Mid- to high-tier hotel elite status comes with many great perks, but it usually takes a lot of nights to achieve.
The InterContinental Ambassador program — informally called IHG Ambassador by some members — is a bit different, though. This program lets you buy status in the IHG One Rewards program without meeting any stay requirements.
If you’re looking for perks at InterContinental and participating Six Senses hotels and resorts, you may find value in the InterContinental Ambassador program. In this guide, I’ll describe the program and help you decide whether to join.
Related: The 19 best IHG hotels in the world
What is the InterContinental Ambassador program?
As the name suggests, the InterContinental Ambassador program provides perks when staying at InterContinental hotels and resorts. You also receive benefits at Six Senses hotels and resorts that participate in IHG One Rewards.
The InterContinental Ambassador program doesn’t provide Ambassador benefits when staying at other IHG brands. Instead, you’ll get IHG Platinum Elite status. If you’re purely interested in IHG status, you may be better off signing up for the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card or the IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, both of which come with automatic Platinum Elite status.
Related: What is IHG One Rewards elite status worth?
How do I become an InterContinental Ambassador?
To be an InterContinental Ambassador, you must pay an annual fee of $200 or 40,000 IHG One Rewards points. Based on TPG’s valuations, 40,000 IHG points are worth $200, so using points could be worthwhile.
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 property or by calling the IHG Ambassador Service Centre.
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IHG occasionally offers promotions for the InterContinental Ambassador program, so it’s worth watching for new member and renewal offers. For example, IHG sent me an offer by email for 15,000 bonus points when I renew for $200, as my Ambassador membership was about to lapse on April 1, 2023. I renewed my Ambassador membership in late March and IHG immediately deposited the 15,000 points into my account.
Related: I stayed at the InterContinental New York Times Square as a Platinum Ambassador: Here’s what it was like
InterContinental Ambassador benefits
InterContinental Ambassadors get the following benefits when staying at InterContinental hotels and resorts:
- Guaranteed one-category room upgrade. However, you aren’t entitled to an additional upgrade if you apply a confirmable suite upgrade milestone reward to your stay. You aren’t guaranteed an update on reward nights and free nights, and this benefit excludes lounge access and some suite types.
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout.
- One complimentary weekend night on the second night of a paid stay when booking the Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night rate at InterContinental hotels and resorts. You must book online, and the Ambassador member must stay in the room. Most hotels define the weekend as Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, but hotels in the Middle East may define the weekend as Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
- Upgrade to IHG One Rewards 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 either a predetermined amount or a credit based on the day’s exchange rate (depending on the property’s location). This benefit isn’t offered in mainland China, where you get a full breakfast every day in the main restaurant.
- Daily mineral water.
- Premium internet in guest rooms (when available for purchase).
- No extra charge for a second guest.
Ambassador benefits at InterContinental Alliance Resorts
At InterContinental Alliance Resorts, Ambassadors only get access to the following benefits:
- Complimentary water upon arrival (not replenished daily).
- One category room upgrade, subject to availability.
Ambassador benefits at Six Senses
At Six Senses properties that participate in IHG One Rewards, InterContinental Ambassadors get the following perks:
- Complimentary breakfast for two each morning in the main restaurant.
- A signature amenity once per stay consisting of a complimentary 50-minute Six Senses Spa massage for two or a local experience. You won’t get this amenity if you book a corporate or negotiated rate.
- Complimentary one-category room upgrade, subject to availability (excluding residences and two-bedroom or larger suites and villas).
- 4 p.m. late checkout, subject to availability.
- Early check-in, subject to availability.
- Complimentary internet access.
- Wellness platter on your arrival day.
These perks — especially the choice of a 50-minute Six Senses Spa massage for two as a signature amenity — are extremely valuable and may help you justify buying a membership even if you only have one Six Senses stay during your membership year.
You’ll only get these perks at participating Six Senses properties when you book directly with IHG, at the hotel or through an authorized travel agent (which excludes most online travel agents).
Related: No shoes, great service: A review of IHG’s Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives
Ambassador benefits at Mr & Mrs Smith
At Mr & Mrs Smith properties that participate in IHG One Rewards, InterContinental Ambassadors get the following perks:
- A Smith Extra (an additional gift or service) once per room, per stay.
- Complimentary room upgrade (subject to availability) at participating properties.
You’ll only get these perks when you book directly with IHG.
Related: One of my favorite hotels in Europe: A review of the Mr & Mrs Smith Kvosin Hotel in Reykjavik
When are you eligible for Ambassador benefits?
Although you usually need to book directly with IHG to receive IHG One Rewards elite benefits, this isn’t always the case for Ambassador benefits. IHG only excludes select rates, such as airline crew and employee discounts.
