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Most of the time, you need to have your bum on a seat or head on a pillow to get status with airlines and hotels. However, there are some circumstances where you can pay your way and it can be really worthwhile.
When staying at an InterContinental as an Ambassador, you are guaranteed a complimentary room upgrade, an in-room gift and extended check-out to 4pm. This is in addition to the priority check in at reception.
Membership costs $200 a year (or 32,000 IHG Points) and anyone can buy it – I highly recommend it.
When you sign up you get a Welcome Pack which contains a code for 5,000 points, a 2-for-1 Weekend voucher and a luggage tag. The weekend voucher gives you two nights at a weekend for the price of one. The price you pay is slightly more than the cheapest advance rate, but offers great value overall and is flexible. The rate also applies to suites, and your complimentary upgrade still applies. I used my first one for the level below a suite at the InterContinental Paris Le Grand.
I signed up for the Ambassador programme for the first time in 2014 when I knew that I had a couple of upcoming stays in InterContinentals, so was able to use the benefits at the Willard, Washington D.C., The Venetian, Las Vegas and in Paris.
It definitely helped to ensure that we got well-treated in the InterContinental Paris Le Grande – a hand-written card from the manager and a bottle of champagne on arrival was a pretty good start. That said, we were not given an upgrade on check-in (I had booked an Eiffel Tower view room, and had been told that this would go up to a Junior Suite) but when I queried this, we were given Club access which worked out really well and far better value than the upgrade would have been.
I renewed in 2015 because I knew that I could take advantage for my trip to California this summer. Renewal was slightly different; the base rate was less, at $150 (or 24,000 IHG points), but there was another option. I paid $200 for a package which gives 15,000 bonus points on renewal instead of 5,000 and also gives a 10% rebate of points on redemptions. This membership year I have redeemed points for 2 nights at the InterContinental in Monterrey, shown below, a night in San Francisco and a night at the InterContinental O2 totalling 195,000 points which will attract a 19,500 rebate, deposited after each stay. My additional $50 has got me 29,500 IHG Rewards points, which I think is a great deal.
My favourite part of the programme is the flexibility and “stackability” of the benefits. For example, I booked 4 nights at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins this summer; one night was a free night from the IHG Barclaycard, one was using points and the other two nights were booked using the Ambassador 2-for-1 Certificate – in effect I was only paying cash for one night in a luxury hotel!
Quick tip: Book the Ambassador nights first, with the free ones following and they always, in my experience, keep you in the same room with the same benefits. With this in mind, I booked into a room at the level below a Club room for the paid night, then booked the free and points nights, and proceeded to email the hotel to link the bookings. They did, and I had free breakfast, drinks and canapes in the lounge on all four days as well as an upgraded room for the duration of the stay!
IHG Ambassador status can obviously border on being a “no brainer” if you are planning to stay at an Intercontinental over a weekend and the advance room rate is more than $200 – using the voucher will make it cheaper, and you’ll get an upgrade!
In case you are wondering, I have renewed this year too!