Bits: 100 bonus Heathrow Rewards points, immigration kiosks for BA at JFK, last day for 30% off SPG points

More news in brief:

100 Heathrow Rewards points when you spend £70

Heathrow Rewards has launched a new promotion which will give you 100 bonus points when you spend £70 in one transaction before 5th September.

As well as spending at the airport, spending on Official Heathrow Parking and Heathrow Express will also count.

You don’t need to register for this offer.

It may or may not combine with the current ‘500% bonus points on Official Heathrow Parking’ offer – see here for my article on that.

If you are not a Heathrow Rewards member, read this article on how to get a VERY generous 2,500 bonus points for joining and spending £150 in one day.  This would transfer into 2,500 Avios, Virgin or other airline miles.

Heathrow Rewards

New York JFK launching immigration kiosks in BA’s Terminal 7

Immigration queues at New York JFK may be about to get shorter with the launch of 14 Automated Passport Control machines in BA’s Terminal 7 next month.

The kiosks can be used by anyone travelling on a US or Canadian passport, the ESTA visa waiver programme, or a B1/B2 tourist visa.

You will no longer need to fill out a paper customs form.  The kiosk will scan your passport, take a photograph and ask you various customs related questions similar to those found on the old paper document.  A receipt is issued which must be presented, along with your passport, to an official to finalise your entry.  More details on the kiosks can be found here.

I have never used one of these kiosks – there were not active in Newark when I landed last week – but anything which improves the situation at JFK is welcome.  Having used Newark for my last three New York trips, I recommend that as a better way of avoiding long immigration lines – it is also a far quicker trip into Manhattan.

Buy starwood preferred guest points

Last day to buy SPG Starpoints at 30% discount

Finally, a reminder that today is the last day to buy Starpoints for a 30% discount.  As well topping up your Starwood Preferred Guest account for a hotel redemption, this can also be used as a way of buying cheap(ish) airline miles.

In particular, it is a way for Lufthansa Miles & More collectors to buy miles, given that Lufthansa does not sell miles directly.  20,000 SPG points would convert, with the 5,000 mile bonus for converting 20,000 points, into 25,000 miles.

You can combine this offer with the current British Airways ‘35% bonus on transferring your hotel points to Avios’ promotion.  This lets you buy Avios points at 1.0p.  If you can’t buy Iberia Plus Avios in the current sale for 1.0p due to your Iberia account being inactive, this is an alternative.

You can see the maths on buying SPG points in this article.  The website to buy SPG points 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.)

7,200 Avios with Tesco home insurance - now running until 31st August
Bits: Qatar selling Heathrow - Dubai for £1001 in Business, £5 JustPark credit via Amex
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  1. The kiosks are brilliant, used them at DFW two weeks ago and have used them at LAS last year. Ironically the queue was then shifted to customs at DFW!

    • This is why Global Entry is still worth paying for (under $20/year) if you make a few trips to the USA every year – as well as bypassing CBP queues you also get a special lane to bypass customs queues. The only hold-up I have now is waiting for checked bags, if on HBO I can be through customs at JFK and out in about 5 min from stepping off the plane!

      • The only downside is to get TSA precheck when departing you must fly on an American carrier.

        Apart from that I agree.

        However used these machines in Dublin and they were fine.

        • Agree this is annoying although I think they’re looking at rolling out PreCheck to more airlines. For domestic US flights it definitely makes a big difference having it!

  2. They have also installed these kiosks in Dublin. Though you can only use them if you have previously entered using an ESTA under the visa waiver scheme. First time users of the scheme had to join the main line. Overall it certainly does speed things up considerably.

  3. Michael says:

    The kiosks were at SFO for a while but they are only for returning ESTA visitors, not for B1/B2 visa. However the main line had less manned desks so not a big help for first time visitors or visa holders.

    • Raffles says:

      As an Esta expires after 2 years, do you mean 2nd time on the SAME Esta or is it OK if you applied for a new one?

