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Bits: visit Necker for 1.5 million Virgin miles, Hyatt’s Great Scotland Yard hotel opens, Caledonian Sleeper video

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News in brief:

Stay at Necker Island for 1.5 million Virgin Atlantic miles

Few people know that you can redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for holidays on Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island retreat.

Necker Island was badly damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017.  After substantial rebuilding, the resort has reopened and this means you can now book it with miles.

Necker is usually booked by private groups and only a handful of weeks per year are available for individual travellers.  You are restricted to booking on those weeks.

This is one of the best value Virgin redemptions you can get.  A week on Necker Island during those weeks where the island is not let on an exclusive basis will cost you $35,000 for a couple as you can here.  That is £27,320.  Flights are not included in this price but it is all inclusive.

The bad news is the cost has crept up.  It has jumped from 1.2 million to 1.5 million miles for a one week stay for a couple.  This does still represent good value if you were prepared to pay the cash price, of course, as you are getting 1.8p per mile.

You might think that 1.5 million miles is a lot, and of course it is.  However, it would ‘only’ require £1 million of spend on the Virgin Reward Plus credit card and I know there are a fair number of HFP readers, mainly business owners, who spend six figures per month on their cards.  You must now have Virgin Flying Club Silver or Gold status to book this award.

Information on Necker Island has been removed from the Virgin Atlantic website.  The current points price list is on this US blog here but I can’t find the original source document.

Great Scotland Yard hotel

Hyatt’s Great Scotland Yard hotel opens in London

The Great Scotland Yard Hotel finally opened this week after delays.

Great Scotland Yard is a luxury five star hotel in Central London, situated just around the corner from the Corinthia.  If you imagine leaving Embankment tube station towards the Strand and turning immediately left under the railway bridge, you are heading in the right direction.

The building is, unsurprisingly, the original Scotland Yard headquarters from the 1820s.  Scotland Yard later moved to Victoria Street, next to what is now Conrad St James, but that building was demolished earlier this year to make way for apartments.  Scotland Yard is now based on Victoria Embankment.

The hotel has 152 rooms.  It is part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, which allows it to operate at arms-length and without any overt Hyatt branding.  There is an impressive food and drink line-up, led by chef Robin Gill, including signature restaurant The Yard and a tearoom called The Parlour.

(The tearoom is “inspired by The Imperial New Delhi hotel for its opulence and sense of tradition”.  I’ve stayed at The Imperial and I am intrigued as to how this looks!)

Full details are on the Hyatt website here.  You will earn a bonus 500 World of Hyatt points per stay until 31st March 2020 – no registration needed.

As a redemption, the hotel is currently 25,000 points per night.  This is good value given that cash rates are around £300 – £400 midweek.

Great Scotland Yard hotel opens

A good Caledonian Sleeper video

I was planning to give the new Caledonian Sleeper trains a go when they launched earlier this year, offering hotel-style accommodation between London and Scotland.

The trains have been plagued with service and reliability issues and I moved the idea back into 2020.  The risk of spending £400 and ending up with the old trains, a cancelled train or a severely reduced service was too high.

However, my friend Roger recently did the trip and made a (very professional) 7-minute video which is worth a look if you want to see what the service is like.

His trip was not entirely glitch free as you will see at the end, but the video is a fair reflection of what is on offer on a good day.

I look forward to trying the service myself next year.

What is the best use of American Express Membership Rewards points?
Bits: 3000 bonus Hyatt points with SLH, Finnair business Oslo-Singapore for £1100, good Etihad deals from Scandi

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  1. 1.5 million miles for one week on Necker island?

    A third of that practically covers the cost of 10 nights at a certain Maldivian Island….

    I know which of the two I consider better value.

    • Neil Donoghue says:

      As someone currently sitting on over a million Virgin miles, I was genuinely aiming for this redemption. Sadly with the goal posts now moved, it looks like it will take a little bit longer.

      if you are based in the US and get 20% or 40% conversion bonuses, the target isn’t unrealistic.

      But I know exactly what you mean. I’m off to the Conrad Bora Bora in March for 10 nights and at a fraction of the cost.

    • If you’ve not been you cannot be sure 🙂

    • Most people also consider it better value to sit in economy and save a lot of money for a measly ten hours. Worthless to challenge how different people perceive value.

