Is InterContinental Ambassador status worth buying in 2019?

Is InterContinental Ambassador status worth buying in 2019?

The InterContinental Ambassador program is a paid membership which unlocks a number of benefits when staying at InterContinental-branded hotels and resorts worldwide.

In effect, for the US$200 sign-up free and US$150 each year following, you're buying status and its associated perks such as free room upgrades, late check-out and one free weekend night at an InterContinental property.

Here’s our take on the InterContinental Ambassador program and whether that membership card should have a place in your wallet.

You could use your weekend night certificate at the InterContinental Sydney

InterContinental Ambassador membership: the basics

You’ll need to part with US$200 (~$279) for your first twelve months of InterContinental Ambassador membership, with annual renewals from USD$150 (~$209).

There’s also the option to buy your annual membership for 40,000 IHG Rewards points, although that's not the best use of points if you prefer to redeem them for hotel stays.

Here are the benefits you’ll get as an InterContinental Ambassador in 2019 – note that some of these have changed compared to previous years, which makes the program even better value.

  • as of March 1, Ambassador members will receive Platinum Elite status with IHG Rewards Club (this was previously the lower Gold Elite tier), which delivers plenty of practical benefits right across the IHG portfolio
  • guaranteed one-category room upgrade (this doesn't apply to Reward Night stays)
  • 4pm check-out
  • a complimentary weekend night certificate (this is now emailed to you, previously it was posted with a 6-8 week delivery period)
  • up to A$25, US$20 or €15 in restaurant, bar or mini-bar credit per stay
  • within Greater China, complimentary daily breakfast and 15% off restaurants plus a sweet or savoury snack  or fruit platter on arrival
  • dedicated check-in area
  • complimentary mineral water and Internet
  • one free pay-TV film per stay

Note that Club Lounge access and upgrades to Signature Suites are not included with a base-level Ambassador membership.

Club Lounge access isn't included with Ambassador

When it comes to renewing InterContinental Ambassador membership, you may be enticed to pay an extra US$50 (~$69) for 15,000 IHG points and a recurring 10% points rebate on Reward Nights. If you’re a heavy user of IHG points for hotel redemptions, then perhaps this will offer additional value for you.

One night at the Sydney InterContinental usually costs 60,000 points in the lowest category room so that you can expect 6,000 points back per reward night.

Using your InterContinental Ambassador complimentary weekend night certificate

A substantial portion of the Ambassador program's appeal will come from the complimentary weekend night certificate, although this comes with several conditions attached.

Firstly, the certificate can be used only on the second night of a weekend stay – it's not valid for a single night's stay – and that weekend stay must be booked at the Ambassador Weekend Rate, which is effectively the room’s flexible non-discounted rate. 

This means if you would have normally booked a promotional or more restrictive rate you’ll have to stump up the difference to the flexible rate before taking advantage of this offer.

However, the numbers can work out in your favour in cities where room rates are exceedingly high.

For example, here’s a search for two nights in an Opera House view room at the InterContinental Sydney. The rate you'd have to select is $617 a night, whereas the best member rate is currently $539 a night.

But the complimentary weekend night certificate would see the second-night cost waived and also upgrade you to one category higher, which happens to be the city-view club room.

So overall you’re paying $617 to the hotel and $279 for your Ambassador membership to get a two-night stay in a club room that would cost at least $1,234 at the cheapest rate.

Club room at Sydney InterContinental

(Note also that in the Middle East a 'weekend' can be defined as Thursday, Friday and Saturday whereas everywhere else, you would be expected to book on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights.)

InterContinental Ambassador also gives you IHG Platinum Elite

Another highly appealing aspect of InterContinental Ambassador membership is complimentary IHG Platinum Elite status, which usually requires 40 qualifying nights or 40,000 qualifying points.

This is new to the Ambassador mix for 2019, as the program previously offered only Gold Elite status. However, an IHG spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that current Ambassador members who hold Gold Elite status will be automatically be upgraded to Platinum Elite status from 1 March 2019.

IHG Platinum Elite status unlocks a solid set of benefits at the likes of Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Kimpton and Holiday Inn hotels, including:

  • complimentary room upgrades (except InterContinental and some Holiday Inn Express hotels)
  • 50% bonus earnings on top of base points
  • guaranteed room availability if booked 72 hours prior
  • Elite rollover nights
  • priority check-in
  • late check-out

InterContinental Ambassador membership: is it worth it?

All things considered, InterContinental Ambassador membership is well worth the initial US$200 fee for most business travellers.

If you spend at least a few nights each year at InterContinental properties, you'll be able to make the most out of the Ambassador-level perks which are exclusive to those hotels including the weekend night certificate, guaranteed upgrade and multiple complimentary gifts per stay.

Of course, the more you stay at other IHG brands, the more you'll appreciate holding instant Platinum Elite status from your membership.

