Bits: save 35% buying SPG points, Etihad changes baggage allowances, On Business changes

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News in brief:

Buy Starwood points for 35% off (= cheap airline miles)

Starwood is again offering a 35% discount when you purchase SPG Starpoints before 16th March. The link to buy is here.

The good news is that the discount is not staggered.  As long as you buy more than 5,000 points, you get the full 35% off.

At the top end, 30,000 points will cost you $682.50 (£480).  Assuming that you convert them to airline miles with the 25% uplift for moving chunks of 20,000 at a time, these can be converted to 37,500 airline miles in the majority of programmes.

This works out at 1.28p per airline mile.  This is not a great deal most of the time (you can often pick up Avios for 1.0p) but it might make sense with some other programmes.  You cannot buy Lufthansa Miles & More miles directly so being able to get them for 1.28p may well work for some people.

30,000 Starwood points would also convert into 90,000 Marriott Rewards points.  If you are working towards a Marriott Travel Package redemption – and they are great value as this article explains – then buying the full 30,000 Starwood points may well make sense.

The rules are straightforward – points post within 24 hours, maximum purchase of 30,000 points per year, your SPG account must be 14 days old to participate.  According to the comments below, you will earn 2 points per £1 instead of 1 per £1 if you pay on an SPG Amex credit card.

If you are interested, you can buy SPG points via this link.

SPG Starwood 350

Etihad announces changes in luggage allowances

In yet another move to help shore up its finances (after cutting chauffeur transfers outside the UAE, closing the London lounge spa, selling lounge access to economy passengers, cutting spend on food and drink etc), Etihad has tweaked its baggage allowances to raise cash.

These are the new rules for tickets booked from 31st January:

  • Economy Deal 23kg
  • Economy Saver 30kg
  • Economy Classic 30kg
  • Economy Flex 35kg
  • Business 40kg
  • First 50kg

Not everyone loses, but most do.  Business Class drops from 2 x 32kg to a combined total of 40kg, whilst First drops from 2 x 32kg to a combined 50kg.  Economy Classic and Flex customers see their previous 2 x 23kg allowance fall by 16kg and 11kg respectively.  Economy Saver actually goes up by 7kg whilst Economy Deal is unchanged.

Etihad Guest status members will continue to receive additional allowances based on card colour and route.

There is now no individual bag limit.  You can check in as many pieces as you like as long as the combined weight does not exceed the limits above.

Changes to British Airways On Business

The British Airways ‘On Business’ programme has become an irrelevance for most small companies since it was devalued two years ago.

Cuts to the earning rate, the removal of non-VAT registered businesses from membership (which hit a lot of charities), the huge rise in Business Class redemption costs and the requirement to spend £30,000 per year to escape the basic membership tier meant many companies stopped focusing on it.

Two recent changes have been made which are a step in the right direction but don’t go anywhere near far enough:

You can now upgrade Iberia flights, as well as BA flights, using On Business points

You can now upgrade just one leg of a return ticket at the time of booking

Both of these new features require you to ring a British Airways call centre so the take-up is likely to be limited.

If you are not a member of On Business then you should read my detailed two-part analysis which is here and here.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. I tried to get OnBusiness to upgrade an ex-EU ticket (from business to first – the route was DUB-LON-NYC-LON-DUB) but the OB call centre was unable to do so, I tried 2x HUACA but all three agents said said their system couldn’t upgrade this kind of fare at all without it repricing the underlying cash ticket to a higher fare.

    The 3rd agent suggested I book DUB-LON-DUB and LON-NYC-LON separately, then upgrade the TATL bit with my OnBusiness points. She then suggested my trip would probably be cheaper overall that way!

  2. OT
    Some of you will remember the Marriott NFL trivia quiz which gave us 1,000 per week for six or so weeks. It was meant to be part of a bigger ‘up to 45,000 points’ promotion.
    I sent Marriott a DM asking what happened to the rest. They have replied saying watch on social media so it sounds as if there will be more to come. Probably.

    • Here’s hoping!

    • I did well out of that promo. It went on for a bit more than 6 weeks – I ended up with 15000 points which I’ve used for two free nights in Amritsar! It’s only a Fairfield but it’s all I need as a base for visiting the Golden Temple and Wagah border.

  3. OT BA taxes and charges from the regions.
    I have been looking at Amex2-4-1 redemptions in Club World/First to US , from MAN
    If flying from LHR the taxes and charges for two people is just over £1000.
    If flying from MAN via LHR (no other way on a 2-4-1 from the regions), this jumps to over £1500.
    While they are not increasing the Avios required, this is charging almost the full Club Europe cash fare in additional charges.
    Is this correct and is there a way around it (without booking MAN-LHR as a separate ticket, collecting bags, checking in again at LHR etc)?
    More evidence BA should be named London Airways?

