Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The new HFP chat thread – Friday 17th April

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We have decided to run this new daily chat thread on Head for Points.

Historically, the daily ‘Bits’ articles were the defacto repository for random comments and questions.  It is unlikely that the news flow will be so big over the next few weeks that we will need many ‘Bits’ articles, however.

The comments under this article are where you should post questions about travel and, indeed, anything else on your mind.  At this tricky time, and given that many of you are stuck at home self-isolating, we want the HFP community to have a place to chat.

Please only comment under the main articles on the site if your comment is directly related to the topic of the article.  This has long-term benefits as its keeps the commentary relevant for people who read those articles in the future.

By default, HFP shows the last page of comments under the article.  If you want to see the first page of comments and read them all from beginning to end in order, click here: https://www.headforpoints.com/2020/04/17/the-new-hfp-chat-thread-friday-17th-april/comment-page-1 The page will refresh with this article but the comments will now show the first page and not the last page.

We will continue to monitor how this is working:

we could potentially split it into a daily travel and non-travel chat thread

we may install some basic forum software

we may start suggesting potential topics for daily discussion

Let’s see how it goes.  Take care!

Comments (208)

  • Peter says:

    Hoping the collective wisdom can help me with decision on whether to drop Amex Platinum Card.

    Despite many unanswered calls/emails to AXA Travel Insurance to clarify if AXA covers Amex Plat card holders on their travels for Coronavirus, I saw a comment here y’day (@ Lady London) that AXA may indeed still be one of the few travel insurers doing so. Can anyone please point me to proof about that? Or provide a hotline number to get through to AXA Travel Insurance (I don’t want to abuse the Emergency line).

    Context – I came on hols to France on Mar 13 to stay with daughter, lockdown in France was announced on Mar 16, so decided to stay here and will return to UK when lockdown eased in France on May 11; hence my question above. Thank you.

    • The Original David says:

      What sort of cover are you concerned about? For anything health-related, you’d be covered in France by your EHIC, wouldn’t you? Or are you trying to claim your extended holiday costs on travel insurance?

      • Peter says:

        Thanks for replying.

        I am looking to see solely if I am covered for all medical-related expenses if I was to catch Coronavirus and hospitalised in France (on the basis I am on holiday here). I do not have the EHIC card, alas.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          As your trip started before the FCO advice and lockdowns you will should covered as per the advice supplement they put out

          Though there is a maximum length the trip can be for until it’s not longer covered I would check the policy document carefully

        • J says:

          Some travel insurance policies require you to have an EHIC card – as it should be your first port of call in countries it covers, it’s strongly advisable to have *both* EHIC and travel insurance.

          • Anna says:

            Quite – EHIC should be used in the first instance and travel insurance only for events like repatriation which EHIC doesn’t cover. The only fathomable reason you wouldn’t have one is if you’re not an EU citizen (or citizen of other country included in the program like Switzerland).

        • Lady London says:

          If you’re entitled to an EHIC you can get it by phone by calling Newcastle – Google it. I think you’ll ideally need to have your NHS number (your UK surgery will have it). The EHIC can be issued immediately. You are covered even if you haven’t got it with you provided it’s been issued. Obvs it’s more complicated to claim if you haven’t got it to show at the time you need urgent treatment (which is all that’s covered) but you will eventually get your money back.

          Be aware that E111 / EHIC entitles you only to treatment on the same basis as a local from entities that are part of the national health system of that country. So if they pay, or pay and get refunded all or part, you do too. In some countries there are a lot of clinics and some doctors that are not covered because they are charging you outside of the national system – always check.

          • Anna says:

            There’s quite a bit of anecdotal information about ambulances in Spain being instructed to take foreign patients to private hospitals and the patients then being told they have to pay up front for treatment then claim it back via their insurance. Somebody I know was made to pay €3000 euros up front after suffering a brain haemorrhage and unwittingly being taken to a private hospital.

          • Anna says:

            Actually it’s not all anecdotal; apparently the EU have actually taken legal action against Spain for doing this on an industrial scale!

    • Sandgrounder says:

      Visit https://secure.axa-travel-insurance.com/OLC_V3/portal/amexuk/login and access the Coronavirus (Covid 19) Disruption Advice pdf by clicking ‘find out more’ on the popup window when you arrive on the page.

    • Lyn says:

      Peter, surely it would be worth holding on to your Amex Plat anyway at least until you get back from France, since you would be paying pro-rata on a monthly basis?

  • AndyGWP says:

    Re: HSBC Premier Account

    1) What investment do people here tend to have alongside their income (for account qualification).

