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Bits: change coming to Amex sign-up bonuses?, change already here at Tesco Clubcard

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News in brief:

Changes may be coming to Amex’s sign-up bonus criteria

Two readers have contacted me in recent days to say that they have been told by the American Express call centre that imminent changes are coming to the way sign-up bonuses are earned.

The two stories are contradictory.  It doesn’t really matter which is correct, however, as the end result in both scenarios is worse than the current requirement to leave a six month gap between cancellation and re-application.

All I would suggest is:

If you are planning to cancel a card this month with a view to reapplying later, you may want to hold off.  There may be no point in cancelling if you do actually want to keep the card long term.

If you are planning to re-apply for an Amex card which you have had in recent past, you may wish to re-apply sooner rather than later.  You may not be eligible to receive another bonus if the rules change.

Let me stress that this is all speculation and that nothing has been officially announced.

My review of the key Amex travel cards are here:  American Express Preferred Rewards GoldAmerican Express PlatinumAmerican Express RewardsBritish Airways American Express (BA Amex)British Airways Premium Plus American Express (BAPP Amex)Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG Amex)

Application links are here:   American Express Preferred Rewards GoldAmerican Express PlatinumAmerican Express Rewards (representative APR 22.9% variable), British Airways American Express (BA Amex) (representative APR 22.9% variable), British Airways Premium Plus American Express (BAPP Amex) (representative APR 76.0% variable), Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG Amex) (representative APR 39.7% variable)

Separately, a third reader was warned by the Amex call centre that the free British Airways Premium Plus card currently given to long-standing American Express Platinum cardholders is being withdrawn.  This feature was stopped for new Platinum cardholders a few years ago but many readers – including myself – still benefit from it to the tune of a £195 annual saving.  I should note that I only have one data point on this and Amex call centre gossip can often get confused as it passes down the line.

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

…. and changes have already come to Tesco Clubcard

Tesco announced a pile of changes to the Clubcard scheme yesterdayWe have covered these in detail on Shopper Points today – click here.  We covered them for The Guardian as well – see here.

In general, the changes are bad.  Some little-used ‘two times’ deals will now give 3x face value, but a lot more deals which used to give 4x face value are dropping to 3x.  This mainly impacts restaurant and days out vouchers.

From a travel perspective, it is actually positive to neutral:

National Express, Megabus and redspottedhanky.com (train tickets) credit now gets you 3x the face value of your Clubcard vouchers, up from 2x

There is no change to the Avios or Virgin Flying Club conversion rates 

You have also gained Uber and hotels.com as new 3x face value redemption partners this year.  Uber is now my preferred redemption as we use it heavily and it is a genuine ‘3x’ value.  If I took Avios instead I would be giving up £3 of Uber for every 240 Avios I earned which means I would be ‘paying’ 1.25p per Avios – and I don’t value them at that.

To do this without ANY notice at all stinks, however.  It particularly stinks that we are just 9 days from the end of the current Clubcard collection quarter.  People have 10 weeks of points locked up inside Clubcard which cannot now be spent at the old 4x redemption rate.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

EXCLUSIVE: New Heathrow Rewards Avios and airline transfer bonus and new 'Premium' benefits
Bits: last day for the Qatar Airways sale, Etihad Guest's shock non-devaluation as flights get cheaper!
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Comments

  1. O/T – does anyone have any experience of tight Doha layover times? Booked 2 pax HEL-BKK and the return has a 8 hour and 15 min layover. If I sort the hotel out and then Qatar decide to make the second leg 16 minutes earlier do I lose my hotel? And if so, would oneworld status make any difference?

    • I think once the hotel is booked you’ll be fine. However, for clarity, be sure there is no possible combination of flights which could reduce the gap to less than 8 hours. If there are, you don’t get the hotel.