    • I think if you click through to the final payment page it should drop down quite a bit. Since they introduced the Business seats on domestic it costs more from the regions because we want our bags checked through. Previously we paid economy taxes on the domestic bit but with the change it automatically books you in to business on the domestic leg because your long haul is business or first. The alternative is to book a separate domestic ticket and pick up your bags and recheck in.

    • Have you followed it all the way through to the end to get correct pricing? I recall somebody, Anna I think, reporting problems with this from MAN last year but I don’t remember how it ended. I’m sure she will respond later if online today.

      • Yes, you need to click through to the next page and the price will drop. IIRC, if you choose the “Stopover” option you can elect to fly the connecting flight in economy which then drops the RFS fee to that level. I have booked my LHR – MAN return leg separately a couple of times as it’s not available when the long haul return flight appears at T-355. This does mean having to collect the bags, but also that we can take advantage of duty free alcohol purchases in the Caribbean which you are not allowed to make if you have a connecting flight on the same PNR.

        • It’s a small point but significant if you are quite partial to rare Caribbean rums which cost a small fortune to source in the UK!

        • I didn’t know that about the domestic leg – we are happy to be up the back on the domestic leg on the way down. On the way back I presume you can ask for economy on the domestic leg when phoning to add return on 241. How does that affect luggage allowance if it’s on the same ticket? Or do you need to book business on the domestic leg if you have an extra bag on the way home which we normally do?

          I thought you could transit with duty free booze through LHR if you buy it at another airport.

        • Just trying out some dummy flights to Denver from EDI and I am getting the options to select a different class for the domestic leg – but the site keeps throwing up an error saying we cannot book this flight then when I try again it says there’s a technical error – so frustrating. Will keep trying.

          Lots of the stuff on here doesn’t apply to me but then you get a wee comment from someone [Anna] that is very useful!

        • @Liz, you will also find that when choosing the stopover option for the same day that you sometimes get more choice of domestic connections than if you do not opt for stopover. IIRC the site will not book a connection at T5 unless there is a 90 minute layover between flights even though I think the minimum connection time T5-T5 is only 60 minutes. I rarely fly via LHR now so my memory might be wrong, hopefully others wil confirm or correct. There is also potential married segment issues or perhaps it is just an IT error.

        • I just can’t get it to work – not even one way – keeps telling me to change the cabin class. Which means BA is making me book CE and pay £80 extra in taxes for 2 people on a return trip which I don’t want. Don’t need to sit at the front and don’t need food when we will be in the lounge in EDI and LHR. We always leave about 3 hrs min when flying down anyway so not that isn’t the issue. I’ve sent an email to BA asking them about it, see if it is an IT glitch or if you just can’t book it online and need to phone up. Looks like we would need CE on return leg for the extra luggage anyway.

        • @Liz, it was definitely possible in the past but perhaps they changed it with introduction of CE. You could try calling to book, there should not be a fee as you cannot do it online. I had an agent initially put me in economy on domestic with J longhaul with an UUA so it is technically possible to ticket what you want offline. Agent will also be able to see if something like married segments is causing the problem. I doubt that though, I think just a site error by accident or design.

    • From NCL it works out at £1080ish for x2 in Business on all legs? Doesn’t make sense why it would be different.

      • Liz – I am not sure re the bags as we never have more than 3 between the 3 of us, but I think you might be entitled to the higher allowance if you’re on the same PNR. However, even if you’re not, when you tot up your hold and hand baggage allowance, even for economy that’s (at the moment) quite a substantial amount.

        Re the duty free, yes Heathrow airport officially lets you transit with duty free, however our GCM airport (don’t know about other islands) simply will not sell you the stuff if your boarding card says MAN. I have had a few arguments with the shops over this but they will not budge, and will not only sell you liquids over 100 ml if your itinerary shows a connecting flight. I would love to know where this comes from but have no idea who I would take it up with!

        • Scrap “only”!

        • I can’t get the dummy booking to work – keeps saying I need to change the cabin class so won’t let me proceed. Have you managed to do a booking with the 2 cabin classes.

        • I’ve just tried a dummy booking from MAN to NYC. If you choose the stopover function but put in the same date of travel the system then takes you to a page where you can select both legs of the journey separately. One way is coming up at 50,000 avios plus £456 off peak per person. Make sure you leave enough time between the two legs or you will get an error message.

