Bits: Finnair launches Sapporo (bookable on Avios), 100% bonus buying Hilton points, SPG Amex interest

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News in brief:

Finnair launches Sapporo

Finnair, a British Airways partner in the oneworld alliance, will launch flights to Sapporo in Japan this Winter.  It becomes the first European airline to fly to the city since KLM dropped the route back in 2002.

The service will only operate for a short period between 15th December and 27th March 2020.  Flights will depart from Helsinki on Thursdays and Sundays.

Sapporo will be the 5th Finnair destination in Japan following Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka.  The direct route from the UK to Japan takes you over Scandinavia which is why the flight time from Helsinki to Sapporo is only 8hr 55 min.

Booked with Avios, Economy seats are 50,000 points + £254.  Business Class is 150,000 Avios + £362.

Finnair appears to have released two Economy and two Business Class seats per flight, and availability was good when I looked yesterday.

100% bonus when you buy Hilton Honors points

Hilton Honors is (again) offering a 100% bonus when you purchase 10,000+ points.

The Hilton ‘buy points’ page is here.

Regular readers of Head for Points will know that I tend to value Hilton points at 0.33p each.  You are paying 0.39p ($1,600 / £1,250 for 320,000 with a 100% bonus) here if you buy the maximum so the maths in general doesn’t work.

HOWEVER ….. there ARE real bargains to be had at peak periods.  At the top end, the Conrad Maldives is usually 95,000 points per night.  Via this offer you would be paying under $500 per night which is a great deal.  We did a big review of Conrad Maldives here.  Remember that you can pool points between Hilton members for free so it is now easier for different people to buy points and merge them together.

Hilton also does ‘five for four’ if you have Hilton Honors status.  As Hilton will status match you from any other hotel scheme where you may have status, most HFP readers should qualify for this.  Taking 10th – 15th February as an example, five nights would cost you (95,000 x 4) 380,000 points which would cost $1,900 with this deal.  A non-refundable cash rate would cost $5,260.  

Similar deals are available at peak times in other major cities.  Conrad New York, for example, costs $3,100 for a five-night stay from 3rd to 8th May.  Buying 320,000 points via this deal would cost just $1,600.   Conrad New York is an ‘all suite’ hotel which I recommend.

If you are just buying a handful of points to top off your account, the price per point doesn’t matter anyway.  If you a few thousand short of a redemption then this is a decent opportunity to buy them.

You can buy points via this link.  The offer ends on 26th February.

Starwood American Express card interest rate

Amex increases the interest rate on the Starwood Amex

American Express increased the interest rate on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card and the little-known Costco American Express card (reviewed here) yesterday.

Both cards saw the interest rate on purchases increase from 19.9% to 22.9%.  The overall interest rate on the SPG card, including the £75 annual fee and assuming a £1200 credit limit, is now 39.7%.  This brings it in line with the British Airways and Nectar Amex cards.

This should hopefully be of no relevance whatsoever to HFP readers, because anyone who pays interest on their credit card should not have a miles and points card!  I recently published this article on reward credit cards which also have low interest rates.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express comes with a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points.  This is worth around £150 of free hotel rooms via the Marriott Rewards / Starwood Preferred Guest scheme, or it can be converted into 10,000 Avios or other airline miles.  There are many airlines where the SPG Amex is now the best way of earning miles in the UK from a credit card – Air Canada Aeroplan, American Airline AAdvantage, United MileagePlus, Qatar Airways Privilege Club etc.

My full review of the Starwood Amex is here.  The application form is 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.)

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.

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  1. OT: DragonPass lounge access with Red by Dufry/World Duty Free, no subscription required

    Use your RED app to gain exclusive discounted access to hundreds of airport lounges worldwide. Enjoy the very best hospitality at the airport, including the fantastic new outdoor terrace at Gatwick South, from only $10 per entry. With unlimited WiFi, seasonal food, quality newspapers, and charging points as standard, travel in style at your convenience at one of 900 Dragon Pass lounges across the world.
    RED members exclusively pay:
    $10 USD – Platinum members
    $20 USD – Gold members
    $25 USD – Silver members,62JLO,1IEICH,NTTCV,1

    Seems useful for Platinum members. Less useful for me as a Silver member. (I rarely buy duty free.)

    • Can also get free lounge access at certain airports with 150 euro spend.

      Priority pass: Airport VIP lounge
      Get free access with purchases above 150€ in our Duty Free stores. Available at Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas, Barcelona-El Prat, Bilbao, Valencia and Seville airports. Access to VIP lounge at the airport where the purchase is made.

    • Scottydogg says:

      So if you signed up for this , you could get lounge access , would you start on ‘Silver member’
      How do you progress to Gold and Platinum ?

    • Thanks for that. Saved me $99! I was about to buy a new membership so as to carry over two outstanding visits from my old membership so that’s really helpful as I don’t have other lounge membership at present. DragonPass people assured me they can transfer over visits to new cards.

