2013 in review – Part 1 – Travel highlights and the best promotions revisited

Over the next three days, I am going to take a look back at some of the trends and highlights from 2013.  I will kick off today with some of my own travel highlights and a recap of some of the better promotions of the year.

Being a middle-aged guy with two young kids, I don’t have the flexibility to spend all of my time running around the world trying out new hotels and airline seats.  I did manage to carve out some personal time this year, though, and got through:

Long-haul – Lufthansa First, Swiss First, Emirates A380 Business, BA Club World, Iberia (new) Business, airberlin (old) Business, airberlin (new) Business

Short-haul – BA Club Europe, Lufthansa Business, Swiss Business, American Economy (!), Virgin Little Red, BA Domestic

Trip reviews of many of these flights appeared on Head for Points over the year (put the relevant phrase in the search box at the top and they will come up where they exist).  The year was ‘low-cost carrier’-free, although I am not against them, honestly!  The highlight of the year was probably the food I had in Swiss First, which blew my mind and totally reset my view of what is possible on a plane.

The less said about the brussel sprout soup served by airberlin the better …..!

Calendar

In terms of hotels, I spent 20 nights (in two separate chunks) at Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai, so I suppose that should top my list!  It was also the most family-friendly suite I have ever had, with a kids mattress actually built into the floor (ie the mattress is at floor level, so the kids can’t fall out of bed!).

That said, my harbour-view corner room at the InterContinental Boston was lovely.  Even the Radisson Blu at Hamburg Airport - by the standards of airport hotels, and I was upgraded as well – was a lot better than expected.

The hotel I found it hardest to love was the Conrad in New York, despite it theoretically ticking my boxes – new property, very large room.  It just didn’t click.  Perhaps arriving on a bank holiday (which I didn’t know!) was the problem, as it is a business hotel in a business area and everything was d-e-a-d.

Best promotions

There are two things which I think Head for Points has impacted this year.  One is airberlin, which I have pushed heavily on this site and is now a well-know low-tax redemption route.

The biggest impact, though, was with 3V Virtual Visa cards.  Once I published my initial post on these cards in June, it triggered a six-month purchasing binge which only ended (or, perhaps, slowed) when 3V stopped them being redeemed via National Savings, the Inland Revenue and some local authorities.

There have been some other good promotions as well, though.  Ignoring credit card promotions, which I look back on in a couple of days, these included:

  • Via American Express Platinum, £70 of free clothing from Matches, a free night at the Grand Melia Fenix in Madrid and (who could forget) the great £20 Achica code debacle
  • ‘The Big Win’ via IHG Rewards Club
  • The various redspottedhanky discount codes
  • Various Clubcard CD, DVD, book and printer ink bonus point deals – in particular the ’500 points for a £5 video game pre-order’ offers!
  • The Shangri-La Golden Circle deal

BA also continues to let me earn 2.5 Avios per £1 on my old British Midland MasterCard, for which I am grateful every time I open my wallet!

There have also been a few duff offers this year.  I would include in this most of the hotel promotions apart from ‘The Big Win’.  With an improving economy, they were no longer prepared to win business at any price.  Most pointless promotions never even make it into Head for Points, though!

House of Fraser '30% off' giftcard orders being cancelled
£20 off £400 British Airways or Virgin ticket with Opodo
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Comments

  1. Hingeless says:

    Any thoughts in what will happen with the BMI credit card this year?

    • Surely when avios took over air miles there was an agreement for the BMI card and similar things? Something like 5years seems reasonable but who knows?!

      I think, for example, people with the old tesco credit cards still have a deal going back many years (am I right?)

      • You’re right on the Tesco World Mastercard, which I have and offers 1 clubcard point for every £2, effectively 1.2 Avios/£ at standard conversion rate albeit rounded down to multiples of £2 spend.

        Still not as good as the BMI card, which I had and cancelled before the points uplift!

    • No. My understanding is that the Amex contract is up for renewal soon and there will be a tender which will include the Avios cards (bye bye Lloyds), the BA Amex and possibly Iberia as well, with the aim of giving the lot to one provider. MBNA is very keen …. I would expect BMI to be tidied up as part of this.

      • Damn, I was rather hoping the cheeky wee bmi mastercard would slip under the radar for another year or so! It’s so handy having a non-Amex card that earns decent rewards.

      • Would you terefore recommend a churn/referral activity on the amex BA cards at the moment? If it all goes to one vendor it will probably be bad news for us.

        • There’s a signup bonus offer running at the moment. I’m mainly hoping that any change in provider doesn’t adversely affect the 2for1 voucher earn/redemption terms.

