Bits: Amex cutting merchant fees globally, Travelex / Avios reminder, Terminal 5’s 10th birthday

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News in brief:

American Express announces global move to lower merchant fees

The Financial Times carried an article yesterday (paywall, or free if you google ‘Amex to woo retailers with biggest fee cut in 20 years’) in which the new American Express CEO talks of his plans to reduce merchant fees globally to encourage more retailers to take the card.

In Europe, of course, Amex has no choice but to reduce merchant fees on its co-brand cards following the recent European Court of Justice ruling.

The graph below, taken from the article, is fascinating (click to enlarge).

This shows, globally, that despite a long-term decline Amex still charges an average merchant fee of 2.37%.  This is heavily weighted by the US, which has merchant fees unheard of in Europe, but is interesting to see in the light of the 0.3% cap on interchange fees (which is the majority but not all of the merchant fee) now charged by Visa and Mastercard in Europe.

American Express merchant fees

Off for Easter?  Travelex / Avios reminder

If you are heading off for Easter soon, remember that Travelex has relaunched as an Avios partner.  You can now earn points but only when you buy in advance via this special link on your foreign currency orders.

Travelex lets you pre-order over 40 currencies and collection is available with as little as four hours notice.

This is what you need to know:

Collect 1 Avios for every £1 when exchanging over £300

Collect 1 Avios for every £2 when exchanging below £300

You must pre-order via the Travelex website here, for airport collection, for Travelex store collection or delivery.  (If you get a ‘Your session has expired’ message, ignore it – you can fill in your order details in the box below it.)

You can credit your Avios to BA, Iberia Plus or avios.com

Avios will be added within 14 days of collection or delivery

Compare the Travelex pricing with and without Avios as it can vary.

If you are looking for a 0% credit card to use abroad, remember that you can still apply for the Lloyds Avios Rewards card (my review with full details is here) if you ring up or apply in branch.  Online applications are now suspended.  I also recommend Curve Card – details here – which, whilst it has a 1% fee, will recharge your purchases to any other Visa or Mastercard rewards card you have.

Travelex Avios

Heathrow Terminal 5 is 10 years old tomorrow

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is the 10th anniversary of the opening of Heathrow Terminal 5.

Anyone who was caught up in the opening has hopefully got over the trauma by now.  The plan was to do an overnight ‘big bang’ move from Terminal 1 and Terminal 4, but a lack of testing meant that the new terminal could not cope with the volume of passengers.

To celebrate, Heathrow is doing some fun stuff:

Check-in 6am to 9pm:  We’re building a Lego birthday card for Terminal 5 and we’d love it if you could help us. And there’s a free birthday biscuit for every passenger who takes part. When finished, the giant model (based on our 10th anniversary logo) will stand 2m tall by 2m wide. It will go on display over the Easter school holidays in our Lego activity area (departure lounge, Gate Level, near Boots and Travelex). We’ll also post a timelapse video of the construction.

Departure lounge 10am to 4pm:  It’s not a party without music, and we’ve booked a unique act to sing Happy Birthday to Terminal 5. The iPhonics are a brilliant roaming band, performing current hits and old-school anthems in beatboxing style, accompanied by acoustic guitar. Hear the result when barbershop music meets the modern age.

We’re sharing the love on our big day by offering discounts and gifts at a whole bunch of Terminal 5 shops and restaurants. More details are our special offers page.

Full details are 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.)

Hilton launches 'See The World' week-long flash sale with discounts of up to 35%
Bits: who won the 250,000 Qmiles?, Miles & More moves to revenue-based earning today
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  1. Amex seems very serious about improving global acceptance. In Canada they just halved their merchant fees for small businesses for those using Chase as their payment processor. The fact they now have Optblue where AmEx is bundled in with VS and MC helps as well.

