InterContinental Ambassador: elite status you can buy

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Now that IHG One Rewards has a decent elite program (see Tim’s post: Is IHG Diamond Status Elite? My Experience Over 10 Stays At 5 Brands), you might think that the parallel InterContinental Ambassador program has become irrelevant, but I think it is now more interesting than ever. In some ways the two programs complement each other. Ambassador status doesn’t offer free breakfast outside of China. IHG Diamond status offers free breakfast for two pretty much everywhere. IHG Diamond status doesn’t guarantee 2PM late check-out. Ambassador status guarantees 4PM late check-out at InterContinental hotels.

Intercontinental Ambassador Elite Status

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts is a single brand within the much larger International Hotel Group (IHG), the latter of which also includes brands such as Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Kimpton, Regent, Six Senses, and more. IHG has a rewards and recognition program that spans all of these brands: IHG One Rewards. Confusingly, while InterContinental hotels are part of the IHG One Rewards program, they are also part of their own elite status program: InterContinental Ambassador. In this post you’ll learn everything you need to know about the Ambassador program.

In my opinion, the Ambassador program offers solid value that can be worth paying for if you make good use of the free weekend night certificate. See this post for a real world example where I got fantastic value from a single trip: The InterContinental Ambassador Experiment. Guaranteed room upgrades and 4pm late checkout can be very valuable under the right circumstances. I also like the fact that the $20 per stay food & beverage credit can be used on award stays. This makes our points and free night certificates just a wee bit more valuable.

How to join Intercontinental Ambassador

The InterContinental Ambassador elite status program has two levels: InterContinental Ambassador and Royal Ambassador. Royal Ambassador is invitation only. InterContinental Ambassador is a pay to play program: pay either $200 or 40,000 IHG points for 12 months of membership. If you pay with points and you have the old IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer available to new applicants), you’ll get 10% of your points back for a net cost of 36,000 IHG points.

You can join InterContinental Ambassador online here (This is an affiliate link by the way. Thank you!). Benefits are available instantly upon joining.

How to renew Intercontinental Ambassador

When you sign up for Intercontinental Ambassador status, benefits are available for 12 months after enrollment. As then end of your 12 months nears, you should receive an email from Ambassador@mc.ihg.com with a subject heading that’s something like this: Renew InterContinental Ambassador for personalised service and additional luxuries.

You’ll generally be given two options for renewing:

  • Pay $200 and get 15,000 IHG One Rewards points
  • Pay 40,000 points.

I think that the $200 option is much better.

Tip: If you try to renew online and if pressing the final Renew Now button doesn’t work, try editing the credit card information (even if you put in the exact same info that was in your account already). That was the only way I could find to get my renewal to process.

Ambassador Benefits

IHG Platinum Elite Status (IHG-wide benefits)

InterContinental Ambassador offers complimentary IHG Platinum status. This status offers the following benefits across all IHG brands:

  • 60% Bonus Points on paid stays
  • Complementary Upgrades (Platinum and Diamond Benefit): Free upgrades can include suites, but hotels aren’t required to offer them.
  • Points or Drink/Snack Welcome Amenity: Choose points or a drink / snack at check-in.
  • Reward Night Discount: It’s not clear to me what exactly this benefit is or if it has been implemented yet in IHG’s program. IHG’s website states “IHG One Rewards Platinum Elite and Diamond Elite Members will receive exclusive access to discounts on Reward Nights at participating hotels.”
  • Guaranteed Room Availability
  • Early Check-In: Based upon availability

IHG Diamond Elite Renewal (No Longer Available)

Renewing Ambassador status used to have the effect of also renewing Diamond status if you happened to already have Diamond status. Sadly, that’s no longer the case.