        • You might need to contact the call centre if you can’t finish the booking online. The system is showing that it’s possible to select different classes so they could probably do it over the phone and waive the fee. I always contact the UK based call centre as they always seem by far the most knowledgeable and accommodating.

        • The BA IT doesn’t like it. I’ve put the same date in for the stopover – it allows me to do it on the outbound leg and proceed to the outbound page. As the flight is overnight I changed the date of the domestic leg to the next day but when I select economy it throws up the error. So annoying that you can’t cost up different classes for different legs online.

        • Did the rules not change recently on baggage? I thought niw you were only allowed domestic bags if flying domestic despite premium cabin longhaul?

        • The change was that if booking a return on mixed cabins you could not carry over the highest.

        • Thanks Anna et al, I had not clicked through to the next page and when I did it dropped to £1100 taxes and charges for two.
          I will play around with the stopover options.
          If coming back in club or first and connecting to domestic economy rather than CE, do you still have access to the respective lounges (no current status) during the stopover at LHR?

    • Recurrent issue with rubbish BA IT – you need to go to final payment page for it to calculate it correctly…

  4. OT:Posted last night but not many online so just a heads up, no clubcard to avios conversion bonus again, it’s another competition to win a share of 1 million avios. I was hoping for something better given clubcard woes this month.

  5. For SPG transfers from Membership Rewards, do you need the three zeros at the start?

  6. Tom Cook says:

    Is the SPG promo worth buying into?

    We’re now moving to collect hotel points (we’ve got our flights sorted for the year and have plenty of BA avios which will continue to tick over through our BAPP / promos / Tesco Clubcard conversion).

    We’re now looking at building our hotel point stash – we’ve already got two free nights booked in a SPG hotel in Italy using SPG points converted from AMEX Plat referrals and have 22k left after getting the SPG credit card bonus bur wonder if it is worth adding to the points through this offer?

    • That depends on the points/cash ratio at the hotels that you want to stay at, but it is rarely worth buying quantities of points in my opinion.
      Also look at Marriott which you can transfer to at 1:3 and you get free breakfast with Gold. This example costs the equivalent of 10,000 SPG points.

      • 30,000 Starwood for £480 is a no brainer for me. Converted to Marriott it’s 90,000 points at just a fraction over half a penny a point and I easily get 1p value per point

        • Same. Bought 60k with my OH’s account as part of funding a travel package in NY. Given the nightly price of midtown hotels it’s a no brainer even before you consider the 120k VA/BA bonus that come with it.

        • 162k of BA avios if you wait for one of their bonuses on transfers from hotel points 😀

        • How does that work? A BA bonus?

        • Have you already used up the other avenues?
          I have just referred my wife from SPG (5,000 SPG) to Gold (without supplementary) so she gets 24,000 MR (12,000 SPG) on spending £2,000 then upgrade to Platinum for 20,000 MR plus 5,000 for giving me supplementary. Total of 29,500 SPG for a couple of months Platinum charge (c £72) plus Gold status at SPG, Marriott and Hilton.
          Then any further referrals get 18,000 MR. In March she will refer me for Gold and cancel Platinum and the merry-go-round starts again.
          Of course the rules may change, so hurry.

        • Also Marriott MORE portal for some online purchases and social media at

        • Hey George, yes around twice a year BA offers this transfer bonus…

        • Thanks Ian, I never put 2 and 2 together on that one. Cheers!

        • @Mark2. Have you upgraded from Gold to Plat yet? Did you get charged the fee? We are just about to trigger the Gold bonus. We want the Plat card for our trip down under in May/June. Was originally going to upgrade mid April and hope the fee didn’t get charged but with all the hype about the rules changing I’m wondering whether to upgrade now – but then I might get charged the fee – decisions decisions!

        • @Liz, my dad upgraded December, no fee on his first two statements afterwards. Might be worth biting the bullet while you know offers available. Personally, I will risk waiting to late March to upgrade mine.

        • @Liz yes we have upgraded to secure and also to do some referrals. But only in the last week, so too soon to tell about charge.

        • Ok thanks James and Mark. I just phoned Amex to cancel hubby’s SPG Card. No hard sell to keep a hold of it and no warnings of not getting the bonus again. Girl was really helpful and manually credited 8 of my missing small shop credits and put in a request to investigate my 2 Lloyds and 1 MBNA missing credits even though I have submitted a claim for those via the Connect site.

      • With the 120K (Avios) become 162K Avios how does that work. Do the Avios sit in a Marriott account until you move them, and you wait for the 35% bonus offer?
        What sort of Manhattan hotels fit in the Cat 1 to 5.

