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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.
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.
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.
(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.