Bits: Eurostar announces Amsterdam start date – with a catch, railcards for instant digital download

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News in brief:

Eurostar announces start of Amsterdam services

Eurostar has confirmed that its long-delayed service to Rotterdam and Amsterdam will begin on 4th April.

There will be two trains per day from London St Pancras, leaving at 8.31am and 5.31pm.  It will take 3 hours 1 minute to Rotterdam and 3 hours 41 minutes to Amsterdam.

The big problem comes on the return.  It will take another year, perhaps more, to get full UK passport and immigration services installed in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.  Until then, you will be able to board trains without any checks.

ALL passengers will have to get off the train in Brussels which will carry on (either empty or with passengers ticketed from Brussels) to London.  They will be booked onto a later London train to allow time for full passport formalities – a process which could take a long time given the number of passengers involved.   You will have the option of being booked on a Thalys / Eurostar combination which, because of how the timetable works, is actually quicker albeit still over four and a half hours.

If you want to try this new route, the HFP article explains how to use your Amex Membership Rewards points for Eurostar tickets.  Remember that free Eurostar tickets really are free – there are no taxes or charges to pay.

Tickets will go on sale on 20th February.  Prices will start at just £35 one-way as Eurostar attempts to use price to woo customers from the airlines and fill the early services.

Remember that American Express Platinum cardholders get free access to Eurostar lounges.  You cannot bring a guest but your partner is likely to have a supplementary Amex Platinum card anyway.

New Amsterdam Eurostar route launches April

Railcards now available for immediate digital download

It’s half-term (at least, it is in our house).  If you are planning to take the kids on a train trip, it is worth noting that Friends & Family Railcards can now be bought and downloaded instantly as can most other Railcards.

During the purchase process on the Friends & Family Railcard website you have the option of selecting a Plastic or Digital railcard.  If you choose Digital, you are emailed a code after purchase which you type into the Railcard app on your phone.  The Railcard can be added to two phones if necessary.

This allows you to buy a Railcard and buy discounted tickets immediately without having to wait 5 days for a Plastic card to arrive.

As a reminder, a Friends & Family Railcard gets you 33% off Standard Anytime, Off-Peak and Advance adult fares and 60% off for kids’ fares.  Restrictions apply on times of travel and which trains are included.  First Class travel is not included.  Gatwick Express, Stansted Express, Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services ARE included – we got 4 x one-way tickets on Gatwick Express for today for £30.20 using a Railcard.

The Friends & Family Railcard website here has more details.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. OT: I have my Marriott card linked to my curve. My partner’s supplementary Marriott card is linked to his own curve. Are we each both allowed £200 cash from atm per month (total 400) since we hv different curve cards?

  2. ‘But your partner….’ Are single people not allowed on HFP?

    • Rupert S says:

      (or your business partner)

      • Why would my business partner be ‘ikely to have a supplementary Amex Platinum card’ ?

    • They are probably less concerned about lounge guesting if they are single…

    • Certainly are! But writing “partner (if you have one)” after every reference to partner benefits would get a bit tedious 🙂

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Yes, but I’m guessing most people don’t issue supplementary Amex Platinum Cards to randoms. I’ve certainly only ever asked for one for my other half (fair enough, people may request them for other family members or, at a push, close friends, but I wouldn’t personally.).

  3. From the Eurostar website it looks like the train returns empty from Amsterdam and passengers have to get a Thalys train to Brussels before then checking in for a Eurostar service there. All seems a bit convoluted.

    • No, the train that arrives from Amsterdam forms another Eurostar service from Brussels to London, which departs 28 minutes after arriving at Brussels.

      Eurostar will not sell a ticket that has less than 30 minutes connection time in Brussels, so the options are take an earlier Thalys, or reboard a different Eurostar train. The other option is to book separate tickets and hope for the best 🙂

  4. I have to laugh at the organisation of our immigration controls.
    Seperately, I wonder when Eurostar will have a lounge in Amsterdam ?

    • I still don’t think the Lille loophole has been properly closed, despite the attempts at segregation

      • RussellH says:

        Sorry, Genghis, but the only people I have heard use that term are Theresa May, her (she was still Home Sec at the time) minions spouting her words and the Daily Mail (probably also the Excess and the Star, but I do not see those)..

        Very sadly, instead of the UK joining Schengen (remember, all the non-EU countries in Western Europe *are* in Schengen, including Switzerland) our governments have just been getting ever more xenophobic.How long before someone campaigns for a “Dover Wall”, I wonder.

        • I believe it has not been possible now for around 5 years although they implemented a not entirely elegant solution. In addition to segregating passengers on the train, I believe there is a heavy immigration presence on platforms at St Pancras on arrival for the 3(?) trains where the Lille loophole situation occurs.

        • Most (all?) trains from Brussels stop at Lille. Easy loophole with a season ticket purchase IIRC. Also much less authority presence at Ebbsfleet whenever I get off there.