      • Chris Cannon says:

        Hi. Point of clarity on the above please. Do Qatar offer free hotel on layovers if more than 8 hours? I’ve got one coming up in October coming back from KL via Doha on Qatar

        • Yes BUT only if that is smallest possible layover. If there is another combo of flights which you chose not to take – perhaps because it was more expensive – that gets you under 8 hours then you can’t have it. It is almost impossible to get it on flights from the UK on Qatar because, with so many daily departures, there is almost always a combo that would have got you under 8 hours.

      • Oh gosh! I forgot about that rule! Out of sheer luck my return is on the Saturday and thats the only flight on that day. If I had booked the Sunday there is a shorter layover of 2 hours. Phew!

    • Yes some have had their hotels cancelled after a flight time change brought them under 8 hours. You might as well try though? Book a refundable hotel for backup if you are worried.

  2. It’s worth remembering that they do not offer these reward schemes out of the kindness in their heart. The reason why supermarkets offer these loyalty schemes is so they can keep track of our spending habits to sell us more. If enough people stopped swipping their loyalty cards at checkout or cancelled them, then they may have to rethink about changing the rules to reward schemes that make them less attractive.

  3. Richard says:

    If BA are concerned about there being too many avios being earned then stop agreeing to 80k+ sign up bonuses on their US cards first! And anyway, surely they would devalue the charts again rather than lower their income to deal with oversupply.

  4. anyone else having problems with Amex refer a friend referral link at the moment?

  5. OT IHG pricing: My dad and I both got caught out booking Staybridge Suites in Newcastle during the January sale. Headline rates apparently excluded VAT and I did not know anything was amiss until the charge came through on my credit card. Looking at my confirmation it does quote priceper night and total price for stay which apparently inclides VAT. IIRC some law on this requires headline rates displayed to include VAT. Is somebody able to advise if this is correct and which law applies please? I’ve searched the web but am having difficulty pinning the pertnent details down.

    • Unless a product is being advertised exclusively at the B2B market, the price MUST include VAT. As the IHG website is a public site it should include VAT.

      IHG actually changed its website a couple of years ago because the 5-star London properties were not showing VAT (on the basis that no-one ever used their own money to stay in them) but the VAT people clearly had a word and they stopped.

      The only possible get-out is that Staybridge Suites is a long-stay brand which is not aimed at the general public. However as they accept bookings from the public and indeed have ‘non-suite’ rooms which can be booked for as little as 1 night that is unlikely to wash.

      I would complain to the hotel initially and threaten a formal complain unless they reduce your rate to the ex-VAT price.

      • Thanks for this Rob, very clear 🙂

      • RussellH says:

        I complained to the hotel about this after a (perfectly pleasant) one Saturday night stay at the B’ham Staybridge in Nov 2015. I got the “Staybridge is a long-stay brand” story; no suggestion that it is “not aimed at the general public”. I quoted VAT rules, but got nowhere.

        Far too late to do anything about it now. When you mention a formal complaint, do you mean a formal complaint to the hotel, the hotel’s owner, or to HMRC? Or as Annal mentions, the ASA?

        • RussellH says:

          IIRC there is a special long stay VAT rate of 5% which partly explains why they would quote prices without VAT.

          However, just looking at the B’ham Staybridge, they are quoting prices as incl. VAT, and the price breakdown for 4 nights it is showing as 20%.

          I did not make a cancelable booking to see if JamesB’s additonal 20% got added.

          Later: just tried a dummy 35 night booking. Price is quoted as 106.31 incl. VAT average per night.

          Rate details then states ” 20% per night not included in rate effective 21 March, 2018 thru 25 April, 2018 VAT”. It is a complete mess!!

        • ASA is a good place to start, but Trading Standards would work too.

          IHG has a track record of being whacked by the ASA, see the HIX “free breakfast” saga (although I felt sorry for them about that). They got into trouble for saying the HIX breakfast is free and are now banned from saying this. The reason is that, since no-one at a HIX pays for breakfast, you cannot say the breakfast is free ….