        • Peter K says:

          No, the Avios go over straight away. You need to wait until there is a bonus offer and then get a travel package. If your need a travel package singer you have to go for the standard 120k Avios (or miles in whatever airline scheme your choose).

  7. As a newbie in the reward world of points and frequent flier miles, is it worth getting the 30,000 Starwood points and converting to Avios miles for British Airways. I am expecting around at least 40,000 this year.

    • As per the article, you’d be buying the 37,500 Avios at 1.28p each (if you bought 30,000 SPG) so you’d need to redeem them for more than that to make it worth while.

      As to whether that’s good for you, you’d need to run the numbers on whatever redemption you have in mind but I suspect you’ll struggle to get a significant improvement in value above the 1.28p for Avios.

    • Peter K says:

      It is rarely worth paying this price for avois. As Rob put, there are often ways to buy for 1p per Avios. Offers come along at 1p per Avios quite frequently… Often on Iberia.

    • Don’t jump before you can swim Jose, study all the introductory stuff and avios university series first before doing anything. People easily get caught up on the hype and talk themselves into believing they have a good miles and points deal when the opposite is closer to the truth. Flying business class to central Asia or the far East for example, it is difficult to realise more than 0.6ppa value unless using a BAPP 241 voucher. However for North America it is generally a bit higher, and for other markets like South America and South Africa better still.

      • Thank you for all your answers guys! I actually signed up for the Economist 1 year subscription and managed to garner 13,000 miles, however, I realised you can buy the same amount on BA’s Avios website just this morning for round about the same price. Then again, I am now getting The Economist in print and digital for the remainder of the year which is something I do enjoy reading!

  8. Steve-B says:

    OT: if anyone can help – my IHG account is now showing Ambassador renew options (from 1 May), and I have 235k of redemption bookings this summer. If I renew today, will the discount be available *immediately* for bookings/rebooking post 1 May or will it only show after 1 May? Also how is discount applied, presumably on the booking page?

    • Believe you need to cancel and rebook redemptions after you’ve paid the $200 ambassador fee. Seem to recall Rob saying it comes as a rebate every few months and impossible to reconcile which points come from which stay! Whether you’ll get the rebate for stays before your ambassador anniversary, no idea sorry.

    • Genghis says:

      Its a rebate rather than a discount. Ie. Pay 100%, get 10% back (not pay 90%).

      • Steve-B says:

        Thanks guys. I was being too optimistic thinking it was an upfront ‘discount’ 🙂 I’ll probably renew as I get value from Ambassador, but will hold off until closer to my renewal date.

      • Would this discount be applicable on PointsBreak booking as well ?

  9. OT bt SPG related – has anyone received bonus SPG points for adding a supp card on the SPG amex?

  10. grammer says:

    I seem to remember it being mentioned on a previous SPG promotion that you earn double Starpoints when using an SPG Amex card…is that still case and is that the best option bearing in mind you have to pay in US$ and the FX fee?

    • Starwood points come through as “Starwood by points” (the “by” is their typo, not mine!) so probably won’t qualify for double points on the associated card.

      You definitely only get standard points when you buy Avios via BAEC on a BA Amex.

      • Steve-B says:

        I definitely got 2x points last year when I purchased Starwood points on my Amex SPG card.

      • Pangolin says:

        I purchased 3 tranches of points with my SPG Amex last year and got 2x points on every occasion.

        • Very interesting…wonder why BAPP/ Avios doesn’t give double points but Starpoints on the Starwood card does?

        • I am assuming it goes through as In which case, buying Avios with an SPG card may also trigger double SPG points!

    • RussellH says:

      Yes, you get 100% bonus points on purchases at Starwood **properties** (and Marriott, I believe), though this is a temporary offer – presumably until the new combined Marriott+SPG scheme launches. Buying points is not a deal with Starwood, so no bonus.

      • From the site:
        Which credit cards may I use to purchase Starpoints?
        You may use any valid American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, JCB or Diners Club card. If you use the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express to purchase Starpoints, you will earn additional Starpoints for the dollars you charge on the card.

        So YES there is a bonus for using your SPG Amex!

        • Would be keen to see if this works especially as that Q&A presumably is meant for US SPG Amex holders.

      • Just had a couple of stays at Marriott hotels used the SPG card but no double points.

      • Pangolin says:

        My experience directly contradicts this – I’ve always received double points from Starpoints purchases made via the SPG card, using the same link as Rob gives above.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Yep you’ll get 2x points

      • David2910 says:

        So what are all-in maths if i buy 30k SPG points today using my spg card, assuming 2x ? In pence per point? Do i just get an extra c.900 points on top of 30k x 1.35?