  2. Mark1980 says:

    OT has anyone any experience with booking Melia or Iberostar hotels with Avios? I know Rob ran an article about a reader (Waribai?) booking Iberostar in the past. The T’s and C’s say for 2 adults so I was wondering if anyone had any success in booking for a room accommodating children aswell? Thanks.

    • Peter K says:

      I looked at this last year. If your contact the hotel you want to stay at directly they can get you the price per night to upgrade on top of the avios cost. Eg we looked at star prestige rooms rather than the standard ones booked on avios and it was €86 per night half board.

  3. Brighton Belle says:

    Where do you lookup and buy Finnair flights with Avios?

  4. Optimus Prime says:

    BTW if you add a supplementary card to those they give a £5 bonus.

  5. Do hilton definitely status match ihg plat to diamond?

    • Yes

      • Lady London says:

        Is that a straight match without any further requirements, or is every match from Hilton now a status match challenge i.e. Might Hilton match immediately, but require x nights in y period in order to keep the match?

        When do Hilton years end? is it calendar, or anniversary?

  6. Yes, I have both types in my account with no issues…

  7. O/T following on from my question yesterday about booking return 241 flights. I called the USA line at 11.40 and was on hold throughout. I ended up booking as one ways in the end. I called this morning and was told off🙄 by the agent for doing this! She said I should call at 10pm just before they close. I tried explaining about the 12am release but she wasn’t having it!

    In the end, she ended up combining my two bookings and refunding my Avios although I’m paying about £20 in extra tax at the moment. I probably will need to call back, because I’m not very confident that it will all go through properly!

    Incidentally, these were seats back from Dubai, and it was amazing how quickly all the seats including economy went. It really is a case of fastest finger first!

  8. AndyGWP says:

    OT – currently not an IHG ambassador member… can I book a room using the ambassador weekend certificate ‘now’ (for a stay in August), and then sign up to the ambassador programme a few days before I go?

    I’ve tried to do it, and on the final reservation page (before I ‘confirm’) it says “turn up with ID and your certificate”

    The first night is registering at $180 but it’s trying to charge me another $210 for the second night (which may be normal and it just gets deducted on check-in perhaps?)

    • Genghis says:

      Yes – you just need the certificate at time of staying.
      For pricing, all you’ll pay is the price of the first night + taxes for that night. Yes, it shows the full two nights + tax for some reason.

      • Genghis says:

        On timing to sign up, you’d have to wait and see how eDelivery of AMB certificates works in practice (coming soon…)

      • AndyGWP says:

        Fantastic! Cheers 🙂

        Am I correct in thinking its not a physical certificate as such, and it shows up immediately on my account (I think I remember seeing issues on here (historically) about the certificate taking months to arrive)

        • AndyGWP says:

          Ha – brill – thanks again… you’ve even managed to answered my question before I asked it 🙂

        • AndyGWP remember to check the price of the room nearer the time of the stay, in case it goes down. AMB rates should be refundable.
          I forgot to do this once and the price was literally halved, meaning I completely wasted my certificate!

      • I guess they’re covering themselves if you turn up without the cert then that’s what you’ll pay!

    • Yep, as long as you’ve got voucher at hotel you’re fine – may have gone to electronic delivery by the time you arrive. 2nd night free doesn’t show up but will be applied by hotel. If there’s a per night city tax you still have to pay it.

  9. Genghis says:

    OT. Need to head to Guernsey soon. Are Red Carnation still doing 2k VS miles / night?
    There was talk of it going away but the note at the top of this article says otherwise:
    Any recent experiences?

  10. jonathan brown says:

    Can you really buy 320k Hilton Points (well really 160k)?

    My acc says you buy 80k max per year (so160k in total with 100% bonus)

    • I think some people have got a higher target. I will amend it though.

    • Qwerty Bertie says:

      I believe there were two offers running concurrently until, if memory serves, 16th December. Now there is just this one, i.e. get 100% extra when buying as diamond. The other offer, which I had but I don’t know if all had, was a temporary doubling of the annual limit. I could have bought 320k for $1.6k, whereas now the limit is 160k for $0.8k.

  11. Amazing that they are flying direct now to Sapporo. Our winter trip there (via Tokyo and on extremely cheap Avios domestic redemption with JAL) in 2016 was teh best skiing holiday ever. A combination of weather, skiing, food and accommodation experience is completely unique. Highly recommended!!!

    • Scallder says:

      It’s definitely on my list to go for snowboarding – however with a 1 year old, I feel it might be some way off yet. Everyone I know who has been there has said how insanely good it is for the snow itself, but good to know all the other bits around it are good too.

      Alex – did you manage to use points for the stay? If so, where did you stay and would you recommend that hotel?

      • We went to Niseko twice so Sapporo will make that trip much easier than looping via Tokyo like we did. Visited both times in February. But only one trip had great snow. Other trip the mountain was like a solid block of ice and impossible to get any edges into. Loads of injuries around us that year including me who partially tore my ACL. Stayed at the Hilton on points both times which was a good return on our points.