        • Russell, see my update below. Check the Bham headline rate today, if it states the price includes VAT at ihg.com (as mine did) then it’s probably worthwhile taking a screenshot and submitting a written complaint if the amount in question is worth the time.

        • “Breakfast is not free, it costs nothing”. Should make that their slogan.

    • I complained to the ASA that hotels.com were not showing taxes on a hotel I use in the Caribbean, which caused some embarrassment at check in. Hotels.com initially refused to budge, but once the ASA got involved I somehow managed to get refunded by the hotel AND hotels.con which I put towards towards for another night at the same hotel this year!

      • .com!

      • Thanks Annal, I called after reading Rob’s comment. They tried to pull the long stay issue Rob mentioned to justify the addition of VAT. After I pointed out the rest tgey suggested I call back after 2pm when boss would be it. It just got more interesting though because I then checked their pricing today and the headline rate is advertised as including VAT. However, working through a dummy booking it later adds a further 20% to the cost but fails to specify what these costs are. VAT is not mentioned anywhere as far as I can see. The same is true on my email confirmation.

        • Successful conclusion to this issue for me, a very polite and friendly guy in the inhouse reservations team agreed to refund the VAT, no hassle at all. I did not get any drama over long stay like the earlier call.

    • I did came across this a year ago while booking a night stay at Staybridge Vauxhall. Apparently that Staybridge is the only hotel in the UK IHG with quoted price excluding VAT. I just booked different hotel instead.

  6. George Kyriakos says:

    OT: Did anyone do hotel status request via the Amex Platinum portal lately? I’ve asked Hilton, Shangri-la, Carlson, SPG, and only Hilton responded within a couple of days. The others are coming up to a month now…

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      Did you get an email from Hilton? I applied about a week ago and it looks like it has changed online but I’ve nothing to confirm.

      • I did get an email from Hilton – the only one, in fact!

        How are your other matches coming along?

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          I didnt apply for any others. I dont percieve there to be any benefit to me.

    • Hilton and Cc coming up to two months for me.

  7. OT. Looking for a bit of comfort here. I have a flight booked from AMS to JNB so im getting a flight from LCY to AMS but there is only a 3 hour lay over. Do you think that will be enough time to get through security, collect luggage and check back in again in AMS?

    • Should be OK … remember that City gets very foggy in the mornings in Spring so I wouldn’t do, for eg, a 7am City flight in February as the likelihood of it being cancelled is fairly good.

      • Hi Rob,

        Thanks, Its an 11am flight in early Feb so think im going to stick with it.

        Fingers crossed

        • If it’s KLM you’ll be happy to hear they were the most punctual airlinenin the UK in 2017. I guess more lijdly a BA redemption though.

        • Unfortunatly its not KLM – Its BA cash flight so ill just hope for no fog!

  8. Graham Walsh says:

    OT – Anyone looking for Nandos or Pizza Express vouchers, they are available in Costco, face value £40 for £33.99. Loch Fyne is £50 face value for £39.99. Costco take any Amex, quite a few others too such as Red Letter Days

  9. We’re now on the Beeb ……

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42700758

    • Waribai says:

      Yes, I just saw that and Anika gets a mention!

      • Lady London says:

        Wow. You are quoted above Martin Lewis.

        Good comment also for the next airline that tries to change the rewards rate on their frequent flyers program without due notice to those who are saving their airline points over a long period… Good one for getting that one in first for any airline changes we might be seeing oh… around July this year?

    • saying ‘it stinks’ seems to help get you a mention above Martin Lewis, impressive!

    • Really gone mainstream today between this and the Guardian 🙂

    • Eli Gold says:

      nice one!

