Bits: 20,000 IHG points bargain in SanFran, Thistle Heathrow brings back free pod trips!, SAA sale

News in brief:

IHG points bargain in San Francisco

A new Holiday Inn Express opened in San Francisco a few weeks ago.  This would not normally be big news, even on Head for Points.

What is interesting, though, is that the hotel is only 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night at the moment.  As San Francisco hotels are ludicrously expensive at the best of times, this is a great deal.

Even better, as its name implies the Holiday Inn Express San Francisco Union Square has a great central location, just off Union Square.

As I wrote the other day, it is now possible to buy IHG Rewards Club points for 0.4p each.  This means that you’d be paying around £80 per night if you bought all the points you needed.  That is at least 50% less – and on many nights it is 65% less – than you would be spending if you booked this hotel for cash!

The hotel home page is here.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Heathrow Pod 350

Thistle Heathrow brings back free pod travel to Terminal 5 for guests

A year ago, I wrote about the interesting transfer option available if you stay at the Thistle Hotel at HeathrowYou can transfer to and from Terminal 5 in the driverless pods which take customers to and from the car park behind the Thistle!

The only downside – apart from the fact that the Thistle is not the most modern hotel at Heathrow – was the £5 per person, each way, cost of taking the pod which is added to your room bill.

Thistle is currently letting you use the pods for free.

You need to stay before 31st March to take advantage.  More importantly, you need to book your stay via the Thistle website.  No other booking method is accepted.

Full details can be found on the Thistle Heathrow ‘pod page’ here.

Cape Town

South African Airways sale now on

Finally, if you read Head for Points on a desktop or tablet, you will have seen some advertising from South African Airways over the last few days.

For those of you who read the site via the daily emails or on your mobile, I thought I’d let you know what you’ve been missing.

The January sale prices can be found here on the SAA website.

In Economy, for travel up to 23rd June but excluding Easter, Johannesburg is as low as £595 return.  Cape Town is £610.  There are also special fares to other destinations in South Africa (Durban, Port Elizabeth, Kruger Mpumalanga and East London) as well as Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

It is worth noting that, looking at the T&C’s of the sale, SAA allows all of its economy tickets to be changed for a fee of £80 subject to any difference in fare.

In Business, Johannesburg is £2699, Cape Town is £2685 and Durban is £2909.  Check out the SAA site for more details.

Remember that South African airline Comair is a British Airways franchise (it flies planes in BA colours) and you can book seats with them using Avios.  This would give you another option for connecting from an SAA flight to elsewhere in the region.

Thanks to SAA for their support of Head for Points this week.

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Comments

  1. And I assume you can also use the Amex £100 off offer.

  2. Not sure how new this is but just noticed today that there is a new HIE Ealing also at 20k/night.

    Tip for those heading to SanFrancisco: my favourite hotel when I commuted there a decade ago, The Chancellor on Uninion Square, is still going strong and getting great TA reviews. It can hardly be described as plush but it’s a gem.

    • It’s been 8 years since we stayed there but still regret not taking the rubber duck from the bathroom! 😀

  3. Wow! That’s some deal at the HIX SFO Union Sq – location is fantastic, right next door to the Hilton and just up the road from the Moscone Centre. IHG are great value in SFO already – stayed at the IC previously for 50k/night, but 20k a night in the heart of the city is superb value. Cash rates for the dates I was interested in (May this year) are $684 a night! (King Leisure non-smoking) – so for four nights they were wanting $3,180.59. Instead I paid 80k points! I’ll say it again – wow :)

    • Having recently evaluated all the chains for award nights in the entire bay area, I agree this is beyond a steal. From memory, the only 20k IHG properties in the bay area were in places like Dublin, a suburb a good 45mins to an hour outside the city. Even that may have gone up since I looked.

      I am sure this hotel will be up to 35k-40k a night within a year so hope people book while they can!

      • Fairly offtopic but does anyone know why Holiday Inn Express hotels are a completely different style in the US to Europe. In Europe they are basically Premier Inn style with very cheap furniture, sheets, towels etc. and small, dorm like rooms. In the US, the rooms tend to be big, the sheets and furniture of a much higher quality, fridges in room etc. and the hotels fairly decent. The brands really are quite different. I’ve stayed at HIE in Asia, Mexico and South America and they all seem to match the higher US quality.

        • That’s really interesting and potentially disappointing for American tourists staying at a European HIX for the first time…

        • From my (limited, but very unsatisfactory) experience of Holiday Inn Express in the UK, I’d say you’re doing a disservice to Premier Inn! I’ve said it before – Premier Inn are a mid-range chain, but for some reason try to persuade the world that they’re cheap and nasty.

          • Interesting – my HIX experience in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London has actually been very good (although Premier Inn stays have been decent too!)

          • Agreed, my HIX experience in the UK and Dublin have been good. Just did a “mattress run” at Swiss Cottage HIX – very good value at £54 – clean friendly busy hotel, Bond Street 10 mins by tube. Only stayed at the premier Inn at LGW. Didn’t like it but it was good vfm.

