Thursday, August 23, 2012

Intercontinental Ambassador Status-Worth The Fee?

News recently broke that the Intercontinental Hotel chain would be raising the price of their Ambassador Elite Status from $150 to $200 per year.  This bears discussion, as Intercontinental is the rare hotel chain that allows you to purchase elite status directly without having stayed at a single property.

Ambassador status comes with a host of benefits, including a one-level room upgrade, 4:00 p.m. late check out, complimentary mineral water and fresh fruit upon arrival, and one free PPV movie per stay.

I actually purchased Ambassador status back in March.  Do I plan on staying at a bunch of Intercontinentals this year?  Absolutely not!  I took the plunge for two reasons.  The first is that Ms. CCT & I will be staying at the Intercontinental Bali during a trip later this year.  I used points to book the trip, but also emailed the hotel and asked for an upgrade to an even better room.  We negotiated a fair price, and I am hedging that my Ambassador status will give us ANOTHER upgrade, essentially a two room category bump.  Is it risky?  Of course, but the other benefits should make the trip enjoyable, so I won't freak out if we don't get the double dip room upgrade.

The Incredible Intercontinental Bali
A second reason for the Ambassador status purchase is the complimentary weekend night certificate you receive upon enrollment and renewal.  Don't go crazy and assume this means you can just book a night at the ultra-luxurious properties and expect it to be free.  There is always a catch: you must purchase a second weekend night along with the certificate. Essentially, this is a "buy one, get one free" offer.

We have heard great things about both the Intercontinental Times Square and Intercontinental Barclay, and we love visiting New York City at Christmas time.  This BOGO certificate should ease the sting out of the normally exorbitant New York hotel prices.

The BOGO certificate eases the pain of NYC hotel prices at Christmas
As you can see from the picture above, we found the IC Times Square sister property, the IC Barclay, at a "reasonable" $379/night on an early December weekend.  By applying the certificate to the reservation, our average per night comes to a more affordable $190/night, which is great by New York standards.  We can even think of it as "saving" $190, which offsets the annual fee.

With two big trips on the forecast (Bali and New York City), we thought Ambassador status was more than worth the $150 annual fee.  Next year, though, you can bet that we will reevaluate its value.  Finding $200 worth of "value" out of Ambassador status will be very difficult in 2013, as my travels rarely take me to their properties.

What do you guys think?  Any feelings on the cost vs. benefits or the annual fee increase?  Let me know if you have any questions.

-Charm City Traveler

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