Also read: Our guide to InterContinental Ambassador and Royal Ambassador

Brandon Loo

Brandon Loo

Brandon divides his time between Perth and Launceston, with ample hours spent in airport lounges in between. He recently picked up photography and tries to capture the beauty of Tasmanian landscapes, aeroplane cabins and in-flight food, to varying degrees of success.
 

8 comments

  • morco

    morco

    9 Jan, 2019 03:02 pm

    I've been a member for 3 years now and am still not convinced as to the value (wife disagrees). The free night is not really free and the need to buy a weekend night with it really reduces that value. Plus of course the paid night is not at the best rate.

    Also, the "upgrade" may not be areal upgrade, rather , say a corner room, or higher floor. No lounge access is also a bugbear - Hilton does this better.

    No member give thanks

  • Janeblogs

    Janeblogs

    9 Jan, 2019 06:08 pm

    I’m an Ambassador and a Spire Elite and see absolutely NO value in it whatsoever. Staying at branded Intercon properties both in Australia and internationally I’ve been surprised that in most instances there is not even an acknowledgment from the GM of even being in house let alone a supposed amenity. Interestingly enough when I stay at lower level IHG properties such as HI or Kimpton, they get v excited which they have absolutely no obligation to do but they appreciate a guest of high category. I have not bothered to use my weekend night this year as Australian Intercon properties are overpriced, very tired and poorly managed. If I have a quick Asian trip before year end I might use it but I’m definitely not renewing, Ambassador represents no value to me.
    Member who gave thanks

    henry_168

  • Paul Doody

    Howdy1956

    9 Jan, 2019 07:47 pm

    I am in my fourth year and see the previous comments a little lacking in pure mathematics. As pointed out in the article a weekend stay could not only save more than enough to pay for your membership but also give you all the other perks. Last year I couldn’t get an upgrade on a standard two night stay and was offered points or a refund to compensate and the refund was a sizeable amount. Have had champagne and fruit platter when staying and it was my birthday. The upgrades have also applied at the other brands as well.
    Used wisely and you can with just a few stays more than double or triple your return on the fee.
    Well worth the money for smart travelers who appreciate the benefits.
    No member give thanks

  • MarkFranzmann

    MarkFranzmann

    10 Jan, 2019 08:02 am

    I am also Spire Elite(was Royal status) I dropped out of Ambassador years ago, I found the free weekend voucher of little benefit based on the above comments, plus I found properties blacking out dates on anumerous occasions.
    Last year when checking in at SIN property no upgrade given, reason was only get one if Ambassador member ( never had that before) I signed up using points however am yet to use fre night despite a number of stays.
    In saying that, in my experience IHG are more consistent (always upgraded, late check always delivered, etc. This is different to my experiences with Accor and Starwood where it is hit and miss
    Member who gave thanks

    henry_168

  • Hutchy

    Hutchy

    10 Jan, 2019 08:11 am

    The value for some, including me, will be the Platinum Elite status included in the membership. I'm Spire at the moment, but unlikely to travel enough this year to maintain even Gold.

    All three comments above have valid points, and its definitely true that non-Intercom hotels pass on benefit that they didn't or don't have to e.g. always upgraded in hotels in China, Japan (e.g. 6 nights in the ANA Crowne Plaza Osaka to the Club floor when still Platinum) etc. and not a notional one either. Australian properties seem to be a different ball game altogether - Janeblogs is spot on there, but we don't use IHG much here.

    Overall, as per Howdy, used wisely, the membership fee is more than covered, and I'll be renewing this year.

    No member give thanks

  • Murray Happ

    MuzzH

    10 Jan, 2019 12:49 pm

    I have been a Platinum Elite Ambassador member for about eight years and think the annual fee is well worth it. When staying at InterContinental properties I have always been upgraded to a much better room (usually a suite) and quite often (~80% of the time) have been given access to the Executive Lounge. I must agree that my status is rarely acknowledged in Australia, whereas overseas they almost fall over themselves to acknowledge my loyalty - this also goes for the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn branded properties, not just the InterContinental's. A big shout out to the InterContinental in Singapore (the original one, next to Bugis) who make me feel like a long-lost family member when I arrive for my annual visit. The late check-out alone is well worth the ~$200 each year - the chance to have a late afternoon shower before heading for an evening flight is fantastic!
    No member give thanks

  • steveb

    steveb

    14 Jan, 2019 03:02 pm

    @muzzh I'm not sure how you could be given access to lounges 80% of the time. Club access is NOT a benefit of Ambassador, and even if you are upgraded to a club room you will not receive club access.
    No member give thanks

  • Ben Hamilton

    benzqn

    28 Jan, 2019 06:25 pm

    I have purchased Ambassador a couple of times but there really is very little value. Too many conditions on the free night, and no discernible benefit at the hotel. The 'free room upgrade' is an empty gesture as there is clearly no difference between the room I booked and the "upgrade".

    Accor, Hilton offer much better real benefits, with Starwood a bit ambiguous following their merger with Marriott.
    No member give thanks

Guest

26 Mar, 2019 02:06 pm

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