Bits: Want a job redeeming miles?; airberlin adds cheap US Avios routes; Curve raises $10m

News in brief:

Want a job redeeming miles?!

John from the Nightly.travel hotel booking site sent me an interesting job ad that came across his desk.

Seedstars World, an established start-up investor, is looking for a remote working ‘travel hacker’ to book travel for its staff using the frequent flyer miles they collected on previous work trips.

Not sure I like the sound of that as a company policy, and no idea what the job pays, although by definition they seem like they are a bit tight ……!

airberlin und oneworld auf der Baustelle des Flughafens Berlin B

airberlin adds new Avios routes to the US

If you don’t like paying the high level of taxes and charges on British Airways Avios redemptions, airberlin is your answer as this HFP article explains.

(Aer Lingus – read here – and Iberia – read here – may also be your answer, but airberlin has the biggest low-taxes network.)

How low?  When Anika did her review of airberlin business class from New York to Berlin last year, she paid £4 in taxes and charges.

airberlin has just announced the following new routes which will be served during the winter season for the first time.  These flights should be available for Avios redemption at ba.com:

Orlando, from Dusseldorf – five flights per week

Boston, from Dusseldorf – four flights per week

San Francisco, from Dusseldorf – four flights per week

San Francisco, from Berlin – four flights per week

Other US destinations served from Dusseldorf are Fort Myers, Los Angeles, Miami and New York JFK.  Other winter US routes from Berlin are New York, Chicago and Miami.

airberlin also serves a number of ‘winter sun’ destinations.  Curacao from Dusseldorf is possibly the most interesting, as this Caribbean island is not well served from the UK.  Most people fly with KLM, given the close links that the island has with the Netherlands.

The airberlin website is here if you want to know more.

PS.  There is still no word, before you ask, on the negotiations to sell airberlin to Lufthansa.  The sticking point appears to be the high level of airberlin debt which apparently Lufthansa would like the German government to partially take on.  Etihad is also believed to be demanding extra access to German airports in return for ‘letting’ Lufthansa buy its airberlin shareholding.

Curve prepaid MasterCard

Curve confirms $10m in Series A funding

Tech Crunch has reported that London fintech startup Curve has raised $10m in Series A funding.

We cover the Curve Card quite a bit on HFP because it allows you to spend abroad with just a 1% transaction fee AND have the purchase recharged to any other points-earning Visa or MasterCard you own.  You can also withdraw £200 per month from an ATM and have it recharged to another credit card as a points-earning purchase.  I wrote more about how it work here – the card is free to apply.

The list of investors in impressive and, given that Santander is on the list, raises questions over whether Curve is about to partner directly with major banks.

New investers include TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus, Azimo founder Michael Kent, Ed Wray of Betfair, former members of the Google Wallet team, Santander InnoVentures, Investec, Connect Ventures, Speedinvest, Oxford Capital, Breega Capital, Henry Ritchotte (ex Deutsche Bank COO), Gael de Boissard (ex Credit Suisse board member), Alessandro Hatami (The Pacemakers; ex Lloyds, Paypal, GE Capital) and Paul Townsend (Vitesse PSP, Barclays, WorldPay).

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

I try Norwegian Premium - better than BA World Traveller Plus? (Part 2)
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Comments

  1. Simon Schus says:

    I took AirBerlin’s flight from BOS->DUS recently It was a decent enough flight in economy, and we managed to self-connect onto a BA flight to LHR quite easily with quite minimal hassle (though I was concerned we’d get bumped because we were flying at the start of the BA strike period, and when the Tour de France was in Dusseldorf). We got into the BA lounge in BOS, even though the AirBerlin contract AirFrance as their lounge.

    The main annoyance was that OneWorld Sapphire members can’t select seats in advance without paying, unless they have their frequent flyer status with AirBerlin (I don’t; I collect with BAEC). Usually, the seating doesn’t matter too much but I wanted to sit next to somebody who was also on the flight but on a separate booking. We just had to check-in immediately once the 24 hour check-in window to choose seats next to each other.

    I took AirBerlin’s TXL-ORD flight too, and had a similarly decent experience on that flight too (albeit the ex-Schengen area of TXL wasn’t the most comfortable place to wait for a delay. The lounge is located in the Schengen area). All-in-all, I’d take AirBerlin again on miles or on a decent-enough cash fare… especially if the Avios route was during a peak summer date (as my travel was).

