Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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.


best credit card to use when buying flights

How to maximise your miles when paying for flights (June 2024)

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?

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold earns double points (2 Membership Rewards points per £1) when used to buy flights directly from an airline website.

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.

You can apply here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

Buying flights on British Airways?

The British Airways Premium Plus American Express card earns double Avios (3 Avios per £1) when used at ba.com.

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

You do not earn bonus Avios if you pay for BA flights on the free British Airways American Express card or either of the Barclaycard Avios Mastercards.

You can apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

Buying flights on Virgin Atlantic?

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

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.

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

3,000 bonus points, no fee and 1 point for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

18,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Comments (51)

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

  • Mike says:

    Thanks Rob, last night got 22nd-25th July at HIX Union Sq. for the 20000 points a night Reward nights now gone for those dates and cash price is $399. Massive saving , thanks again.

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

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