InterContinental Ambassador Changes Coming In 2019

Filed Under: IHG Rewards

IHG sure takes an odd approach to loyalty:

  • IHG Rewards Club is IHG’s primary loyalty program, but it doesn’t actually offer competitive elite benefits, and those few elite benefits it does offer aren’t valid at InterContinental hotels
  • InterContinental has a separate loyalty program (the Ambassador program), which gets you benefits at InterContinental hotels

Basics of the InterContinental Ambassador program

InterContinental’s loyalty program has two tiers — Ambassador and Royal Ambassador.

Ambassador status doesn’t have stay requirements, but rather can be purchased. It costs either $200 or 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points for a 12 month membership. Once you’re a member, renewing costs $150 or 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points.

Ambassador status gets you benefits like a guaranteed upgrade, a complimentary annual weekend night reward, a welcome amenity, and more. It’s not life changing, but given the price, it can pay for itself after a few stays.

Then there’s Royal Ambassador, which is invitation only and based on spend. While they don’t publish the qualification criteria, it seems like the requirement is $10,000 of spend per year at InterContinental hotels, though that changes year to year.

Royal Ambassador status gets you benefits like complimentary minibar beverages, 8AM check-in, a two category room upgrade, and more.

Changes coming to InterContinental Ambassador

It has been announced that changes will be made to the InterContinental Ambassador program as of “early 2019,” though an exact date hasn’t yet been provided for these changes.

As InterContinental explains it, the following benefits are here to stay:

  • Guaranteed one category room upgrade
  • Extended 4pm check-out
  • Complimentary weekend night
  • Dedicated check-in area
  • Welcome fruit platter for every stay (but only in China)
  • Complimentary mineral water
  • Complimentary Internet

Then they’ll be introducing some new perks, which include the following:

  • Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards Club (currently Ambassador comes with Gold status)
  • Up to USD20 restaurants & bars credit for every stay
  • Ambassador Benefits Guarantee to ensure you make the most out of every stay
  • E-delivery of complimentary weekend night certificate (currently they mail you a certificate)

In addition to that, there are further benefits available for stays in China only:

  • One complimentary breakfast every night you stay
  • 15% discount on restaurants and bars

My take on these changes

On the surface these changes sound positive. They conveniently leave out that Ambassador members will no longer receive welcome fruit and water outside of China.

Beyond that, though, IHG Platinum status is nice, not that it’s otherwise tough to earn. Weekend certificates being delivered electronically rather than being mailed is positive.

It’s the other changes that I find most interesting, though.

The “Ambassador Benefits Guarantee” sounds positive, though one has to wonder if the “guarantee” isn’t generous enough, could hotels use this to “buy” their way out of having to offer certain benefits? We’ll have to see, as they haven’t published the details yet.

The $20 restaurant and bar credit is also interesting, and is valid once per stay. I’m curious to see what kind of restrictions this comes with when implemented.

Bottom line

It seems like InterContinental may not yet have revealed the full extent of these changes, given that they’re not being very specific and also haven’t stated when the new benefits kick in.

There are also rumors of InterContinental adjusting Royal Ambassador benefits, including possibly adding limits to the unlimited complimentary minibar drink benefits. I’ll be curious to see if that actually happens.

Are you an InterContinental Ambassador member, and if so, what do you make of these changes?

  1. “Complimentary weekend night”

    What are the restrictions on the free weekend night?? – It must have some as many intr-con costs 70k a night

  2. @Lucky I do think IHG RC Benefits are valid at InterContinentals (of course not the other way around with Ambassador membership)

  3. @ Ben — It looks like we will be switching from cash to points for nearly all of our IC stays in 2019, and then waive goodbye to the once-great RA program. Thank goodness for Hyatt and for programs like Virtuoso and AMEX FHR. It was a good 15 -year run with over 1,000 nights. Very sad to say goodbye…

  4. Rumor is a property can deny the room upgrade or late checkout for $50 credit or 10,000 points. A program killer if they can pull my upgrade on week-long stay for a $50 F&B credit that costs them ~$10.