  11. Can the hotel certificate element of a Marriott travel package be redeemed online or do you have to call? Do people tend to have many/any problems using them re availability?

    • Peter K says:

      I’m just dealing with this now. If you have say a category 1-5 certificate and you want to use it on a category 1-5 hotel then you can do it online.
      If you want to upgrade it with extra points to a certificate that you can use on say a category 8 hotel then you need to ring to do so.
      Use the number for the UK call centre, I find them much more helpful than the US one.

      • Thanks. Good to know you can upgrade with extra points – I guess this means it always makes sense to get the 1-5 package first, until you know where you would use it?

        • Peter K says:

          Definitely. As a side point, when my cat 1-5 certificate was cancelled and the new cat 8 issued, the expiry date was extended to a year from the date I called and upgraded it. Maybe that will only happen once and not every time you upgrade it but it’s good to know.

        • That is precisely I want to try in 3 months time.
          I have yet to use my certificate (Cat 1-5), so will call and beg to extend validity of my certificate, if not will try extending to Category 6 hotel and hope the expiry is extended by another year.

        • Can the cert only be used at Marriott hotels or also at SPG? Do their hotel categories line up?

        • No – until next year when they will merge.

        • Peter K says:

          To Clive at 15:35. Only Marriott AFAIK. And if Ritz-Carlton if you pay a huge supplement of Marriott Points.

  12. Re Etihad and business / first class.

    These baggage changes are actually far worse than they appear to be, especially for the single traveller. In business, going from 2 x 32kg to 40kg essentially means losing a bag as if you fill one and are say 30kg, why would you bother with the other or you would have to fly with half empty bags at 20kg each.

    No, this is matching other mean airlines for sure but assuming they are at least as clever as me (and we’re not convinced by this 🙂 ) then they too will have worked this 2 into 1 bag issue.

    Just to recap, until last year or so, BA was allowing you 96kg at 3 x 32kg !

  13. I now have Hilton diamond. I’m checking into double tree Victoria tonight on a room only with my partner. Will we both get free breakfast?

  14. OT. My Tesco clubcard points have auto converted to Virgin miles (because I forgot to cancel it after last quarters bonus for auto convert), and to my surprise I’ve had some bonus points added too . “Award Feb bonus”. (Additional 20%) So maybe it is not such a bad idea leaving auto convert on, particularly for me as that’s all I want to do with clubcard points.

    • Some one who has never converted Tesco CC to Avios or VS FC, what should I convert to?
      Avios is more preferred.
      Have some CC points expiring at the end of the month.

      • Uber is better value if you use it or perhaps – you are paying over 1p per Avios compared to those.

        • Yup, IF you regularly use Uber it’s a no brainer to me, and, to be honest, I’m surprised that it’s still available on the same terms. For that reason I’ll max out on it as long as it’s still there. 🙂

  15. Stephan says:

    OT if you booked a reward flight using the companion voucher and you want to change the dates. Do you have to cancel and then book a new one? Or can you call and ask BA to transfer to new dates and pay the £70?

    • Afaik you can do the change on line once the availability is there. I did this for an CE once. Try it see how you go. It will give you chances to review etc before paying. Ba will charge you,the handling fee also if you call to change, but say it wouldn’t let you. Best be safe than sorry.

    • Latter, you keep the same booking reference.

  16. OT: Some will be delighted, others not, to see me post a link to a Daily Mail article…a CAA investigation ito charges for extras such as seat reservations.

  17. I think it’s too early in the year for us to buy star points. Last year there was a targeted 50% bonus so think we’re going to wait out.

  18. Looks like my missing shop small transactions have credited today. Not saying shop small though, just a credit adjustment but they’re both for £5 on the cards I used.

    CC points auto converted to avios again. How long do they take to post? I can’t remember from last time. Decent amount for someone who does not get the grocery shop from them thanks to a Tesco direct bonus points offer. Over 6000 avios this quarter.

  19. OT:

    Newbie question here but if I make an avios (Or avios + money) booking on a partner airline and subsequently decide to cancel it in the future, will I get all of my avios and money back?

    • Yes, you get all the avios and all the money back minus a £35 cancellation fee. Cancel online via manage my booking to avoid extra fees over the telephone. If for some reason the cancellation option is not available online then mention it when calling and they will not apply any further telephone fees. If you cancel a RFS that cost under £35 then you only lose what you paid. You can also cancel any flight within 24h of booking for a fulll refund, that is no £35 fee.

  20. Hi there, how long do you have to use up the 7 nights when you trigger the 270,000 Marriott rewards package incl. 120,000 Avios?

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