Intercontinental Times Square — a Great Points Redemption Property for Elites

One of my biggest points frustrations is Priority Club.

The Intercontinental Royal Ambassador program is one of the most rewarding elite levels there is. I’ve had some of my very best upgrades as a result of that program — a ‘house’ with backyard facing a mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona; a Diplomatic Suite in Bangkok; Ambassador Suite in Singapore; Presidential Suite in Manila to name a few.

The terms and conditions of the program, though, say that most elite benefits (such as guaranteed 8am checkin, upgrades, and free drinks from the minibar) do not apply to points stays.

Priority Club is the only hotel chain where the benefits of status do not apply when you’re claiming the rewards for your stays. Reward nights are supposed to be more than a rebate, mind you, they are a thank you for loyalty. And the thank you for an Intercontinental elite member is to receive worse treatment than when staying on paid rates.

Which is why I have a love-hate relationship with Priority Club points. The program itself can be quite lucrative, there are tons of stackable bonus opportunities. Last month I wrote about earning over 24,000 points on a single stay, mostly through bonuses. Since that post the very same stay generated another 5000 point bonus.

And yet I don’t like using those points. Because I value my elite benefits, if I’m on vacation I want as nice a room as possible not to feel as though I’m unwelcome.

That’s why it’s especially important, for me at least, to pick and choose which hotels I burn points at — some honor full benefits on reward nights, some do not.

The Intercontinental New York Times Square is one that does.

I don’t normally like staying in the Times Square area, it’s busy and overpriced and there’s very little good food. But my travels took me to that neighborhood last month.

It was a personal (out of pocket) stay, so I was price sensitive. But the city was a mess for room rates. All of the Hyatts were completely sold out. Sure, I could have used ‘Diamond Guaranteed Availability’ but not at a price I’m willing to cover. Even lesser properties were coming up over $300.

So I settled on the Intercontinental Times Square, 50,000 Priority Club points (or available on cash and points, since that’s just allowing you to buy back some of your points at a discount). Since the room rate there was approaching $500, I was getting about a penny a point which I consider to be very good for Priority Club redemptions.

The lobby is attractive, the desk super-cool, and the checkin staff were friendly (there was no wait).

At check-in I was given a welcome letter outlining benefits:

It specified the room upgrade, free internet, late checkout, complimentary minibar, etc. It also specified that elite benefits did not apply on reward nights. However, late checkout applies per the terms and conditions of the program. They were giving me the letter on a reward night. And they were, in fact, honoring benefits — I was upgraded, I was given free internet and told I could have the movie (had I had time for it), and wasn’t charged for the bottles of water I took from the minibar.

The room I was upgraded to was at the end of a hall, a wide room though somewhat narrow that amounted to a junior suite — a desk and living room area separated by a partition from the bedroom.

The living room was large by New York standards, with an L-shaped couch.

My one complaint about the desk area, and I suppose there are those who would value it, is that the space was largely taken up by a hotel computer with large monitor. I come fully equipped and would rather have space to work.

The bedroom did feel as though it had separation, and there was a separate television in that ‘room’ from the one mere feet away in the living area.

The bathroom was a reasonable size and stylish for New York.

Here’s the obligatory ‘Royal Ambassador minibar shot’.

See, when I first was afforded this status nearly 7 years ago I thought it was the coolest benefit ever. What more of a forbidden fruit could there be than the ability to take an unlimited amount of beverages out of an overpriced minibar? On my first few stays at Intercontinental properties I hit the benefit pretty hard. After that, though, most of the time I just want a bottle of water or maybe a juice in the morning and the convenience of being able to grab what’s already in my room is wonderful — especially in a world where I cannot even pack bottles of water in my carryon without offending our federal airport overseers.

Given the vagaries of benefits being honored at Intercontinental hotels, I tend to use my points for one-night stays and often city stays where I’m less concerned with things beyond a bed to sleep in. In this case I had that and benefits honored so I felt like I did well by my points. I used them to displace a particularly expensive night for lodging as well.

I won’t love my Priority Club points as a result, but they accumulate quickly through stays, and I’d redeem them again at this property — largely for the elite benefits but on a pricey night I think it provides good value for those needing to be in the Times Square area of the city.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Pingbacks

  1. […] Except: Priority Club does not offer any way to redeem you points for suites. Only standard rooms are offered by the program. That’s in stark contrast to Starwood, Hyatt, Marriott, and Hilton which all make premium rooms available for additional points. Priority Club does not honor elite upgrades on points stays. They’re also the only major chain to officially treat award stays as less rewarding than paid stays. Your ‘reward’ for all of your loyalty is the opportunity to redeem for the lowest category room and to be stuck there. In practice the Intercontinental Times Sqaure does upgrade Royal Ambassador members on points stays although they provide a letter saying benefits don’t apply on award stays. […]

Comments

  1. Hi Gary,
    What perfect timing for this review! I’m actually taking the kids (4 people total) up to NYC next weekend for the Macy’s parade had the choice between taking one double/double room at the Intercontinental Times Sq. or two queen studios at the Staybridge on 40th/8th for 25k each. Since I’m only a PC plat and not in IC Royal program I decided on the two studios since the Staybridge comes with breakfast, etc. Figured the frou-frou wouldn’t matter much since it was a reward stay. What would you do?

  2. Yes, Priority Club frustration: For a recent trip to Toulouse, I could book “rewards” (very standard) room at their nice Crowne Plaza on the main square. One of IHC reps told me I would “probably” be upgraded — I could put the request on my reservation. I decided to pay to stay in a room I could count on being nice — at another hotel.

  3. Same room I had many times. The avenue suite as they call it is pretty much the standard upgrade. Too bad they don’t have a Club. Last time I stayed I inquired about if they were going to get a club and the agent said that it was a lack of space, but they were looking into it.

  4. the best program , but i hope your articles prompt them to apply RA benefits on award stays, keep the reminders up Gary

  5. Thanks…that was my thought as well, just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing a bucket list hotel. Any suggestions for food in the Times Square area (I know options aren’t that great if you’re not a fan of Bubba Gump).

  6. @ Tim O’Brien, only if the kids like standing in line. Every time I’ve been to the IC the line at the Shake Shack is always out the door and down the side walk. ?????

    @ Deal Mommy But Bubba Gumps really is Fun and the food is pretty good. Tony’s Di Napoli is a very good Family style Italian, and bookable on Open table. Cara Mia in Hells Kitchen is very good too. Avoid Guys American Kitchen, it sucks! Doesn’t even compare to Guys Joey Garlic’s Restaurants, which we frequent in CT.

  7. Amstel Amsterdam upgrades with use of points. I had a lovely time in Amsterdam after getting the PC card and then using my points. I was upgraded to a one bedroom suite facing the water, and in August. It was a lovely room.

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