Ambassador status: The elite membership for cheap
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There’s no denying that elite status can be quite valuable, but unless you’re a road warrior or the proud owner of a dozen different credit cards, chances are that you don’t stay at any one hotel chain often enough to earn yourself status. IHG seems to have realized this as it is one of the few hotel chains to offer Ambassador elite status — the loyalty program of Intercontinental hotels — for sale. This status isn’t even earn-able, but it gives you some awesome upgrades to your IHG stays, including room upgrades and a free weekend night every year.
As an Ambassador member since 2016, I still get the warm fuzzies whenever I think about the membership and everything it comes with. Here’s why you should invest in it:
What’s it cost?
First things first, what’s the out of pocket cost for Ambassador status? Fortunately for us cheap folks, the grand total for a year of elite membership rings in at a lowly $200. And when renewal time comes around, there are a number of different options available for members, which include things like:
- a renewal for $200, with a bonus of 15,000 points and a 10% discount on redeemed points
- renewing using points, usually 40,000
Offers can differ by member, but I always pick the $200 option and pocket the additional points.
What do I get?
Though many people like to lambast IHG for its weak loyalty program (seriously, where is that free breakfast?), Ambassador status comes with a whole host of benefits:
- Platinum Elite status in IHG® Rewards Club
- Guaranteed one category room upgrade
- Extended 4pm check-out, early check-in
- Complimentary weekend night
- Dedicated check-in area
- Restaurants & bars credit of up to USD20 for every stay
- Complimentary mineral water
- Complimentary internet
There are also benefits exclusive to stays in Greater China:
- Complimentary breakfast for one, each night you stay
- 15% discount at restaurants and bars
- Welcome fruit platter
Is it worth it?
On their own, the benefits offered by this status are great — they mimic some of the best amenities that competitors like Marriott and Hilton offer to their elite members. What really sets this apart, in my opinion, is the free night offered, the guaranteed upgrade, and the extended stay hours.
At the end of last year, IHG made a very positive change when it started allowing the Ambassador free-night certificate to be redeemed online (as opposed to a paper certificate which you would have to bring with you). The certificate allows a buy-one-get-one-free on weekend nights at Intercontinental hotels. It’s obviously incredibly easy to find value here worth over $200. Pair this with the annual free night offered by the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (currently with an elevated sign up bonus of 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.), and you’re essentially getting three nights for the price of one.
Another favorite perk of mine is the guaranteed room upgrade. While IHG states that it only guarantees a single category upgrade, I’ve gotten some really amazing upgrades as a result of my status, including a private bungalow in French Polynesia. Still, with just one upgrade you can do some awesome things, like snag yourself a massive suite when you’ve only booked a basic suite.
Finally, one of my most favorite amenities of any elite status anywhere is early check-in/late check-out. I am a freely admitted cheapskate, and hate paying for a room when I’m not there to use it — all of it. These extended hours mean that I’ve been able to show up to the Intercontinental Sydney at 8:00am and get my room, free of charge. It also means that on dates when I have mid-afternoon flights I’m not forced to leave my room and wander around with my bags while I wait to leave.
If you’re price sensitive and not wanting to make a go at elite status with other hotel chains, Ambassador could be a very valuable alternative for you. The same goes for those who only plan to travel once or twice a year — within a single journey Ambassador status can pay for itself — from the free fruit platter to the free night.
Feature photo courtesy of the Intercontinental Marseille.
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*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
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