InterContinental Ambassador: elite status you can buy [Use Free Night at Kimpton: Any day of the week!]

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Intercontinental Ambassador Elite Status

Update 7/17/2020: Bald Thoughts informs us that Intercontinental Ambassador elite status’ Free Weekend Night can now be used at Kimpton hotels any day of the week.

Update 7/11/2020: Intercontinental Ambassador elite status’ Free Weekend Night can now be used at Kimpton hotels (including suites)!  See this LoyaltyLobby post for details.  For Kimpton ideas, also see: Best Kimpton Hotels in the United States and Canada.

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts is a single brand within the much larger International Hotel Group (IHG), the latter of which also includes brands such as Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and Kimpton Hotels.  IHG has a rewards and recognition program that spans all of these brands: IHG Rewards Club.  Confusingly, while InterContinental hotels are part of the IHG Rewards Club program, they are also part of their own elite status program: InterContinental Ambassador.  In this post you’ll learn all about the new Ambassador program (new as of March 2019).

In my opinion, the Ambassador program offers solid value that can be worth paying for, but only if you make good use of the free weekend night certificate.  Guaranteed room upgrades and 4pm late checkout can also be quite valuable under the right circumstances.  I also like the fact that the new $20 per stay food & beverage credit can be used on award stays.  This makes our points and free night certificates just a wee bit more valuable.

How to Join Intercontinental Ambassador Elite Status

The InterContinental Ambassador elite status program has two levels: InterContinental Ambassador and Royal Ambassador. Royal Ambassador is invitation only.  InterContinental Ambassador is a pay to play program: pay either $200 or 40,000 IHG points for 12 months of membership.  If you pay with points and you have the old IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer available to new applicants), you’ll get 10% of your points back for a net cost of 36,000 IHG points.

You can join InterContinental Ambassador online here.  Benefits are available instantly upon joining.  Benefits are not available at InterContinental Residences.

Benefits

InterContinental Ambassador elite status benefits

InterContinental Ambassador now offers complimentary IHG Platinum status.  This status offers benefits across all IHG brands.  Other than IHG Platinum status, the following benefits apply only to stays at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts:

  • IHG Platinum status: Great for those who don’t have an IHG credit card which offers this automatically.
  • Free weekend night: Valid on the second night of a paid weekend stay on the Ambassador Weekend Rate (“AMB Certificate”) at InterContinental Hotels (excludes InterContinental Alliance Resorts).  The free night is available immediately upon enrollment in the Ambassador program. Only one free night certificate is issued per 12 months.  Valid only for the member who has InterContinental Ambassador status.  The weekend is defined as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, except in the Middle East where hotels may define the weekend as Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  TIP: Use this link to check for free weekend night prices and availability before joining the Ambassador program (h/t Loyalty Lobby)
  • Guaranteed room upgrade: Guaranteed one category room upgrade on paid stays.  Upgrades include suites, but exclude lounge access unless you booked a room with lounge access from the beginning.  Room upgrades are not guaranteed on award stays.
  • 4PM late checkout
  • $20 food & beverage credit per stay: Can be used at most InterContinental hotel restaurants, bars and minibars. Not applicable to in-room dining (weird).
  • Complimentary mineral water
  • Complimentary internet service
  • In greater China only:
    • Complimentary breakfast for one, each night you stay (Valid in Mainland China only)
    • 15% discount at restaurants and bars
    • Welcome fruit platter for Platinum & Spire Elite members
    • RMB120 credit for restaurants and bars for Spire Elite members only

Royal Ambassador elite status benefits

Royal Ambassador (invitation only) offers all of the benefits listed above, plus the following:

  • Guaranteed two category room upgrade
  • Complimentary Club InterContinental lounge access (or free full breakfast for two)
  • Free Night at an IHG Hotel: Good for any hotel that costs up to 70,000 points per night
  • Guaranteed Early check-in of 10 a.m. on day of arrival
  • Minibar credit of $50 per night, up to $200 per stay
  • In-room welcome amenity choice of fruit, sweet or savory snack on day of arrival
  • Waived Amenity or Destination fees
  • Single-room rate for double occupancy
  • Guaranteed room availability for member’s room with 24-hour advance reservation

Benefit Guarantees

IHG backs up Ambassador benefits with cash, credits, or points if they are not able to offer certain benefits during your stay:

Q & A

Do benefits apply to award nights?

