Today we have a Reader Question (technically a traveler question since I was asked this by someone at an actual IC hotel this weekend) about how worthwhile it is to purchase the IHG Ambassador membership.
IHG has, in addition to the IHG One Rewards guest loyalty program, a paid one called InterContinental Ambassador that comes with its own set of benefits applicable for stays at the Intercontinental brand only.
InterContinental Ambassador membership comes with guaranteed 4 PM check out, IHG One Rewards Platinum status, a free weekend night voucher, and F&B credit.
Buying or renewing the Ambassador membership has been consistently priced at $200 or 40,000 points throughout the years, although there have been several sweeteners in the form of sign-up offers.
You can access IHG’s page for the Ambassador program here.
I was chatting with another guest at the club lounge of the Intercontinental Seoul this weekend since the hotel wanted to charge him quite a substantial amount of money for a late checkout. I politely interrupted their conversation and suggested that he could buy the Ambassador and automatically get a 4 PM checkout on this and all future reservations at Intercontinental.
The associate then left, and we were chatting about the membership. This guest needed the late check-out because of a late flight from Seoul this week. Right now, nightly rates in Seoul are very expensive due to the christmas holidays and just booking an extra night would have meant a cost of US$500+.
I said that, in my opinion, the Ambassador program is a no-brainer and pretty much pays for itself after 1-2 stays, especially in this guest’s case.
These are the official benefits for the Ambassador:
- Guaranteed one category room upgrade
- Guaranteed extended 4pm check-out
- Complimentary weekend night*
- Platinum Elite status in IHG® One Rewards, and the corresponding benefits
- Restaurants & bars credit of up to USD20 for every stay*
- Complimentary mineral water
- Complimentary internet
- Dedicated check-in area
- Single room rate for double occupancy
- Mainland China Only: Complimentary breakfast for one each night you stay
- Greater China Only: Welcome fruit platter for Platinum Elite & Diamond Elite members
Benefits applicable at participating Regent Hotels & Resorts until December 31, 2022*.
The room upgrade, guaranteed 4 PM check out, instant IHG One Rewards Platinum status (or extension of your current status including Diamond), a free weekend night voucher, and $20 F&B credit converted to local currency are the most valuable items from the list in my opinion. Sometimes the hotel even goes beyond the minimum required and upgrades to a much higher room category or club level, but that’s rare. As a Diamond Ambassador, I had that happen quite a few times though.
I did ask the other guest about his stay profile and he’s a local from Seoul but does like staycations with family as well as trips to Japan, Singapore, and Thailand. I think, especially in Korea and Japan, the ambassador is valuable as hotels have this crazy Rule of 4 PM check-in and 11 AM checkout for regular, non-status guests. I could not deal with that, to be honest.
On top of it all, if you purchase (or renew) the Ambassador until December 31, you can earn 20,000 points after two nights which makes the deal even better.
In the end, the guest ended up purchasing the Ambassador with the associate and did get the benefits applied immediately. This also included the $20 and he already had some F&B spend so it’s a direct offset, let alone the prospective charge for the late check-out. As an additional benefit for purchasing with the hotel, the granted him the check-out until 6PM.
I guess there must still be some incentives going around. In the past, I often recommended to buy/renew the Ambassador membership at the hotel when you check in and asking if you can have something extra, which often works (Suite upgrade or Club Lounge on that particular stay).
In the end, it all depends on your stay profile, but I find that IHG Ambassador is one of the most straightforward hotel status investments one can make. The $200 is being offset in no time, let alone the constant renewal of the IHG Rewards status just by purchasing the Ambassador. Probably the best deal out there in the hotel status world, even if you only do a few IHG stays per year.
In this case, the person I talked to about this ended up buying the Ambassador at the hotel rather than paying them for a late check-out. I’m surprised (or not) that the associates didn’t suggest this option on their own. why pay close to $300 for a late checkout when you can get Ambassador for $200 plus all the extras!?