Requalifying for Intercontinental Royal Ambassador Status the Easy Way

Intercontinental’s Royal Ambassador elite level is in some ways the best elite status of any hotel program (although Lucky makes a pretty good case for Kimpton’s Inner Circle).

But first, the areas where it really falls short.

  • Very few benefits are guaranteed on award stays
  • No guaranteed club lounge access
  • Very few properties — this is status at Intercontinental hotels only, and while it comes with ‘Platinum’ status in the Priority Club program that’s not especially meaningful either.

Still, the positives are remarkable. On top of the usual elite level benefits one finds with the major chains, they offer:

  • Guaranteed 8am check-in, not just 4pm late checkout
  • Complimentary free drinks from the mini-bar

Now, the minibar thing is ultra-cool. But after a few times over-indulging, and hosting parties in your suite, at least I find that you really just appreciate it for always having a bottle of water handy.

Still, the 8am check-in benefit is huge for arrivals in Europe and even some parts of Asia — knowing you’ll have a room after a long flight and without having to pay for the previous night.

In some ways Starwood’s new Your24 benefit — checkin any time, checkout 24 hours later but still being able to avail yourself of 4pm late checkout if checkin is 9am or later — trumps. It’s a benefit for their 75 night Platinum members. But it is not guaranteed.

The upgrades in the program can be amazing. It’s the only program where I’ve gotten the Presidential suite. Confirmed in advance. As an upgrade.

See, the benefit is technically to ‘an executive room or suite’ but different hotels interpret this differently. Some treat it literally, with that as all you’re entitled to. The Mark Hopkins in San Francisco, around 2006, got a new General Manager who didn’t like offering Royal Ambassador upgrades and created a new room type… a standard room with a fax machine that he dubbed a ‘business room’ and thus an ‘executive room’. Boom.

Many hotels declare that Ambassadors receive a one-category upgrade and Royal Ambassadors a two-category upgrade. Some properties cap the upgrade (the Intercontinental Bali says you cannot be upgraded above a duplex suite — although many in fact receive better upgrades at checkin) while others do not, hence booking two levels below the Presidential suite for ~ US$175 twice yielded me that top suite at the Intercontinental Manila.

I’ve had Ambassador Suites at the Intercontinentals in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and the Diplomatic Suite in Bangkok. I’ve had giant suites at the Willard in DC, hardwood floors in Atlanta, and a glass-enclosed terrace at that infamous Mark Hopkins just before the Royal Ambassador-hating General Manager was put into place there (He’s since been re-assigned).

And in many ways it has also been one of the easier statuses to get. Not as easy as signing up for a credit card. But Royal Ambassadors get to refer someone else to the status. They receive a certificate to do so in their welcome packet.

Years ago there was no expiration date on the certificate and folks even re-referred themselves. But there was an even better trick: Royal Ambassadors who were themselves referred would receive referral certificates in their welcome packet. So a referral circle for perpetual status could be created.

Eventually they cleaned up the fulfillment issues, referred Royal Ambassadors weren’t supposed to be able to refer other Royal Ambassadors (although occasionally those certificates would still slip in).

And shorter expiration dates on the referral certificates made things a little bit harder as well. They aren’t permitted to be sold but I’ve seen these certificates go as high as $750 on eBay.

The ‘real criteria’ to qualify for the status is unpublished, but most years has seemed to hover around 50 nights total at a Priority Club hotel and stays with at least 3 Intercontinental properties. But some folks have been renewed with less and others have found a higher threshold.

I was finally facing a downgrade after 8 years. When you are downgraded you get complimentary regular ‘Ambassador’ status. I received my Ambassador kit and a free weekend night certificate.

I mentioned recently that I would be losing the status and a generous reader sent me a referral certificate (thank you!).

It turns out that the referral certificate had expired a few months earlier. But I decided to send it in anyway. And they didn’t bat an eye. In my case at least — it is only one data point — they apparently didn’t check the expiration date.

So I received my Royal Ambassador kit in the mail yesterday.