      I’d like my fury and anger to make in on the Beebs about BA silently changing the Baggage policy when one part of a return journey is Business and not the other.
      i booked a flight with outward leg on club world (using Lloyds avios upgrade) just so that i could get the baggage allowance. but unlucky to me, by the time i went through my inbox to your article about it, it was too late.
      I wrote to BA and they gave me such a pathetic response, completely ignoring my point, that they didn’t announce it publicly and i had intentionally booked club for that specific benefit.

      Further RAGE against BA slashing yet another one of their unique services

  10. FlyingChris47 says:

    OT – But Amex related. Anyone got any tips for getting missing Shop Small credits manually added? The usually friendly and very helpful phone agents (that used to be based in Brighton?) appear to have changed and now simply read off a script – insisting on waiting 90 working days that clearly won’t make an iota of difference. Missing the days of the email function…

    • I had 20+ transactions and all posted fine, some sooner than others. Only two missing was because the merchant used iZettle so the transaction posted different, and after verifying it the online chat agent was very helpful in issuing me the credit.

      • Kinkell says:

        I got the same response as you FlyingChris47. Waited a day or so , phoned back and CS immediately credited one account with my missing shop small credits. (£10) even though it was the same shop on 2 different cards. The first CS chap wanted chapter and verse, date of spend, checked it was a legit shop on the site etc etc., agreed I was due the credits, but insistent I wait 90 days! He didn’t sound like a native of Brighton !

    • Amex CS told me to wait 5 working days, which had passed, so then told me it could take 90 days, but to phone back in January?! In that time they did all post.

    • Yes still waiting for one shop across 6 cards. Keep giving me the 90 day script too!
      I’ve now cancelled two cards so prob won’t get that credit!

      • Cook was the one shop accross all cards not to post. Called amex and they just put £30 credit onto our plat. Useful too. We got gift vouchers.

    • CountryKerry says:

      I had this last year – roughly £100 had not credited.

      Waited 90 days and nothing happened – so I phoned up and it was all added. Cancelled the card and a few months later got a surprise statement in the post – the credits had been added two months after that!

      Phoned AMEX to explain and they insisted on transferring the credit to my other card and not clawing it back!

    • I called them a few weeks ago about some missing credits. Very helpful agent will be contacting me by Saturday to either say it’s credited automatically and if not she’ll do manually for me.

    • Just had a similar call – 90 days is ridiculous

  11. OT – I’m clearing out my MR account and am considering a Marriott travel package… we have 2 children (3 years & 9 months), am I right in thinking that I will be able to use this to book a standard room at the Phu Quoc property (2 double beds)? Or does anybody have other recommendations (we’re completely flexible on location)?

    If we do go for Phu Quoc, what is the best way to get there using miles? – I currently have 134k Avios, 100k Virgin, up to 30k of either from Tesco CC, and will have 120k from the Marriott package (plus anything else I earn in the meantime…).

    • Sorry, this is not going to be helpful at all, but just wanted to say I’m jealous! Have been eyeing up the JW Mariott in Phu Quoc for a while and trying to see how I can fit it into this year’s annual leave allowance… Seems quite cheap in points when compared to e.g. Domes of Elounda, given how nice it looks & the location. I hope it’s as good in reality as it is in my head!

      Re flights – don’t know about point redemptions. I don’t think BA fly to Vietnam, but the Middle East carriers certainly do. Ho Chi Minh would be closer than Hanoi and from there Jetstar, of all people / airlines, have connections to Phu Quoc. Alternatively, if you fancy a direct flight, TUI Fly have one or two a week, with some decent deals cropping up last minute, e.g. you can currently get 17 Jan – 1 Feb for £329pp… Not very HfP, I know…

      • Read up on the resort before you go. I believe it is a looks can be deceiving situation and Phu Quoc is not as glamorous and stunning as it appears. Just a heads up.

        • Genghis says:

          We went in early 2015. Phu Quoc certainly isn’t “glamorous” but we really enjoyed our stay there. Food not as good as other parts of Vietnam, though.