  2. Very good video, the sleeper is expensive though, There are some good railway experiences to be had still in the UK, I recently travelled to Cardiff from Paddington on GWR and had the breakfast in the Pullman car, it was £18 and superb, also the same day I travelled up to Chester from Cardiff and was delighted to find that there is a three course meal included in the price of a first class ticket, again the food was excellent, there was also a pretty decent wine list, if you wished to partake.

  3. Shoestring says:

    I’ve been status matched to Hertz President’s Circle Gold 🤪

    • I’ve had it for a few years, pretty useless in the UK unless you book a very small car but had some great upgrades in USA. I also have highest status with Avis and find them much better in the UK.

      • From what i read, the guarnteed upgrade is only to biggest car in the class you book, and doesnt include SUVs…. So what is the sweet spot to book to benefit the most. Will need a large car in US next year for family of 4 and all our luggage.

        • Shoestring says:

          I’m curious as to whether it means I get a better car with the Hertz £1 to Airport drop off deals

          • Obviously you get whatever car has to go back to the airport, Mini or Jaguar!

          • Shoestring says:

            not sure if their systems are as good as that (or if I’ve just been unlucky)

            I’ve done 4x £1 deals so far and all the cars have been pretty small

            maybe it’s just a ‘headcount’ of cars held at out-station vs total needed at LHR? ie they don’t particularly care which car you get, so you (having paid £1) might as well get some ditchfinder whereas a real paying customer gets an upgrade

          • Keep your Amex Plat card saved in your profile with Hertz – even it you’ve cancelled the card and you’re using another (saved) card. I’m just saying…

        • Strictly that is true but they are much more generous in the US. I would book the minimum you need and then hope for a nice upgrade. Last Christmas in Florida I got an upgrade from a regular 7 seater to an XC90.

        • We’re doing the same, US (California) trip

          Family of 4, kids are young kiddies.

          Any tips/advice welcome!

    • That’s nothing compared to my excitement – my OH’s BAPP resets today and we have some great offers on the cards (a lot of wine might be arriving next week, for example). What election?! 😂

  4. OT and advanced apologies for taking off track but has anyone dealt with a taxi firm called Talixo in the middle east? I’m usually happy paying for a hotel car but the prices are now getting silly at some hotels. I also note you can pick up Miles & More points so perhaps there are other loyalty schemes to credit taxi rides to?

  5. OT – bits & sorry if previously covered!

    Amex Shop Small additional T&Cs (i.e. the ones you have to click to get to from the T&Cs on the Offers page) says that transactions processed through a third party payment processor are not eligible.

    What are people’s experiences with this? Are you seeing credits coming through? If not, do you talk to Amex to get them added manually, and do they agree to do so? I guess it might be a little early to tell, but any feedback appreciated.

    • In my experience you do not get the £5

    • Apart from online how are we supposed to know if they are using a third party or not, I presume they are referring to something like PayPal or stripe but you can’t know for sure until tested!

      • If the merchant has the small iZettle machine you know for sure it’s not gonna trigger the £5. Have had it a few times in previous years but managed to claim it back.

  6. Shoestring says:

    exceptional value on 6 bottles of wine at Virgin Wines

    £29.99 incl free delivery & 2 glasses

    no Virgin miles – to earn some you’d need to add on another half case or full case, could still make sense with the free delivery, particularly if you are a new customer

    • Shoestring says:

      yep confirmed – you can get 750 miles as an existing customer if you phone up VW and order a 6 bottle £29.99 half case as above + 6 more bottles

      not bad with the free glasses and free delivery

      [new customers are better off getting 3000 miles with one of the other special 3000 introductory cases, you could probably add one of these £29.99 6 bottle MSE cases]

  7. fivebobbill says:

    O/T Hilton
    Just a heads up for anyone who’s used a Hilton Barclaycard Visa to pay for a stay during the current “Power Up” Promotion.
    I’ve had a couple of stays over the last 6 weeks or so which have only paid “double” points instead of “treble” in my online account, so gave them a quick call on Skype yesterday.
    I say quick, but the call took over 20 minutes. Main bone of contention being that it was her understanding that it was only the Hilton Amex that qualified for treble points!
    I was quite insistent, so was put on hold no less than 4 times whilst she checked with various colleagues, only to finally come round in the end, relent, and apologise for the error.
    The extra points were applied, together with the princely sum of 1,000 HH Points for my troubles.
    Just a heads up to anyone in the same situation, you might want to check your statement…

    • Send an email to the diamond desk and they respond very swiftly.