          Also if Amex lose the contract is there a risk of BA disappearing from the reward points redemption partners list? Hopefully not….

        • This will take a long time to work through …. not sure when the tender goes out, and even then it would take a year or so for the change to come into effect. Nothing to worry about in the short term.

          • Interesting stuff. What makes you so sure that Lloyds would lose out?

            • Just imagine how many complaints Avios will have had about them. The number I see won’t even scratch the surface.

              More importantly for BA, they don’t know how to market and promote a product like this. You see it already.

  2. Apologies for the slightly OT query, but does anyone know at what point the SPG (Amex) ‘bonus’ points post… I thought it would trigger as £2k was hit – but it hasn’t – phoned customer services and they say its when the statement is generated… just don’t know if I should believe them ;)

    • Andy also OT but I just got the SPG card and don’t have an SPG account. Was under the impression one would be created when I signed up for the card using my email address. However when I click forgot my details it doesn’t recognise my email.

      Do I need to wait for first statement for this to happen or should I sign up manually to SPG?!

      Thanks

      • If you haven’t had your first statement yet then – for an easy life (as you’ll know the number and password) – do it yourself today and ring Amex on the number on the back of your card. Points should hopefully go to that account.

        If not, Amex will create one, but you may take ages to find out the number and password.

        • thanks raffles. its like its stuck in a loop. I can’t retrieve a password but when I try to sign up it says my email address already has an account. going to be interesting. note to self. always sign up first before getting any new reward card!

    • Andy, same here. Hot the target weeks ago. They’ve said that the bonus will post within 60 days. Very irritating.

    • No. The bonus should show alongside the transaction that took you over £2,000 (exc the £75 fee). Your ONLINE statement would show, on the points page (not the cash page):

      Tesco £10 10 points 20,000 bonus points Total: 20,010 points

      However, Amex sets a LOT of cards up wrongly. In these cases, you have to wait until the 3 months is up, at which point all accounts get a manual review. They will spot the bonus did not trigger and add it manually. Total pain but little you can do.

  3. Am I right in thinking we went the whole of 2013 without a (UK) Amex to Avios bonus, or a Clubcard to Avios bonus?

    Sort it out 2014..!

  4. gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    Although I had a successful 2013 (60k Virgin miles purely through 30ish Hilton stays), Hilton Diamond through Public Sector Workers code, 241 Voucher on my wife’s BA Amex, bonus points for advising friends and family to get certain cards….I felt that the IHG big win was nearly useless (1,100 points out of 123,000 for me….although next year looks like 83,000 out of 83,000) and Far Too Much Noise has been spent on 3V.
    YMMV.

    • Can you explain what you mean about your hilton diamond membership? I got to gold randomly for no obvious reason (not complaining) but would be nice to reach diamond

      • Difference between Gold and Diamond is slim these days, apart from guaranteed lounge access (which many hotels don’t have). Unless you are planning stays at hotels which have special benefits for Diamond members, a lot of people would suggest putting your additional nights above Gold requalification into another chain to get mid-tier status there.

  5. The Other Steve says:

    Has anyone received their Golden Circle points yet?

  6. Roger Carpenter says:

    Again, slightly OT, but has anyone had any Iberia avios from the Gym promotion? – I’ve been doing this regularly but have yet to see anything in my IB account…

    • avidsaver says:

      Same here! No sign of any Avios in my IB account yet. Also the Gym site appeared to not work for a day or two recently – or was that just my bad luck?

  7. 2013 was the year I discovered Head for Points and this little occasional hobby really took off. I was already conversant with Tesco, had various hotel points, a few BA Avios and some Virgin Flying Club miles. In my first big redemption I topped up the latter and did an Upper Class flight to Vegas. After that I can really see why ‘economy’ is a dirty word around here.

    I got myself a referral for an Amex gold card, joined TopCashback, got in on the back-end of the 3V/NS&I thing, achieved my IHG Big Win and had a bit of fun with the RedSpottedHanky, Shangri-La and Iberia Gym games. I now have all three Avios accounts, have just successfully done a status match to Best Western Diamond (from IHG Plat) and am currently tracking around 550k miles and points across 30 loyalty schemes through Award Wallet.

    Looking forward to more fun and opportunities in 2014. My first trip is three days in Gent in January using the cheap Eurostar deal and my newly acquired Best Western status. There will be a trip with my Dad to Cornwall later in the year and I’ll be looking to use some of the IHG points from the Big Win.

    Thanks for everything in 2013 Raffles.