        • Thank you – definite food for thought… it was more that it was looking like a great redemption option for the travel package, and so a little blinded by that perhaps! Will keep thinking – may move to SPG anyway, but if not immediately booking the travel package I’ll probably top up the airline accounts too

        • @Nick, you will be happier in the long run if you and your wife decide where you want to go then use your points and miles to make it happen. Letting the points and miles dictate where and how you go could be courting a somewhat underwhelming or potentially even disastrous experience.

    • Would it be cheaper to book the rooms with Marriott points without exchanging for a hotel and miles package then, transferring the residual MR points direct to the airline?

      • Genghis says:

        Option 1 – travel package:
        Costs 270k Marriott = 90k SPG = 180k MRs. Yields 7 nights in a hotel and 120k avios.

        Option 2 – book separately:
        7 nights at Phu Quoc booked direct with Marriott is 25k x 6 = 150k Marriott (5th night free). This is 50k SPG points or 100k MR points. Then could use remaining MR points (80k) to buy 80k avios.

        The travel package option is better. These assume all points are coming from MR (where there is a slight loss in value in general IMO vs say obtaining via SPG directly).

        • and if you are able to coincide the travel package with a hotel > avios transfer bonus (typically 35%), you will potentially end up with 162k Avios!

        • Thank you Genghis. Worked out like that it does seem the better option if you know for sure where you want to go.

    • Well the short answer is you are going to have to get all of you to either BKK, KUL, SIN or HKG etc. and then use avios to get to HAN or SGN. You can use Virgin to get to HKG probably in PE if you cash in your Tesco CC- you’d need 135K for 3 returns seats. Its 150K each return to HKG in Avios in J. You’ll need 3 of them presumably. WT+ is 78K each. These can be very tricky to find to SE Asia. You’ll also need to use your avios on CX or MS to get to SGN or HAN. You can’t use points from either city to PCQ – you’ll need to use Vietnam airways or a LCC. I can’t find a way of getting to Phu Quoc without going via one of the major Vietnam cities and I’ve been looking (we’re going in November) – well Thompson or TUI now do fly directly there apparently. The only other direct flights to HAN and SGN from UK are on Vietnam Airlines which is Skyteam so doesn’t help with your points.

    • Use avios out on Finnar, FC back from HKG with Virgin. Air Asia or other LCC for shorthaul. I cannot recall if AY HEL to SGN is zone 6 or 7, if 7 then fly into BKK. So many permutations but if SGN is zone 6 from HEL that would be my choice. But why PQ?

      • Thanks Leo & JamesB, that’s very helpful… will have to give it more thought, but looks like it will make sense to make it a multi-stop trip, don’t fancy too many flights in short succession with the children! Yes, lots of permutations – in theory should make it easier, but a few too many things to think about!

    • I will be staying at the Marriott in Phu Quoc over Easter. To get there you can fly to SGN and then get a cheap local flight (vietjet is only about 50 return) but there is also the option to fly to Bangkok and take there a direct Bangkok Air flight. In this case also there is no need for a visa (if otherwise would be needed to visit Vietnam) while you can redeem Etihad Guest miles.
      I had booked first with poiints and then applied a package when there was a 30% airline transfer bonus. Last year availibity at the Marriott suddenly disappeared so better to secure the room when there is availibility

      • ankomonkey says:

        We’re booked for a 7 night stay in August using Marriott TP hotel cert. We’re flying into BKK and taking the Bangkok Airways flights direct to Phu Quoc. As you say, we did this to avoid paying for visas and to minimise the number of flights by avoiding an internal Vietnam flight from Hanoi/HCMC. For us, this made most sense.

        We’re also 2 adults & 2 children and the hotel are letting us all stay in one room.

    • I’d do RFS LHR-IST (40k Avios), overnight in Courtyard Istanbul if you have a spare 7.5k MR’s, IST-SIN on SQ in Business (160k VS miles – the Monday and Wednesday flights often have 4 available seats), then LCC to Vietnam, LCC back to HKG then Virgin PE back to LHR (90k VS miles). So your 100k VS miles, 120k via the Travel Package and the spare 30k should get you the 250k needed.