  2. The terminal moves 10 years ago actually went really well and there was no issue with capacity.

    The primary issues were that the designated car parks for staff were still occupied by contractors. So when staff arrived for work there was no where to park leading to congestion on the perimeter road. No contingency was in place to deal with this. (During the run up to the move there had been a lot of upset that BA would not allow any staff of any grade or length of service to use the T5 shorthaul car park. So long serving staff and even management grades found they had an extra 20-30 minutes of travel time at the start and end of every day! And on day one that they could actually park at all)

    Next up was the fact that no testing of interline baggage had been done and the T5 system was unable to recognise bags from non BA flights. Consequently the baggage storage facility filled rapidly and, with few staff available to intervene, came to s shuddering halt.

    The first flight arrived from HKG to much fanfare and there was similar fanfare when the first departure to Paris left on time……..till someone pointed out it had done so with about 10 bags on board!

    The “perfect storm” of issues that day won’t be forgotten by anyone involved and especially not by the 2 BA directors who fell on their swords at the time.

    BA rightly were criticised for the disaster which then unfolded but a lot of the blame lay with Heathrow Airport who dodged much of the criticism as they do often do.

    The fact that a few short weeks later the operation was running at levels of punctuality never seen before at BA was testament to the years of planning and fundamentall changes BA had introduced as a result of the move.

    • Great job but great shame they were two weeks late, unacceptable for a project like that! Great terminal now, love traveling through now.

  3. I was commuting weekly to Berlin at the time T5 opened and found it more convenient and quicker than T1. Apart from the week of opening and I had departed from (and parked at) T1 and arrived back at T5 on the Friday, to find no easy way of getting from T5 to T1. Seems like they could have thought that out a bit better.

  4. Rob

    Any luck with AMEX MR to IB+?

    • My transfer is still in progress. Slow ….

      • Mine’s gone through. Sent Sat 11 pm received this morning approx 3 am. Just the transferred amount received so far.
        For those who commented previously about receiving the 20% – did it post alongside the regular miles or in a separate transaction?

        • The bonus was added 7 days after the transfer date. I transferred on 2nd and bonus added on 9th

    • What bonus is this?

  5. The full American Express Investor Day presentation is here http://ir.americanexpress.com/Cache/1001233287.PDF?O=PDF&T=&Y=&D=&FID=1001233287&iid=102700
    It is very long and technical. In US they have new deals with Hilton and Marriott. Here’s hoping!

    • The Marriott deal is the old SPG deal. The Hilton deal is a revamp of the old Hilton deal. Neither even begins to make up for the loss of Costco which was 10% of the global business.

  6. Tomorrow is 10 years since the Queen opened the terminal, the real opening (and the issues around it) were still to come.

    I remember at the time Heathrow Express used to show ‘Express Facts’ on the TV screens (they should bring it back) but when T5 opened they changed all their facts for a while to have a T5 theme. Some of the facts displayed were about how amazing the T5 baggage system was.

  7. SteveQB says:

    T5 actually opened on 27th March, that is the day flights first went from the terminal, and that is the day that there were planes leaving without hold luggage to make sure they actually got away. At the time I usually flew to Amsterdam from Gatwick, but changed to LHR for the opening day. That was a mistake!

  8. Chrisp says:

    OT But following Rob’s advice the other day I’ve applied for a Curve Card but it gave me an option to link it to my BAEC Amex Card which it accepted. Surely, this isn’t right, or can it now be linked again? As another option I could have linked it to my Paypal account which is paid by my BAEC Amex Card. Is this another way of collecting BA Avios from merchants who don’t accept AMEX, or am I being too devious? Ha anyone else had a similar experience?

    • Wow..say nothing could be a glitch..let’s see if others get this offer. Seems too good to be true…but amazing news if true. The PayPal link good too!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Are you sure this wasn’t for payment for the black card rather than linking it to your account?

      Ive never seen an option to link my AMEX/PayPal account in the curve app and I can’t see it now.

      • Chrisp says:

        Ah, now you have me wondering. I thought it was too good to be true but watch this space!

  9. John Pepper says:

    O/T: I have referred my wife for a Amex Gold card (I hold a Plat). Is the best way to maximise points for her to hit the spend target, then upgrade to a Plat and then add on some supplementary cards to her Plat?