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts Benefits

Ambassador status offers the following benefits for stays at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts:

  • Free weekend night: Valid on the second night of a paid weekend stay on the Ambassador Weekend Rate (“AMB Certificate”) at InterContinental Hotels (excludes InterContinental Alliance Resorts). The free night is available immediately upon enrollment in the Ambassador program. Only one free night certificate is issued per 12 months. Valid only for the member who has InterContinental Ambassador status. 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. TIP: You can check for free weekend night prices and availability before joining the Ambassador program (click for details).
  • Guaranteed room upgrade: Guaranteed one category room upgrade on paid stays. Upgrades include suites, but exclude lounge access unless you booked a room with lounge access from the beginning. Room upgrades are not guaranteed on award stays.
  • Guaranteed 4PM late checkout
  • $20 food & beverage credit per stay: Can be used at most InterContinental hotel restaurants, bars and minibars. Not applicable to in-room dining (weird).
  • Complimentary mineral water daily
  • Complimentary highest internet access
  • Single room rate for double occupancy
  • In greater China only: Complimentary breakfast for one, each night you stay (Valid in Mainland China only)

InterContinental Alliance Resorts

Ambassador status offers the following benefits for stays at InterContinental Alliance Resorts:

  • Complimentary water will be provided on the day of arrival and will not be replenished daily.
  • Royal Ambassador: Minibar credit will be capped at USD50 per day and USD100 per stay.
  • InterContinental Ambassador one category and Royal Ambassador two category room upgrades are subject to availability.

The following benefits are not applicable when staying at InterContinental Alliance Resorts:

  • Complimentary Weekend Night
  • InterContinental Ambassador Restaurant and Bar credit up to USD20 for Ambassador Platinum members when staying at InterContinental Alliance Resorts, Macao
  • Royal Ambassador Club InterContinental lounge access/alternate experience access
  • Royal Ambassador breakfast for two when staying at The Venetian Resort and Palazzo at The Venetian, Las Vegas

The benefits Guarantee is not applicable at InterContinental Alliance Resorts

Regent Hotels & Resorts Benefits

Ambassador status no longer offers benefits for stays at Regent Hotels & Resorts.

Six Senses Benefits

Ambassador status offers the following benefits for stays at participating Six Senses Hotels & Resorts:

  • Free breakfast for two: Benefit not applicable at Six Senses Residences.
  • Complementary one category room upgrade: Subject to availability (excludes residences and 2 bedroom or greater suites/villas)
  • 4PM late checkout: Subject to availability. Guaranteed for Royal Ambassador & Kimpton Inner Circle members. Benefit always subject to availability for all tiers at Six Senses Residences.
  • Early check-in: Early check-in subject to availability. Guaranteed for Royal Ambassador & Kimpton Inner Circle members and in circumstances where the room is not available at 10 am, the member may be checked into another available room until the original booked room becomes available. Benefit always subject to availability for all tiers at Six Senses Residences.
  • Signature Amenity: Signature Amenity of either a complimentary 50 minute Six Senses Spa massage for two or local experience once per stay. The Signature Amenity varies by resort, is subject to availability and confirmed on arrival. Not applicable with corporate or negotiated rates.
  • Complementary Internet Access
  • Wellness Platter: Wellness Platter welcome amenity on day of arrival. Benefit always subject to availability for all tiers at Six Senses Residences.

Kimpton Benefits

Ambassador status no longer offers benefits at Kimpton hotels.

Benefit Guarantees

IHG backs up Ambassador benefits with cash, credits, or points if they are not able to offer certain benefits during your stay:

a screenshot of a menu

Royal Ambassador benefits

Royal Ambassador is an invitation only program which offers all of the benefits listed above, plus the following at InterContinental Hotels:

  • Guaranteed two category room upgrade
  • Complimentary Club InterContinental lounge access (or free full breakfast for two)
  • Free Night at an IHG Hotel: Good for any hotel that costs up to 70,000 points per night
  • Guaranteed Early check-in of 10 a.m. on day of arrival
  • Minibar credit of $50 per night, up to $200 per stay
  • In-room welcome amenity choice of fruit, sweet or savory snack on day of arrival
  • Waived Amenity or Destination fees
  • Single-room rate for double occupancy
  • Guaranteed room availability for member’s room with 24-hour advance reservation

InterContinental Ambassador FAQ

Do benefits apply to award nights?

