Skip to content

I paid $200 for Ambassador even though I rarely stay with InterContinental: Here's why

March 08, 2022
10 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

There are some beautiful InterContinental resorts in the IHG Rewards program. For example, there's the aspirational InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa and InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort. And the InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Vietnam has a cool rooftop bar, great pools and beautiful sunsets.

There are also many urban InterContinental hotels, including the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, InterContinental Montreal, InterContinental Washington D.C. — The Wharf and InterContinental Paris — Le Grand.

Although I frequently stay at IHG Rewards properties, I rarely stay with the InterContinental brand. Even so, I recently paid $200 to enroll in InterContinental Ambassador, a paid loyalty program that provides perks at more than 200 InterContinental hotels and resorts. Here's why.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for our daily newsletter for more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox.

Current InterContinental Ambassador enrollment promotion

The InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

The primary reason I decided to enroll in InterContinental Ambassador recently is the current promotion for new members. If you enroll between Jan. 18 and March 31 and then complete two qualifying nights by April 30, you'll earn 20,000 points (note that the 20,000 points aren't elite qualifying).

Only nights at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and Regent Hotels & Resorts with a total spending of at least $30 per night are qualifying. Specifically, award nights booked by redeeming IHG points or certificates aren't qualifying.

I rarely book paid nights at InterContinental, Kimpton or Regent hotels. After all, I'm usually just as happy at a more modestly priced IHG brand. InterContinental luxury isn't my preferred style of luxury when I want to splurge on a stay. And there aren't many Regent hotels, especially in locations easily accessible by American tourists right now.

So, this promotion would typically be costly for me to utilize, as I'd need to pay extra to get two qualifying nights at InterContinental or Kimpton hotels.

But then I learned I'd need to stay at the Kimpton Sylvan Hotel in Atlanta for a work event in mid-February. This stay compelled me to enroll in InterContinental Ambassador. After all, I'd only need one more qualifying night by the end of April to get the 20,000 points if I enrolled in Ambassador before my Kimpton stay.

After enrolling for Ambassador, this offer automatically appeared in my account. (Screenshot from ihg.com)

I'd planned to get my second qualifying night on a personal trip to Europe. But then I found out I'd need to stay in New York City later this month for a work meeting. So, I can pick up my second qualifying night at a Kimpton or InterContinental in New York City.

Based on TPG's valuations, 20,000 IHG points are worth $100. But, in practice, I've been able to get more than $200 in value from 20,000 IHG points on some stays. So, the current InterContinental Ambassador promotion meant I wouldn't be giving up all that much -- and might even come out ahead -- by paying $200 for a membership.

However, it is important to know that there are sometimes other InterContinental Ambassador enrollment promotions. So, if you can't fit in two nights at InterContinental, Kimpton or Regent hotels before April 30 and you don't have a stay for which Ambassador would help soon, you'll likely want to wait to join. After all, another enrollment promotion might appear later this year that works better for you.

Likewise, if you already have InterContinental Ambassador, you may be able to snag a renewal offer.

Related: Should you buy IHG Rewards points or transfer points from Chase?

You can get significant value from just 1 InterContinental stay

The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa. (Photo courtesy of IHG)

Although my recent enrollment was the first time I've purchased InterContinental Ambassador, my husband has bought it for himself several times. And in each case, we were getting ready to visit an aspirational InterContinental resort.

For example, he first purchased InterContinental Ambassador before a two-night stay at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa. That year, we also got Ambassador perks at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa.

The guaranteed one-category room upgrade can easily justify the $200 or 40,000-point enrollment fee on just one stay at these aspirational properties.

For example, consider what the Ambassador one-category room upgrade could get you at the InterContinental Bora Bora. If you book a beach view, the hotel should upgrade you to at least a lagoon view. And, as the cash difference between these room types is $87 per night, you'd make up the $200 enrollment fee after just three nights (assuming you value the upgrade at this rate or higher).