        • Not that I’m a DM reader but it’s all I seem able to find to illustrate my point

        • Nick Burch says:

          Genghis – While most of the Brussels trains stop at Lille, that doesn’t help. Intra-Schengen customers (eg Brussels-Lille or Brussels-Calais) are only permitted in the end carriage and there are security guards there who prevent those people going into the rest of the train + prevent people from the rest of the train going there. At Lille/Calais the security people clear out the carriage, then get off, and there are other security people on the platform who ensure that the people getting off exit rather than go down to any other carriages

          As a handy tip, Lille to London passengers may want to book a seat in the back of the penultimate carriage, as you’ll then (post-security-sweep) be able to walk through to the last carriage and have your pick of the seats, as the whole carriage is then empty from Lille on to London!

      • When I was traveling between Ashford and Brussels on a weekly basis a few years ago, I could more often than not just walk straight out when I arrived in Ashford (and the train always stopped in Lille)

  5. I was ready to book up until reading about the train change on return

    Brussels Eurostar can be bit of a scrum at the best of times, exacerbated by not opening the check-in as early as at Paris or London, I wouldn’t fancy the queue created by a train decanting a few hundred people in one go

    For business, at 3:41 the train would be quicker for me than LHR-AMS given the time to/from airport and the hassle/limitations of airport security, to say nothing of the rammed cabins and cramped seating compared to a comfy Eurostar seat with wifi and a power socket

    • Prins Polo says:

      That assumes though you work at St Pancras Aron your meetings in Amsterdam are right outside of the train station.

  6. OT
    Some people have been concerned about points progress not showing on Amex Platinum cards upgraded from Gold.
    My wife got a gold card on 12 Jan 18 and upgraded to Platinum about 14 days later. Today she received the 20,000 points without ever seeing a mention of the upgrade bonus online .

  7. OT: Does anyone have the email for Virgin Flying Club? Only 500 miles posted when I rented from Avis the other week, rather than the 6000 that I was expecting under this:

    The Virgin website has a section to claim missing miles for flights but, because this was through a partner, you’re directed to claim directly with that partner. That section looks as though it’s for claiming miles that have not posted at all. There’s nowhere to flesh out why you’re claiming. I expect Avis to say that the miles have posted, if they respond at all.

    Virgin appear to be running the promotion, so they should know but I can’t find an email address on their website.

    • HeathrowFlyer says:

      I’ve had a similar issue with the Avis Black Friday deal. I’ve been credited the standard Avios for a 3 day rental but the 5,000 additional points are nowhere to be seen.

      Sent an email to Avis Tuesday and still waiting to hear back…

      Has anyone else successfully received the Black Friday Avis Avios?

      • Nearly 6 weeks to get a response from Avis saying: this is due to IT issue, our team is working on it…

    • Hi, I have had the 6000 points posted after 6 days of dropping off the rental. Did you book through the avis/virgin link or directly on the Avis website? Maybe this makes a difference…. I booked through the avis/virgin link BUT it can be more expensive than the normal Avis website.

      • I booked through the main Avis website. Unfortunately, that could be it. I have another one over next weekend. I imagine I’ll be out of luck again.

    • Czechoslovakia says:

      Shame problem here, but the Budget and LH version. M+M sorting it out.

  8. You don’t need to possess a railcard to book railcard-discounted tickets. You only need it at the time of travel.

    You can’t get a physical card if you choose a digital railcard (unless you buy another one). This means that you commit a criminal offence if your phone runs out of battery while you are travelling on a railcard-discounted ticket.

    Your options are then to buy an anytime undiscounted ticket, which may be refunded on production of the railcard later (one chance per year from most train-operating companies), or to provide your details and be prosecuted or settle out-of-court.

    • Of course you can also purchase a railcard at any staffed station and receive it straight away if you are travelling soon. As with airline boarding cards I would always want a printed backup in case the technology fails.

    • I think Rob meant that if you want to purchase a ticket for say today or tomorrow, then it was no longer a problem if you did not have a railcard already because you could get one quickly by opting for the digital card..

    • Rather than get into a pathetic panic about “criminal offences”…

      Perhaps just plug your phone into one of the handy sockets scattered throughout most of the trains, buses and coaches I travel on in the UK? Most of them now seem to have USB sockets too.

      Could you perhaps also disclose how many people have been given a criminal record for not presenting a railcard in, say, Scotland over the last 50 years?

    • Martin Valt says:

      I am unclear as to precisely how one might go about “settling” a criminal prosecution out of court.

  9. Perhaps needs reworded to buy and travel on the Railcard bit? Anyone can buy discounted tickets by saying they have one, but you need to have a valid Railcard when you actually travel 😀

  10. Railcards seem to arrive in the post really quickly. I bought a Network one online after 4pm the Thursday before Christmas and it arrived the next day. Nice and plastic – much better than the old paper one. And our Two Together railcards always turn up quickly too.

    • Same with mine – arrived next day. And they add 5 days extra validity to allow for possible processing and postal delays.

      The card is also a lot more sturdy than the paper one you get from the station!

      • Aeronaut says:

        The fulfilment of plastic Railcards bought online and delivered by post is indeed widely noted to be very speedy – Journeycall Ltd, who manage it on behalf of the Rail Delivery Group, evidently do a pretty good job.

