How to Score a Free Night at a Luxury Hotel Through InterContinental Ambassador

Jul 2, 2019

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If you want elite status at hotels, most hotel brands require that you either stay a number of nights or hold a cobranded credit card. However, you can buy elite status — or purchase elite-like benefits — with a few hotels. And one of those is the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG)’s InterContinental Ambassador program. In addition to perks, this can also be a shortcut to snagging a free night at a luxury property — potentially at a big discount.

Today we’ll take a closer look at the Ambassador program and go through exactly how to utilize the free night.

In This Post

Overview

For $200 or 40,000 IHG points — which TPG values at $200 — you can purchase InterContinental Ambassador and score guaranteed perks when staying at InterContinental hotels: guaranteed room upgrades, 4pm checkout, bottled water and a $20 food and beverage credit per stay.

In addition, Ambassador comes with IHG Platinum Elite status — which TPG values at $880 based on utilizing the status for 48 nights — which provides value throughout the IHG portfolio. But you won’t want to pay for Ambassador solely for this benefit, as you can get this status cheaper with the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. Plus, with the credit card, you’ll get other perks like automatic fourth night free on award stays and a sign-up bonus of 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Free Weekend Night

However, even if the above perks for InterContinental Ambassador aren’t intriguing, the final one could make up the $200 price by itself: a “complimentary weekend night” at an InterContinental hotel. The one-time use certificate can be redeemed at any InterContinental within 12 months of purchase of InterContinental Ambassador. In practice, my certificate was issued with a 14-month validity.

Before we get to how to book, it’s important to go over the stated limitations of the free night:

  • The free night requires a minimum two-night weekend stay and booking the “Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night” rate — which typically is more expensive than the cheapest-available rate.
  • 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.
  • It “cannot be used in conjunction with Reward Nights or any other promotion or free night offer.”
  • While it doesn’t say so specifically in the terms, corporate discount codes don’t reduce the “Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night” rate.
  • It can only used by the InterContinental Ambassador member — meaning that the free night can’t be transferred, bartered, sold or otherwise used by another traveler.
  • Although the booking page notes that the free night is “not applicable for suites,” at least a few InterContinental properties have loaded “Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night” rates for suites:

When choosing a room type, remember that the Ambassador guaranteed upgrade benefit will apply to the complimentary weekend night. So, you probably don’t want to pick the highest-available room type. However, one quirk of this guaranteed upgrade benefit is that you can’t be upgraded into Club InterContinental access. You’ll only get Club InterContinental access if you book a room type that comes with lounge access. If you’re upgraded to a room that would otherwise have lounge access, you still don’t get lounge access.

One final note: In the past, the complimentary weekend night certificate came in the form of a physical certificate — which could take weeks to arrive after signing up for InterContinental Ambassador. Thankfully, as of March 1, 2019, IHG has modernized and made this free night certificate electronic. However, since this switch was recently made, don’t be surprised if you get asked for a certificate. That’s what happened to me when I used my InterContinental Ambassador free weekend night in early June. The agent seemed a bit confused when I mentioned that it was electronic, but I didn’t end up having an issue using it.

How to Book

To book using the certificate, you need to go into your IHG Rewards account homepage, scroll down to find “Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night” and then click Book Now:

Or, you can shortcut that by just starting your search through this specific link:

This page is accessible for anyone to search and find the Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night rate. That makes it great for those that don’t yet have InterContinental Ambassador and are trying to figure out how much savings you’ll get from the free night before buying Ambassador.

Speaking of that rate difference, here’s the nightly rates for each room category for both the Ambassador Free Night and the currently-cheapest Winter Escape rate for the two-night stay I booked at the InterContinental Fiji:

Nightly Rate before taxes/fees Garden Pool Lagoon Beachfront Suite
Ambassador Complimentary Night $320 $389 $454 $583 $647
Cheapest Rate $273 $333 $388 $498 $553
Difference $47 $56 $66 $85 $94

In this example, note that the Winter Escape Member Rate comes with breakfast but is nonrefundable, while the Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night has free cancellation until 7 days before check-in.

While the above differences demonstrate the premium you’ll need to pay for the privilege of using your free weekend night, bear in mind that one of those nights is free. So for the base-level Garden room, you’re paying a total of $320 (excluding taxes and fee) for the two-night stay. Booking the same two-night stay as a non-Ambassador would be $546 (again excluding taxes and fees), so your free night is getting you a value of $226. Or put another way, if you redeemed 40,000 points for the Ambassador membership, you’re getting a value of 0.565 cents per point, slightly higher than TPG’s most recent valuations.

My overall takeaway from conducting some of these searches: Make your Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night stay as short as possible. The value of the free night is quickly erased by overpaying for more than a few nights.

Keep in mind too that this completely ignores any added value you’d enjoy from the on-property perks, which can easily add up over a two-night stay and become even more valuable if you’re staying at other InterContinental properties during your year of membership.

Finally, once you pick out your dates and room type, don’t be surprised when the final booking page shows an un-discounted price. As explained in the Rate Description:

The full cost of all booked nights will be displayed upon your reservation, but the second weekend night will be credited to your bill at check-in when a valid ID and IHG Rewards Club number are presented. This special rate is available for Ambassador and Royal Ambassadors, only with a valid complimentary night benefit that is not expired or already redeemed.

Bottom Line

The Ambassador complimentary weekend night can easily make up the $200 cost of InterContinental Ambassador, leaving the rest of the benefits of the program as extras. For example, I was able to save around $286 off the cheapest-available rate on a two-night stay at the InterContinental Fiji. In addition, I knew going in that I’d get a guaranteed room upgrade, 4pm guaranteed check-out and a $20 food and beverage credit. All of that adds to $200 well invested in the InterContinental Ambassador program.

Featured image of the InterContinental Fiji by the author

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