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!

Crowne Plaza Newcastle

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.

(EDIT:  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

Royal Mint £100 coins

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

See here.

Josh has bought some of these and paid them directly into his bank account.  Royal Mint does not accept American Express but Josh has 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.

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  1. The royal mint coin purchase is a good way to reach the £7500 on the Lloyds Avios Duo too.

    How many coins can you buy? Which bank branches easily accept them?

    • They limit you to 10, but dont know if you can go back in on a separate order and get another 10. Best to pop in to a branch of your local to see if they will accept.

  2. What is not reported re. Virgin West Coast off peak perk is that the peak-peak trains to Birmingham are so expensive they are more than half empty which is a national disgrace when the government is saying HS2 is going to relieve congestion. The trains which are at a vaguel affordable fare and close to rush hour are then packed to the rafters. This makes no sense for passenger comfort or for the environment.

  3. cheekychappie says:


    Are Scottish bank notes legal tender? No, not even in Scotland, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used. It simply means most people don’t understand what legal tender is (see below). Bank of England notes are only legal tender in England and Wales, meaning there are no legal tender notes in Scotland at all.

    What is legal tender? It simply means if you have a court order against you for money, the person you owe cannot turn down your settlement if you offer to pay by legal tender.

    Trivia time – Is 22p of 2ps legal tender? No, but 18p is. For pub quiz use only, be aware that with coins the amount counts. So you can settle court debts of up to 20p in 1ps and 2ps; up to £5 in 5p’s & 10p’s, and up to £10 in 20p’s & 50p’s. However, £1 & £2 coins are legal tender up to any amount – in England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland.

    What if a shop refuses your cash? There’s little you can do, shops don’t have to sell you goods, whatever you offer for payment.

  4. Wow just seen the footage of the fire onboard the Las Vegas flight. Scary or what.

  5. CP Aberdeen Airport also opened within days of the Newcastle one. I stayed there last weekend and it has a decent restaurant and club lounge. As expected for Aberdeen due to the oil the rates are eye watering during the week, however at the weekends I have several nights booked at £49! Definitely one for anyone up here in Scotland that is looking for cheap nights for accelerate.

    *I was also upgraded on the £49 rate, hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

  6. I am going to be staying the CP next week and then for the following few weeks, will add a little TR to this comment thread if anyone is interested. Or can do a longer one with photos. You can actually already book to stay there as they were taking public bookings for this week. I think the initial advance rate is about £100 per night in a standard room with breakie.

  7. From why I can see the Virgin Trains railcard easement appeared in December 2011 and was never meant to be a temporary thing. It was supposed to be one of these things that made Virgin different and better than their competition.

    Virgin then lost their franchise in 2012 and they supported a public campaign to get it back, then suddenly the government decided there’d been flaws in the bidding process and allowed Virgin to continue running the line.

    I remember at the time many of those supporting the campaign were railcard users and backed Virgin solely because of this. Others thought Virgin owned the Pendolinos and that overnight First would replace them with a fleet of old HSTs (and I even heard some mention Pacers!).

    The removal of this offer at such short notice has caused big problems for thousands. Young people have used it to step onto the career ladder by being able to take jobs that are initially low paid but with potential because they were able to commute to work based on these fares (which were cheaper than a season ticket) but now can’t afford it due to full price.

    Monitoring Twitter I noticed that this news wasn’t made public until about 2 weeks ago, there’s a lot of worried people who now have to pay more to get to work than they’re actually earning and the short notice has put them in a difficult situation.

    But whether it’s railcard benefits or rewards, just because other rail operators don’t have it isn’t an excuse for taking it away.

    • “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.

  8. Nick Burch says:

    I seem to remember some complaints about Cross Country removing that easement when they took the franchise over from Virgin, but it’s been a while so I can’t be sure. Does ring a bell though!

  9. Any easy/quick ways of hitting amex spend


  10. and why’s that?

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

    • 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…

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