While IHG One Rewards is the loyalty program for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), there’s separately the InterContinental Ambassador program. This can cause some confusion, since often people don’t really get the distinction between IHG One Rewards and InterContinental Ambassador. In this post I wanted to take a closer look at that.
What is InterContinental Ambassador status?
The InterContinental Ambassador program is a paid guest recognition program intended specifically for frequent guests of InterContinental hotels. InterContinental is one of IHG’s premium hotel brands, and if you stay at InterContinentals with any frequency, then a membership should pay for itself.
This status is separate from IHG One Rewards Platinum and IHG One Rewards Diamond status, so it could make sense to buy into this program even if you have those status levels. Similarly, qualifying for IHG One Rewards Milestone Rewards is independent of the perks offered to Ambassador members.
How do you get InterContinental Ambassador status?
InterContinental Ambassador is purely a paid program. Any IHG One Rewards member can buy a 12-month Ambassador membership for either $200 or 40,000 IHG One Rewards points. I value IHG points at 0.5 cents each, so to me it’s breakeven whether it makes sense to pay with points or cash (in which case I’d pay with points).
The 12-month membership year doesn’t have to coincide with the calendar year, so I’d only recommend signing up shortly before your first planned stay. Note that sometimes there are also promotions for new InterContinental Ambassador members, in which case it could make sense to sign up then.
What are the benefits of InterContinental Ambassador status?
What are the benefits of InterContinental Ambassador status? When staying at InterContinental hotels, you receive the following perks:
- Complimentary weekend night reward; I’ll share more details on that below
- A guaranteed one category upgrade; this excludes club access and certain suite types, and isn’t guaranteed on award stays
- A $20 credit with each stay to use toward the hotel’s restaurant, bar, or minibar
- Guaranteed 4PM late check-out; this applies at both city hotels and resorts
- A dedicated check-in area
- Complimentary internet and mineral water
- Single room rate for double occupancy
- IHG One Rewards Platinum status; you also receive this status just for having the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card (review) or IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card (review)
I think most of these benefits are pretty straightforward. I’d say the complimentary weekend night reward is potentially the highest value perk here. For those curious about how that works:
- It’s valid for 12 months from the date of issue, and it’s issued as soon as you sign up for the program (or renew)
- It’s valid for a minimum of a two night paid weekend stay, using the Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night Rate at any InterContinental property (this will show as “AMB Certificate” when booking)
- Weekend nights are defined as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, except in the Middle East, where hotels may define the weekend as Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
- The weekend night certificate can be used for most room types, including many suites and club rooms
- If you’re curious to see what rates are like using this benefit but don’t yet have a certificate, you can search the rates at this link; as you’ll see, this rate is sometimes a bit higher than the regular best available rate, but not by much
Note that InterContinental Ambassador members also receive select perks at other premium brands:
- InterContinental Ambassador members receive benefits at select Six Senses properties, though they differ from what you’d get at InterContinentals
- InterContinental Ambassador members receive perks at Regent properties, but only through December 31, 2022
- InterContinental Ambassador members don’t receive perks at Kimpton properties, but rather Kimpton has its own Inner Circle program
What about InterContinental Royal Ambassador status?
In addition to the paid InterContinental Ambassador program, there’s also the InterContinental Royal Ambassador program, which is invitation-only. As it’s described, this is extended “only to a small percentage” of guests based on their spending and stay activities at Kimpton, InterContinental, and Regent.
This is invitation only, but you can generally expect that you won’t get an invitation if you don’t spend at least $12,000 or so per year with these brands (and even that isn’t a guarantee).
What are the benefits of InterContinental Royal Ambassador?
- A guaranteed two category upgrade
- Guaranteed 10AM early check-in and 4PM late check-out
- Club InterContinental lounge access where available, and complimentary daily breakfast for two at properties without a lounge
- A free night certificate at an IHG property
- IHG One Rewards Diamond status
- A complimentary minibar credit of up to $50 per day
- A choice of a savory or sweet snack, or fruit
Yes, InterContinental Ambassador status is probably worth it
If you stay at InterContinentals with any frequency, then buying Ambassador status is almost certainly worth it. The free night certificate alone should more than justify the annual fee for most. On top of that, you can easily recoup your membership fee with a stay or two, thanks to the guaranteed upgrade, late check-out, $20 food & beverage credit, and more.
If you like InterContinentals, this program is absolutely for you. Personally I haven’t been a member in many years, simply because InterContinentals don’t appeal to me much. To me the brand has no personality, and seems like it’s stuck in the early 2000s. What exactly is the selling point of InterContinental as a brand?
That’s not to say there aren’t nice individual properties, but it just seems like the brand lacks a vision. Personally I’m much more excited about IHG’s other upscale and luxury acquisitions in recent years, including Kimpton and Six Senses.
IHG’s loyalty recognition is a hot mess
Let’s start on a positive note. I’m extremely impressed by the relaunch we saw of IHG’s loyalty program earlier this year. IHG One Rewards is finally competitive with other hotel groups, and we’ve seen the introduction of free breakfast for elite members, confirmed suite upgrades, club access memberships, and more. All of that is fantastic.
However, in my opinion it’s now time for IHG to harmonize the IHG One Rewards program and the Ambassador program. How is the average member supposed to make sense of the difference between the two? The learning curve is too great for this to make any sense to consumers.
Bigger picture, I’d like to see IHG make three changes to truly make IHG One Rewards even more competitive:
- It’s time that all brands owned by IHG fully join IHG’s loyalty program; for example, many Six Senses properties still don’t belong to IHG One Rewards
- It’s time that all elite perks apply on both cash and award stays; IHG has the only major loyalty program that doesn’t honor all elite perks when redeeming points
- It’s time that IHG create a single loyalty program that properly rewards stays at all brands; there shouldn’t be separate programs for select luxury brands, as that takes away from the incentive to be loyal to IHG overall
For example, personally I’d probably be invested in IHG’s loyalty program if my stays at Kimptons, Six Senses, etc., were all fully rewarded in the same way, rather than all these separate programs, many properties not participating, etc. I just have a hard time getting excited about any individual IHG brand, based on how benefits are currently executed.
InterContinental Ambassador is a paid program that offers extra benefits for stays at InterContinental properties. You can sign-up for just $200 or 40,000 IHG points per year. I’d say this could represent a fantastic deal, between the free night certificate, guaranteed upgrades, late check-out, food & beverage credit, and more.
I’m curious to hear from OMAAT readers — what do you make of the InterContinental Ambassador program?