IHG Ambassador membership – renew with cash or points?

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Every year at this time, I have to make a decision on renewing my IHG Ambassador membership. Well, actually two decisions. The first decision is whether or not I should renew, and secondly if I should use the cash or points options in order to renew.

In this post, I will outline my thoughts about the value of the program, and which renewal option was best for me this year.

The Ambassador Program

Benefits

The IHG’Ambassador program is a paid membership level of the IHG rewards Club. While it works within the IHG Rewards Club, it offers benefits that are only useable at Intercontinental Hotels. The benefits on offer include:

  • a complimentary weekend night certificate following a paid weekend night,
  • which offers guaranteed room upgrades at InterContinental hotels
  • a luggage tag each year upon renewal.
  • 5,000 or 10,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points on renewal
  • Gold level in IHG Rewards, if you are below Gold
  • One in room movie during each stay
  • Fresh fruit on arrival
  • Welcome Amenity

When first joining, the price is USD200 or 32,000 points. As described below, the cost for a renewal is lower, and offers a choice between cash and points.

Weekend Night Certificate

Realistically, it is the complimentary weekend night certificate that can make this program worthwhile. For example, this year I used the certificate at the Intercontinental Singapore, which saved me close to $400. For next year, I have been looking at stays in Tokyo – and there is a potential saving there for over $500. Just on the complimentary certificate alone, I felt renewal of the membeship was justified.

Upgrades

So you can see, that the membership can pay for itself, just with the complimentary weeknight certificate. The other features are really just icing on the cake.

The one level upgrade is probably the best of the additional benefits. In particular, I have generally got an upgrade to a decent room. Club Access has generally been offered if you have booked the highest non-club room you can find.

Having said that, recent changes to the terms of the program have exlicitly stated that access to the lounge is not a feature of the Ambassador program. On the plus side, I have still managed to gain access at the hotels that have previously offered it.

On top of that, this year I was being offered 5,000 points to renew Ambassador, as part of the Accelerate promotion. So, renewal was going to allow me to complete one of my tasks.

Renewal Options

When it is time to renew, IHG offer a number of options. The options vary in the number of dollars or points that you pay, and what you get in return.

The options made to me this year were:

Renewal Options Pay Receive in kit
1 150 USD 10,000 Points
2 200 USD 15,000 Points + 10% Rebate on Reward Nights
3 24,000 Points 5,000 Points (officially)

I was readily able to scratch out option 2. For the extra $50 required, there was an additional 5,000 points on offer, and a rebate of 10% on Reward Nights. I typically don’t use enough reward nights in a year to make this worthwhile.

So, it came down to a choice between Option 1 and Option 3. Given that over the course of the year, I had earned over 100,000 points, I was leaning toward the third option. In any case, there are ways and means of purchasing 24,000 points for around the USD150 mark.

It was this ability to gain points by other means that pushed me twoards choosing Option 3. For me, and my circumstances, it seemed the best option.

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About Author

Mark is the founder of FlyStayPoints, and caught the travel bug early in life. He discovered the benefits of travel loyalty programs in 2001, and is always learning how they can make travel better. While work takes him between Perth and Melbourne, he is always plotting his next adventure.