      • fivebobbill says:

        What’s that email Kai? I’m HH Gold, but did try to contact them through the website twice over 2 weeks and got nowhere – hence the skpye

        • You definitely don’t want to email the Diamond desk, 12 emails and 12 CSA later you will be no further forward and contemplating all sorts of irrational behaviour.

    • I only got double for a recent stay, contacted them and was told to wait 4-6 weeks. Told them I dont think that’s right as its just that the wrong amount has been added and was told additional for card use is awarded later, which I know it a load of rubbish and won’t happen! Might have to try them again as clearly depends on who you deal with!

  8. Monese back with another 20% off £100 gift card.
    Use code GC100

    • Thanks G x2, but what am I going to do with all these giftcards?

    • Thanks, worked for me, Amazon account topped up.

    • Shoestring says:

      nice one – got it!

      wonder how long the moaners would take to whinge about not working any more if HFP told people they could get another free £20? 🤑

      • Shoestring says:

        and £100 added to my Amz a/c lol

        • Shoestring says:

          now I can ask my wife this evening: you know that selfie you refused to take for a free £60? Now it’s a free £80 😣

          that you didn’t want

      • It’s becoming kind of reminiscent of the days when we would check HFP every hour or two knowing that sooner or later the next mad clubcard deal would be posted and we would all have to sign into Direct or rush off to the nearest Tesco 🙂

        • Shoestring says:

          HUKD just got it, so be quick

          ETA code expiry: 17:30 😭

          • Shoestring says:

            Enjoy 20% off when you buy a £100 gift card with us.

            That means you’ll get a £100 gift card for just £80 – so be quick because we only have a limited supply!

            Where can I redeem my gift card?

            Once your gift card is activated, it can be redeemed at your selection of the following retailers; Amazon, Argos, Asda, Cineworld, Costa, Debenhams, Currys PC World, Decathlon GB, Evans Cycles, Foot Locker, Halfords, John Lewis & Partners,, Marks and Spencer, New Look GB, Nike UK, Not on the High Street, Pizza Hut Restaurants UK.

    • the_real_a says:

      Thanks… £100 into Amazon. That will be free gourmet coffee beans for the Christmas period.

  9. OT
    It’s back. Only 20% discount this time but top up £80 in Monese and use code GC100 to get a £100 gift card. Includes Amazon among others (no Tesco this time).

    • Amazon was showing a red cross for me, I thought it wasn’t available but I went ahead and it worked.

    • Annoying we’ve been in a meeting with Qatar for much of the afternoon and I only just saw this. Bunged the article up again, let’s see how long it lasts.

  10. There is little chance of spending 6 figures a month on the Virgin card unless you have a huge limit, I had about 20k but after waiting 3 days for the transactions to post and then another few days for the payment to go through you would be lucky to do this 4 times a month max and a load of hassle!

    Amex Chargecards is really the only solution for 6 figure monthly spend unless your prepared to mess around!

    • Green Plastic says:

      Feel very stupid asking but what kind of businesses do people own that involve spending 6 figures a month on a card?

      The frequent flyer community always such an eyeopener, many life lessons for me to learn!

      • Shoestring says:

        mentioned earlier that many people use a credit card to pay for ads eg on social media

        so the company is paying

        • Green Plastic says:

          Jeez, that’s a lot of ads

          • Not really. I read this week that Expedia spends $10 BILLION (not a typo, $10 billion) on Google ads each year for example.

            It is substantially more expensive than you think, especially for popular niches. And if you have a campaign that works (ie you spend £1 and make £1.20 profit) then if the offer is mainstream enough you can scale it up to target virtually every adult in the UK.

        • Green Plastic says:

          Fair enough, but what kind of non-multinational businesses spend that sort of money on social media ads? Genuinely curious

          • Before FB started prioritising friends news, we could have massively scaled up to thousands per month. I know how much ad revenue we get per page and I know how many pages our FB followers click per month on average. Payback was 18 months purely on ad revenue – ignoring cards etc. Luckily we didn’t scale it because when FB cut back on company news in feeds that 18 months went up massively.

          • Green Plastic says:

            Very interesting!

  11. OT Virgin: Just a reminder that tomorrow, 13th, is the deadline to activate Virgin FC Auto Convert on Tesco clubcard accounts for the latest 1000 bonus points.

    • BJ, do you know how I should expect to see these points post? There was nothing on Tesco or Virgin site about it, and I got no acknowledgement from Tesco after the switchover – did it on Monday-ish, I think. No points posted yet.

      From previous discussions about this, don’t remember it being targeted?

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