I know I am kind of late in writing this as the IHG Ambassador Programme and its upcoming changes has been extensively written by many. I am going to write about it from my perspective as someone who doesn’t travel extensively and if this programme is useful for someone like me.
I was never a fan of hotel status, mainly due to my preference for 3rd party website with earning of 6 miles per dollar (read Expedia with DBS and Citibank) and to me then every mile counts! Just like with airlines, I know my travel frequency is not going to be adequate for me to earn any status (which is still true). Then it got me thinking, what if there is a shortcut? There are of course credit cards that offer fast track status such as SPG Gold with World Mastercard (which is no longer available), HHonours Gold with Visa Infinite and the best of course is the Amex Platinum Charge Card which comes with a slew of hotel status but at a price of $1712 annual fee!). Unlike in USA where there are many hotel co-brand credit cards that gives you immediate status, we have none of that in Singapore.
I started reading about the Ambassador Programme back in 2016 but it wasn’t until 2017 that I finally signed up for it (USD $200 is still a big sum for me). With some recent changes, the Ambassador Programme will be going through some changes soon (possibly 1 March 2019). So what will you (soon) get with USD $200?
- IHG Platinum Status (previously IHG Gold) – this will get you 50% bonus points (instead of 10% for Gold) and this will also give you a double room upgrade in other IHG properties as well!
- Ambassador Weekend Night Certificate – this has got to be the most valuable benefit of the programme! Used wisely, the savings you get with this certificate is worth more than the $200 you pay. One example will be my stay in London Intercontinental back in 2018 and my upcoming stay in New York Intercontinental Baclay. You will get one certificate in a year (every time you renew your subscription). Do note that this can be used ONLY at Intercontinental Hotels and even then NOT ALL properties will accept it. One can book it here and it will show if there is any Weekend Certificate rate available. I actually tried to use this certificate in Shanghai’s new Wonderland Intercontinental Hotel or Osaka’s ANA Intercontinental Hotel but neither hotel accepts it. One will have to pay the higher refundable rate with this certificate BUT it gives you the flexibility of cancelling it should you change your mind. The certificate used to be delivered using snail mail (which takes a long time) but going forward it will be e-certificate.
- Guaranteed early check in and late check out – Ambassador programme guarantees early check in at 10am and late check out at 4pm (on top of the Guaranteed room upgrade) which can come in very useful for flights arriving early or late flights out. Something new added will be the compensation of 10,000 points or USD 50 if one doesn’t get these benefits.
- Complimentary Fruit Platter (only in Greater China)
- $20 F&B Credit (that can be used for minibar) – can be used only outside China
- 1 Complimentary breakfast (only in Greater China)
- 15,000 IHG points on renewal (with renewal fee of USD $200) – previously, 5000 points were also given on joining the programme (which has since been removed).
- 10% points rebate for Reward Night
What is missing from this? that’s right – Ambassador programme DOES NOT include complimentary Club Intercontinental access (I got to admit I am a sucker for Club Lounges).
Just like any loyalty programme, holding the IHG status (if you don’t have status with other chains) will likely restrict your hotel choices to just those under the IHG umbrella (to better utilise your tiered benefits). However, there is no stopping you from using this Gold (and later Platinum) status to go for status challenge like the HHonours Gold & Diamond status challenge.
Although I no longer earn 6 miles per dollar with the Expedia promo (only left with DBS), I do enjoy some additional benefits with this card. Most beneficial is the Weekend Night certificate which I use as a short break with my wife. I still do use Expedia occasionally but not as often as I used to. My membership will end by July and I will most likely renew my membership going forward.
Bonus – one can double dip into utilising Citi Prestige Hotel Night (for the 4th night free) and using IHG member benefits simultaneously! (which I am doing for my upcoming stay in Osaka Holiday Inn Namba).
IHG have bonus points sale 2 to 3 times throughout the year (where one can get up to 100% bonus!) and Point Breaks! where Reward Night can go as low as 5000 points per night.