IHG Rewards (which was Priority Club) and its kin, Ambassador status, gets all too confusing. The reason they turned into two status programs is because they want Ambassador Status to be something that is good only at InterContinental branded hotels and IHG Rewards to be the rewards and points system for all IHG hotels (which includes InterContinental as well as Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites).
Let me take a minute to explain each status, the easy and the hard way to earn each status, and the real perks.
You earn IHG Rewards Points and spend them regardless of what the brand. All the aforementioned hotels fall under the IHG hotel umbrella and are part of this points earning system. (Forget about Ambassador status for a moment). This is no different than any other hotel chain in which you earn and redeem points at any of its properties.
As a basic Club member, (which is what you become after simply signing up) you start out earning 10 points per dollar. After the basic Club member status there are two other tiers in the IHG Rewards program.
How to earn: by staying 15 nights or earning 20,000 IHG Rewards Points.
- Free internet
- Earn 10% more IHG Rewards Points
How to earn: by staying 50 nights or earning 60,000 IHG Rewards Points.
- All Gold Elite benefits
- A 50% bonus from club.
- Elite Rollover Nights
- Complimentary Room Upgrades
- Guaranteed Room Availability
The better way to earn elite status
- As I mentioned in the post, Earning IHG Rewards Points On Steroids, earning status via earned points is easy. 60,000 points can be earned in less than 10 stays/nights for someone real savvy.
- You get Platinum Status for having the credit card.
- You can status match from other loyalty programs easily. If you have Marriott Platinum Status (for free) or another top tier status, then call and do a status match with IHG.
- You get Platinum Status when you upgrade to Ambassador Status free (which we’ll talk about in a minute).
- Fast Track to Platinum Elite is 40 qualifying nights at 4 different brands.
Just to clarify, points earned from bonuses (like credit cards, bought points, transfers, etc…) no longer go toward elite status. However, points earned from stays, even if it’s from promotions, do go towards elite status.
To prove it, I want to show the points I earned from a 1 night stay. Note how it is a “qualifying stay”. Award nights are marked, “non-qualifying stay”.
Perhaps, you should read that post on earning IHG Rewards points. And that was before the big win promotion.
My first thought is to tell you how worthless Platinum status is. It can be had so easily and none of the benefits are that great. It can’t remotely compare to other hotel chains’ top tier statuses.
I have gotten upgrades because of it. Got a big old suite at the Holiday Inn Chiang Mai and the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport. But even at Crowne Plaza hotels, it doesn’t do much. Generally they give a view or something, but not always. Finally, it basically does nothing at InterContinental hotels other than a “Thank you for being a Platinum elite”.
InterContinental Ambassador Status
Something unique to InterContinental is that they have a status that is only good for one brand: InterContinental Hotels. It’s by far their nicest hotel brand; it’s their Ritz Carlton (except usually not as nice), and there are relatively few hotels across the world.
Another odd thing is that you buy Ambassador status. I think it’s $200 now or 32,000 points. And it’s slightly cheaper to renew.
- Water! Not a joke
- Fruit upon arrival – the most expensive apple you’ve ever had.
- Guaranteed room upgrade – usually one category only
- In-room gift
- 4 pm check out
- “A free weekend night” – it’s a bogo certificate, so if you buy a saturday you get a sunday free for example.
- 5,000 points
- and IHG Platinum status
If my bias isn’t showing, I don’t think this is a worth while status for most people. It only works at the InterContinental brand and it mostly gives you things with very little value. Then again that’s speculative for upgrades. Well… actually it isn’t.
The fruit could put someone out a dollar, the water a dollar (unless you got it from the hotel minibar), etc… But the real benefit for most people is the upgrade, which has a value that can be measured.
Most room upgrades from the cheapest room are like $10 more and tend to be a room that looks similar but has a different name. Sure, if you got 20 upgrades you’d make back your $200… But I wouldn’t have spent $200 to guarantee a superior room instead of a classic room. I just wouldn’t.
However, you can easily tell the value by looking at the room prices for your desired hotel. For example lets look at a popular hotel, the InterContinental Paris Le Grande. For the weekend dates I’m looking at, the lowest cash rate for a basic classic room is €311, while the superior room is €336. In this case you are actually saving €25. Which is like $33. So you’re getting more for your money. Right?
But would you have spent the money for a “superior” room?
However the room difference at the IC Bora Bora for one upgrade from basic (what you get with points) is over $100 a night. Actually, the big difference is that the upgrade is to an overwater bungalow! So if you stay 5 nights, you could save serious money if you would have preferred an over water bungalow.
At that point, the other perks would be icing on the cake.
For those of you who do pay cash, one way to use this guaranteed upgrade is to book the room under the room you want. Or if there is a big different in normal rooms and suites, book the room 1 under the suite.
However, two disheartening things about this status are:
1) It does absolutely nothing at 4,500 chains.
2) If it was empty, you probably would have gotten the same room as a platinum member.
That being said, the nicest IC hotels don’t really seem to be empty.
InterContinental Royal Ambassador Status
This is the invite only status. It’s said that only the top 1% of members get invited to be Royal Ambassadors. Others guess you need 60+ nights and multiple IC stays. Although the truth is, it’s inconsistent, unpublished and no one truly knows.
If you are chosen by IHG, you get to invite another person to be a Royal Ambassador too. These referral certificates sometimes go for $700 – $800 on ebay. O_o
The extra benefits would include:
- Free Minibar – technically it’s for drinks only, but some hotels give free access to everything.
- 8 am check-in
- “An upgrade to an Executive room, Club InterContinental room or a Suite for Royal Ambassadors at check-in is guaranteed. “
Before you get too excited, let me break down the benefits.
- Notice that “executive room” is included in the upgrades guaranteed. That’s just a room with a fancier name as far as I’m concerned.
- They never give club rooms.
- No benefits on award stays. The only loyalty status to make this stipulation.
And before you get too excited about the free minibar. Please think for one second. IHG is the only top tier status to not guarantee the access to Club Lounge (or give breakfast). So yes, you’ll be sipping juice alone in your executive room, because you are not going to the club lounge to enjoy evening hors d’oeuvres and champagne.
It’s true but I don’t want to go on a long rant about that… today. Soon.
Platinum status, you’ll get it quickly if you want. Is it comparable to other programs’ top tier statuses? Not even close. It’s almost a joke. With other programs you get breakfast, lounge access, guaranteed suite upgrades (with hyatt and spg), etc… With IHG Platinum, you don’t get much. But again, it’s free.
Ambassador status is worth it perhaps for die hard IC stayers (in which case you might as well get RA/ probably will get it). Or, it’s good for a specific room – like the overwater bungalow upgrade in Bora Bora.
Royal Ambassador is a bit of a joke now. That being said it is the top tier status for IC hotels. And IHG does have a lot of good things about their program. Mainly earning points and spending them on sales like PointBreaks. Their points system is awesome. Their Royal Ambassador status needs a serious looking at.
If you are choosing a status to go for simply for benefits and not based on points earning, consider that every other hotel status comes with lounge access, breakfast and gives benefits on award stays. IC does not. Also consider that it is an unpublished status, so you may try really hard to earn it and then end up not getting it. So… don’t waste your time, imo.
In short, IHG and IC are about free nights. Earning points and spending them. It is not about the perks of status. However, I won’t lie, it is nice to have some sort of status when you spend a lot of time at a hotel. It just isn’t comparable to any other top tier status. Not even close.