    2) Is it as simple as just having an ISA or similar with them (can’t see a qualifying amount for the investment)

    3) though I need to properly read the terms, it doesn’t appear you have to pay your salary into the account?

    • Jon says:

      1) Get a global investor centre account and put £100 in it. There are no transaction fees so choose a relatively low risk fund (or exceptionally high risk if you want to have a bit of a punt, it’s only £100). The fees are 0.25%, or 25p per year. Do choose a fund that doesn’t pay dividends, so you don’t have to trouble the taxman with a return.

      2) Don’t waste your ISA on this. The funds HSBC offer are very limited.

      • Jon says:

        3) theoretically you need to pay your income in to the account – it’s in the brochure, not the terms. I’ve never been called up on this.

      • Genghis says:

        “ choose a fund that doesn’t pay dividends”

        Note that in general investment taxable accounts, accumulation still receive notional dividends (for equities or mixed) or interest (fixed income), it’s just that the cash is rolled up into the fund. Officially these still need to be declared for tax purposes. It’s also generally a pain working out the dividend / interest element from the capital appreciation element. As such, advice is generally to choose income funds for taxable accounts. However, the amounts here are tiny and so will fall under any unused dividend / savings allowance (and then no further action needed) and if not, likely de minimis for any HMRC review.

        • Lady London says:

          If you chose exclusively income funds then should you not also aim to use up your annual CGT allowance? Wouldn’t that give you scope for a further 20k?

          • Genghis says:

            Only in a taxable account, yes, you should harvest your capital gains annually using your CGT allowance of £12,300 pp.

            Bear in mind the 30 day wash sale “bed and breakfast” rules but they’re easy to get around. E.g. a sale of VWRL buys 88% VEVE, 12% VFEM; a sale of Vanguard Life Strategy 80 buys 50% Life Strategy 100 and 50% Life Strategy 60 etc.

    • Genghis says:

      3) “HSBC Premier is available to you, if you pay your annual income into your HSBC Premier Bank Account and meet one of the following eligibility criteria:”
      https://www.hsbc.co.uk/current-accounts/products/premier/
      (I have a mortgage).

    • Richard says:

      I just put £500 in a non ISA mutual fund as had used my ISA allowance elsewhere. Haven’t touched it since then and that was about 4 years ago. At the account opening interview they said I had to pay my salary in, so i did.

      • Ian M says:

        Is there no longer a requirement to put £50k into the investment?

        I simply opened a savings account with HSBC, they opened my premier account and prem world elite credit card before I’d deposited any funds.

        • Genghis says:

          Not if you qualify through income.

          • Boi says:

            I ONLY qualified through income and they opened an account for me. I have NO investment with HSBC. They were actually fantastic for me. They also opened a primier account for me in Canada through their international office. This was last year. I keep transferring money to the canadian account ( Revolut) when the exchange rate is good- I have no residence status in Canada. I must have been really lucky

    • AndyGWP says:

      Thanks all – indeed this was in relation to salary going in (I think my savings are more effective elsewhere.)

      I guess having wages paid directly into HSBC isn’t an issue as I suppose I can always immediately move them elsewhere if I choose too 🙂

  • Paul Marchant says:

    Re BARefund vs voucher

    Trying to understand what happens if I take a voucher for my my flight to New York (using Avis and companion voucher). Website says – “You will receive a voucher which will equate to the full value of the original booking (cash & Avios combined) and can be redeemed against future bookings. Please note you will not be refunded any Avios points related to the original booking”. I paid about £1k taxes but flight was paid for with 100k avios – what value will the voucher show? A cash value?

    • Sean says:

      voucher doesn’t show any value – but will be worth £1k and 100,000 avios held in the “background” for use towards another flight. Only vaild for 1 year.

    • AndyW says:

      Your avios and cash are fully flexible, the voucher isn’t, I really just would ask for everything back.

    • Rob says:

      It is NOT a voucher. It is a frozen ticket.

      Your voucher is worth 100k Avios and £1000 and you need to rebook by finding some future travel costing at least 100k Avios and £1000. Cannot be transferred.

      • Ian W says:

        What about the companion voucher?
        I was told by BA that the companion would be refunded into your account as normal, with the 6 month extension. If your companion voucher is due to expire end of May 20 then you would get an extension on that until end Nov 20, but the points ‘voucher’ would be valid for 12 months.
        I opted to take the refund, but still waiting for both points and cash to come back. They said points would take about a week and cash 1 month.

