Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Bits: IHG ‘buy points bonus’ last day, Avios ‘dynamic pricing’ job, more Plaza Premium T5 photos

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News in brief:

IHG’s extended ‘100% buy points bonus’ ends today

IHG Rewards Club – the InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza etc scheme – extended its recent ‘100% buy points bonus’ promotion but IT DEFINITELY ENDS TODAY.  It is as generous an offer as you will ever see for IHG points.

The page to buy points is here.

The offer is targetted but very widely targetted, so it is very likely you will see it on your account.  Here are the standard purchase rates which do NOT include the bonus:

  • 1,000 – 10,000 points for $13.50 per 1,000 points
  • 11,000 – 25,000 points for $12.50 per 1,000 points
  • 26,000 – 60,000 points for $11.50 per 1,000 points

I receive a 100% bonus with any order of 5,000 points or more.  Some people seem to have a higher minimum, as high as 25,000. Some people also seem to have been offered a cash discount on top of double points for buying the full 60,000 points, although I did not receive that.

With a 100% bonus, you would be able to buy 120,000 IHG points for (at current exchange rates for $690) £525.  This assumes your credit card has 0% FX fees.

At the top end of the IHG Rewards Club portfolio, you have InterContinental properties which top out at 50,000 – 60,000 points per night. That’s what you would pay for InterContinental Le Grand in Paris or the InterContinental Amstel in Amsterdam.

With a 100% bonus, IHG is effectively selling you a night at a 50,000 point property for £219 all-in.  A 60,000 point hotel would be £262.  At the bottom end, the points for a 5,000 point PointBreaks night would cost just £22.

You should look at this if you have a ‘buy points’ target for your Accelerate promotion – although it makes more sense to buy 5,000 and get the bonus than buy 1,000 for no bonus.  If you are topping off your account, it is also a good deal irrespective of the exact cents per point cost.  The maximum number of points you can buy per year is 120,000 (ie 60,000 plus the 60,000 bonus).

You can buy via this link.

Some more clues about Avios ‘dynamic pricing’

British Airways is planning a move to ‘dynamic pricing’ for Avios redemptions, it was disclosed at the Investor Day presentation last week (read more here).

If you want an idea of what that may involve, take a look at this job description that appeared on the Avios website last year.  You can download the full job spec, which remains on the Avios website, as a PDF here.  £55,000 – £60,000 was on offer.

Here is what someone, assuming they filled the vacancy, is now doing (hat-tip to Flyertalk):

“The role is responsible for the dynamic pricing of rewards for members of the loyalty programmes that use Avios as their reward currency, delivering the right product at the right price and at the right time, in order to best maximise margin and the satisfaction of members to drive engagement. The Senior Pricing Manager will work closely with the pricing team, product teams, marketing, and other members of the Avios and relevant travel partner commercial teams to manage inventory and drive ongoing pricing strategies, as well as providing critical input to the tactical promotion process. The Senior Pricing Manager will provide analysis, advice and recommendations to drive the pricing strategies, with support from the Avios management team in line with stated commercial objectives.

This is a dynamic cross-functional role that requires excellent organisational and analytical skills, commercial awareness and a passion for delivering results.

What we are looking for…

  • Deliver the budgeted margin on redemption for the Avios currency (cost per avios)
  • Deliver Avios redeemed and cash on redemption targets
  • Use price to drive volumes back to suppliers at optimal levels to drive value through the chain
  • Directly responsible for the “dynamic pricing portfolio” and strategies to deliver the above
  • Support the development and implementation of “Pay with Avios” with partners
  • Work closely with Customer Insight & Analytics to determine the impact of price or inventory changes on customer satisfaction and long term loyalty
  • The role will be key in managing the transition to new dynamic pricing system capability, ensuring processes are robust and accountabilities between internal stakeholders are clear
  • Ownership of the maintenance and development of dynamic pricing systems and rules engines
  • Support, manage or own (as appropriate) CAPEX / OPEX projects involving customer price
  • Work with the Head of Pricing to develop integrated pricing strategies across existing products
  • Support continuous improvement and consistency of the reward pricing propositions across products, markets and schemes”

Plaza Premium LHR T5

Some reader pictures from inside Plaza Premium Terminal 5

Yesterday we ran some PR pictures of the new Plaza Premium lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5, which opened on Monday.