      • The wording implies second entry on the same ESTA, but I did it with a new ESTA and it was fine.

        • I used the kiosks on a new ESTA and got a big black X printed on my slip, this meant I had to join the regular line

    • The_Real_A says:

      They need to collect your fingerprints and photograph on the first entry…

  4. I used the machines at JFK last Summer after flying on the London City service. You could only use them if you had previously entered the US with your current ESTA. It took us longer to enter than the main queue. After queueing to use the machines, followed by the slow process of using the machine we then had to queue afterwards for a final check with an official. It wasn’t a great experience.

    • We had the same in Miami last summer. Queue for an hour to use the machine with current ESTA, then everyone who had completed the process at the machine placed in a queue to see an officer. Luckily all the US citizens had gone straight through one short line so by the time we made it to the carousel there were just a few bags going round and no people. Was very glad we were shuttling to an airport hotel and not worrying about a car hire slot!

      • I recently moved my Easyjet Flexi ticket to be eight hours later, and called Avis (UK) to put back my booking and said – don’t bother to amend – one can collect up to 24 hours after scheduled time.

  5. Post Brexit £366/ 33750 = 1.07p (SPG)

    whereas GBP has come back against EUR and IB route @ 150K = 0.985p

  6. Have used the kiosk at Chicago. Got through in under 5 mins. Thought great until it took over an hour to get through the next bit.

  7. Matthew says:

    Used in Miami couple years ago with returning ESTA, scans passport, does a biometric check and prints a receipt you wave at a immigration officer as you walk through a new queue, very quick. Initially slow for the Kiosks to work well, some software glitches and little explanation of how to use (albeit there aren’t many options).
    Kiosks were in the USA queue with staff denying we could use them until all USA passengers were gone, then they admitted we could use them.
    Does this mean we can use them in any airport we see them, whether advertised as good for ESTA or not?

  8. Used kiosk at terminal 4 JFK 3 weeks ago. Very quick. There is a further queue at customs afterwards altho this was also quick. Was waiting for the sky train 20 minutes after getting off the plane! Never done it so quick – was probably an hour quicker than terminal 7 in December.

  9. S. david says:

    With now kiosks in place, any risk of BA cancelling already unpopular BA 001? I heard the flight is usually half empty and if you improve JFK immigration, that flight makes little sense compared to direct LHR flights, unless you live right next to City Airport

  10. The kiosks are really great. I use them in Miami when heading to South America and have used them in Las Vegas as well.

    One thing that I have noticed though, if you are hand luggage only, you will get a decline and have to go through the normal process. It happened to me once when I was hand luggage only and also to a colleague on another flight when he was hand luggage only.

    No issues the rest of the times that I checked in some luggage. I guess a man flying on his own with no luggage is a bit suspicious…

    • Was hand luggage only to JFK no problem.

    • Worked fine for me HBO at ORD

    • No issue for me travelling HBO to Chicago. Technically, they even have a separate exit at ohare for HBO passengers, although it wasn’t open when I was there, so I can’t see that being an issue.

    • Perhaps my colleague and I looked odd! I thought it was because of HBO, now I’m worried if I’m on a list! Who knows, worked every other time I’ve used them though :)

  11. OT:
    Whats the best seating arrangement for family of 5 on virgin UC? Happy we got 5 reward seats to JNB!
    We have never flown virgin before….

    • Raffles says:

      Having done this last week on a 787, I reckon all you can do is ensure you are all on the same side of the wall which divides the cabin. That would mean 3 window seats and 2 middle seats facing each other. To be honest, the seats are not family friendly at all – you cannot see the person in the seat in front or behind. You need to trust your kids 100% as you can’t see them.

  12. The rules are buried in the CBP site under the section for US and Canadian Citizens and permanent residents.

    We used the kiosks at T8 in December. They were located in an area dedicated for Citizens, but we just went to that area and used them, having already done our homework. We got through in about 15 minutes. We cleared customs, rechecked our luggage, and were in the AA lounge for our connecting flight in under an hour.