  5. I can only comment from my own experience but I purchased Ambassador for this year for the $200 and with that came also IHG Platinum status as a special offer. It has proved to be the best value ever. From stays at IG hotels in Sofia, Bangkok, Istanbul, Beirut, Seoul, Warsaw, Tel Aviv, London, Budapest, Ho Chi Minh and several others I have been treated like a king every time. From booking the cheapest room, have on every occasion been upgraded to a suite, a full plethora of welcome gifts, always free breakfast, at BKK then a private check-in desk and a welcome from the General Manager, free access to club rooms, late checkouts. It does amuse me to read here so many negative comments about IHG status compared to SPG and others but for $200 I must have easily received over $3000 of benefits this year and not had to meet any minimum stay requirements.

  6. The e-delivery of the free night certificate (which I assume remains a BOGO offer, instead of a free night outright) is a plus. I always figured they didn’t want people “gifting” the BOGO to friends/family, as you needed to sign the certificate in order to redeem it. In reality, you could still get around that, and it makes things easier to manage (on both ends). My dog ate my BOGO voucher a few years ago… oops.

  7. Thanks @flutsflyer, good to hear that the benefits you pay for are being received. I’m definitely considering buying this myself in 2019, seems like a great value.

  8. I’m worried about the $50 if no upgrade is available. This almost happened to me two years ago at the Intercontinental Monterey (The Clement). They were going to credit me $50/night for not upgrading the room but then all of a sudden upon a second check of room inventory, an upgrade became available.

  9. I just did this in November ($200 purchase) when they sent me a targeted email to receive 15,000 IHG points for signing up. An upcoming Intercontinental stay where I want late checkout and the points plus the future BOGO free weekend night made it a no brainer. They bury the headline a bit in the offer email so read your incoming carefully as I almost missed it.

  10. I kinda wander is Hong Kong in China? I buy Ambassador exclusively for the Intercontinental Hong Kong.

  11. How many Royal Ambassadors are out there in the wild? $10k spend solely at IC’s seems steep—a much rarer bird than Hyatt Globalist.

  12. I like and have made use of the 4pm checkout and guaranteed upgrade. The “free” weekend night is less valuable to me. The paid night comes at an inflated price, devaluing the free night. I can usually find a better deal (advance purchase, etc.) or using Citi Prestige.

  13. I’ve been a Royal Ambassador for the last 3 years (plus Spire Elite for 6+).

    The upgrades and treatment is exceptional plus the 4pm late checkout works wonders.

    Unlimited comp minibar is great when traveling with the family plus also quietly working in the room with no distractions from the Club.

  14. Wow I never knew that this option could be purchased. It seems that the ambassador status and its benefits only applies to paid stays and not with third party travel/hotel sites. Has there been any success booking with citi prestige 4th night free and getting the upgraded rooms and other perks that comes with the ambassador status?

  15. @fultsflyer most of your stay seems in asia/middle east where tend to treat elites way better than anywhere else regardless given perks where they go beyond …try this in america/europe you will realize such big difference gap there is comparing hilton/spg top tier.

  16. Pretty dreadful changes. Breakfast sounded positive in initial rumours, but restricted to China. No welcome gift or free film (although I didn’t value this too highly), but most worrying a really cheap ‘buy out’ for properties, esp on long stays, to deny upgrade or late checkout. Pretty disappointing.

  17. @TonyTeung – I stay at an InterContinental in Thailand every year, pay with my Citi Prestige card (so average room rate for 1 night kicked back to me later) and always get the upgraded room and other Ambassador perks.
    I book a room at the level below the one I want, and — thus far — have actually gotten bumped 2 room levels. It’s why I keep renewing my Ambassador status year after year.
    One note – 99% sure that guaranteed upgrade is ONLY on paid stays. Points redemptions do not garner you an upgrade, although I negotiated a deal with my hotel to let me stay in my upgraded room for a slight daily charge.

    As for the blog, I don;t see this changing my renewal of my Ambassador status in October/November. I saw it primarily as giving me a $20 credit per stay, but I am concerned about being denied the upgrade. Next InterContinental stay is in February – using my BOGO certificate in Bangkok, so curious about an upgrade, etc. on that stay.

