How to get maximum value from IHG’s InterContinental Ambassador program

Sep 6, 2020

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Elite status comes with lots of great perks. But, earning mid- to high-tier hotel status usually requires a lot of nights. However, the InterContinental Ambassador program allows you to buy status in the IHG Rewards Club program.

Through this program, members get elite-like benefits in exchange for a modest annual fee. And, if you enroll or renew by Nov. 15, 2020 and then stay at least once by Jan. 31, 2021, you can snag a free night certificate valid for a night costing 40,000 points or less.

If you’re looking for perks at InterContinental and Regent-branded hotels and resorts, you may find value in the InterContinental Ambassador program. In this guide, I’ll describe the program and then help you decide whether you should become a member.

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In This Post

What is the InterContinental Ambassador program?

InterContinental Phu Quoc in Vietnam
Pool area at the InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Vietnam (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

As the name suggests, the InterContinental Ambassador program provides perks when staying at InterContinental Hotels and Resorts. And, through Dec. 31, 2021, you’ll also get perks when staying at Regent Hotels and Resorts outside Greater China.

But, the program doesn’t provide Ambassador benefits when staying at other IHG Rewards Club brands. That being said, you’ll get IHG Platinum Elite status, which normally requires completing 40 qualifying nights or earning 40,000 elite-qualifying points. But, if you’re purely interested in status, you may be better off with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. After all, the IHG Premier comes with automatic Platinum Elite status and other perks.

Interestingly, IHG appends your Ambassador status to your IHG elite status. For example, if you are an IHG Rewards Club Spire Elite and an Ambassador, your status will be Spire Ambassador.

Related: Battle of the Hotels: Why I stay most often with IHG

How do I become an InterContinental Ambassador?

To be an InterContinental Ambassador, you must pay an annual fee. This fee is currently $200 or 40,000 IHG points. Based on TPG’s valuations, 40,000 IHG points are worth $200.

Once you pay, you’ll get access to Ambassador benefits for 12 months. So, it makes sense to enroll shortly before a stay. You can join the program online, at any InterContinental Hotel or Resort or by calling the service center.

Limited time offer

If you join or enroll between July 30, 2020 and Nov. 15, 2020, you can access a special offer. Specifically, if you join or enroll and then stay at least one night by Jan. 31, 2021, you’ll earn a reward night valid for a night costing 40,000 IHG points or less. However, your night must be at one of the following brands:

And, reward nights and stays during which you spend less than $30 per night won’t count. But, if you complete a qualifying night, your reward night will appear in your account within 72 hours of checkout. This free night will be valid until Apr. 30, 2021.

To be clear, this reward night is in addition to the complimentary weekend night perk. Unfortunately, you’re out of luck if your renewal window doesn’t fall within this offer’s dates.

Related: On the hamster wheel of chasing hotel elite status? Buy it instead

InterContinental Ambassador benefits

InterContinental Tahiti (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
The InterContinental Tahiti in French Polynesia (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

InterContinental Ambassadors get the following benefits when staying at InterContinental Hotels and Resorts:

  • Guaranteed one category room upgrade
    • On free nights and award nights, this benefit isn’t guaranteed and is subject to availability.
    • This benefit excludes lounge access as well as some suite types.
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout
  • One complimentary weekend night that is valid on the second night of a paid stay when booking the Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night rate
    • This free night is usually only valid at InterContinental hotels and resorts. But, for stays July 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021, it is also valid at participating Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants and Regent Hotels and Resorts outside Greater China.
    • Most hotels define “weekend” as Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. However, hotels in the Middle East may define the weekend as Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights
    • You can use this perk any night of the week at Kimpton and Regent properties for stays between July 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021
  • Dedicated check-in area
  • IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status
  • A $20 credit per stay for use in select hotel restaurants, bars and minibars
    • In markets that don’t use U.S. dollars, you’ll receive a set amount in that currency equal to about $20
    • This benefit isn’t offered in Mainland China, where the member gets full breakfast in the main restaurant daily
  • Daily mineral water
  • Premium internet in guest rooms, when available
  • No extra charge for a second guest
  • Welcome fruit platter in Greater China
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star status

Benefits at InterContinental Alliance Resorts

At InterContinental Alliance Resorts, Ambassadors only get access to the following benefits:

  • Complimentary water provided upon arrival (not replenished daily)
  • One category room upgrade, subject to availability

But, the benefits guarantee is not applicable at InterContinental Alliance Resorts.

Benefits at Regent and Kimpton

Regent Singapore exterior
Regent Singapore (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

For stays between July 30, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021, you’ll get most InterContinental Ambassador benefits when you stay at Regent Hotels and Resorts outside Greater China. However, you won’t get the $20 restaurants and bars credit. And, the benefits guarantee won’t apply. But, you’ll get a local “Signature Amenity” benefit during your stay.

However, you won’t get any Ambassador perks when staying at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants globally or Regent Hotels and Resorts in Greater China. In practice, this means you’ll only get Ambassador perks at InterContinential Hotels and Resorts as well as the following Regent properties:

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When are you eligible for benefits?

Although you usually need to book directly with IHG to receive IHG Rewards Club elite benefits, this isn’t the case for Ambassador benefits. IHG only excludes select rates, such as airline crew and employee discounts.

However, there is one notable exception. Specifically, InterContinental Hotels and Resorts in French Polynesia that are booked through third-party websites or tour operators don’t qualify for guaranteed upgrades or late checkout.