    The queue for Aliens was for times as long.

    I guess it won’t be as fast one everyone realises they can use the kiosks, but our experience was very positive.

  13. Anyone know if there is an age restriction, I e we have a 3 year old with his own passport and ESTA. Can he use it or do we still have to que?

    • I think you have to be over 18. Coming in through LHR last week, I’m sure I saw a sign saying over 18s only to use the electronic booths.

  14. Kiosks potential to cut lines is thwarted by need to get process finalised by an official. Last used this at LAX. No queue to use kiosk, then over an hour in a queue to get passport stamped by border officer. When at MCO an airport employee was not allowing families – home of Disney – to use kiosks as they would crowd machines.

    A great idea that is let down because ability to use kiosk is inconsistent and kiosk is an extra step at immigration that still relies on manned border agents to not create a queue.

  15. Technically tomorrow is the last day to buy SPG points at a discount price, not today.

  16. I used the machines at DEN in Feb – it actually took longer to clear immigration there than it would with just CBP agents. Everyone (US citizens and visitors (other than GE card etc holders) is in a single queue which moves slowly. The only potential benefit is that there may be more machines than desks that the CBP used to have open so in theory a greater capacity, but would not hold my breath as all still need a final check by a CBP agent.

  17. The whole Heathrow rewards thing is all over the place. I flew out from T5 on Saturday and only had the initial 100 points (sign up bonus) I then spent a total of £168 and now have a balance of 3104 points. Break down as follows.

    Caviar house = £10 = 1500 bonus points + 10 standard points
    Caviar house £14 = 14 standard points
    Wh smith = £8 standard points = 8 points
    World duty free 2 bottles of perfume= £136 = bonus points = 1200 points, double points 136, standard points 136

    Didn’t use any signup codes, just paid with my BA Amex card. I did have a spend £75 get £5 coupon off which I used.

    • What’s the 1500 bonus points deal @ Caviar House?

      • No idea just found them on the statement.

      • Genghis says:

        That piqued my interest too (0.66ppa) but cannot find any info on it. Can anyone else?

      • Or more importantly what did you spend £10 in there?! LOL

        I assume a drink as everything else is much dearer.

        • They have these small tins that sell black caviar which go for £10. Good way to taste if you’ve never tried before. Was quite nice, they even threw in a free cook book. I guess your money goes quite far there.

  18. They’ve been in use at LAX for nearly a year at least. I really don’t think its made things any better, I think its made it worse.

    I queued for an hour to use the kiosk. I get a big cross on mines every time I use it (I have a common name). Then I queued for an hour and a half to get through the stamp. I knew I was going to get the cross, so I might as well have lied and got put in the stamp queue immediately. But I’m not sure if I can do that…

    I had 3.5 hours to catch my next flight. It was a rush through to AA, and 10 minutes in the lounge.

    • Sussex Bantam says:

      Same thing happens to me every time at BOS. Fortunately there they have a shorter queue for “machine rejects” so no need to go to the back of the line.

      The CBP officer told me it was because my passport was “old”….whatever that means..

  19. Used the booths in BOS last summer with no problem. Less than 5 minutes through immigration. Used them quite happily in and out of various EU countries last week, then coming in to LHR on Friday morning, it wouldn’t accept my passport. Perhaps this was a post-referendum thing? Although there were several rejects before me, so I suspect the scanner might have needed cleaning.

  20. Bits

    Did HFP run this?

    It’s our 70th birthday and we’re celebrating the meaningful and significant journeys and stories that have started at Heathrow. We’re inviting you to Add your story to receive one of our Birthday Gifts.