    When booking the AirBerlin routes with BA Avios, one can reduce the number of miles used for the redemption whilst increasing the cash component. This was fine with me, as it brought it to near-enough similar price to the old Aer Lingus DUB-BOS pricing (i.e. when it was 12,500 Avios one-way). Some might find some value in that, some might think it is terrible value.

    • Klaus-Peter Dudas says:

      Are you sure about the seating? We flew on the TXL-AUH service recently and just had to call them for free seat selection as BA Gold

    • I’m trying to use my Etihad miles/ AA miles to book Air Berlin. BA is showing 2 seats, but they say there are no seats available despite me calling back many times. Should this be the case or do I just need to keep persisting?

  2. Simon Schus says:

    Yes, I called them up as BA Silver – and they refused to budge from their fees. I called a couple of times, and similar experiences are documented on the Flyertalk forums. I think seating is free for OneWorld Emerald irrespective of FFP, which seems to chime with your experience. For anything less though, one has to have to be part of the AirBerlin FFP.

    I was on hold for about 45 minutes waiting for AirBerlin to answer, though I was calling the USA number somewhere around 11pm-1am Berlin time.

    • Klaus-Peter Dudas says:

      That’s annoying but really good to know as I’ll probably drop down to Silver at the end of March.

    • Strange – I had no problems selecting seats for free as a Silver member a couple of years back, so maybe they’ve changed their policy. Did it online.

      • Simon Schus says:

        Yes, I believe that the policy changed a year or two ago (at least, according to reports on Flyertalk). Saying that, my experience is only with advance seating on multiple AB transatlantic flights. I was able to select a seat during check-in and the ‘preferred’ seats were accessible at that time to me for free, but not in advance of check-in though.

        • I might have just been lucky, but calling up their Topbonus support as a BA Silver I’ve always got the emergency exit row seats I wanted. I’m German which might have helped, but I would hope it’s not down to that!

  3. Catalan says:

    “given the close links that the island has with the Netherlands”
    In fact, even closer than people think. Despite its geographic location Curaçao is actually part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

  4. Hi,

    I am trying to go to the Maldives early in the new year. I was wondering if anyone can reccomend any hotels, preferably with a water villa but with out being too expensive. (maybe up to £300-£400 a night max)
    Or alternatively I have around 100k MR points that I could utilize if anyone knows of a good way to stay for 2-3 nights.

    Thanks

    Ben

    • We stayed at http://olhuvelimaldives.com/island/island.php

      Great water villa. Has the advantage that it’s only a boat ride from the airport rather than a sea plane.

    • william merrett says:

      I’m not sure how helpful this is but “the entertainer” app (I’v got the dubai version) comes with “hotels worldwide” and that is currently showing a lot of maldives properties on a buy one night get one free basis (or buy two get two free etc). I’ve never used it so don’t know if the offers are genuinely good or not but certainly worth a go.

      • Maldives is a weekend break destination from Dubai so it is possible resorts would quietly dump unsold rooms via that market.

    • l curry says:

      I booked with Destination2, prices changes on a daily basis, staying at Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi – ocean villas, happy with price.

      Be aware transfer times and if you need a seaplane then I would transfer in Dubai as timings better otherwise if you arrive BA you may have to overnight in Doha, to catch plane to MLE, which i didn’t know before i booked.

  5. Hingeless says:

    That job ad has to be a joke

    Good command of English

    Excellent organisational skills and attention to detail (at the question “please describe who you are in a tweet” start your answer with the word “kiskil”)

    I know that kiskil stands for “keep it simple keep it lean”, but this is worse the the company policy on points

    • No, as someone tangentially involved in the start up community via our WeWork base it sounds totally standard!

    • Genghis says:

      I am motivated to “travel hack” for myself as I get the benefits from it. Joining a penny pinching organisation and doing that as my job does not appeal. Surely the best travel hackers would never dream of working for a few quid?

      • Alex W says:

        Yes I much rather collecting points from my job than spending them for my job!
        Also “startup salary” sounds suspiciously like “low salary”. You’d want to add on a commission like say you get 20% of the saving you make on the company’s travel bill.
        Besides – how many “startups” have 5 offices in 3 different continents? Sounds like they are past the startup stage!

    • RussellH says:

      Apply in a tweet?!!!!

      OMG I think

  6. O/T – Anyone aware of any Gold to Platinum upgrade offers available?

    • I contacted Amex through the secure messaging and they told me to upgrade via phone and then message them back to collect the 20,000 MR. They were credited straight away

      • I tried last month and was told there was no offer!