  11. Totally O/T: I recently applied for an AMEX Gold business card for my Ltd company. I’ve held a personal PRG card (and hence M/R account) for many years. I knew there was a chance I might not get the signup bonus for the business card since I already had a M/R account but hoped since this was a personal account and the new card was in my Ltd company name that I might get lucky, and read something on here to that effect too. It’s been a few weeks since meeting the spend threshold (yay for billhop!), I’ve had my first statement, but no sign of bonus points. The spend points seem to just be combined with my existing M/R account. Online chat say they can’t help as I’m not eligible for the welcome bonus. Anyone got any experience with this? When would the welcome bonus points normally post? And any views on my chance of success pushing AMEX further, and my best means of doing so? Thanks.

    (To something of my surprise, I did get a 9K referral bonus on my personal account for the self-referral for the business card…!)

    • Sounds right unfortunately.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      You are not eligible for the sign up bonus if you hold a personal MR account so the chance was really that you would slip through and get a surprise welcome bonus.

    • Fair do’s. Thanks for the replies.

    • I had a NatWest card when I had a company, but this does not sound right to me since the company is a separate legal person. How did they link you to the company (other than the referral)? were you the only cardholder?

      If I had been doing this I would have had another employee/director as the card holder and added myself later. Has anyone tried that?

      • A company cannot have a MR account, only a person. And the rules say if a person has an MR account then that MR account cannot receive a new bonus.

        There are similar issues for some readers who are given Amex Green Corporate Cards via their job. If MR is activated they are blocked from Gold etc.

    • Czechoslovakia says:

      It’s almost certainly incorrect, but I got AMEX to set up the bonus target on my Ltd companies plat card. My argument, simply being my company and I are legally separate entities, and what if the company had applied and I personally had no AMEX? Did this twice successfully via the call center, but 3 and 2 years ago. These days put a good amount through the companies amex so as not to worth the trouble churning. Would be more, but billhops fee too rich for me…

  12. OT: I have had a ‘Return for 10000 bonus points’ offer applied to my IHG account. It just appeared without my registering for it and I have no idea what is required to trigger it. I’m hoping just a single stay by the deadline but I don’t want to ask CS in event they might remove it as an error. Anybody else had this offer or know anything about it?.

  13. OT: following the advice on here to get a Gold credit card before I upgrade my gold card to Platinum, I cannot find how to do this via the app or website (on mobile).

    Is there a link?


  14. Pangolin says:

    OT: Is there any way of tracking Amex redemption bonus links? By that I mean, which links you’ve sent out and on what date. For the ones I sent via email it’s easy but what about the ones I sent direct from the Amex account page?

    I’m likely to downgrade Plat to Gold in the near future but I don’t want to do that if there are still some possible redemption bonuses outstanding (35K MR, so not to be sniffed at).

    • Pangolin says:

      Edit: I should have said downgrade to Gold OR cancel completely (which I’m also considering), as I guess there’s a good chance you’d still get the 35K points as long as you had a valid MR card at the time the redemption bonus was triggered.

    • You can only send five so easy to keep a record, except that the points credit does not say which referral it arises from.

      • Pangolin says:

        Except that I forgot to keep an external record of the referral links sent via the Amex site, hence why I’m asking here if there is any way I can now find out. I know that I could simply wait for referral bonuses to arrive, but the point is that I’m not sure how long I need to wait before it would be safe to cancel the card.

        • And it’s too embarrassing to ask which of our two friends got the card! We too are in exactly the same position. Planning to cancel plat next month, but won’t know which one has got the card from our referral. And whether to hang on or not!

  15. On the subject of referrals, there is an annual maximum of 90,000 MR points earned from Gold/Platinum, 90,000 SPG points and probably 90,000 Avios (although I have not checked that one).
    Is that 270,000 points in total or 90,000 in total? 90,000 is only five referrals from Platinum; do I move on to SPG for further referrals?
    Also does a new card in the same year (after six months) come with a new limit?

  16. Do you know if you can split the journey in Brussels? – eg spending a few hours/days there before then taking the Eurostar back to the UK?

  17. I’ve checked the Eurostar website and the outbound journey is far too long at well over four hours. I don’t care about the price either. No can do.

    • When the Eurostar reaches 88 miles an hour in the channel, a flux capacitor makes the whole train and its contents leap one hour into the future. The process is reversed when returning. Planes do the same thing but over the channel rather than under it.

    • They haven’t gone on sale yet, you probably are seeing the trains times with a stopover in Brussels. The time is 3hours 41 mins which is competitive with flying in my opinion… shame about the return journey and lack of a direct train.. I wonder how much that will impact bookings. I will be booking as soon as they go on sale for July but my return journey will be by plane..

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Surely getting from london to LHR/LGW, checking in an hour before and then schiphol to centraal means most flights take at least 3-4 hours anyway (knock off a bit for LCY). Add in the restrictions you have on baggage and liquids etc.

      Personally if pancreas is near by/easy to get to this doesn’t seem bad at all.

  18. menachem says:

    will the train stop in Antwerp?

  19. Train stops in Brussels and Rotterdam, tickets on sale from 22nd Feb….
    first freebie press trip was today 20 th feb.

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