At present the only way to get in for free is via Dragonpass or by showing an American Express Platinum charge card.

Plaza Premium LHR T5

It looks similar to the Aspire lounge in terms of scale (not surprising, as they are in identical spots in the terminal, but on opposite sides):

Plaza Premium LHR T5

…. but with a better use of space:

Plaza Premium LHR T5

and

Plaza Premium LHR T5

and

Plaza Premium LHR T5

You can find out more on the Plaza Premium website here.

Comments (114)

  • Leo says:

    Am I the only one to feel the PP lounge looks a bit disappointing compared to T2 and T4?

  • Jonny says:

    One of the most valuable aspects of Avios for me is the ability to book last-minute flights, with multiple Avios seats often opening up despite high cash fares.
    Would be a great shame if dynamic pricing puts an end to this – and ultimately wouldn’t incentivise anyone to burn avios and fill an extra seat on a relatively empty flight.

  • Tracy says:

    O/T If I book the palazzo in vegas using amex travel (not fhr) will I still get ambassador benefits and/or IHG points? Or will it be considered a 3rd party booking so ineligible?

    • Rob says:

      Big risk you get nothing – you might but usually not.

      • h1tvd says:

        yes, thought that but amex travel only $100 per night (plus taxes and resort fee of course), seems like a good price…..

    • Ben says:

      I booked through Amex travel for the cosmopolitan in Vegas a few months back, didnt get the points but got all the Marriott Gold benefits

      • Genghis says:

        Marriott offer benefits on third party bookings though – a good use of hotels.com certificates as also get the free brekkie.

      • h1tvd says:

        will have a look, free breakfast would be good 🙂

  • Isa says:

    “to best maximise margin and the satisfaction of members to drive engagement”
    I am perfectly satisfied with the current static 8000/9000 avios RFS redemptions so no need to meddle with that :p I suspect I’m unlikely to be pleasantly surprised when the dynamic pricing rolls out (and if it’s as well though out and implemented as BoB, well…)
    This could well be bye-bye BA…

  • Prins Polo says:

    “[…] ensuring processes are robust and accountabilities between internal stakeholders are clear” – sounds like typical meaningless HR b/s to me 😉

  • Jim says:

    BIL & wife are heading to Heathrow T5 tonight and has just receivd his Amex Gold Card lounge passes. Which is the best lounge to use at T5? And does he need to order a couple of glasses of something pre arrival in order to ensure he gets in?

    • fivebobbill says:

      The only T5 lounge you can get into using Amex Gold (Lounge Club pass), is Aspire.

      • fivebobbill says:

        And just to add, the Aspire lounge is small and usually busy, you don’t need to order anything to ensure entry, but don’t be surprised if there’s a lengthy queue and wait at the door

    • Stu_N says:

      Unfortunately I think they will be out of luck, Aspire only accepts Priority Pass (edit: Lounge Club is taken too) and when I tried to go for a nosey the queues were massive so I didn’t bother. From the articles and comments above Plaza Premium is Amex Plat or pay-per-entry only at the moment. The BA lounges are limited to passengers with OneWorld status or flying business/ first. You can’t use lounges in different terminals either. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

  • JamesB says:

    I don’t really get the excirement of lounges other than free booze. Increasing numbers have become entitled to use them in recent years with the result that many have become quite unpleasant places that offer little improvement on the wider terminal. In some instances I’ve found myself passing the lounge in favour of a sandwich in a quiet empty gate area. Generally though I try to arrive at airports as close to departure times as possible. I know it will be a very unpopular view here but I would like to see airline lounge access restricted to first, business and premium economy ticket holders only, no more status passengers in economy regardless of what they paid for their ticket. I say this for no other reason than I’d like to see lounges less crowded. By contrast, independent lounges can do what they like.

    • Prins Polo says:

      Fully agree. Unless it’s something exceptional (like Qantas in Sydney or CX in HKG) I usually don’t bother.