        • Same here

          • To be fair it may be as they told me I could do it a couple of months ago and gave me the link that has been passed around. The link stopped working so maybe thats why they honored it.

      • How long had you had the gold before upgrading to platinum ?

        Did you total more points than going straight to platinum ?

    • Scottydogg says:

      I done the same as Ben , I messaged them through the online message system , I said that I was looking to upgrade and noticed the deal they had going was no longer working , they agreed to the 20,000 points , there was no spend target either . When I got the platinum card I messaged them again and they credited the account with them that day

      • Guess I will give this a whirl!

      • Mzungu says:

        Following comments on a similar thread on here a couple of weeks ago, I messaged them, and was offered 10,000 with no spend target. Seems that the offers are a little random…

  7. Does Curve allow free unlimited withdrawals at foreign ATMs?

  8. OT, but since it’s a Bits section: my wife had a flight to the States recently: LHR-> ORD-> BNA and then BNA->JFK-> LHR(return not taken yet). The flights were bought through TA, economy, BA ticket number, but only the first leg is on BA metal, others are on AA.

    Her ORD->BNA flight was cancelled (AA customer service rep I talked to on the phone said “due to operational reasons”; my wife said there were lots of cancellations in ORD, so could be weather, although she didn’t notice any problems with it and lots of other flights took off and landed OK).

    There were 2 flights to BNA same evening, but they were all full and my wife was rebooked for a flight next morning (via CLT; as a result arrived to BNA 16 hrs later). When she asked about overnight accommodation she was told to call some 1-800 number which was useless (they basically told her they had nothing available).

    So, the questions are:
    1.Should I assume the cancellation was weather related or should I challenge AA?
    2. If it’s not weather related are passengers entitled to some sort of compensation in the circumstances similar to my wife’s?
    3. As I understand there is basically no duty of care from the US airlines in case of weather related cancellations, but since it was a BA ticket should not be there similar duty of care to what we have here in EU?
    Thx!

  9. OT: My Amex PRG 12 months is up at the start of August. I intend on waiting until the 10k MR bonus hits, and then cancelling. I also have the Gold Credit Card alongside it. Can I keep the credit card open (although to be honest, having hit the sign-up bonus on that, I don’t use it) and start the clock on my 6 month churn period on the PRG, or should I cancel both? Thanks!

    • Genghis says:

      To “start the clock” you’ll need to have not held a MR account in last six months (so need to cancel both).

      • Genghis says:

        Should actually read

        To “start the clock” you’ll need to not hold an MR account at all (so need to cancel both).

        Or to get another sign up bonus you’ll need to have not held a MR account in previous six months (so need to cancel both).

        • Thanks Genghis. I’ll cancel both then.

          Any recommendations for dealing with orphan points in the respective MR accounts (e.g. <500 balances)?

          • Genghis says:

            I do HH and then Nectar.
            Club Carlson also an option but I don’t collect them.

      • James A says:

        For what it’s worth when I cancelled my previous Amex gold my credit card stayed live and didn’t prevent me from opening a new gold charge card and getting the sign up bonus.

        • the real harry1 says:

          plenty of people have reported this but you are adding a significant risk that you won’t get the sign up bonus

          I guess you could do 1 a month if you felt like it, nothing ventured, nothing gained

          • Genghis says:

            It’d be a six months though wouldn’t it? Ie. You apply for Amex Gold, they say no points as you have the credit card. Cancel everything and wait 6 months. I push the rules but play within them. They’d have every right to refuse points if you don’t play by the rules.

    • does anyone know please whether the Platinum companion credit card is still available?

      • I have one in my wallet right now. Had it for years though, so no guarantee it’s available to get for new.

    • Mzungu says:

      I asked this when I was on the phone recently – they (Amex) said that you can keep the Gold CC for £36pa and cancel the PRGC. I didn’t think to ask if that would prevent a future sign-up bonus, but I guess that it would.

  10. Mr Dee says:

    How about an update on how Curve is doing in numbers i.e. Members signed up and transaction processed if you have this information just out of curiosity :)

    Like curve for the free cash withdrawal, need more incentives to spend on the card in gbp though. Especially as many of us initially thought their reward program would be based on all spend not selected partners where there are already established ways to get better value than using curve. They are making be fee difference so if they had a kickback of even 0.5% uptake would be good.