          • Almost always do my mattress runs at the HIX Croydon and its fine, never pay more than £43 a night.

          • I’ve done them there as well in the past!

        • Don’t get me wrong, HIX in Europe are fine. Its just that I would count them more as a budget tier hotel whereas, in the US HIX are very much mid tier, not far off the same level as Hampton Inns. HIX in Europe are nowhere close to Hampton Inn level imho. Maybe its just me that sees this difference.

  4. Cheshire Pete says:

    We showed the Pod to our relatives the other month before departing from Heathrow. 4 of us there and back again in theory a £5 x 8 = £40 trip, but who’s to know………..!

    • No, it a different entrance.

      You have to pay at Thistle to get the code to go through the gate.

      At the parking the pod charge is effectively built in to the parking price already.

      • Cheshire Pete says:

        We used to find the Gate was often left open anyhow! And even if you buzz reception aren’t always that clued up really…… Once we walked out of the car park road in order to avoid buzzing! Lol, but a bit of a walk back round to the hotel! There is Free TFL bus route stop outside the hotel anyhow about every 15 minutes to T5 , very short journey.

        • Andrew H says:

          I tried that once – but there is no pedestrianised route out of the car park. You’d have to walk a fair distance along a busy road to get to a safe area. You must have been very lucky with the traffic!

    • There is a gate with a security code that leads from back of the Thistle to the business parking zone, reception used to provide you with the code as you handed over the money. Upon return you have to use the intercom at the gate to get back in.

      • JoshBosh says:

        Just buzz and tell them you’ve already paid to park there.
        On a side note, the pods are not operational today. They are bussing everyone in 5 seat vans.

  5. Also there is an Amex £100 discount offer on SAA in my offers

  6. With regards to HIX Union Sq, how far in advance can you book? We are going for 4 nights in November. But can’t seem to book reward nights just yet.

    • 12 months usually. May be sold out for those dates esp if over Thanksgiving.

      • Thanks, just checked again and hey pesto it’s finally appeared. All booked. Now hoping the Vegas offer reappears for November

  7. jeremy i says:

    Thanks for the HIX Union Sq tip, Rob. We’re there in June after booking the ‘Viking’ deal ex-OSL. Sorry if I’m being stupid but I can only buy IHG points via the book/cancel trick if I have an existing points balance of 35k? Otherwise, it looks like I can’t generate IHG points for that?

    • You can “buy” IHG points at the old rate of around 0.5p per point if you have 5,000 points in your account (book a 15,000 point property for 5,000 points & $70). If you want to take advantage of the new improved rate you’ll need at least 30,000 points in your account (book a 45,000 point property for 30,000 points & $90).

      • Useful note. Thank you.

        The rich gets richer works in points game too. If you have enough points, can make a redemption booking and re-book for cash closer to the dates of stay on the special deals (if the hotel is not getting busy).

        Works like a charm in Asia.

  8. Does anyone know if you can still transfer Virgin miles to IHG to gain Spire Elite?

    • I transferred points on 1 Jan to get status still end of Dec 2017, points have left virign but not arrived into IHG account yet… Hopefully be able to answer the question shortly, preferably before Hilton status match closes on Monday

      • I transferred 10k on 7th Dec, they posted 5th Jan. It can take up to ~30/31 days. Actually did me a favour to be fair. I sent them as contingency, was 5k short of spire with no stays planned an little chance of squeezing one in (10k min transfer) and only 60 nights. Then Christmas week more than enough points hit from the c.card taking me to spire. I’d forgotten about some advance sale purchases made for stays in Jan and Feb, naturally prepaid they can charge the card at any time and it just all worked out and was then hoping the transfer wouldn’t go through…

        The 10k on 5th Jan posted as qualifying as expected for 2016.

        • Can confirm that my virgin to ihg transfer initiated on 1 Jan has now gone through and I’m classified as a spire elite through to 31 December 2017

  9. We stayed at the Thistle Heathrow last year when there was an Amex deal and free pods offer running.

    It is badly in need of refurbishment, to the extent that we’d be reluctant to go back at present. My wife complained the towels smelt of curry.

    That said it is convenient for T5 (second only to the SOFITEL in that respect) and if you like watching planes take off has an excellently located bar and restaurant where we took advantage of the free Sunday meal offer that they were running for new joiners to their loyalty scheme.

  10. HIX are renovating/remodelling a lot of their properties at the moment. They’ve introduced a “next Generation” room and the first four properties to get that treatment are in the UK (Ealing, Park Royal, Grimsby and Portsmouth North) – hopefully that makes them a little more tolerable….although I’m not too sure about a few things in the new design, I’m reserving judgement till I try one out.

  11. O/T Iberia – Groupon – ***URGENT***

    If you have not received your Groupon points ie credited into your Iberia account, you need to do something about it or you risk losing your money. The points should definitely have arrived by now. The deadline is 10th January ISTR with your unclaimed Groupon vouchers expiring after that (I think).