    • Wally1976 says:

      Free booze is definitely what gets me in there!

  • Graeme says:

    OT – I was referred for a BAPP by my girlfriend last week and got a letter on Tuesday rejecting my application due to financial reasons, possibly including checks they’d made with Experian. I was a little surprised given that my credit rating is fine (I checked Experian after – at the top of ‘excellent’) and I currently hold the SPG Amex – nothing has changed.

    I gave them a call and a slightly surly bloke told me that he definitely couldn’t help, but went away to check. He came back slightly less surly and told me that it was most likely rejected in error, that they’ve been having problems with this recently, and that they’d be in touch soon.

    Has anyone else experienced this? Will this have left a mark on my credit rating? Errors happen, that’s fine, but if it’s left a mark then they’ll be getting both barrels.

    • Toby says:

      I just got rejected for an SPG card. Same kind of surly attitude when I called up although he did refer it back to the New Cards team to have another look. Never been rejected before and my Experian rating is good too. Currently a Platinum card holder and have never missed payments with AmEx. Probably held about 8 cards with them over all.
      I did move flat 1 month ago so I assumed that was the problem as the new address hasn’t filtered through to Experian yet, but interesting to hear others having problems too.

    • New Card says:

      Yes! This happened to me too, two weeks ago, on a BA Premium+ card. Online application said they needed to think about it, and then I got the same letter you received. Never rejected before and also Excellent rating on Experian. I was given a postal address to send a letter to in Brighton to and I sent that in a few days ago… still waiting…

      • JamesB says:

        Oh oh, add me to the list I guess. I failed to get an instant approval on SPG card yesterday following a referral. Sounds like I might be getting a rejection letter too. My reading of this is that they are quietly running down the co-brannded cards or are gearing up to prevent churning on them.

        • New Card says:

          I think this has for some time been the case in the US… where sign up bonuses are monstrous. But I had thought that didn’t apply to the UK, where sign up bonuses are far more restrained, not least because of how often Amex CS telephone staff invite you chirpily when cancelling a card to apply again in 6 months…

        • New Card says:

          It might possibly be that they’ve decided to do this… but I’d be surprised if the way they decided to implement was to tell applicants that that there’s some problem with their credit file, rather than just being up front about their reasoning (or rather than issuing the card but informing the applicant that they can’t have the sign up bonus again). FCA rules require Amex’s communications to be “fair, clear and not misleading” – I doubt this would meet that test. (The fact that the CS team merrily advise cancelling cardholders that they should reapply after six months for a new bonus is presumably also subject to the same rule…)

        • JamesB says:

          Update on my SPG application, I just called and learned that I have also been rejected. The reason given was “due to internal scoring”. For context, experian score is over 970, never missed a payment, cancelled BA standard with £12k limit last month, SPG card was my third amex application of the year, I have had 3 previous SPG cards, never more than one in a year,.

        • Anna says:

          Nice that Amex thinks that non-churning customers are “higher quality”. That’s us told!

        • the real harry1 says:

          ‘higher quality’ just means more profitable

        • JP says:

          No problems on my last SPG a couple of weeks ago either.

          • Rob says:

            The flow of accepted referrals on SPG since I got my new card is low though. Either Amex is slow in posting points or they are getting tighter – but I was accepted 3 weeks ok immediately.

        • JamesB says:

          @Anna, It is more complex, I am quite sure amex would prefer serial churners spending 6 figures per year to a BAPP creature of habit putting £10 through a single card every year. I churn amex cards but not to the extremes that some others do. Also, amex have actively encouraged it, even refering card holders to HFP. If there is something going on at the moment, and there may not be, then I’m sure it is driven by the co-branded card issue and not churning in itself. It would be no surprise if they are now planning to stop churning on these cards but it would have been better had they just announced that there will be no more than one bonus offer going forward.

        • meta says:

          I applied last Friday. Great rating. Didn’t get the immediate approval (same as for MBNA over the weekend), but my SPG card arrived today.

      • Stevie G says:

        It’s just happened to me. Rejected for the SPG despite having a perfect Amex history and a Platinum charge. I was told to check Experian. Experian is almost perfect bar a few extra credit checks recently but 2 of them were for the SPG and Platinum card.