It was basically the same as the Ambassador kit, the luggage tags even said ‘Ambassador’ and not ‘Royal Ambassador’ (do they still make the latter?). The differences were that the member card had my new status, and the welcome letter was correct – and included a code for 5000 bonus Priority Club points rather than the 10,000 that now comes with the Ambassador welcome letter. Although I will not complain about now having received 15,000 points from my welcome kits!

And so I had requalified for Intercontinental Royal Ambassador status the easy way: with an expired referral certificate. To another year!

I wouldn’t pay the price on eBay. I am not in a position at this point to spend enough nights at Intercontinentals to retain status and there aren’t enough non-Intercontinental Priority Club hotels in the places I travel that I want to stay at in order to retain the status. So I’ll likely lose it early in 2014. But I’ll enjoy it for year nine, at least!

Although the strange deficiencies like not offering guaranteed club lounge access, and differing treatment hotel-by-hotel mean that it takes work — usually contacting a property in advance to discover their current upgrade procedures and tailoring my bookings accordingly — make this a bit of an enigma of a program. But still a very valuable one indeed.

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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  1. […] Zitat von f0zzyNUE schade-schokolade? bei einem bekannten haben die ein abgelaufenes weekend-voucher reingepackt … die scheinen dort echt affen oder minions angestellt zu haben, um die päckchen zu packen und zu versenden … Man könnte den Brief auch 'Satz mit X…'-Brief nennen. Dann wiederum scheinen aber auch eigentlich schon abgelaufene RA-Ref-Certs akzeptiert zu werden… Requalifying for Intercontinental Royal Ambassador Status the Easy Way – View from the Wing […]

Comments

  1. I am a Platinum Ambassador, spent 14 nights at Priority Club Hotels in 2012 and was at 3 different ICs. Obviously, no love for me from IC/IHG. If you or any of your readers have a referral cert to spare, I would certainly appreciate it.

  2. Make sure referral certificates are sent by certified mail. They have a habbit of getting lost and IC will deny RA membership without copies and USPS proof of delivery. Saved me twice.

  3. Ironically, I sent one from the UK by certified mail and it still got lost. It was scanned entering the US Customs mail facility and never left it! No joy with IC in fixing it. I would use FedEx / UPS.

  4. Sounds awesome. I stay at Priority Club properties quite often and am often disappointed in the lack of benefits. Royal Ambassador would sure help that problem.

  5. Great post…but, rather long considering I could summarize as follows: “Want an easy way to get Intercon RA status? Send in an expired referral cert.” 15 words. 🙂

    But, good compare/contrast.

  6. Smart of you to try for the heck of it anyway.

    I became RA several years ago when my husband bought an RA cert from eBay; I’ve earned it the hard way ever since — and all on my own dime. I’ve decided this year, after just renewing again, that this is the last time. Top tier hotel status just isn’t worth it to me, not in this program, where the requirements are unclear, the benefits are squishy, and they don’t give a damn about me (on paper at least) when I stay using points.

  7. what kind of mean person you are! You are proud of cheating! You always steal from other people. this post clearly shows what kind of person you are! I really despise you!

  8. another comment on Kimpton Inner Circle–I got the status comped due to my Hyatt Diamond status. Lots of bennies including upgraded room, favorite food, beverage. One unusual one is that Inner Circle members get a free night stay and $50 dining credit in new Kimpton hotels–last night I got a list of six new hotels in the US and have until December 31 to claim my free night.

  9. @Gary — For RA re-qualification, you now need to have a large portion of your 50 ICHG nights at ICs (exactly what portion is of course unclear). I don’t like the other brands anyway, so I just shoot for 50 IC nights plus a few other ICHG nights when it makes sense.

    That Royal Ambassador-hating GM has RETIRED! Thank goodness…

  10. $750?? HIGHER!

    Folks, you’ve got 2hrs to get the only one on eBay (for now). It’s at $830 and surely to climb higher in the final seconds. (no affiliation to the auction, just had to search out of curiosity).

