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Bits: 20000 IHG points bargain in San Francisco, Thistle Heathrow brings back free pod trips

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News in brief:

An 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.

Thistle Heathrow brings back free pod travel to Terminal 5

Thistle Heathrow brings back free pod travel to Terminal 5

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.

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.

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Some UK credit cards offer special bonuses when used for buying flights. If you spend a lot on airline tickets, using one of these cards could sharply increase the credit card points you earn.

Booking flights on any airline?

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The card comes with a sign-up bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points. These would convert to 20,000 Avios or various other airline or hotel programmes. The standard earning rate is 1 point per £1.

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Buying flights on British Airways?

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The card comes with a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Avios. The standard earning rate is 1.5 Avios per £1.

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Both the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard and the annual fee Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard earn double Virgin Points when used at

This means 1.5 Virgin Points per £1 on the free card and 3 Virgin Points per £1 on the paid card.

There is a sign-up bonus of 3,000 Virgin Points on the free card and 18,000 Virgin Points on the paid card.

You can apply for either of the cards here.

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Comments (51)

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

  • Gary says:

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

  • James67 says:

    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.

    • AndyGWP says:

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

  • Alan says:

    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 🙂

    • RK says:

      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!

      • RK says:

        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.

        • Volker says:

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

        • Richard says:

          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.

          • Alan says:

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

          • Leo says:

            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.

          • Danny says:

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

          • Rob says:

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

        • RK says:

          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.

  • 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………..!

    • TimS says:

      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!

    • Jon N says:

      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.

  • Waribai says:

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

  • Peter says:

    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.

    • Rob says:

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

      • Peter says:

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

  • 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?

    • Ziggy says:

      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).

      • RIccati says:

        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.

  • Spot says:

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

    • Ed says:

      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

      • Usatb says:

        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.

        • Ed says:

          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

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