  10. If changing money at Heathrow using Travelex you get a better rate if you’re a Heathrow Rewards holder and pre book via the special link. Not sure if this combines with Avios or not

  11. Vasco Alves says:

    OT, but there’s been reports online that a change to the Avios scheme is due to be announced imminently (as in this week), probably to include dynamic pricing, but possibly anything else. Anyone has heard anything more definite on this?

    • Nope. If it is the same as the Flying Blue dynamic pricing change announced yesterday then it is nothing to fuss about – standard redemptions remain but after that, instead of seeing no availability, you are offered seats based on the cash price x 0.6p per point.

      • Vasco Alves says:

        Indeed, I wasn’t too fussed about that particularly either, if the Flying Blue model were to be followed. I’m more worried they’ll also follow Flying Blue in changing to revenue based earning, though. That’s my real concern.

        • You mean you don’t find getting 16 Avios for a flight attractive?! (Given that the base fare on a one-way out of Heathrow in Y is usually about £4).

        • Vasco Alves says:

          Surprisingly enough, no, not unless they cut the value needed for redemptions by a couple of orders of magnitude, at least. 🙂

  12. OT: just to add to the discussion yesterday about the 5k MR bonus for platinum supplementary card.
    I spoke to Amex via phone, and chat, yesterday and was told I couldn’t have the bonus, I needed the supplementary card so applied anyway – 5k bonus has appeared on the account this morning 🙂

  13. OT: surveys doing the rounds at the moment asking for feedback on a new M&S loyalty scheme. Earn redeemable points on all purchases but points could be redeemed for avios or Marriott hotels.

    • Genghis says:

      Interesting. I think Sparks is one of the most useless schemes going. Last time I checked I saw I had 35k points and whilst it it useful for advanced access to sales, this only requires 5k points IIRC. Still – Still I’m rather loyal to M&S even without a good scheme…

      • RussellH says:

        Totally agree about Sparks.

        On the few occasions that I go to M+S and they ask for my Sparks card I tell them, politely, that I found it totally useless as there was nothing that I could use the points for. I did actually cancel the account so that I could tell them that.

        Maybe the message has got through?

    • I would be very surprised if Tesco allowed that. Marriott would be interesting but they have few UK hotels.

  14. Andrew says:

    I was one of the “pretend passengers” they had in for the early trials.

    Still have the gift bag somewhere.

  15. Simon Johnson says:

    The Travelex link doesn’t work. Any idea why?

    • If you get a ‘Your session has expired’ message, ignore it – you can fill in your order details in the box below it. If it is still playing up then visit the Travelex page on avios.com which has a box where you can plug in what you need.

  16. Andi F says:

    The opening of T5 went pretty smoothly when you compare it to Berlin Brandenburg – The German capital’s new airport which was due to open in 2011 and now won’t be open until 2020 at the earliest. German efficiency in action. I fly in to TXL regularly and the difference between T5 and Tegel is stark. Both TXL and SXF were due to close in 2011 and so have not been properly updated or refurbished since. Both are struggling to cope with the current passenger demand. So yes it took BA and Heathrow two weeks to get up to speed, but at least they opened on time – which wouldn’t have been the case if they’d actually waited for the contractors to leave the car park/completed proper testing and staff training etc.

    • Good, I hope BER never opens as TXL is extremely convenient despite the “lack of updates”.

      Speaking of new airports let’s see whether MCT (next week) and IST (supposedly end Oct 2018) actually open on time.

      • I’ve not been to TXL since Air Berlin folded but I’m guessing one positive in that otherwise bad situation is TXL won’t be as busy (or has some other airline taken over all the routes?)

        As Templehof is already closed they should keep TXL open as it really is convenient if you think of it a bit like LCY and don’t get there too early you can get a taxi to drop you off outside your gate.

        On arriving at TXL baggage reclaim takes forever (can’t remember it being that slow before 2011) but go hand baggage only and you can be from the plane onto a taxi even quicker than arriving at LCY.

        I also find Berlin taxis to be reasonably priced so don’t care about the lack of a train into the city. I also tried the bus last year and that was fine and very cheap.