  11. @Gene glad to know he retired, last i was aware he went to los angeles! I can’t make 50 Intercontinental nights unfortunately given how i spread my nights out…

  12. i’ve been RA for four years, just renewed and the letter they sent was an Ambassador letter, no royal mention, 10K point code though, i don’t mind getting the ambasadoor kit, the 10k is better value, i’m RA in their system, they seem to be pretty hit and miss with IT and admin in general, btw i don’t belive the cert sold on Ebay today was genuine, it went for circa $900 in theory, all the bidders didn’t have a bid history on other items, the other two at circ $400/450 suggest the genuine price points possibly heading towards $500-600

  13. i’ve been RA for four years, just renewed and the letter they sent was an Ambassador letter, no royal mention, 10K point code though, i don’t mind getting the ambasadoor kit, the 10k is better value, i’m RA in their system, they seem to be pretty hit and miss with IT and admin in general, btw i don’t believe the cert sold on Ebay today was genuine, it went for circa $900 in theory, all the bidders didn’t have a bid history on other items, the other two at circ $400/450 suggest the genuine price points possibly heading towards $500-600

  14. The lounge access bit does bother me as an RA but the only IC hotel I frequent that doesn’t give it to me is the Park Lane in London. They charge 60 quid a day and seem to get it because that price never changes.

    It’s the uncertainty of what each hotel might do. That being said I’m booked at the IC bangkok in the near future and lounge access is given there in spite of the very low room rate I’m paying. They tell you in the res confirmation

  15. I have an expired Referral certificate her, if anyone wants it. It expired at the end of February 🙂

  16. Are you able to get another year with a voucher if your RA status is going to expire in a couple months? Or must I wait until I am downgraded and then send in voucher, causes a couple months without RA status… I am trying to avoid having a lapse in RA benefits

  17. @Mike S – I have always waited until my RA status expires — I get sent an AMbassador kit (with points and free weekend night), then upgrade and get a kit with points and free weekend night. No experience trying to re-up while I still have the status, sorry!

  18. If anyone has an expired RA cert, I would love to purchase one.. please let me know!
    email: rrradial at gmail.com

    thanks

  19. It’s our wedding anniversary this month. I would love to get a Royal Ambassador status to treat my wife as a VIP on the Intercontinental hotel in Miami…but I can’t see myself spending $500+ for a voucher. Does anyone have a voucher who is willing to sell or gift? Thanks, Danny 4/22/13.

  20. If anyone has an expired certificate or other options to get it,please email me devon15 at gmail. I’ll return a favor someday for sure

  21. I didn’t recognize that I will loose my Royal Ambassador Status and made a Reservation for the next weekend. Now I looked in the reservation and recognized too late that I am not a Royal Ambassador anymore – I have no Idea where to get an upgrade voucher, is anybody there who maybe don’t need one and can send it to me quickly? i would appreciate this help very much……

  22. I have been hit or miss, i am usually in Asia, Japan or China, and in Tokyo its always a “Jr Suite” for me with or without the Royal portion of the status. In china its usually a monster suite 2X the normal room size. In the states its property by property, and have had goodbad things to say, the IC in SFO treats you like crap though, not worth staying there at all. The Big gripe i have with RA is that the RA call center is not 24×7, and they are empowered to do absolutely nothing for you.

  23. I stay at an IHG every day of the year, however none are IC hotels yet for 352 days ayeR one would think I would get the RA level.

  24. I have a RA Referral Cert expiring 4/2014. I am looking to swap with someone having one expiring 06/2014 (or later).

    The reason is that I fear that I won’t reach the number of required nights to keep RA status when my RA expires end of May.

  25. Looking for an RA Referral. Willing to pay reasonable $$, or trade points/miles.

    Please email me at alvinlee01 at yahoo.com. Thanks.

  26. Do need a RA Referral Certificate – would love to take my Parents and me on a Trip never to be forgotten 🙂

    So, anybody willing to help me out?! Send me an Email – blueeagle3@gmx.de

    Thanks!

  27. I just stayed one night at the Presidente Cancun Resort- May 2014. Booked one room with points and paid for the other. As a “regular” ambassador the hotel upgraded both rooms and gave club access to BOTH which needless to say was unexpected.

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