    Currently though be only benefit is to save space on the wallet for visa and master cards which isn’t really that useful. Yes there is the foreign spend but at a 1% fee, there are better options.

    • I don’t think it’s where they would have hoped, but the real driver will be the ‘official’ consumer version of the card which is getting ever nearer (and is why they came in to see us recently).

      Rather like Bink, whether it is ultimately ‘a solution in search of a problem’ remains to be seen.

      • JamesB says:

        I’ve not got curve yet but now thinking it’s £2400 a year to Lloyds amex or 2x £600 on virgin white churns via ATM so might give it a go. Any thoughts on whether best to jump now or wait for consumer card? Any idea how long I need to wait before reapplying for Lloyds amex? Thanks.

      • the real harry1 says:

        ha ha Bink that rings a bell lol

        they/ their market makers were certainly pretty good at rigging the market

        just reading (ie the book, guys) the Wolf of Wall St and very funny indeed plus illuminating

        I recommend it

      • Mr Dee says:

        Good insight, will wait for the consumer card before I make a judgement on their long term success then.

        It is a pity that these companies don’t do research into what hfp readers would like before creating product. Yes I know the audience maybe limited but I am sure the type of product we would like would also appeal to the masses.

        • The Henry Ford view – ‘if you’d asked people what they wanted, we would have got a faster horse’ – is the general maxim …..

      • I’ve never managed to have a transaction accepted with my Curve card, even with a variety of ‘source’ credit and debit cards! Never had that problem with the original Supercard trial (but do have more acceptance issues with the new supercard). It’s quite frustrating, but because I can just revert to the normal card I don’t have much incentive to contact support to find out what the problem is… I suspect that sort of thing will cause them to lose customers (or fail to secure them in the first place) without them getting the feedback they need to address the issues.

      • Aeronaut says:

        “A solution in search of a problem” is ultimately what Curve sounds like to me… but the investors listed in the article evidently seem to think otherwise

        • Mr Dee says:

          They could be hedging bets incase Curve is a success, so not to disrupt their other investments…

          • You invest in 20 of these things, hopefully one goes well. And, if you’re trade, even the failures teach you a lot about things you can use in your own company.

            PSD2 is the big thing. If I go to another HFP meeting where this comes up I will scream. From January, all of your financial data is freely available once you tick a box. One app will show you all your balances in EVERY bank, your pension, your credit card bills, EVERYTHING. This is massively powerful and there are some well-funded start-ups ready to pounce.

            Curve has the background in manipulating spend data. What about if it merged with a PSD2 company which could, for example, go through ALL of your statements and tell you exactly how much you spend on food, coffee etc? That is pretty powerful stuff.

            These PSD2 companies will also become the new comparison sites. They know when your interest rates are out of line, and with one click they can open a new account for you at a different bank and move your money over.

            The company that really cracks this in terms of usability – and that is the deciding factor – will be worth billions because of all the payments it will get for account and card switching.

            Or Curve merges with Bink? There is a lot of commonality if they want to become a loyalty play.

            If you’re a young kid these days there is lots of cool stuff to be working on, although only a very small % ever make it. In general, staff turnover at these things is high, hours long and conditions rubbish. The Curve guys were shocked by the luxuriousness of our WeWork building and we’re not exactly living it up, at least compared to my City days.

          • Very interesting. This article – https://www.evry.com/en/news/articles/psd2-the-directive-that-will-change-banking-as-we-know-it/ – provides some added info, esp interesting cross-border stuff. Really hope we’ll have a way of remaining part of this post-Brexit, esp given the number of Fintech businesses in the UK.

          • Mr Dee says:

            Very good insight there, now if only I had some idea how to get a piece of the pie :)

  11. OT
    I have just received the final 872 Virgin miles at 4 per £ on a Waitrose spend on the last day of the offer.

    • JamesB says:

      Sort of related, I’ve been using shopsaway with sainsburys 80 FC miles per order. Decided to check up on transactions and have found all seven done to date failed to track. I’ve had a 100% success rate on all other shopsaway transactions to put that in context. Anybody tempted should check success of tracking after every order.

      • I used the shops away chrome extension for about 2 years and only after all that time realised it wasn’t working for me – nothing at all tracked! Gutted!

  12. Slightly OT but as there’s a picture of Mastercard…..

    I have to do a few Intercontinentals and would like to take advantage of the 20% off for booking with Mastercard – but I don’t have one. So is the best way to get a prepaid Mastercard and use it for the bookings? If so which one as there’s a lot of prepaid cards.