Related: Ranking the best online travel agency rewards programs

How to maximize InterContinential Ambassador benefits

You can often get enough value from just the complimentary weekend night to justify paying the membership fee. But, if you’re looking to maximize your InterContinential Ambassador perks, here are some tips:

  • Book your room type based on the guaranteed one category room upgrade
    • Select a room type one category below what you want
    • Select the room type one category below a suite
  • Book when you want to guarantee 4 p.m. late checkout
  • Don’t let your complimentary weekend night expire
    • Check back periodically for price drops
  • Maximize the $20 credit per stay by booking shorter stays
  • Enjoy Five Star status when you rent a car with Hertz

Related: TPG readers reveal their best IHG Rewards redemptions

Benefits guarantee

InterContinental Ambassadors are guaranteed select benefits. Specifically, you may be compensated as follows if a hotel is unable to fulfill some perks:

  • Room upgrade: A restaurant, bar or spa credit of $50 or 10,000 IHG points. No compensation is provided on reward nights or free nights.
  • 4 p.m. late checkout: A restaurant, bar or spa credit of $50 or 10,000 IHG points.

IHG doesn’t offer the benefits guarantee during select periods, though. These periods include:

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Membership extension

InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Vietnam
A room at the InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Vietnam (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

IHG recently extended the Ambassador membership period by six months due to coronavirus concerns. IHG also extended unredeemed complimentary weekend nights by six months. However, these extensions only apply to members who enrolled or renewed their membership on or before Mar. 15, 2020.

The Ambassador program also offers two other types of membership extensions. Members can use each of these extension types no more than once per lifetime. But, you can’t use both of these extensions during the same membership year.

You can ask for a 2-month extension if you:

  • Have an active membership
  • Haven’t used a two-month extension in the past

And, you can ask for a 6-month extension if you’ve:

  • Maintained an active membership for more than a year
  • Haven’t previously used a 6-month extension

Keep in mind that these once-in-a-lifetime extensions won’t apply to your weekend night certificates.

Related: 14 airlines that allow travelers to put elite status on hold

Is InterContinental Ambassador worth it?

So, should you enroll in the InterContinental Ambassador program? Not surprisingly, the answer depends on your travel habits. But, for most travelers, it comes down to the weekend night benefit.

Ambassador weekend night benefit

If you think you’ll use the Ambassador weekend night benefit each year, then you should enroll. But, you do have to book using a specific rate, which usually isn’t the least expensive one.

IHG InterContinental Ambassador free night
(Image courtesy of IHG)

And, now you can use this perk any day of the week at select Kimpton and Regent properties for stays through Dec. 31, 2021. This temporary modification makes this perk much more valuable. After all, there are plenty of beachfront Kimptons for a relaxing getaway. But, note that you won’t get any Ambassador perks at Kimpton Hotels.

If you don’t utilize the weekend night benefit, then membership usually won’t make sense. One exception is if you stay frequently and will use the other benefits.

Related: The best hotel credit cards that come with an annual free night

Considering other benefits

If you’re still undecided, it’s worth considering how much value the other benefits will provide. Depending on how often you travel, the benefits may provide significant value. Guaranteed perks like 4 p.m. late checkout and a one category room upgrade can be useful but are difficult to value. On the other hand, the $20 restaurants and bars credit provides a set value for each stay.

You’ll also get IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status. If you have the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you already have this status. But, if you’re unable to get the IHG Premier Card, getting Platinum Elite status could be a deciding factor.

Related: Why I’m happy to pay the annual fee on the IHG Premier

What is InterContinental Royal Ambassador?

InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa (Photo by Brian Biros / The Points Guy)
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa in French Polynesia (Photo by Brian Biros/The Points Guy)

Royal Ambassador is an invite-only status that IHG offers to select Ambassador members. IHG selects members based on their activity at InterContinental properties.

Royal Ambassador benefits

Royal Ambassadors get the following benefits when staying at InterContinental Hotels and Resorts:

  • Guaranteed two category room upgrade
    • If you book a suite, you will receive a one-category upgrade
    • On free nights and award nights, this benefit is not guaranteed and subject to availability
    • This benefit excludes some types of suites
  • Lounge access at hotels with a dedicated lounge
    • Access is provided for the member and a guest staying in the member’s room
    • If the hotel does not operate a dedicated lounge, the member and one guest will get full breakfast in the main restaurant daily
    • This benefit is not guaranteed at hotels that don’t operate a dedicated lounge
  • One free night at any IHG hotel bookable for 70,000 IHG points or less
  • Guaranteed early check-in of 10 a.m.
  • Guaranteed late checkout of 4 p.m.
  • One complimentary weekend night valid on the second night of a paid stay when using the Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night rate
  • Minibar food and beverage credit of $50 per night (RMB200 per night in mainland China), up to a maximum of $200 per stay (RMB800 per stay in mainland China)
  • In-room welcome amenity upon arrival
  • Daily mineral water
  • Premium internet in guest rooms, when available
  • Waived amenity or destination fees
  • No extra charge for a second guest
  • Guaranteed room availability with 24-hour notice
  • Inner Circle member status at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants

Related: Maximizing IHG Rewards Club for family travel

Bottom line

InterContinental Ambassador status is a must-have for some travelers. If you can get good value from the complimentary weekend night benefit, then it may be worth enrolling even if you don’t stay at InterContinental Hotels and Resorts frequently.

Featured image of the InterContinental Fiji by JT Genter/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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