    It couldn’t be easier:

    1. Add your story with a few simple questions.

    (the richer your story, the better birthday present you’ll receive)

    2. Then over the next two weeks, we’ll read all the stories and select a great present for you.

    3. Then ta-dah, after two or three weeks after sharing your story, you’ll find out which gift you’ll be unwrapping!

    Information about all our birthday presents can be found on the Terms and Conditions page

    We’re now in P3 and the prizes look good at the top
    Promotion Period 3
    • There are: 4 Top gifts
    • There are: 5 Tier 1 gifts
    • There are: 165 Tier 2 gifts
    • There are: 937 Tier 3 gifts

    Top Gift

    Trip to Sydney – Qantas – 4

    • This competition is worth entering simply because there are thousands of travel related prizes making the probability of winning high. The top prize is an Australian adventure with Quantas for you and one lucky other – Fly in comfort and style from Heathrow to Sydney with Qantas, and enjoy five nights in a city centre hotel (35 pairs of tickets available).

      Other prizes include a meal for 2 at Michelin star The Hinds Head, a £70 Ted Baker Gift Card, 70 AirPortr single luggage deliveries to or from London Heathrow and London addresses, five return Heathrow Express business class tickets, tea for two at Taj Buckingham Gate, a Heathrow Airport Celebration Package with a luxury Chauffeur ride to take you and a friend to or from the airport courtesy of Chauffeurit, a picnic each from Caviar House, plus £100 worth of Heathrow rewards (10,000 points). There are also numerous sunglasses and travel bag type prizes up for grabs.

      Perhaps one of my favourite prizes is the rewards points to redeem into miles with Heathrow Rewards mileage partners, British Airways Executive Club, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Emirates Skywards and Etihad Guest and Miles and More. Possible prizes up for grabs include a pair of British Airways short haul flights, a pair of British Airways long haul flights, a pair of Virgin Atlantic long haul flights, a pair of Emirates long haul flights, a pair of Etihad long haul flights, a pair of Lufthansa short haul flights (basically 30,000 – 126,000 rewards points to be given away to the lucky winners).

      To win one of 1000s of gifts, add a story about an airport experience you have had at Heathrow. The better your story, the more spectacular the gift you’ll get to unwrap. You will be automatically entered into a free prize draw when you add a story on before 23rd August 2016.

    • Saw it, did not – in all honestly – see there were that many prizes. Will run it over the weekend, cheers.

  21. Kinkell says:

    Much as I would love to win something , and you’ve got to be in it to win it, my experiences of Heathrow are pretty boring. Outward bound, Flight connections always goes smoothly, inbound, minor delays at security ,and the staff are getting so much more pleasant, so nothing to really complain about. Staff falling overthemselves to get me to spend at World Duty Free. Copious amounts of varieties of perfume to spray on as the mood takes me….but not all a once! Always a pleasant ‘welcome back Mrs K’ on entering the lounge..CCR.! Just a bog standard welcome at Galleries. . So no particular experience with which to bag an adventure to Australia.
    Good luck to the rest of you, I look forward to the stories.

    • You might have to engage the old imagination if you fancy a decent prize. ISTR I met my wife-to-be by chance when I was upgraded to First at check-in, met this stunning witty amazing girl dressed in roses in the Flounge – and by chance since I’m Irish I was dressed as a daffodil. True love ensued.

      Australia here we come.

      • Actually I might have been Welsh

        • I did actually meet my wife when I sat next to her on a plane, but it was a private charter (of a A319, not a Cessna!) which departed from Luton unfortunately …..

        • Kinkell says:

          Can’t compete with your tales of fancy, Harry.! Enjoy the trip, you’re bound to win, and we’re all expecting a cracking yarn!

  22. At ORD (from TXL) and IAD (from MEX) the kiosks work very well, so long as one has used one’s ESTA before.

  23. Matthew says:

    I took part in the Shangri-La loyaltyIs contest at the beginning of the year which was similar in that you had to write something about loyalty or an experience at a hotel etc. I entered a few times and ended up winning one of 250 lots of 20,000 Golden Circle points they handed out. Off to the Shard again for yummy meal in July :-).

    • wow that’s $2000 of free food!

      • Matthew says:

        Yep! Which has increased in value since the £ plummeted. It’s completely not worth redeeming for one night in the Shard for example worth about £350 when I can get £1500 worth of food/drink instead! :-)