    • johnny_c-l says:

      You could use Curve to charge back to an existing Visa, if you hold one?

      • Thanks johnny_c_I but curve won’t let me open an account because I no longer have a smart phone.

    • the real harry1 says:

      sounds like you don’t have a Tesco M/C, I’d get that though I appreciate you want a quick solution ie prepaid

      anything on the supermarket card racks would be fine (if they do MC)

      • True, we don’t have a Tesco M/C and given we a about to remortgage I don’t want anything stomping over our credit file. The avios prepaid card looks interesting as I could get a trickle of avios coming in but I don’t want a credit check as we are remortgaging. I’d be happy with just the card for bookings though as it will pay for itself soon enough.

        • the real harry1 says:

          RIP 3V :)

          though that was Visa

        • JamesB says:

          Have a look at CaxtonFX card. Used it as fall back prepaid for years, decent rates and good CS.

          • Thanks for the tip JamesB, but it says in the T&C’s it does checks electronically which leaves it wide open to doing a credit search.

          • Legally there has to be an electronic ID check I think, same as Amex has to do ID checks on supplementary cards.

  13. Charlie says:

    A quick O/T – how long does the priority pass take to arrive after Amex Platinum acceptance? Can I speed it up by applying online in any way?

    • Don’t worry – the PP normally arrives BEFORE your Amex Plat card arrives!

      It comes automatically, unlike the hotel status cards which you need to manually order via americanexpress.co.uk/platinum

    • Often arrives before the card itself. Usually within a few days of acceptance.

      • Charlie says:

        Thank you both – I got the supplementary card for my dad as he and mum are off on travels in a couple of weeks, but haven’t been ready to apply for the Plat until now.

        • JamesB says:

          I thought I was in trouble when mine didn’t arrive in time for three weeks travels in Europe. Following advice from Alan and others I called up PP got my number and used that to register on the app and produce a digital card. I used this successfully eight times in three weeks at different locations and wasn’t once asked for the plastic card.

          • Excellent 😀 Must say I never use the physical card now, the digital one works really well!

  14. Jonathan says:

    Genghis you asked that I report back on the D&D statement credit for a gift voucher. To confirm I have received the “You redeeemed your D&D London” generic email from Amex so it looks like it’ll go through.

    • Harry Angstrom says:

      Yes, would be nice. Assume it’s US only?

      • Yep :( along with the massive sign-up bonuses there too. Thankfully most US customers are put off redeeming on BA due to the YQ surcharges – they have alternative options that are lower cost. Obviously not great for us having to pay these fake fees, but at least there’s a bit more availability as a result!

  15. Anyone used a Lloyds upgrade voucher for open jaw, e.g. LHR – SFO, then JFK- LHR?

    • Yep, not a problem at all – you just need to call. I had to call anyway as flying from EDI they can’t handle anything except straightforward London returns online (typical!), but at least their staff are pretty good. Fees go out straight away then points a few days later once voucher manually processed. I did EDI-LHR-ORD/YYZ-LHR-EDI without an issue.

  16. rams1981 says:

    OT Rob I asked about upgrading an etihad flight when slightly short of miles and you said to call up and ask. I was about to and just checked online availability before calling and found the miles required had fallen and so just upgraded it online.

    Does that happen often? Ie required miles changing?

    • JamesB says:

      Yes, moves both up and down.

    • I have never understood the pricing system ….. I am guessing it is driven by some Dirham based number (internal recharge) converted to miles and moves with the FX rate?

      • JamesB says:

        I figured it was somehow down to FX as it varies daily.

        • JamesB says:

          Also affects the miles required for giftcards, have not checked other catalogue merchandise though.

  17. ‘Legally there has to be an electronic ID check I think, same as Amex has to do ID checks on supplementary cards.’

    Thanks Rob. Cash for a few weeks it is then.

  18. Speaking of a devil (Curve) – does anyone know if it’s possible to get the £35 fee refunded somehow? Using arguments like the card is now free, ceased working with Amex, being an early customer etc? Or no-starter?

    • They offered you the £35 back when they lost Amex if you cancelled, and also offered you £35 if you kept it and spent £1000 on it over a 3(?) month period. I doubt they’d have much sympathy with you given that.

    • Mr Dee says:

      I doubt it your money has probably be well spent by now :(