        • Rob says:

          Not true. The 241 is loaded into the voucher. This is really bad because you are restricted on where it can be used when you rebook.

          • Ian W says:

            Not a surprise that I was told wrong by BA.
            What is meant by it restricts where it can be used?
            Cheers
            Ian W

          • Rob says:

            Another reader who had tried to rebook using a voucher including a 241 was told that the rebook had to be in the same Avios zone. No other feedback on this yet though.

  • Craig says:

    Morning all, I need to call up BA to make an Avios booking (as using 2 x companion vouchers). Does anyone have a number I can call to do this? The normal one doesn’t work at the moment.

    • Jan Head says:

      You have to use the 0800 727 800 number, option 2 then option 1.
      It may take you some time to get through but persevere…….I managed yesterday mid afternoon.

  • Berneslai says:

    Morning all. I’m thinking of booking an Alaskan Airways flight from San Jose to Hawaii at the end of August using Avios. Has anyone got experience of their “First Class” seats? I’m trying to understand if it’s worth the (large) differential over a standard economy seat.

    • AndyF says:

      From what I have read and researched as I would like to do a similar trip as around the same time, I wouldn’t say its worth the cost, at 4 times the economy price. The seats aren’t lie flat like in international business class more of a reclining model like virgin atlantics premium economy but with more space around you. Just depends on how much Avios you have. (If you search google you can easily see images)
      I would be careful however our trip was planned from August but with the current climate, I haven’t dared book anything as I can’t see it taking place.

      • Dave says:

        Would agree, not worth it. Flow Kona to San Jose in 2018 with Alaskan in economy and had no issues. Plane was half empty and we had a row to ourselves. Difference is like Club Europe vs. Euro Traveller at best – not worth 4x points unless you have a stack of points to burn…

    • Doug M says:

      Is it worth is always a very personal question. 7 hour flight, proper 2+2 seating always superior to 3+3. Then there’s additional luggage and the usual business class extras if they appeal to you. I believe at the moment Alaska are blocking the middle seats anyway, so you’d likely have an empty seat next to you in economy, which might be enough to swing it.

      • Alex W says:

        It’s not 7 hours it’s 5.5 hours. For a day flight I would definitely put up with economy. I found Alaska to have pretty good service down the back.

  • Katy Storie says:

    Can anyone share their thoughts on the benefits of an HSBC Premier account? Is it worth it and is there an annual/monthly account fee at all?

    • Brighton Belle says:

      You could start by reading about it yourself on their website.

      • BSI1978 says:

        Unnecessarily harsh reply for a Friday AM! Perhaps the OP has already done that and is seeking additional first hand experience from this community…..

        • Kev 85 says:

          It’s unlikely that they’ve visited the website/done any research as the annual/monthly fee question has been asked

          • Katy Storie says:

            Wow thanks all. I was asking for people’s opinions on whether they felt it was worth it. That is the usual helpful nature of forums like this but feel free to sit on this to wait for someone to have a go at if it makes you feel better.

    • Jonathan says:

      No annual fee but quite high qualifying criteria relative to eg. Barclays Premier. Good inclusive travel insurance (better in my experience than Amex Platinum). Can access Premier World Elite credit card, I binned it as wasn’t worth annual fee for me at the time although it is becoming more attractive again as Avios & Virgin miles become less reliable.

      The investment advice/personal contact is worthless IMHO although guaranteed UK call centre is useful for day to day issues.

      Preferential savings rates are still worse than market leaders. For mortgages they are often close to best in market and saving in fees for Premier customers is useful. I also found the underwriting process smoother already having a financial history with them although probably less helpful as a new customer.

    • Andrew says:

      Wasn’t impressed to be honest. My boss is a HSBC Premier Customer, and I used to work in Private Banking with a different firm so have certain expectations.

      He had a substantial cheque to deposit (pre-Covid), so asked his “dedicated manager” if they could send someone round to pick it up. Flat refusal. Checked with a former colleague, and yes they still do that level of service for their Private Banking customers.

      Shame how things have changed. When I first started out in Banking in the 1990s, I’d get picked up from the Branch every Friday morning by a customer’s Chauffeur and taken out to their Castle to do their banking.

      • Rob says:

        To be fair …. HSBC Premier is totally free and £75,000 is not a lot in this day and age. HSBC Private Bank (as opposed to Premier) will, I’m sure, still send a taxi round to pick up a cheque BUT you can pay in cheques to HSBC now by photographing them on your phone 🙂

        Here’s my take. It is not, in any way, lifechanging. However it IS better than being a standard HSBC current account customer IF your local branch has a dedicated Premier area. If it doesn’t, it’s a bit like being a BA Gold at an airport with no priority check-in and no lounge!

