Bits: Hilton Paris Opera opens, new Post Office FX-free cards, more on Virgin / Hilton promo, IAG / Aer Lingus

Here are some more summaries as I try to empty my inbox!

Hilton Paris Opera opens

It is hard to believe that, for the last couple of years, Hilton has not had a single property in central Paris.  There was the hotel at La Defence but that is the equivalent of only having a London hotel in Canary Wharf!

The ex-Concorde hotel near the Gare St Lazare has now reopened as Hilton Paris Opera.  It looks stunning as the pictures scattered around this article show.

It is Category 9 for Hilton HHonors which means 80,000 points per night in February.  Cash rates at are very low (relatively speaking) at the moment as the hotel tries to build momentum, so I would focus on that if you are heading to Paris soon.

Hilton Paris Opera exterior

Post Office relaunches its ‘no foreign exchange fee’ credit cards

The Post Office has revamped its credit card range.  Previously there was just one card, which was popular with Head for Points readers for its lack of foreign exchange fees.  This saves you 2.99% on every purchase you make abroad compared with 98% of UK credit, debit and charge cards.

There are now two options.  Post Office Money Platinum still has no FX fees on purchases overseas.  There is also a balance transfer offer of 0% for 18 months with a 0.79% fee.

The other card is Post Office Money Matched.  This card does have FX fees but does not charge you commission when you buy foreign currency with it at a Post Office branch (although the rate if you do this will still be worse than the rate you get using the Platinum card to make a purchase).  It has 0% APR on purchases for the first 16 months.

Both cards are free.  The Platinum version is an alternative to the Lloyds Avios Rewards cards (review) which – whilst having no FX fees and earning Avios on foreign spend – do have a £24 annual fee.  Don’t forget Halifax Clarity as another FX-free option – this card has also been running interesting cashback deals recently with retailers such as Waitrose and Hilton.

The Post Office credit cards are issued by Bank of Ireland UK and have a representative APR of 17.8% variable on Platinum and 18.9% on Matched.

Hilton Paris Opera room

More on the Virgin / Hilton promo

I wrote yesterday about the new offer that Virgin Flying Club and Hilton HHonors are running.

When I originally published the article, I said that you earn 1 Virgin mile per $1 spent at Hilton.  This was a mistake – you only earn 1 Avios per $1 via BA (or 1.5 Avios per $1 via Iberia) but in Virgin Flying Club you earn 2 miles per $1.

This makes the deal very attractive if you are staying in London before the end of March.

Remember that stays in London earn QUADRUPLE mile, with triple miles elsewhere.

A typical £250 room night in London would, knocking off the VAT, come to around $325.  At 8 Virgin miles per $1, you would be earning 2,600 Virgin miles per night.  That is an exceptionally good return.

You can also convert Virgin Flying Club miles back into Hilton HHonors points at 2:3 as long as you have at least 10,000.  This means that, even if you aren’t bothered about earning Virgin miles, you would maximise your Hilton points by taking the Virgin miles and then converting them back.


Aer Lingus to recommend increased IAG bid

Finally, the Financial Times reported yesterday that Aer Lingus is going to recommended a new, higher bid from IAG, the parent company of British Airways.

This is not yet a done deal.  Whilst Ryanair is likely to sell its 29% stake, the Irish Government may not agree to sell its 25% shareholding.  My sixth sense tells me that the bulk of the Irish services will be retained by BA but moved over to Gatwick to free up slots at Heathrow for more profitable flights.

We can also sadly say goodbye to the £75 tax charged on Aer Lingus redemptions to the United States, as their US flights will be pulled into the AA / US Airways / BA / Finnair / Iberia joint venture.  That is a long way down the tracks though.

End of 'mistake' Membership Rewards points for Amex Gold holders
Good hotels deals in Canada, US and elsewhere with BA / Fairmont promotion
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  1. Sam wardill says:

    I know that (as per disclaimer) this is not a financial website. However I think you could point out that ‘no comission’ does not mean the same as no exchange rate loading and, for that reason, buying forex at the post office is rarely the most cost effective option.

    • If you live outside London and go direct to the airport from your house, then the Post Office can quite often be the best option if you must obtain foreign cash in the UK before flying. However the countries for which you would need lots of cash on arrival generally won’t be stocked by your rural post office anyway.

    • That is true, although I wasn’t suggesting they are directly comparable offers.

  2. I have a trip booked in March to Paris. Got free one night hilton voucher and was planning to use it in waldorf Astoria Versailles (given that there were no Paris Hilton). Would it be better value/redemption to book the Paris Hilton opera instead?

    • Head for Points says:

      It is more convenient if you are sightseeing ONLY in Central Paris. Of course, if you want to visit the palace at Versailles then the W-A would be a good idea. The W-A is probably the better hotel although I have never been there. The Hilton has just had a €50m refurbishment so will be ‘fresher’.

