Back in the pre-Leff days of this blog, I wrote a post evaluating whether IHG Ambassador status is worth it. After another year, my final answer is... kind of? It's great for people like me who don't travel enough to get high-level status with another chain. If you have Hyatt Diamond (oh, sorry I meant Hyatt "Exploratoriest"), you get sweet suites and suite sweets (AKA free in-room breakfast), so it wouldn't make sense to pay IHG $200 to get a couple grapes and a free movie. However, if you're me, and the only status you have is the mid-tier stuff you get from co-brand credit cards, Ambassador is a nice way to buy up to an actual elite tier. While the benefits on paper don't map directly to SPG Platinum or Hyatt Globalier (AKA no free breakfast), I have found Ambassador upgrades to be very reliable, much to the contrary of every other hotel chain. As far as upgrades are concerned, SPG Gold at W San Francisco = worthless. Hyatt Platinum at every Hyatt I've ever been to = worthless. Hilton Gold at the Copenhagen Airport Hilton = worthful, but seems to be an anomaly. To recap my Intercontinental stays since I bought Ambassador status: - Intercontinental Monterey: booked standard room, upgraded to one-bedroom suite with view - Intercontinental San Francisco: booked jr. suite and no upgrade to a larger suite was available, so I got free breakfast and lounge access instead. - Intercontinental Austin: booked standard room, upgraded to one-bedroom suite - Intercontinental Times Square: booked standard room on points, no upgrade - Venetian: booked some overly large suite and upgraded to an even overly larger suite on a high floor with a good view. - Intercontinental San Francisco: booked jr. suite, upgraded to one-bedroom suite plus lounge access because they remembered the last time when I didn't get an upgrade and were STILL apologizing for it. - Intercontinental Amstel: booked standard room on points, still got upgraded to a one-bedroom suite.
Nice, right? I only struck out once, which is a pretty good track record. I knew when I renewed my membership this year that I probably wouldn't stay at very many IC's, but I basically paid $150 to gamble that I'd get a nice upgrade when my wife and I went to Amsterdam, and I totally scored. It was a 3-night stay, and I consider it a great deal to essentially pay $50 per night for a one-bedroom suite. Plus all the other benefits (4PM guaranteed checkout, a grape or two, free movie, etc).
Oh yeah, and what about the free weekend night certificate? FUCK THE FREE WEEKEND NIGHT CERTIFICATE. You'll notice that I evaluated Ambassador status as if said certificate didn't exist, because I think it can still be worth it even if you put the certificate into the shredder where it belongs. Am I overreacting? Probably. But here's why I'm mad at IHG and thinking of not renewing next year...
This April, I got an email telling me to renew my membership even though it wouldn't expire until July. I decided to get it over with and renewed for another year, but they sent me my certificate right away. Fine, that's proactive customer service, except that the certificate was dated to expire in May of 2017, two months before my Ambassador status expires. IHG confirmed with me today that I would indeed have to use the certificate by May, and that it's their policy to send it out immediately when you renew. So that stay at the Intercontinental Chicago that I booked in June thinking I'd use the certificate? No dice, just head lice.
I suppose I didn't actually lose out on anything, since I still had a 12-month window in which to use the certificate, but I'm mad that my original plan fell apart and that I likely won't have a chance to use the certificate at all this year. Plus, I'm in a bad mood because of my fucking lipid profile and so I'm taking it out by writing on my blog about how I hate IHG.
Fuck you, IHG!