  18. I agree with you “fultsflyer” about the great value of Ambassador status. The InterContinental Bangkok is BEAUTIFUL! I too have always been upgraded to a Club floor, where the evening food and drinks easily provides a delicious dinner. About 3 years ago I took an extended SE Asia trip and staying at IC’s in at least 8 or 10 cities. I always got a club floor upgrade, except in Manila (which has since closed). Also included in many stays were 3 or 4 pieces of laundry serviced free. Definitely a handy thing to have during a long trip.

  19. Just stayed at a InterContinental and seems my confusion on the program changes was echoed by the front desk staff as it just began on March 1st. Was bummed no more in-room amenity and no more movie – those were my favorites. Still confused on the $20 credit – one staff member told me it was only valid for breakfast while another said it was only for restaurant purchases not bar. Room upgrade was a bummer too – gave me view of a construction site – would’ve preferred the $50! I don’t drink bottled water – staying environmental conscious with a reusable stainless bottle – wish this was an option instead of plastic/bottled water. Summary… disappointing changes, and not competitive vs benefits of other programs.

  20. Will these ambassador benefits work at any ihg property such as Kimpton or only intercontinental?

  21. I am sadly dissappointed with the Intercontinental Ambassador program.
    I am their Spire ambassador and booked an intercontinental hotel recently (just check in this morning).
    I made the booking online (about 18 days in advance) and though of using their free weekend stay ticket but was denied as they said the room I booked was under advanced purchased, so not entitled to use the voucher.
    Then 3 day before, i received a mail from hotel room manager…saying unable to give the room upgrade as the hotel was full and offer to compensate me with 10000 point or $70 F&B credit for my entire stay of 5 nights.
    I now know 2 things : 1) room upgrade is only worth $14/night..2) it is not Guaranteed! <- contradict to what they claimed as guaranteed room upgrade!

    I have stayed at a few other IHG hotel (most recently in Apr 19) and they always have something for their ambassador…like a small gift, some seasonal stuffs ..BUT I get none this stay.. has that also been taken away??? How about the USD20 credit?
    Overall, after this incident, I no longer wish to be associated with them and will not recommend them to anyone.

  22. @Jimmy did you book via the AMB weekend link on the specific rate? You can’t just make a normal advance booking and use the voucher, it’s only via the special link.

  23. @Alan.. that bring us to another topic of discussion…
    Why the need for separate link with diff rates? Presumably the rate will be higher???
    Isn’t it the same as : I give you discount but I 1st jacked up my initial price???
    Something to think about.

  24. @Jimmy yep the rate is always higher so has to be factored in. Agree not ideal although given potential customers can view the rates (and indeed book) before they pay for AMB at least makes it reasonably transparent. Presumably when booking you saw this price differential and that the AMB Weekend rate you booked was pricier?

  25. Also, I noticed the Free Weekend is blackout for the 2 IC in New York City for the whole summer at least. The link they provide can still show other rates and other properties, which may trick some people. The AMB rate is always the same as standard flexible rate without member discount in my experience. Because of this, and the limitation on rewards nights, I’m a little hesitate to join, thinking about a room with a view to a room with a preferred view will count as an upgrade in many occasions.

  26. The Buckhead Intercontinental in Atlanta is the worse. I will never pay for another Ambassador membership again..The room upgrade is the same room on a floor higher. WHAT A JOKE!! Also when I arrived into my room no water, fruit tray, gift or anything.. When I contacted the front desk about it, they said we are sorry. Not ok we will send it or anything. I overpaid for the room to begin with. Never again..When there are other chains that do much more and are so nice.

  27. Not impressed at all. The changes are not positive. Now they charge you a $30 per night “resort fee” and you get $20 credit for mini bar. Big Deal. So you are paying for your $20 credit. Also, they no longer give you club level. Failed to mention that when they had me signing up . No free movie anymore. Really, the perks are pathetic and not worth it. I have been a huge IHG member for years and years, but am going to change. In NYC you get the same room on a higher floor, big deal! IHG are high priced hotels and simply not worth it anymore. I may become a VRBO user. I am NOT IMPRESSED and do NOT RECOMMEND becoming an Ambassador.

  28. IMO Bar credit should be per night or per 2 nights. If you stay for 1 week you get $20 for the whole week, while someone who stays 1 night also gets $20…..

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