Some benefits apply to free nights booked with points or with free night certificates…

Ambassador benefits that apply to award nights:

  • 4PM late checkout
  • $20 food & beverage credit per stay
  • Complimentary mineral water
  • Complimentary internet service

Royal Ambassador benefits that apply to award nights:

  • Guaranteed 10am early check in
  • Guaranteed 4pm late checkout
  • Free in-room amenity
  • Complimentary mineral water
  • Complimentary internet service
  • Waived amenity or destination fees

Do benefits apply to 3rd party bookings?

Yes? This is somewhat surprising and I don’t consider it confirmed, but the terms & conditions specifically say that the Benefit Guarantees do not apply on 3rd party or tour operator bookings. This implies to me that most benefits may be offered, but that there’s no way to enforce it.

The terms specifically call out room upgrades and 4pm late checkout in French Polynesia as benefits that are not guaranteed on 3rd party bookings: “At InterContinental Hotels & Resorts in French Polynesia (InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora, InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, InterContinental Resort & Spa Moorea, and InterContinental Resort Tahiti), upgrades to the next room categories and a 4 p.m. late check-out are not guaranteed for any member that books through a third-party website or Tour Operator.”

The fact that they went out of their way to state that certain benefits are not guaranteed on these bookings in French Polynesia makes me think that they do expect these benefits to be offered elsewhere.

Free weekend night questions

Competitive price?

Not really.

In order to book your free weekend night, it is necessary to apply the Ambassador Weekend Rate to your reservation. If this rate is available, you can book the weekend stay at that rate. The Ambassador Weekend Rate tends to be the same as the hotel’s standard weekend rate before any discounts. For example, you won’t get a sale price, a member discount, or a prepaid rate. That said, sometimes the weekend rate is only slightly higher than other options and so it can offer great value in those cases.

TIP: You can check for free weekend night prices and availability before joining the Ambassador program (click for details).

Always available?

No. You can (and should) check for free weekend night prices and availability before joining the Ambassador program (click for details).

Which nights count as weekend nights?

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.

Except with some hotels in the Middle East, this means that you can search for a two night stay for Friday and Saturday night or Saturday and Sunday night.

Book a suite?

a white background with black text

Yes, you can book a suite at the Ambassador Weekend Rate and get the second night free.

Book with lounge access?

a screenshot of a web page

Yes, you can book a room or a suite that includes club lounge access at the Ambassador Weekend Rate and get the second night free.

Search for free weekend nights before joining Ambassador

  1. With this link, you can check for free weekend night prices and availability before joining the Ambassador program (This is an affiliate link by the way. Thank you!).
  2. Change the Rate Preference drop-down to “Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night”
  3. Make sure to search for two weekend nights (e.g. search for Friday and Saturday night or Saturday and Sunday night)

When you search for a two night weekend stay, you should see results like those shown below. The first two results have available free weekend nights, but you can see that the rest of the results do not because there is a grey bar stating “Rooms are not available for Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night on one or more of the selected dates. View available dates.”

a screenshot of a hotel website

When you click through to one of the hotels that do have free weekend night availability, you can pick from any room description that includes the following text “Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night available.”

Guaranteed Upgrade Questions

Upgrade to lounge access?

Ambassador: No.
Royal Ambassador: Yes.

Regular Ambassador status does not include free upgrades to Club InterContinental lounges. You might think there’s a workaround: book a room 1 level below a room that includes lounge access and then get a free 1 category upgrade. Unfortunately, the Ambassador terms & conditions say that if you get upgraded to a room that usually includes lounge access, you still won’t be given that access.

Royal Ambassadors are usually guaranteed lounge access, but not during the following dates and places:

  • New Year’s Eve, December 31 – Location: Global
  • Chinese New Year, beginning on the 1st day of the lunar year for a 10-day period – Location: Greater China
  • Ramadan, beginning on the 1st day of Ramadan for a 30-day period – Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Upgrades to suite?

Yes.

If you book the top non-suite room, you should be upgraded to a suite. Unfortunately, if that suite normally includes lounge access, you are not guaranteed that lounge access with your upgrade. That said, I expect that some hotels will grant it anyway.

Upgrade to Presidential suite?

