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Bits: Virgin Trains loophole closed, new Crowne Plaza Newcastle, Royal Mint churning

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Some news in brief:

Virgin Trains closes a loophole I never knew existed

Last weekend, Virgin West Coast closed down a loophole that, unfortunately, I had never heard about.

It turns out that, if you used a Railcard to buy a ticket on Virgin West Coast, you were charged off-peak pricing on ALL trains.  This meant that you were effectively offered a double discount on peak time trains – you got offered an off-peak price not available to other travellers AND it would be discounted with your railcard.

This was not an error – it was a generous Virgin policy which they have now removed.  More details in The Independent here.

If you ever took advantage of this, you no longer can.  And if you never did, you never will!

New Crowne Plaza Newcastle opens

I don’t cover many new hotel openings on Head for Points but I make an exception for upmarket IHG or Hilton properties, where many HfP readers have points and status, in popular cities.

The new Crowne Plaza in Newcastle officially opens tomorrow and is already in its soft opening phase.  Located directly behind the main railway station, it is a new build four-star hotel which looks pretty good from the website (photo above).

Reward nights are 30,000 points per night.  Cash rates will be pretty low for the first few months, however, so you may prefer to pay – especially if you participating in the generous IHG Accelerate promotion this Autumn.

Remember that new IHG Rewards Club members will get a free night – anywhere in the world – for two paid stays they make under the Accelerate offer.  Click the link above for more details.

I have been told, unofficially, that all IHG status members – Gold, Platinum and Spire – will be upgraded to club rooms or at the least given free club access for the first month.  You may want to reconfirm this with the hotel before you book but it sounds a decent deal.

Royal Mint £100 coins

Finally, it is worth noting that the Royal Mint is currently selling a £100 commemorative coin at face value, with free postage.

See here.

A reader has bought some of these and paid them directly into his bank account.  Royal Mint does not accept American Express but he had the old bmi Diamond Club Mastercard which earns up to 2.5 Avios per £1.

Not all bank branches will accept them although as legal tender (albeit not circulating coins) they should – you need to ask around.

Comments (32)

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  • Leo says:

    and why’s that?

  • Rob says:

    He didn’t tell me – if he sees this he may post.

    • Josh says:

      You can place unlimited separate orders of 10 coins per household (best to spread them out a bit). I’ve had a fair chunk this way!

      Acceptance is a little more hit-and-miss (I don’t cause a fuss if refused!), but generally Halifax branches near where I live have been quite good with small(er) batches of them. If you have the cash float I’d say buy as many as possible and then “cash them in” bit by bit over the forthcoming year…

  • Gavin says:

    Re: The Royal Mint:

    Does a purchase of these coins not count as a cash transaction on credit cards, and is therefore subject to high transaction fees? I believe this was introduced after a similar promotion in the US went wrong, and a lot of people used it as a free way to rack up points.

    • cheekychappie says:

      Amex treat it as a purchase

      • Rob says:

        ….. although I think the loophole which let you use Amex – which involved fooling the Mint site into thinking you were in the US – no longer works?

        • cheekychappie says:

          Ah, I’m not doing it this time so might be out of date. Fairly sure I’ve also used MBNA Visa in the past (Olympic 50ps for the kids) with no nasty surprises

          • Rob says:

            I am 99% sure it will be treated as a purchase – it certainly was on Josh’s MBNA card.

  • cheekychappie says:

    OT bit – check your snail mail – just got mailing from Tesco with 3 x £8 off £40, combines well with pay.coms

  • cheekychappie says:


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  • Aeronaut says:

    “From why I can see the Virgin Trains railcard easement appeared in December 2011 and was never meant to be a temporary thing.”

    No, it’s been around *much* longer than that – since circa 2000.

    Possibly intended to help attract people onboard when the West Coast mainline was a bit of a mess, with the route modernisation programme just getting going. Also it was maybe a way of softening the blow as Virgin Trains bumped up their peak fares and expanded the peak time window for many journeys.

    It’s bad news that the easement was removed with so little notice, I agree completely with that.

  • ian says:

    Anyone found a bank in NW London that accepts the coins? I am struggling.

  • Dom says:

    Just tried to cash in one of the royal mint £100 coins at Lloyds. Got told they would not accept it but the post office or the bank of England might. I just called royal mint and they adviadvised that they cannot be cashed in. They can only be sold on the secondary market. Coin collectors, cash converters eBay etc.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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