      Not entirely sure how it works with a 9 month old – very probable you will need less than 250k!

      • Thanks – this is really helpful to start looking at some of the different options in more depth!

        Have just had an email to say LHR-SGN in Economy on Air China can be had for as little as £360pp next Christmas… just priced up some flights (horrendous timings) but could get the 4 of us to SGN for £1020 – don’t think I’ll be doing this, but looks like there are lots of options!

  12. OT but Amex related, just received an event email from their platinum concierge. I’ve never contacted amex’s concierge service – am I missing a valuable perk?

    • You must have ticked the notifications box at some point. The Vista offers are quite good too..

      • Yes I did tick the box but never used amex’s concierge service.

      • Agreed, the VISTA offers are decent. They did the XOStreet X Hakkasan the other month. That was top notch.

  13. OT:

    If you find yourself in Dubai on the evening of 22 Feb, and are looking for something to do – SPG are offering 2 tickets to see John Legend at the EMIRATES AIRLINE DUBAI JAZZ FESTIVAL for 5,000 SPG points… https://auction.starwoodhotels.com/redeem/moment/5526

    You can also see Duran Duran on 21 Feb (https://auction.starwoodhotels.com/redeem/moment/5525) or Ricky Martin on 23 Feb (https://auction.starwoodhotels.com/redeem/moment/5527).

    • SPG deals in Dubai go for low prices, we saw Jamie Cullum in a private St Regis gig two years, with a reception, drinks and meet and greet, for peanuts.

  14. A generic question on this. I’m interested to hear people’s thoughts.

    It strikes me that every time there is ‘news’ it’s rarely good. Thinking ahead to the next 10 years is it likely there will be much demand for any reward cards in the UK? As more and more people (it seems) use Airbnb etc for a more ‘authentic’ experience, the hotel programs alone could be far less valuable it would seem, and BA don’t seem to be moving in a good direction!

    • ankomonkey says:

      If hotel business is bad, they may need to improve their loyalty offerings to entice guests. Count me in to that!

  15. Stewart says:

    Is there any info on / does anyone know about Amex Platinum applying/arranging a free BAPP card? Not seen anything about that, and had the platinum card for a while now!

  16. I cancelled my Platinum AMEX a month ago. If someone refers me, would I be able to get it again now (I know I won’t get the sign up bonus) or do I have to leave a gap? I have a multi city holiday with the family coming up and the airport lounges and travel insurance alone would be really worth having.

    Also, I have an SPG Amex for which my partner has a supplementary. Could a supplementary cardholder refer someone for Amex Platinum and get the 5k SPG bonus? Thank you.

  17. Has anyone found Amex more strict now on applications? I’ve been declined after applying again following the 6 month break. My credit score on Experian is 999.

    Their letter states that their decision takes into account ‘past and current Cardmember information’.

    Maybe churners are no longer welcome?

    • I last applied for a card in September and that went through OK. Won’t know for another month or two whether we will have any issues with my wife’s next card.

      Interested to know whether others have faced more issues with their applications though.

    • I have just received my new Amex Gold after having previously held an account 7 months ok.

  18. BBC saying Tesco allowing grace period now. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42715143

  19. Sarah Gregory says:

    Re Amex Preferred Gold card. I cancelled mine on 23/07/17 so does that mean on 24/01/18 (6 months later) I could re-apply and get the bonus again or would I need to leave it a bit longer? Worried if I leave it any longer then the top post above about not getting bonus if new rules come into affect will mean I don’t get the bonus?

    • I usually leave it for another week, but I think I have cut it finer than that and have never missed out.

  20. I phoned them recently to reapply and was told I’d have to wait 2 YEARS after to cancellation to be eligible for the welcome offer again

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