        • They had a referendum in Berlin at the same time as the main election asking if they should keep TXL open after the new one opens. The public voted to keep it open but they said they’re gonna close it anyway

        • Doug M says:

          I think TXL will remain in some form. BER even unopened has insufficient capacity. Don’t the Germans joke if you want German efficiency you get the Swiss to do it.

        • RussellH says:

          Tegel may be fine for travellers, but it cannot be much fun for the 300 000 people living next door! And it was a non-binding referendum. It would be intersting to see a breakdown of the result by Stadtteil.

          And there are some odd things about that article at theconversation.com – no mention of Munich Airport, which is LH’s second international hub; far more important than Hamburg or Düsseldorf. And why on earth it metions Dresden – it was just as quiet last summer as it was ten years ago, even though there are vast numbers of tourists in the city now..

          Then the idea that Bavaria is the manufacturing heartland of Germany (someone has been reading too many BMW ads probably) – I think that the Burgers of Stuttgart and the surrounding area might have something to say about that.

        • Non binding referendum? But what about the will of the Berlin people?

        • RussellH says:

          Is there not a smiley missing there – “will of the people”???

          And I suspect that that might change drastically if a plane were to land on a house on approach, or stall on take-off after a bird strike.

        • If it didn’t come across, yes I was being sarcastic there

    • RussellH says:

      In my business days 80% of what I did was with Germany – all over the country. Some colleagues from other firms used to make comments along the lines of “How wonderful to be able to work with Germans – so efficient.”
      My reply was always some thing like “They are people; some or good, some are bad.” TBH I cannot remember many bad business partners – they would not have lasted long in business if they had been bad – certainly they should not have done! There was one seriously useless Austrian firm that I dealt with for a few months – they were quite large and still going when I sold up. I was surprised to find Austrians significantly harder to deal with that Germans, though.

    • Andi F says:

      I lived in Germany for a year a while back and pretty much every experience I had was a counter-argument to those who rave about German efficiency. I’m sure friends and colleagues had other experiences but I will be forever sceptical about the concept thanks to that.

      As for TXL, I agree it’s convenient. The worse thing you could do would be leave early for the airport. Usually I get a taxi to the door and head into the cattle pen beyond security as late as possible. Whilst I understand Frankfurt and Munich are bigger markets in Gemrnay, TXL is not an airport fit for the capital city of the largest EU economy.

  17. O/T It looks like Qatar might be having some sort of flash sale. I have found MAN-AKL business return flights throughout September, October and November for sub-£1400. Ex-EU probably chalet still.

  18. Hope you all saw that post from Rob re the QR sale for MAN AKL only deal. What a great price. Shame we can’t avail of it this time.

  19. NIck_C says:

    OT – churning. Advice please.

    I’m new to churning, so just want to make sure I don’t do anything wrong.

    I mainly use the Lloyds Amex. I’ve got the free BA Amex which I’m not currently using, and a 241 voucher banked.

    I’ve just got the Amex PRGC. I referred myself from my BA card, got a 4K referral bonus, and am now using the PRGC to get my 22K sign-up bonus.

    If I understand it correctly, I can now cancel my free BA Amex and refer myself from the PRGC account to BAPP in six months time for new bonuses. If I want to redeem my 241 in the next six months, I can pay the fees and charges with my PRGC, and i won;t lose the 241 by cancelling the free BA card.

    Is this right?

    Am I risking anything by cancelling the BA Amex? Is there a high risk that the BAPP will not be available in 6 months time?

    Thanks in anticipation!

  20. You are fine. You wont lose thd 241. Amex will tell you otherwise. One thing l would di is uograde to Plat and get 20k more avios for a 1k spend. You may get charged 1 or 2 months of the fee but may not. You can then refer yourself for the BAPP and earn the 26k bonus rather than the lessor one on the bacc.then cancel plat. Wait 6 mths.
    once the bapp bonus is banked you can either cancel it and re refer again in 6 months. Or drop down to free bacc whilst waiting out the gold 6 mths. Just rotate the cards best you can. Depends..but always be spending towards a bonus.

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