        Anyone who banks with HSBC and earns £75k should switch as it is a no-brainer. If you have a ‘normal’ current account elsewhere AND you have an HSBC near you with a dedicated Premier area then I’d also say it will work out OK. But always remember you’re not paying for it.

        • Genghis says:

          Exactly. Premier isn’t that “special”.

          Now our Swiss bankers have done some weird things for clients in the past – e.g. arranging a boob job for the wife of a Russian oligarch – but it all comes for a fee.

          HSBC don’t really make much out of me as a Premier customer.

          • Lady London says:

            Haha one of our Swiss lawyers took Madame’s dog for a poop in Green Park when it needed it.

        • Andrew M says:

          Does anyone have any experience of being a Jade member? The free World Elite card (including supp) is nice but they’ve dropped Etihad Gold as a benefit and the concierge thing seems a bit pointless.

          • Rob says:

            I’ve got it, it’s rubbish. I can honestly say there isn’t a single useful benefit apart from saving the fee on the WE card. The most pathetically useless bit is the TEN offering which is actually worse than useless.

            That said, as with Premier, I didn’t plan to get Jade and was surprised they offered it. It’s free so I don’t lose anything.

          • Andrew M says:

            Maybe I judged the concierge service too harshly. They sent me an email today offering me a free online flower arranging class. 😮

          • Rob says:

            I’ve never had an email off Ten in my life.

    • Waddle says:

      I don’t use any of the relationship things offered. I did consider a Premier mortgage as they tend to be up there with the best rates. Savings are nowhere near market leaders.

      In my opinion the absolute biggest advantage for HfP readers is the access to the World Elite mastercard and travel insurance that covers immediate family INCLUDING pre-existing conditions as long as you call in and get pre-approval sent to you in a letter. I did this for Ms Waddle ahead of a Canada trip last year and was very straightforward, letter received within a week. Amex Platinum still offers its benefits including cover for things like snow sports accidents.

      • Genghis says:

        Since the formation of HSBC UK, they are awash with capital, hence the cheap mortgage but the poor savings rates.

      • Grant says:

        Are the rates for HSBC Premier mortgages available to view? It is not obvious on the mortgage rates summary page of the website. I have an existing HSBC mortage and my fixed rate will come to an end in June. I am not currently a Premier customer but do qualify and would consider applying if the mortgage rates meant it was worth doing.

        • Genghis says:

          I saved £100 on fees, £899 vs £999. May have changed since.

          • Grant says:

            Thanks. On futher interrogation it looks like they offer a 0.03% discount only on the standard 5 year fixed rates for Premier customers but charge an additional £500 booking fee.

    • Doug M says:

      Do you meet the criteria and do you want the bank account, or access to the points earning credit card.

  • YH says:

    Has anyone else requested a cash refund from Norwegian for a cancelled flight and not heard anything back yet?

    I requested a cash refund through their online page 3 weeks ago now, I got the acknowledgement response but nothing else since.

    Anyone else in the same situation, any ideas?

    • Doug M says:

      You’re aware they can’t pay their staff, just for a bit of context. Hope you paid on a credit card or Amex.

  • AndyW says:

    Anyone seen any good Wine offers recently? Remember getting a decent one from BA not that long ago but chucked it as had loads. Amazingly being stuck at home with 2 under 4’s means that supply is fast dwindling.

    • Anna says:

      Laithwaite’s are still delivering and have some decent cases but really they should cut down a bit and have juice instead?!

    • Stagger Lee says:

      There are sone decent looking offers at Waitrose Cellar – https://www.waitrosecellar.com/

      We recently picked up a couple of cases of our favourites from Laithwaites. We’ve used them for years but their offers don’t seem as good as normal but, given the circumstances, I can’t blame them.

      Failing that you could give your local independent place a call (if you have one) to see what they have to offer. We’ve done that from our one but they sell stuff that’s a bit pricier so we don’t pick a lot up from them

      • tony says:

        I’m a fan of Naked Wines. Not sure about offers right now, but I what they do in terms of supporting small independent growers and the on site tools for recommending wines you’d like given your past feedback and that of others.

        Also opens up some interesting options. Their stocks took a hammering last month when the lockdown came into effect, but I think things are normalising a bit now.

    • Lady London says:

      🙂

    • Anna says:

      I completely forgot that Aldi do wine deliveries! They have some surprisingly good wines as well.

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