Sometimes

If a hotel has an incredible top level suite, can you book the next to top-level in order to get upgraded to the best of the best? In some cases, yes. Unfortunately, many specialty suites are explicitly excluded from the guaranteed upgrade benefit. You can find a full list of exceptions here.

Upgrade exclusions?

In addition to the specialty suite exceptions described above, guaranteed upgrades are also subject to certain blackout periods:

  • New Year’s Eve, December 31 – Location: Global
  • Chinese New Year, beginning on the 1st day of the lunar year for a 10-day period – Location: Greater China
  • Ramadan, beginning on the 1st day of Ramadan for a 30-day period – Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Terms & Conditions?

Full terms and conditions can be found here.

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77 Comments
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Menno

I joined Ambassador in December 2022. In 2023 I stayed twice in the Intercontinental Ljubljana. First time was a regular paid one night stay. I received an upgrade to a better room that included lounge access. Second stay was the free Ambassador night. I received an upgrade to a suite and again with lounge access. Was I just lucky and is Ljubljana not paying attention to the T&C’s? Must say I can’t complain about the value for money of the Ambassador membership.

Another Jeff

Any chance this triggers the current $40 off $200 amex ihg offer? Assuming no

Simon

Can you share the steps how you were able to renew and extend to end of 2024?

Before renewing my Ambassador status, my IHG Diamond status was set to expire 12/31/2023. Immediately after renewing, my IHG account shows that my Diamond status is valid through 12/31/2024.

Simon

Thanks Greg. I’ll keep an eye out for a renewal offer.

Bob

Noticed the ability to rate posts has been removed. Reckon why?

Bob

Yes I do. I believe feedback is always necessary to gauge what your audience thinks about your content.

Last edited 10 months ago by Bob
Bob

Then the remedy is to ask a specific question such as, E.g. Did you find this article helpful and/or useful? Feedback matters. Not a good look to remove this feature imho.

Teri

I’ve read somewhere in the past that there were instances where Diamond was not extended for those who paid cash, as opposed to using points. Has anyone experienced this?

Ann

You mention nothing about Mr. & Mrs Smith hotels. I have two separate stays coming up later this year in Italy. I booked with IHG points, but they offer none of the advantages of the IHG program. I have Ambassador and Diamond for the year, and was hoping to take advantage of both when I booked. Sadly, this seems not to apply. Not even free breakfast! Can you explain please?

AlexL

Mr. & Mrs. Smith and IHG are only partners, so having IHG status will not help you much. In addition, Hyatt bought Mr. & Mrs. Smith about a month ago, so the partnership with IHG will be affected in the future.

Garrett

If I book a 2-night stay from Thursday-Saturday using the Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night rate. Will the Ambassador free night credit work for Friday night?

L.K.

Yes it does. Follow the link and make a dummy booking at your property of interest.

AlexL

How hard is to find a date that free weekend night can be used? I did some random search using the link in the article, and found nothing available. When clicked on available dates on the top right for each hotel, it said nothing available at all. So I am wondering if I did something wrong.

Joseph Giorgianni

My wife is retiring in early January and we have a flight booked to Los Angeles for four nights February 6-10 (cheap through Southwest with Companion Pass). I got the Chase IHG Rewards Premier Business Mastercard for the 140,000 points SUB which I should have shortly. I also got in on the Diamond status through 12/31/22. We planned on staying at an IHG near the airport and renting a car and using points for the stay four nights pay for three. Are there any IHGs that anyone can recommend and would it be worth paying for Ambassador with either points or cash? I also have plenty of Amex, Chase, Hilton and Wyndham points if one of those would be a better option. Thanks!

James

How immediate does the diamond extension show up on your account? I signed up for Ambassador about an hour ago–the ambassador free night cert shows up but it still says my diamond status only goes until the end of 2022.

James

Ah nevermind should have been more patient, it posted now =)

Anthony

did you get the free status this year with the direct to diamond status and then it was extended? I want to make sure before I pay that it will.