However, there are several notable exceptions:
- InterContinental hotels and resorts in French Polynesia booked through third-party websites or tour operators don’t qualify for guaranteed upgrades or late checkout.
- You must book directly with IHG (authorized travel agents are also allowable for Six Senses stays) to get extra perks as an InterContinential Ambassador at participating Six Senses and Mr & Mrs Smith properties.
- You won’t get Ambassador benefits at IHG Residence properties.
Related: What to do when a hotel doesn’t want to honor your elite benefits
InterContinental Ambassadors are guaranteed select benefits. You may be eligible for compensation as follows if a hotel is unable to fulfill select perks:
- Room upgrade: A restaurant, bar or spa credit of $50 or 10,000 IHG points. You won’t get any compensation 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:
- New Year’s Eve.
- Chinese New Year in Greater China.
- Ramadan and Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
You won’t get access to the IHG Ambassador benefits guarantee if you book through a third-party website, tour operator, wholesaler or as part of a group block or reservation.
Related: How to maximize redemptions with the IHG One Rewards program
The InterContinental Ambassador program offers two types of membership extensions. Members can use each extension type no more than once per lifetime. Keep in mind that you can’t use both extensions during the same membership year.
You can ask for a two-month extension if you:
- Have an active membership.
- Have not used a two-month extension in the past.
You can ask for a six-month extension if you’ve:
- Maintained an active membership for more than a year.
- Have not previously used a six-month extension.
However, these once-in-a-lifetime extensions won’t apply to your complimentary weekend night certificates.
Related: What credit card should you use for IHG stays?
Is InterContinental Ambassador worth it?
Should you enroll in the InterContinental Ambassador program? Not surprisingly, the answer depends on your travel habits. For most travelers, it comes down to the weekend night benefit.
Ambassador weekend night benefit
You should enroll if you think you’ll use the Ambassador weekend night benefit. However, you do have to book using a specific rate, which usually isn’t the least expensive. You can check rates here before becoming an Ambassador member.
Suppose you don’t utilize the weekend night benefit. In that case, membership usually won’t make sense unless you frequently stay at InterContinental hotels or have one or more Six Senses stay during your membership year.
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 helpful but are challenging to value. On the other hand, the restaurants and bars credit for InterContinental stays outside mainland China provides a set value for each stay.
You’ll also get IHG One Rewards Platinum Elite status. You already have this status if you have the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card or the IHG® Rewards Premier Business Credit Card. However, if you cannot get one of these cards, getting Platinum Elite status through Ambassador membership could be a deciding factor.
Related: Why you should get (and keep) the IHG Rewards Premier card
What is InterContinental Royal Ambassador?
Royal Ambassador is an invite-only status that IHG offers to select Ambassador members. IHG selects members based on their qualifying activity at InterContinental hotels and resorts, though the specific qualification criteria aren’t shared publicly.
Royal Ambassador benefits
Royal Ambassadors get the following benefits when staying at InterContinental hotels and resorts:
- Guaranteed two-category room upgrade. However, you will receive a one-category upgrade if you book a suite (and this benefit excludes some suite types). Plus, this benefit is not guaranteed and is subject to availability on free and reward nights. Finally, you aren’t entitled to an additional upgrade if you apply a confirmable suite upgrade milestone reward to your stay.
- Lounge access at hotels with a dedicated Club InterContinental lounge for the member and a guest staying in the member’s room. If the hotel does not operate a dedicated Club InterContinental lounge, the member and one guest will get a full breakfast in the main restaurant each day (note: choosing breakfast as a Diamond Elite welcome amenity will not get you more than two breakfasts per day). This benefit is not guaranteed at hotels without a dedicated lounge.
- Guaranteed early check-in of 10 a.m.
- Guaranteed late checkout of 4 p.m.
- One complimentary weekend night on the second night of a paid stay when booking the Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night rate at InterContinental hotels and resorts.
- Minibar food and beverage credit of $50 per night (200 yuan per night in mainland China), up to a maximum of $200 per stay (800 yuan per stay in mainland China).
- In-room welcome amenity on your day of arrival.
- Daily mineral water.
- Premium internet in guest rooms (when available).
- Waived amenity or destination fees (excluding taxes and resort fees).
- No extra charge for a second guest.
- Guaranteed room availability with 24-hour notice.
Royal Ambassador members also get Kimpton Inner Circle status and one free night at an IHG hotel (excluding IHG Army Hotels and Six Senses properties) bookable for 70,000 IHG points or less.
Related: 7 ways to earn more IHG One Rewards points for your next redemption
InterContinental Ambassador status is a must-have for some travelers. If you can get good value from the complimentary weekend night benefit, it may be worth enrolling even if you don’t frequently stay at InterContinental hotels and resorts.