Paid discount versus loyalty program benefit confusion

Whilst hotel frequent guest programs have not been around as long as airline programs, they are increasingly getting more attention for the extra benefits and rewards one can earn as part of a paid stay. A development seen locally only in the last ten to fifteen years is the advent of a paid program that adds extra accommodation and dining benefits as well as discounts to your stay. Accor, Starwood, and Hilton all have or have had such programs in the past. However Intercontinental Hotel Group have two programs that offer paid membership benefits on top of their Rewards Club loyalty program, the Ambassador program and the Priority Privilege program, which creates some confusion amongst our members when deciding where to spend the money.

I recently took up the Velocity Gold offer of IHG Gold Elite rewards. Now I am trying to figure out what that entitles me to and the difference between this and Priority Privilege ($A299) and Ambassador Club membership ($US200).

The Ambassador program is a paid membership program offering guaranteed benefits including late checkout, room upgrades, a free movie and welcome gift along with a free weekend night stay as pert of a paid stay included in the cost, which often can be recovered in the value of that nights free stay, however the benefits apply only at Intercontinental brand hotels. Extra benefits are awarded to those who stay 60 nights or more in the form of invitation to the Royal Ambassador tier, including free mini bar drinks, and early checkin as well as club access or a suite for every stay. As an Ambassador you also get the Ambassador Accelerator points bonus, which is 20000 Rewards Club points for every 15 nights in an IC.

The Rewards Club program is IHG’s free loyalty program, its status benefits are weak for the higher tier members compared to other programs, and rewards night stays often don’t get the same perks as paid stays unlike other programs. But as its free to join its a no brainer to sign up,. Just don’t do it as part of your stay as hotel signups get a fixed points amount for their first stay compared to whats normally earned. One of the most popular features of the program is the “points breaks” hotel list, where on a regular bi-monthly basis a new list of hotels are published with rewards nights on offer for 5000 points, thats effectively under $40 a night In the past that list has included all the Intercontinental’s at one time or another in Australia as well as the expensive Bora Bora properties. So keep an eye on that list when it changes as the bargains don’t last long!

Priority Privilege is IHGs other paid program but unlike the Ambassador program it applies for stays at all brands, in specific Asia Pacific countries only. It offers accommodation discounts including two buy one get one free vouchers, two 25% off best flexible rate vouchers and unlimited 10% off bookings as well as dining discounts at hotels when two or more dine in their restaurants, single travellers get discounts for lunch/dinner only. This program has its heritage in the former Pacific Privilege program run by the South Pacific Hotel Corporation, whose brands included Centra and Parkroyal. IHG took over these, rebranding them to many of the Holiday Inns and Crowne Plazas we have today, and took the program on board. One of the key aspects of this program where value can be had is in its monthly newsletter, where accommodation and dining discounts are offered that don’t require use of any vouchers, just membership of the program.

So whats the best value program, as our members have discussed, each has its own benefits, the best value will always depend on your travel plans an brands, read more HERE.

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