    You probably didn’t validate them correctly / or didn’t send them to your IB a/c correctly.

    All is not lost. You should go back to your Groupon a/c and go through the claiming process again without delay.

    • Andrew H says:

      I’d just like my bonus miles from Iberia Plus store to be processed.

    • sedgie252 says:

      Thanks for the reminder Harry! Fingers crossed that I receive the points in my Iberia account.

    • I’m starting to worry about these Groupon Avios now. I bought 5 x 8000 miles on 21 Dec. The first 8000 credited just after Christmas and a further 8000 credited a couple of days later. The Groupon website states that there have been technical issues and that points may not be credited until the second week of Jan. On Wednesday 4 of the 5 coupons were still showing as unclaimed so I submitted the codes again. Today it had the same status so I had another go. My Spanish isn’t great so I wouldn’t be able to phone Spanish Groupon to sort it out.

      Presumably if you’ve paid by credit card you’ll be refunded for not receiving the goods?

      • If I were you I’d relax, I wasn’t trying to scaremonger. Groupon rules might state you lose the points/ vouchers if not claimed by xyz but in reality they’ll sort you out. The fact that they have technical issues actually helps your position.

        Maybe you should screenshot that page though?

        • Thanks for the advice Harry. I’m a bit obsessive about screenshotting things. On this one I even recorded myself inputting the codes etc!

          • Raffles – one for tomorrow, though. Groupons expiring. Have folks got the Avios or not? Should they be worried?

          • I don’t know the answer though, so I’ve no idea what to say. What I do know is that Groupon will make you right via a refund even if the Avios do not appear.

  12. We used the Thistle Heathrow hotel the night before we departed for Stockholm to start our ARL-AKL flights. The family room we booked was really nice. It was two rooms (not separate rooms interconnected). It seems as though it had recently been refurbished. The price was £75.00. We used the public bus to get to the hotel which took around 5 minute from T5. The bus is free in the Heathrow area. We tried the POD early the next morning, £20 (4*5)is a bit steep but the novelty value was there first time around. Overall I was I’mpressed with the hotel. It does look a bit grim from outside :-)

    • very easy to avoid paying….just follow others out (and in, from the carpark)

      thereafter, if you didn’t want the ‘hassle’, you only had to pay for one person to use the pod (with all others following behind like ducklings)

  13. Stayed at Thistle Heathrow with my girlfriend last summer and was not asked to pay after being buzzed through the gate on arrival. I guess it’s a bit difficult for them to keep track of who’s been using the gate and who hasn’t. When we left I did not mention that I wanted to use the pods until after I had checked out, and only had to pay for one person. So £5 instead of £20

  14. Grabbed myself a bargain couple of nights in San Fran for an upcoming trip in May :)

  15. MrHandBaggaeOnly says:

    If anyone from Thistle is reading this thread they should note that I have just decided not to stay at the their hotel despite finding a decent priced room, a refurbished one apparently, because of the charge for access to the gate to the Pods. If the access to/from the Pod parking was made free then Thistle would move right up my list of hotels to consider for Heathrow trips and I would happily pay for the extra parking charges to leave my car there for a few days as well.

    As it is I have decided to take a cheaper hotel further out and pay more for Short Stay parking, which in total is a slightly lower price and less hassle (especially for MrsHBO has done the Pods once, doesn’t need to do them again and is just happier walking straight to the car).

    • Completely agree. I picked a different hotel last summer over the Thistle and caught the free TfL bus into LHR. If the pods were free, I’d much rather stay at the Thistle.

    • Aeronaut says:

      Signage at the access gate states that the whole £5 charge for the pods goes to Heathrow and that the hotel doesn’t see any of it. I don’t know how accurate that is, but if so, then room rates at the Thistle would presumably have to rise to cover the pod access cost.

  16. Booked several SAA domestic flights to and from JNB in the last fortnight whilst visiting but the sale proviso – certainly for domestic flights – was for bookings to be made at least 28 days in advance.

    Somewhat OT, one of my DUR-JNB bookings made on SAA website included a single letter typo. Call centre remarkably difficult hence booked a second ticket (at double the price). CS at the airport refunded the higher fare (less ZAR 285 admin fee) and apologised, saying that single letter typos, where not introducing doubt as to identity of passenger, are overlooked.

    Also, do check both the SA and UK versions of site for prices. Rand volatile at present and it can pay to book in ZAR notwithstanding 3% fee many UK cards will add for foreign transactions.

    • It’s quite a good point. We still need to book my wife’s last flight for the summer. On UK version of BAEC it is £180, but in local currency it is £130.

      On Amex Travel it is £145 – which is why I am still looking for a way to combine flight + £6 experience to get above £150 (=£50 off, ie £100 net) – but it seems this cannot be done in one transaction.

  17. Thanks Rob, last night got 22nd-25th July at HIX Union Sq. for the 20000 points a night Reward nights now gone for those dates and cash price is $399. Massive saving , thanks again.