  3. Glad I’ve got my Aer Lingus redemption booked DUB-BOS for July. Paid £53 in tax.

  4. Lloyd’s cards have the same cash back scheme as Halifax. Better in fact as you also get the Amex offers.

  5. Log on to internet banking and it will have a list of cash back offers based on what you buy.

  6. AIUI the offers are not on the card but on the optional linked current account. I have the card but no Halifax current account and am unaware of any such offers on the card. Of course, I’d be delighted to be proved wrong. 😉

    • The cash back offers are indeed on the current account but it is not linked to the credit card.

      • Phew – was afraid that I was missing out !

        Also worth noting that last time I checked, the Halifax card was the only one that didn’t charge the 3% on cash withdrawals.

  7. Think you’re wrong about W Walsh’s long-term aim being to move existing DUB-LHR flights to Gatwick. There was a big enough row when EI swapped Shannon slots to launch in Belfast.

    Given his (pretty good) personal back story, and current – recently enhanced – quango chair status, he presumably knows what kind of strings the Dublin government will attach to let the deal go through.

    Retention of LHR slots will surely be guaranteed for at least a decade ahead.

    More likely, the IAG senior management has decided that extra capacity at their home base is doomed due to political inertia, and intends to use Dublin as Heathrow’s extra runway.

    The issue for BA is just how embarrassing the contrast will become between Club World and EI’s transatlantic product, once the upgrades are completed in the next few weeks.

    Even if they raise EI’s fares to BA levels, the former’s cabins – especially the single seats for solo travellers – will still be a far better option for non-Londoners than Club Word (and that’s without taking into account the US immig pre-clear).

    It’s quite possible they’ll keep EI transatlantic as a niche product, at least until Club World catches up, with permanent promotional fares even if the topline rates are raised to match BA-Iberia-AA.

    Certainly hope so, for EI has improved dramatically in recent years.

    • IAG will give guarantees and then break them. The deal makes no sense unless the Heathrow slots are reused.

      • Due to local politics, they won’t get away with Kraft style undertakings which can quickly be broken in this case.

        And it’s not just about the Heathrow slots.

        Dublin (with the pre-clear) is a growing and profitable transatlantic option for non-Londoners.

        Post takeover, and In the absence of new LHR runways, IAG will be able to increase promotion of Eddie Stobart’s connections from GB, and EI continental services, to drive business to Dublin which would otherwise be lost to AMS or CDG.

        • Some great points, could they route non-London transatlantic pax via DUB with tickets issued separately to avoid higher rate APD…?

          • I suppose there is a model whereby you could increase the long-haul network (although that means ordering new aircraft) and ramp up the feeder traffic from the UK regions in an attempt to beat KLM etc. Not sure how much traffic KLM etc does to the US at the moment ex UK though as you are basically going in the wrong direction and adding time to your trip.

            • I think they do reasonably well from Edinburgh, Rob – although going a little further out the way there’s no real overall difference in time, especially as they tend to sync their feeder flights quite well to connections. Also on the return leg AMS is streets ahead of LHR as a connecting passenger!

            • KLM has always done reasonable connecting business from UK regional airports, I think, so the demand’s there from non-Londoners.

              Yesterday’s Irish Times had an interesting figure (presumably sourced from Dublin Airport Authority, which is still state controlled):

              As well as safeguarding LHR slots, “another element of [BA’s] likely strategy could chime with that: tapping Dublin Airport’s potential for growth on transatlantic routes.

              Heathrow offers no more room to expand, but last year, 750,000 passengers transferred to Aer Lingus North American flights out of Dublin from non-Irish airports. Most of them came from England and Scotland.

              Some observers believe Dublin’s share of Europe-to -North America traffic could more than double. Both British and Irish sources argue that the strength of the Aer Lingus brand should not be underestimated. “In the US in particular, it has very strong resonance,” one says.”

              Dublin as Heathrow runway 3 may not be optimal for Walsh, but is any likely permutation of post-May UK government really going to sanction the expansion of the real LHR any decade soon?

    • Can see the Aer Lingus name being retained and the slots to LHR being guaranteed for EI under a deal between IAG and the Irish government for a few years but no where near as long as a decade.

      I think BA services to Belfast and Dublin are under serious risk though as IAG may simply axe these to free up slots to reuse elsewhere albeit perhaps transferring a couple of slots to EI on the routes . This would be bad news and likely mean the end of reward flight savers on the routes.

  8. Chewbacca says:

    I’m not sure the Irish government (and staff shareholders) will let this go through. They blocked Ryanair’s bid before and whilst Dublin may be served well ex Heathrow, a lot of the rest of the country is not. One carrier flying to most of Ireland even with code shares must surely be seen as anti competitive.

  9. I stayed in a junior suite at the Hilton Paris Opera last Monday night (19th January.) The hotel is pretty much outside the Haussmann-Saint-Lazare RER station, which you can get to (1 stop I think) on the RER E line from Gare du Nord (called the Magenta station I belive). I’m a Hilton Diamond. Didn’t spend much time at the hotel, but the room was very dated and the late night room service was disappointing. Didn’t have time for breakfast. I won’t be going back as it really needs some refurb, and there are plenty of other alternatives in Paris (just not necessarily Hilton.)