(Screenshot from ihg.com)

Later this year, I plan to stay for three nights at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. I knew I'd want to buy InterContinental Ambassador before that stay for the guaranteed one-category room upgrade. By enrolling during the current promotion, I'm simply starting my 12-month membership earlier than I otherwise would.

And I may be able to use the complimentary weekend night that comes with Ambassador status in Danang if I change to a weekend stay. This perk provides a free night once per membership year when you book a stay of two nights or longer using the Ambassador complimentary weekend night rate.

(Screenshot from ihg.com)

Ambassador members also get other perks when staying at InterContinental hotels and resorts. Specifically, Ambassador members get guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout and a restaurant and bar credit of up to around $20 per stay.

However, the value you'll get will depend on the specifics of your stay. And, if you redeem points or free nights to stay at InterContinental properties, keep in mind that Ambassador room upgrades aren't guaranteed on these stays and are instead subject to availability. So, you may still find yourself stuck in the resort's worst room, as we did for our first night at the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso.

Related: 13 ways to stock up on IHG Rewards points

InterContinental Ambassador perks at Six Senses

The Six Senses Laamu. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Six Senses fits my preferred style of luxury better than InterContinental. So, I'm thrilled that InterContinental Ambassador now offers the following perks at Six Senses properties that participate in IHG Rewards:

  • Complimentary breakfast for two in the main restaurant each day.
  • Signature amenity of a complimentary 50-minute Six Senses Spa massage for two or a local experience once per stay.
  • Wellness platter welcome amenity on day of arrival.
  • Complimentary one-category room upgrade (subject to availability).
  • Late 4 p.m. checkout (subject to availability).
  • Early 10 a.m. check-in (subject to availability).

Based on my experience last year at Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives, the complimentary 50-minute Six Senses Spa massage for two can provide more than $200 of value. Daily breakfast also seems valuable on paper, but most Six Senses rates include breakfast.

In short, if you like the Six Senses brand, you may want to buy an InterContinental Ambassador membership even if you never stay with InterContinental. After all, the signature amenity will likely provide enough value, even if that's the only perk you use during your membership year.

However, you must book directly with IHG, directly at the hotel or via an authorized travel agent to get Ambassador perks at Six Senses properties participating in IHG Rewards. This is worth noting since you can get Ambassador perks at most InterContinental properties regardless of how you book.

Related: Six Senses properties you can book with IHG Rewards points

IHG Rewards is changing its program this year

The InterContinental Downtown Los Angeles. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Finally, IHG Rewards is evolving its program this year. IHG Rewards will change its elite status tiers, including requirements and bonus earnings, later this month. But that's not all. Changes are also coming to the IHG Rewards credit cards on March 24. And you'll soon be able to top off free night certificates if you want to use them for nights costing more than 40,000 points.

IHG has told TPG these changes are just the beginning. So, although we know that IHG Reward's top non-invite tier (Spire Elite, soon to be renamed Diamond Elite) will require 70 elite qualifying nights or 120,000 elite qualifying points, we don't yet know what additional benefits (if any) IHG will unveil.

After all, the perfect time to announce new elite benefits would be later this month when the new elite status tiers start. Likewise, later this month would also be a good time if IHG wants to integrate programs like InterContinental Ambassador and Kimpton Inner Circle more closely with its IHG Rewards program.

Of course, it's possible InterContinental Ambassador and Kimpton Inner Circle will continue to exist as separate programs from IHG Rewards. But, in case there are changes to Ambassador, I wanted to become a member before IHG implements its new elite status tiers.

Related: Earn extra IHG Rewards points at your favorite restaurants

Bottom line

InterContinental Ambassador isn't for every traveler. But don't assume it isn't for you just because you don't frequently stay with InterContinental hotels and resorts, or that it won't pay for itself after just one aspirational stay.

There are additional perks of InterContinental Ambassador that I didn't discuss in this article because they didn't play a role in my decision to enroll. For example, I didn't discuss getting IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status as an Ambassador perk because I get this status as a cardholder of the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card. But travelers who don't want, or aren't eligible for, an IHG Rewards credit card may find this Ambassador perk compelling.

Featured image by (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases