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IHG Ambassador status is a niche elite status tier that many travelers have never heard of. And unlike many other hotel loyalty programs, this status tier cannot be attained by staying at an InterContinental hotel a zillion nights a year, or by spending gobs of money on an IHG-branded credit card. This status tier is unique because it's something you pay for. Think of it as a membership program where you pay money upfront in exchange for VIP treatment down the road.
InterContinental Ambassador membership costs $200 for a 12-month membership. Or, if you're an IHG Rewards Club member, you can purchase membership for 40,000 points. With it comes benefits ranging from small conveniences like complimentary mineral water to potential money-making freebies like free weekend night certificates.
IHG Rewards Club is unique in that you can reach status for a price (yes, you get automatic IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status when you become an InterContinental Ambassador). So is IHG Ambassador status worth it? Here's what you need to know:
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
What does IHG Ambassador status include?
Benefits at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
Among the best benefits of IHG Ambassador status is a complimentary weekend night certificate. The complimentary weekend night is valid on the second night of a minimum two-night paid weekend stay, based on the Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night Rate at most InterContinental Hotels & Resorts properties worldwide. In most parts of the world, weekend nights are considered Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night.
That free weekend night can be worth it right there. If you were already planning on staying at an InterContinental Hotel on a weekend — and that hotel room would otherwise exceed $200 — then joining the InterContinental Ambassador program is a money-maker right there.
Other benefits of the InterContinental Ambassador program include:
Guaranteed one category room upgrade.
Automatic IHG Platinum Elite status.
Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout.
Complimentary mineral water and internet.
Single room rate for double occupancy.
In China, Ambassador members get additional benefits that sweeten the deal. For stays within Mainland China hotels, you'll get complimentary breakfast for one person each night that you stay. Greater China (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) properties include a welcome fruit platter.
These benefits are exclusive to stays at InterContinental hotels, so they do not apply for reservations at other IHG brands. Though, through Dec. 31, 2021, Ambassador benefits also apply to participating Regent Hotels & Resorts.
Free weekend night extended to Kimpton and Regent
In 2020, IHG extended the complimentary weekend night so that it could be redeemed at Kimpton and Regent properties as well. Plus, the free weekend night is actually more flexible at these other brands because at Kimpton and Regent, you are not restricted just to the weekends.
How to use your IHG Ambassador Complimentary Weekend Night certificate
Your complimentary weekend night is valid for 12 months from the date of issue (and it's issued immediately upon enrollment in the program through an automatic deposited in the member’s account). That means you could theoretically use it almost immediately upon joining, though advance reservations are required. Additionally, if you join the Ambassador program upon check-in at a hotel, you cannot redeem the Weekend Night for that current stay. Thus, it's best to join just before booking your hotel trip.
When you book your Ambassador free night, don't be alarmed if the full price is listed on your reservation. The second night will be manually adjusted and credited to your bill so that you're not charged for it.
» Learn more: Your guide to booking award nights with IHG Hotels
Benefits at Six Senses
IHG Ambassador status is especially valuable at Six Senses, a small chain of luxury five star hotels, resorts and spas that was acquired by IHG in 2019. As an IHG Ambassador, Royal Ambassador or Kimpton Inner Circle member, you'll receive the following benefits at Six Senses:
Complimentary breakfast for two in the main restaurant each day.
A signature amenity of either a complimentary 50-minute Six Senses Spa massage for two or a local experience once per stay.
Complimentary one category room upgrade (subject to availability).
Extended check-out of 4 p.m. (subject to availability).
Early check-in of 10 a.m. (subject to availability).
Stay at the Six Senses Yao Noi in Thailand as an IHG Ambassador and you'll be treated to complimentary breakfast, a complimentary massage, a space-available room upgrade and extended check-in and check-out — so you can savor in this view for even longer. Image courtesy of Six Senses.
IHG Ambassador benefits at all the other IHG brands
The best benefits of IHG Ambassador status manifest at InterContinental and Six Senses hotels (e.g., that free night certificate typically is only valid at InterContinental hotels). Still, a few benefits of the membership program extend to the other IHG brands. Because Ambassador members receive complimentary IHG Platinum Elite status, here are the other benefits you can expect to receive at other IHG properties:
Complimentary room upgrades.
Guaranteed room availability.
Extended checkout, when available.
Elite rollover nights.
50% bonus earnings on top of base points.
How to get IHG Ambassador status
Unlike most other hotel loyalty programs, IHG Ambassador status is not earned by points, hotel nights stayed or how much you spend on the hotel's credit card. Here's how to get Ambassador Status in IHG.
IHG Rewards Club members can buy Ambassador status by paying $200 or redeeming 40,000 IHG points per year. You can purchase it online on the IHG Ambassador page or at any IHG hotel property, and your membership is good for 12 months from the date you sign up. That said, NerdWallet values 40,000 IHG points at $360, so it might be wiser to pay $200 cash to join the IHG Ambassador, and then save your points to book rooms.
Use credit card perks, maybe
Some data points suggest that the $200 fee codes as travel, so you may be able to use your credit card's travel credits to cover the fee. Otherwise, you can earn 10x points per dollar when you use the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. Yes, that means when you pay with that card, and you'd earn 2,000 points off that purchase. NerdWallet values 2,000 IHG points at $18, so — with some mental gymnastics — think of it as more like $182 when you pay with that card.
» Learn more: Your complete guide to earning IHG Rewards points
Exclusive invitation: IHG Royal Ambassador Status
We said you have to pay for IHG Ambassador status. Ambassador status doesn't care how many nights you've stayed at, or how much money you've spent with IHG. However, there is a higher tier of IHG royalty, and it's appropriately called IHG Royal Ambassador Status. This level of status is by invitation only, and it's not even clear what you need to do it. Invitations to the IHG Royal Ambassador program are determined based on an undisclosed formula that factors in qualified activities at Kimpton, InterContinental, Regent and participating Six Senses locations.
IHG Royal Ambassador status is based on a calendar year and includes the following benefits:
Guaranteed two category room upgrade.
Free night at any IHG property up to 70,000 points.
Guaranteed 4 p.m. check-out and 10 a.m. check-in.
Club InterContinental lounge access.
Complimentary weekend night.
Automatic IHG Spire Elite status.
Complimentary minibar up to $50 per day.
Choice of snack or fruit.
24-hour room guarantee.
Waived destination and amenity fees.
Single room rate for double occupancy.
Invitation to Kimpton Inner Circle.
Benefits of IHG Royal Ambassador status are only available at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. However, the benefits you receive as part of your automatic IHG Spire Elite will apply to your stays at all other IHG brand properties. Through Dec. 31, 2021, IHG Ambassador benefits are also available at participating Regent Hotels & Resorts.
» Learn more: Your guide to IHG elite status
The bottom line
Is IHG Ambassador status worth it? In most cases, yes. Especially if you frequent InterContinental Hotels & Resorts or Six Senses, IHG Ambassador status. generally pays for itself thanks to the exclusive perks when staying at InterContinental hotels, plus automatic IHG Platinum Elite to receive benefits at other IHG brands.
Although Ambassador status costs $200 or 40,000 points per year, the benefits outweigh the cost. Simply redeeming the complimentary weekend night should cover that upfront investment, and that's even before factoring in other perks like room upgrades, $20 in dining credits per stay and guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out.
For IHG members who don't typically stay at InterContinental properties but do stay at other IHG properties, you might skip the $200 fee for membership. Instead, you can receive the same Platinum Elite status automatically by having the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. Between the annual free night and annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $89, it's likely the better deal for you.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card