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Bits: BA launches more Cape Town flights (and St Lucia, Cancun), new Amex spend bonus, £70 off Virgin Premium

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News in brief:

British Airways launches extra flights to Cape Town, St Lucia and Cancun

By an amazing coincidence, one day after Virgin Atlantic announced its new route to Cape Town, British Airways has announced an extra Cape Town service.

There will be an additional two flights per week from London Gatwick to Cape Town, starting on 10th January.

This takes the number of weekly British Airways flights from London to Cape Town to 19, on top of the 14 BA flights to Johannesburg and the three weekly services to Durban.

This is not necessarily overkill, because Cape Town was a route also served by Thomas Cook before its demise.  It is possible that both BA and Virgin can make a success of their flights, although the lack of full fare Business Class traffic – as opposed to leisure travellers in flat beds on £1,750 sale deals – may prove to be an issue.

British Airways also announced two other frequency increases yesterday:

St Lucia gains an additional flight on Wednesday and Saturday.  No dates were given, but the implication is that the service will simply continue to operate nine times per week when the Summer timetable ends in October, rather than dropping down to seven as it does usually.

Cancun gains an additional weekly service, on Sundays, from 6th December.  This will take the number of weekly flights up to six.

Both of these routes operate from London Gatwick.

It isn’t clear where the aircraft are coming from to operate these new services.  BA has some flexibility due to the arrival of additional A350 and Boeing 777 aircraft and the ability to flex the retirement of the Boeing 747 and older Boeing 777 fleet.

British Airways launches additional Cape Town flight from Gatwick

American Express launches a new spend bonus

American Express has launched another of its occasional spend bonuses.  This is not tied to any particular retailer but is based on your total spend during the promotional period.

The new offer runs from 1st March to 31st March.  It is NOT valid immediately!

It only appears to be available on personal Gold and Platinum cards.  To see if you are targeted, look under the ‘Offers’ tab on your online statement page.  You MUST ‘save’ the offer in order to activate it.

To be honest, the targets we received in our house were laughable.  My wife, who wouldn’t have hit her £15,000 Amex Gold annual spend bonus if I hadn’t used her card to pay our office rent for a few months, needs to spend £5,900 in March to receive a whopping 1,500 bonus Membership Rewards points.  It won’t be happening.

My personal Platinum card, which sees even less action than my wife’s Gold, has a target of £4,400 during March.  Rhys was offered £4,900 on his card which seems a little toppy for someone who graduated less than a year ago!  Again, we were both offered an underwhelming 1,500 Membership Rewards points.

I can’t help but think that Amex missed a trick by not starting the offer immediately.  With half term starting tomorrow, many families will be going away and running up more spending than usual next week.

Save up to £70 on Virgin Atlantic Premium flights

Virgin Atlantic is running a short additional bonus when you book a Premium (Virgin’s name for Premium Economy) flight.

Until 16th February, flight prices have been automatically discounted by up to £70.  No promo code is required.

You can find out more about the cabin on the ‘Premium’ page of the Virgin Atlantic website here.

This HFP article looks at the differences between British Airways World Traveller Plus and Virgin Atlantic Premium (hint: Virgin comes out better in general) although you should double-check what you will get on your specific aircraft type.

To maximise your miles when paying, your best bet is one of the two Virgin Atlantic Reward credit cards.  These earn double miles (3 per £1 on the paid card or 1.5 per £1 on the free card) when you book at or via Virgin Holidays.  Another option is American Express Preferred Rewards Gold which offers double points – 2 per £1 – when you book flight tickets directly with an airline.

Remember that you get a higher bonus of 25,000 miles on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ credit card until 28th FebruaryYou can apply here.

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  1. CaptainAnonymous says:

    My Amex gold offer: Spend £800 get 400 points. Excuse me while I contain my uncontrollable excitement.

  2. For me the Amex offer was spend £1,600 to get 1,500 points.

    • Far more reasonable!

    • Spend £6,100 to get 1,500 points for me! Crazy!

    • I got spend £3600 to get 1500 points – which isn’t going to happen.

      Now, I have had a couple of unusually-high spend months recently because I bought my annual train ticket, a new computer, and then booked a couple of flights for my holiday in September – but given that the only time I hit more than £3k in a month is when I bought the annual train ticket, and otherwise my spend per month hovers around the £500 to £600 mark, they’ve got to be having a laugh.

  3. OT: Ideas to have a USD account in UK? I have Revolut obviously, but not keen to keep large amounts in there in case (1) they go bust, (2) they lock my account.

    How is the HSBC one:
    It looks free?