    • Doug says:

      Urrrhh. What are all these poor people doing here?
      Considerably more serious than the above remark I was surprised at how my credit score (the Barclaycard one, Experian I think) had fallen following a year of credit card churn. I’ve done the supposed correct thing of keeping one long term card. Could it be I’ve spent too much, I’ve used personal cards for work expenses, and probably spent £50K to £60K in the last year. All paid back on time, always in full via DD. Is it just that spending pattern after spending probably £5K to £7K a year previously?

      • Genghis says:

        Perhaps the number of applications? I track mine x 3. Experian did go down below 900 at one point but been back up at 999 for a while now as try to space out applications, close down unused cards etc (whether that’s the right thing to do is another matter but seems to work for me).

        • Doug M says:

          Mine’s at 827, which is very low against previous checks. Never had a bad debt, own house in London with no mortgage, I’d have thought that would score higher. But I have done rather a lot of credit card applications in the last year, 6 x Amex, and maybe 4 others, that’s a lot given in the 5 previous years I probably applied for one. I was going to slow the pace anyway, now I definitely will.
          Also, thanks for your input, lot of good stuff here generally from you.

      • JamesB says:

        Doug, one of the things I think you have got to try and maintain is a good ratio of spending to available credit but I’m not sure what good is. I think best to avoid using much under 20% or much over 80% of available credit. My score has went as low as 7XX once but it recovere quickly.

    • Nick says:

      A-ha!! I posted a couple of weeks back saying how I’d been rejected for the Nectar card, so this proves something is definitely up! Either ‘an error’ or a conscious decision at Amex to shake up their acceptance. Do let us know if you get anywhere, I might also try writing in.

      And for those saying ‘but Experian says I’m God’… learn how credit applications work. No bank pays for the ‘score’, they pay for the data and make their own score.

      • Scallder says:

        I applied for the Nectar Amex back at end of Oct for the higher bonus (and extra cards for shop small) and was rejected. Same situation as others – never had a problem with Amex and have held a BAPP continuously for 3 years whilst churning Plats and SPG.

        Rejected due to “internal scoring”. Asked for case to be reviewed and was told I had too much credit already available compared to my salary. This was after I had closed down the SPG card a few weeks earlier with c £7k limit on it.

        In the end the manager I spoke to said I could reallocate some credit from my BA card to my Nectar one.

        I don’t know if I haven’t noticed before but I think Experian has recently changed their scoring system so multiple applications within past 6 months are a negative and an average age of credit length of sub 32 months (from memory) is a negative. Still have a good score on Experian after the Nectar application though so it is defintely Amex doing something themselves…

      • JamesB says:

        I don’t think amex aford as much weight to experian once you have been a customer for a while, I think they rely more on their own records. This makes it all the more annoying as many of us are probably good customers despite the churning.

    • AndyF says:

      I was also Rejected for the SPG card this morning! they said they’d write to me with a decision (basically declined). I rang Amex immediately and told them I would like to talk to a manager to discuss my application. A manager rang back this afternoon who was exceptionally helpful. She checked my application and said that my credit score was great. The conclusion we came to was that my credit limit was too high on my BA card. over 15k + other non Amex cards etc also. So I agreed to lower my credit limits and she successfully put my application through. Lesson learnt try and keep my credit limits lower if they are not needed. I suppose they saw themselves as being overexposed it they gave me another card with a high limit.

      • Liz says:

        Yet Amex are actively increasing credit limits on existing accounts – we recently declined an offer to have our BAPP increased from £8500 to £16000.

        • the real harry1 says:

          so there’s a risk that you’ll fall foul of the Amex overall credit limit if you have a few cards? – and get refused

      • AndyF says:

        It’s made me feel a bit cautious about the whole process especially since I want to apply for the gold card again in January. I’m just thankful I managed to talk my way into being approved.

    • Mr Dee says:

      Most likely due to their internal credit scoring automatically declining you after an initial review, there is an option to contact their executive team by post to appeal but I could never be bothered with that.