      • We went in late Jan 2016 and it was fresh powder snow every day! So, the best quality. They only have a massive Hilton there of all big hotels and it looks good but the skiing sector itself is not the best in Niseko. And we didn’t have HH points. We stayed at a new ryokan-style hotel called Ikoino Yuyado Iroha: (and it was great but a bit pricey – about £1100/week for a double room)

  12. OT. I have the Amex Plat. Does anyone know if I were to add a supp card, would the Amex Travel offer be there or has it all been used up now? (I understand there was a max number of people)

    • Not sure if they’re still adding it or not, I think the only way you’d know would be to try it out. Even if you don’t geg it you’ll have the additional card for the future!

      • Added it my supp yesterday

        • On a similar thread, I tried to book some flights today which failed ticket it multiple times. Amex travel said they could do it over the phone but not online. However I want to trigger the 200/600 offer. Anyone had experience of claiming it back?

        • The offer never seems to go. Maybe there isn’t 14,000 card holders in the UK.

        • thehornets says:

          I cannot see it on my new Plat and live chat is adamant that the offer is fully subscribed.

          I’d be interested to know if anyone can actually still see it as an available offer. I.e. somebody who has not already opted in.

        • thehornets says:

          Oopa, just realised that my post from last night DID actually post and this is a repeat. Sorry.

    • thehornets says:

      Re: the 200/600 offer. I’ve just been told by online chat that “there is cap of 40,000 card members on this offer which has already been fulfilled. The offer is no longer available for new enrollments”

      I would be interested to know if anybody can still enroll or if they are fobbing me off.

  13. If I have a Plat Amex with a supp holder. If i do another supp card but Gold… does that attract another 5k points??

  14. Just home from work and a little festive box is behind the door from Amex inviting me to “Bring More to The Table This Christmas” with a few refer a friend cards for a promotion with just 15 days remaining.

    Something seems to have gone a bit wrong with their marketing…

  15. Bits OT – received email from Avios confirming Lloyd’s voucher earned – this is about 5 days after it showed up in online account with

    Fairly similar to previous ones, but for completeness here are the full T&Cs in the email…

    Terms & Conditions
    You will earn one upgrade voucher if you meet the minimum spend threshold as detailed below, within a given year.
    Product Spend threshold Product Fee
    Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards credit card account £7,000 £24
    Lloyds Bank Premier Avios Rewards credit card account £5,000 £140
    The spend thresholds exclude cash withdrawals, balance transfers, refunded purchases, interest, fees and other charges.
    You will be notified if you have qualified for an upgrade voucher approx. 4 weeks after reaching the spend threshold.
    Upgrade vouchers are limited to one per given year.
    New bookings made using the upgrade voucher must be booked by calling 0344 49 333 49. Customers wishing to use the voucher to upgrade an eligible existing booking or if the flight you need includes a connection can do so by telephoning 0344 49 333 49.
    Only bookings paid for using full Avios are eligible to be upgraded using the voucher. Avios and Money bookings and bookings paid for fully in cash are excluded.
    The upgrade voucher will be valid for 12 months from the date of issue. Your booking must be made within the 12 month period, after which time the voucher will expire and will not be replaced or extended.
    Upgrade vouchers can be used to upgrade either 2 one way flights for 2 people travelling at the same time and to the same destination or 1 return journey booked on a British Airways main line service. British Airways codeshare flights are excluded. Flights from London City airport are excluded.
    Using an upgrade voucher enables customers to upgrade their booking by one cabin class. Customers can upgrade a booking to the class above as follows:
    from Euro Traveller to Club Europe;
    from World Traveller to World Traveller Plus; or
    from World Traveller Plus to Club World.
    Bookings cannot be upgraded to a First Class Cabin.
    Airline taxes, fees and charges or Reward Flight Saver (RFS) cost if applicable must be paid on all tickets booked. Customers who upgrade their journey using the upgrade voucher will have to pay the increase in airline taxes, fees and charges or increased Reward Flight Saver cost applicable to the cabin that the customer upgrades to.
    RFS is available to Avios members who have collected 1 Avios in the preceding 12 months and who book a British Airways operated and marketed flight to a destination in Avios zones 1-3. RFS enables the member to pay a cash price in respect of taxes, fees and carrier charges on a qualifying flight in economy class in place of the actual taxes, fees and charges applicable to the booking. RFS is not available on any British Airways codeshare, BA partner flights or bookings containing any BA partner. The fee for RFS can be found on the Avios website at, the price quoted for RFS may be subject to change.
    The cardholder must travel on any booking made using an upgrade voucher.
    Customers who have an eligible existing booking made with Avios may use the upgrade voucher if applicable.
    Upgrade vouchers cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer and are non-transferable and non-refundable.
    Lloyds Bank plc registered office: 25 Gresham Street, London, EC2V 7HN. Registered in England and Wales, no. 2065. Lloyds Bank plc is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under registration No. 119278. We subscribe to the Lending Code; copies of the Code can be obtained from This email account is unmonitored, please contact us

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