Does It Make Sense To Currently Renew Or Purchase IHG Intercontinental Ambassador Membership?

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IHG Rewards Club’s Intercontinental Ambassador is a premium program extension that comes with a $200 annual fee but is it really worthwhile at the moment to pay for such a membership?

Last year IHG launched a sweetener campaign in July that offered members who sign up or renew the Ambassador-membership a free night certificate that was extended until December 31, 2020 – these incentives are no longer there.

The purchase and renewal options shifted back and forth many times in recent years with members reporting different offers they were able to select in order to renew Ambassador.

You can access and sign up or renew InterContinental Ambassador here.

Last year IHG has extended members Ambassador memberships for six months under their Covid-19 extension policy but these extensions will soon come to their end and members have to decide if it’s worth it to shell out a $200 fee just to keep the membership going.

In the past members have been able to renew their Ambassador status for years by choosing one of the options that have changed few times. The previous option to renew for $150 in cash has now been withdrawn, as was the premium membership option with 10% award rebate that has been unavailable since early Spring of 2020.

Likewise expired has also the promotion that members receive a free night for purchasing or renewing their membership that was available until December 31, 2020. Since then no new incentive has been introduced.

I had a look what is currently on offer as my membership expires in less than three months time as well and these are the options IHG is offering me right now:

So all that’s left at this point is:

  • Annual fee of $200 in cash + 15,000 Points as one time deposit
  • 40,000 points in lieu of a cash payment deducted from the member account (no points kickback)

The 15,000 points one receives as a kickback when using the cash option are worth ~ $80.

This is a hard choice, either option if fine with me as I could just as well use 40k points but don’t see the point of doing that as I frequently stay at the Intercontinental Seoul where a night currently costs 40k as well. I rather use my balance for award stays there.

As we’ve received the question of what members are supposed to do right now many times during the past year I can only say that I’m not going to renew my own membership under these circumstances.

I will wait until my travel makes it essential to be Ambassador beyond May 2021 and if this means letting the membership lapse a few months in between then so be it. The only advantage at hotels is when staying at Intercontinental properties, for the remaining brands it makes absolutely no difference if you’re Ambassador or a regular Platinum/Spire member.

Main benefits for Ambassadors aside from IC stay benefits are:

  • Instant Platinum Status with IHG Rewards Club
  • Access the the ambassador service via email to resolve IHG Club/Reservation related issues
  • Buy One Get One (Second Night Free) Voucher for a weekend stay at Intercontinental/Kimpton

Purchasing the Ambassador membership extension of IHG Rewards Club has always been a no brainer for me especially since the f&b credit was introduced. The weekend voucher which (depending on the property) is sometimes also valid for Club Rooms and Suites has always more than paid for the annual fee.

The benefits are very fair considering you don’t even need to spend any nights at IHG hotels and can get Platinum outright.

However: This creates a real loyalty problem for the chain as it leads to frustrated members who do spend time and money at IHG hotels but don’t get any preferential treatment over a one off guest who just paid for Ambassador. IHG Rewards Club lacks benefits other competitors do provide to their top tier members such as Free Breakfast, Club lounge access, Space available & guaranteed suite upgrades as well as guaranteed 4 PM late check-outs.

While I’m a big fan of the Ambassador Program as it stands given that it’s pretty much cost neutral for me I don’t see any reason whatsoever to build a loyalty strategy on IHG given their lack of recognition for high volume revenue based stays.

Conclusion

The last time I’ve renewed my membership I selected the option with the 10% Award rebate at the same $200 price. Now the 10% rebate is gone and the price is still $200, the $150 cash renewal is gone too.

If your membership is due to be renewed now but you don’t have any upcoming IHG travel then it doesn’t make any sense to renew or even purchase Ambassador at the moment. I’d leave it alone until I either have a stay at Intercontinental coming up or there is another incentive officer such as the free night which expired in December of last year.

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