Some benefits apply to free nights booked with points or with free night certificates…

Ambassador benefits that apply to award nights:

  • 4PM late checkout
  • $20 food & beverage credit per stay
  • Complimentary mineral water
  • Complimentary internet service

Royal Ambassador benefits that apply to award nights:

  • Guaranteed 10am early check in
  • Guaranteed 4pm late checkout
  • Free in-room amenity
  • Complimentary mineral water
  • Complimentary internet service
  • Waived amenity or destination fees

Do benefits apply to 3rd party bookings?

Yes?  This is somewhat surprising and I don’t consider it confirmed, but the terms & conditions specifically say that the Benefit Guarantees do not apply on 3rd party or tour operator bookings.  This implies to me that most benefits may be offered, but that there’s no way to enforce it.

The terms specifically call out room upgrades and 4pm late checkout in French Polynesia as benefits that are not guaranteed on 3rd party bookings: “At InterContinental Hotels & Resorts in French Polynesia (InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora, InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, InterContinental Resort & Spa Moorea, and InterContinental Resort Tahiti), upgrades to the next room categories and a 4 p.m. late check-out are not guaranteed for any member that books through a third-party website or Tour Operator.”

The fact that they went out of their way to state that certain benefits are not guaranteed on these bookings in French Polynesia makes me think that they do expect these benefits to be offered elsewhere.

Free weekend night questions

Competitive price?

Not really.

In order to book your free weekend night, it is necessary to apply the Ambassador Weekend Rate to your reservation.  If this rate is available, you can book the weekend stay at that rate.  The Ambassador Weekend Rate tends to be the same as the hotel’s standard weekend rate before any discounts.  For example, you won’t get a sale price, a member discount, or a prepaid rate.  That said, sometimes the weekend rate is only slightly higher than other options and so it can offer great value in those cases.

Use this link to check for free weekend night prices and availability before joining the Ambassador program (h/t Loyalty Lobby).

Always available?

No.  Use this link to check for free weekend night prices and availability before joining the Ambassador program (h/t Loyalty Lobby).

Book a suite?

Yes, you can book a suite at the Ambassador Weekend Rate and get the second night free.

Book with lounge access?

Yes, you can book a room or a suite that includes club lounge access at the Ambassador Weekend Rate and get the second night free.

Guaranteed Upgrade Questions

Upgrade to lounge access?

Ambassador: No.  Royal Ambassador: Yes.

Regular Ambassador status does not include free upgrades to Club InterContinental lounges.  You might think there’s a workaround: book a room 1 level below a room that includes lounge access and then get a free 1 category upgrade.  Unfortunately, the Ambassador terms & conditions say that if you get upgraded to a room that usually includes lounge access, you still won’t be given that access.

Royal Ambassadors are usually guaranteed lounge access, but not during the following dates and places:

  • New Year’s Eve, December 31 – Location: Global
  • Chinese New Year, beginning on the 1st day of the lunar year for a 10-day period – Location: Greater China
  • Ramadan, beginning on the 1st day of Ramadan for a 30-day period – Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Upgrades to suite?

Yes.

If you book the top non-suite room, you should be upgraded to a suite.  Unfortunately, if that suite normally includes lounge access, you are not guaranteed that lounge access with your upgrade.  That said, I expect that some hotels will grant it anyway.

Upgrade to Presidential suite?

Sometimes

If a hotel has an incredible top level suite, can you book the next to top-level in order to get upgraded to the best of the best?  In some cases, yes.  Unfortunately, many specialty suites are explicitly excluded from the guaranteed upgrade benefit.  You can find a full list of exceptions here.

Upgrade exclusions?

In addition to the specialty suite exceptions described above, guaranteed upgrades are also subject to certain blackout periods:

  • New Year’s Eve, December 31 – Location: Global
  • Chinese New Year, beginning on the 1st day of the lunar year for a 10-day period – Location: Greater China
  • Ramadan, beginning on the 1st day of Ramadan for a 30-day period – Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Terms & Conditions?

Full terms and conditions can be found here.

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