200 isn’t the largest of fees, you need to evaluate what sort of additional value you can expect to receive from it as a result.
The free night certificate holds the key for me. And although it’s supposedly only to be used on standard rooms, in practice, anecdotal evidence suggests it can be applied to higher category/suite bookings as well.
I’d imagine a free night at many InterContinental hotels would easily exceed $200 per night. Therefore, as long as you can use the voucher before the 12-month expiry, you’re in line to recoup your annual fee in addition to the other benefits listed above.
I wouldn’t recommend speculatively purchasing IHG Ambassador status, especially because, technically speaking, your status won’t be/shouldn’t be recognised at other IHG hotels outside of InterContinental hotels.
However, anyone booking a stay of more than one night at an InterContinental hotel ought to consider taking out Ambassador status.