    • To add, will that HSBC account give me an IBAN. I am trying to send money from US to this account.

      • I have a HSBC Euro account, opened here, and it’s been fine. No interest but does the job.

        • The Original David says:

          HSBC shafts you on the exchange rate though. I had one, tried it for a few transactions and was losing something stupid like 5% per conversion. Back to Revolut for me…

          • Were you able to wire transfer USD from US to revolut? If so – could you pls share how – I tried to send money after selling US shares but Fidelity insisted the account should be in my name (not the case with revolut, where it is in their name)?

          • @Alex M – I use Fidelity Net Benefits. I transferred to my Revolut USd acct no issues, takes a week or two to verify the account, then I did a test $10 transfer and it worked fine. I just put in my IBAN and SWIFT.

            @The Original David: By that do you mean, if I have USD in my HSBC USD Account, when I want to move it to GBP, they give you a rubbish rate? On their website it says “Live exchange rates
            With live rates updated by the second during market hours, we’ll provide you with our most up-to-date foreign exchange rate available when sending money.” – this does not necessarily say spot rates, so I could get hammered. I can’t find an online link to the published rates, but trying to send money from my GBP current account to USD, it is showing a rate of 1.2543 vs 1.3031 spot, meaning 3.75%! That is mad…. urgh… I am just scared to put in so much into Revolut in case they block account.

          • the_real_a says:

            Yes – i transfer from a UK held HSBC account (USD) to Revolut in USD using the IBAN. I think £6 fee.

    • Fineco gives you 3 accounts in 1 (GBP, USD & EUR plus optional free accounts in most other currencies you might need) plus you get a debit card, IBAN etc and theres no spread on currency conversions.

      This link gives us both £50 if you use it so Rob feel free to remove the cp code if its breaches your rules.

    • I user Transferwise for repatriating funds from a former US employer’s share scheme. Works really well as you get real US-based current account details, which keeps the transfers costs to the account about as low as possible. Their exchange rates always appears decent, but once the money’s in your account you can also top up Revolut in USD with the attached debit card for free to really squeeze the costs.

      My referral link is (assuming including that isn’t against comment rules – happy for it to be removed if it is)

    • I’ve used Transferwise to take advantage of foreign transfer offers from unmentionable websites before and that worked fine. I seem to remember I didn’t lose out much on exchange rates and fees after converting back as well

    • Lady London says:

      Citibank used to offer USD accounts in the UK but not sure if they are still a player here for retail banking.

      Why do you actually need to hold in USD in UK? Can you not just leave in a US account?

      • I am still a holder of that account. Over the years it has changed in terms of fees and it may be a good option if the balance is large. Citi also offers a pot of Avios for some Gold/Wealth account opening. Rob wrote occasionally on that

    • Barclays also does free USD account, likewise the FX rate is terrible like HSBC
      I use Revolut Premium as an intermediate for FX, no charge to/from Barclays

      • Lady London says:

        That’s a good idea – use Revolut for the transfer (on a weekday) but take it quickly out to reduce exposure to Revolut’s unpredictability? Maybe also mention amount and source ahead to Revolut and ask if any flags/questions would be raised.

  4. I got the 1500Mr point bonus offer on £1600 spend on my Plt

  5. Hi,

    I made the rookie error of opening a Virgin Atlantic credit card back in July and doing all my spending on it a while back – assuming that either a flying club account would be opened automatically or the points would be stored until I withdrew them into an account. Having finally bothered to check yesterday I realised there’s no points balance, no mention of having qualified for the sign up bonus and no flying club associated with the account.

    Are all of the points ‘earned’ gone for good at this point

  6. 1500MR for £5100. Ah ah ah. Maybe they made a mistake, and it was supposed to be the other way around?!

    • Lady London says:

      🙂 Good one.

      On these pathetic offers I think the last thing I’d do is spend on them. A dog will only make the minimum effort to get the biscuit. Why teach them that you’ll participate for such low rewards? I think I’d defo not increase my spend.

    • Exactly the same for me – no thank you.

  7. OT.. found Oslo to Bangkok business class with Etihad for less than £1k. 2 stopovers though, Brussels and AbuDhabi

  8. I got spend £400 get 400MR on my plat card…

  9. I was offered 3000 MR points on £1,500 spend on my Plat. Seems significantly better than most of the others on here, scrolling through the comments. Wonder how they are calculating the offers?

  10. Just to complete the impromptu study of offer terms received, I have spend £2,900 receive 1,500 MR.

  11. BarclaysGlobalAgg says:

    I was offer 0 MR points for £0 spend hahahaha

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