Skko

Just (like <10min) got an extension of my Diamond status from straight to Diamomd.

shawn

Will paying for Ambassador extend Diamond status indefinitely if paid every year? For example, next year when I re-enroll for Ambassador will that then extend my Diamond status for yet another year, and so on?

Anthony

If we were just targeted for the direct to diamond promotion and are now diamond until 12/31/2022, will purchasing ambassador status extend diamond through 2023?

Anthony

Thanks, Greg. If you’re sure, I’ll go for it.

Anthony

Would it be better to pay 36k points since I Have the old IHG card, or $200? Would I get 20k points for signing up as well?

Biggie F

If I am reading correctly, answer to second question is “yes” — if you do the two paid nights, right?

If the 0.5 cent points sale is still on, then the answer to the first question is definitely “yes,” too.

Planning to buy points and buy Ambassador status for P2 (who just became — to IHG, and not just to me — a Diamond a few days ago)… so would appreciate corrections / disabusals etc.

Jason

If you only have the temporary diamond status through the year, then you should do this yourself so you have it extended through 2023.

Biggie F

Good advice. Done (for P2). Worked (showing Diamond through end of 2023).

Pam

As you detail above, Greg, an Amb can initially book into a higher grade room, a Premier Suite even, & have IT taken off the 2nd night as well. So even though it might be a more expensive room, at least it’s 2 for 1, it’s locked in, & I don’t have to deal with future upgrades on that res.

There can be a big difference sometimes between the 1st & 2nd night room rates (esp a Fri v a Sat night on weekends) so I tend to look for rates where the program eats a higher 2nd night cost.

I like that Amb offers me some control & discounts with room upgrades. At the IC Monterey, Houston, & KC I purchased the room just below a suite & was guaranteed/offered an upgrade into a suite. Hyatt is the only other program I am aware of that will guarantee me a suite in advance (Globalist SUAs). I have saved thousands on upgrades with my Ambassador status, but if upgrades weren’t important to me I also wouldn’t pay the AF as the other benefits combined are more a break even proposition.

I did have issues with 3 different Kimpton res booked under the program. Each didn’t remove the 2nd night at check-out & I had to deal with those after-the fact.

Thank you for covering the Amb program in detail, Greg. Like Omni Select Guest & Preferred Hotels iPrefer, they are each more under-the-radar programs I’ve received tons of unexpected value.

Pam

Easy for me to forget shopping portals on hotel bookings, thanks for the excellent tip!

Anthony

Which portal do you recommend? Cashbackmonitor is showing that 3% is the best right now for hoopladoopla.

Aly

Top Cashback has the highest Cashback rate consistently from the sites I’ve checked. They range between 6% to 9% usually. And they pay out well too. Not bad!

Ben

“Like Omni Select Guest & Preferred
Hotels iPrefer, they are each more under-the-radar programs I’ve received tons of unexpected value.”

Would love to hear more about these programs.

thomas

I wonder if buying ambassador now will extend my trial IHG diamond elite status that I got couple days ago til next year so I don’t have to go on a mattress run. I guess it’s worth trying with $200.

Marriott Marty

If I have temp Diamond and 2 Kimpton award nights December 30-Jan 1 will the award nights “qualify” for the 20k points for 2 stays by 1/31/23? Or only paid or one Amb night+ free night. If the 2 free nights at Kimpton qualify it would be a no brained for me…I could not find “qualifying night” definition. Appreciate any insight love your info

Anthony

No, it’s not really worth trying if you don’t plan on staying in ICs a few times. I wonder if there is a way you can find out without just paying the 40k or $200

Pam

I signed my husband up a couple years ago for Amb when IHG was also (re)launching a membership drive by offering a free night certificate after two stays (he wasn’t yet an IHG member). We killed 2 birds w 1 stone by staying at an IC to fulfill both the Amb & 1 nt stay of the IHG requirements & ended up with lots of points (35k from Ambassador promo + double points IHG promo also going on) along with 2 free nights.

The Amb program is worth it if going to stay at even 1 IC in a yr but like any hotel program is even more valuable the more you stay. We took the 2 free nights earned above & stayed at another IC & by then he was hooked from being treated well as an Ambassador!