When we wrote about the IHG Rewards Club, we briefly mentioned the separate Ambassador programme. Let’s give it a closer look today.
Rewards Club is more like the traditional membership scheme that IHG has, just similar to its competitors. InterContinental Ambassador, on the other hand, is a very unique paid-for scheme that operates independently. Accor also has a paid membership (Accor Plus) in Asia pacific, but they are very different things.
To become an Ambassador, you need to either pay $200 or 40,000 points. Since you get to purchase 40,000 points for $200 during IHG’s 100% bonus points sale, they are roughly equivalent.
Reminder: NEVER purchase the Ambassador membership unless it’s the best timing. When I say the best timing, one could be when IHG offers you a special incentive, such as 15,000 bonus points for joining; or more commonly you should just do it at the hotel front desk instead. Since the hotel / staff get a commission from your purchase, you can usually negotiate an outstanding deal, such as but not limited to: free breakfast, club lounge access and suite upgrade!
When it comes to renewal, you also have the same options. However, if you are happy to pay $200 this time, you’ll get an immediate reward of 15,000 bonus points, along with 10% rebate on all your IHG award nights in the next 12 months, up to a total of 100,000 points. Unless you have a huge amount of IHG points that don’t get exhausted, it is a no-brainer.
The first thing to remember is that Ambassador only gives you additional benefits in the InterContinental branded hotels, nothing else. There are very few exceptions to this, for example the Crowne Plaza Kowloon hotel gives Ambassador members complimentary breakfast, but in general don’t count on it.
First of all, Ambassador membership comes with free Platinum status in IHG Rewards Club. Platinum status doesn’t have many guaranteed benefits, but room upgrade, late check-out and welcome drinks do tend to be honoured.
Then during your stay at InterContinental hotels, you can expect the following benefits as an Ambassador:
- Guaranteed one-category room upgrade
- Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
- Free premium internet
- Complimentary mineral water
- $20 hotel credit per stay (or free breakfast for one in Greater China)
The $20 credit is a lacklustre, but guaranteed room upgrade and late check-out are pretty cool. Note that however, if you book the category below club room, you will NOT get club lounge access despite the upgrade.
Unfortunately due to a recent “enhancement”, hotels can now opt to compensating you $50 hotel credit or 10,000 points if they fail to provide you with room upgrade or late check-out. In reality it shouldn’t happen often though, or at least so we hope.
[Weekend Night Certificate]
You also get a buy-one-get-one-free weekend night certificate upon purchasing or renewing the membership. This voucher entitles you to booking a weekend stay (Fri & Sat or Sat & Sun) and only paying for the first night. You can check availability here:
The voucher is not limited to standard room, so it can potentially save you a big chunk when booking a club room or suite. Note that it is based on the Best Flexible Rate though, so it’s not real 50% off since there are usually other lower promotional rates available.
When it comes to renewing your membership, you also have two options: paying $200, or 40,000 points. This time however, if you choose the first option you will also be awarded 15,000 points, plus 10% rebate against your future reward stays, up to 100,000 points. This is a very good deal, although the rebate doesn’t always post automatically so you need to chase.
There is also an invitation-only membership level above, called Royal Ambassador, that comes with great benefits like complimentary breakfast and club lounge access, minibar credit and early check-in etc. You need to be a top spender at InterContinental hotels though and the criteria are never publicised, so I will discuss much about it here.
[Kimpton & Regent Hotels]
The biggest limitation of the Ambassador programme is it being applicable to only one brand. Thanks to the recent acquisitions and conversions, IHG finally has more upmarket brands that can be merged into this programme!
Kimpton is a slightly less luxurious brand than InterContinental, so it doesn’t participate in the Ambassador programme directly, but only accepts the weekend night certificate for booking.
There are four Kimptons in the UK: London, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The t&c says you could use the certificate at any Kimptons except in Greater China, however I’m able to book the Taipei hotel too.
Regent, being even more upscale than InterContinental, participates in the Ambassador programme fully, but with the following special rules:
- A welcome amenity is provided
- Room upgrade and 4pm check-out are based on availability, i.e. not guaranteed
- Free breakfast for one is kept in Greater China, however there’s no $20 voucher in other regions
Weekend night certificate should also be usable in Regent hotels except in Greater China. However it doesn’t seem to be updated in IHG’s system yet.
Even better – the certificate can be used on any day of the week at Kimpton and Regent hotels, not limited to weekends.