Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The new HFP chat thread – Sunday 26th 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: 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.  Let’s see how it goes.  Take care!

Comments (175)

  • Harry T says:

    Flying to Johannesburg in January – going to spend two weeks in South Africa. First time visiting, looking to also fly to Cape Town and back.

    It’s my birthday trip, so any recommendations for activities, hotels, itineraries gratefully accepted. Going with girlfriend – we are both in our 20s (though I won’t be by the end of the holiday!)

    Also interested in if it’s worth using Avios on Comair or whether other cheap carriers for cash are an equivalent option.

    • SL says:

      I am also looking to do the same thing. Comair fly out to Victoria Falls and can use RFS with Avios at good value.

      However I have decided against this as cannot fly to VFA from CPT with Avios and so would require an extra flight back to JNB, which would already add to the travel of getting to/from Kruger from JNB.

      Are you using Avios to get to SA? Would be interested in hearing more about your plans.

      • Harry T says:

        Not using Avios. I have a 241 voucher but I think the old Club World seats look trash, and getting First to Johannesburg or Cape Town in January is basically unicorn territory. Plus BA has hiked taxes and charges again recently. I think it’s something like £750 each for the taxes and charges on a 241!

        So we are (semi accidentally) paying £1250 each to fly from Amsterdam to Johannesburg via Zürich with Swiss in their business class. This isn’t bargain basement but is far cheaper than exUK, and is well priced for exAmsterdam. Dates are the ones I wanted in January at good times and are overnight flights. Amsterdam is very easy for us to get to from Newcastle and I can sneak in a couple of nights there too (one of my favourite cities). Qatar flight times were too long and it’s annoying to get to Oslo from us.

    • EJH says:

      We’re doing the same in Jan (fingers crossed) – LON-JNB and CPT-LON but throwing in a couple of days at Victoria Falls also. At a similar planning stage so also interested in hearing any recommendations from others.

      IMO value of Avios on Comair seems broadly in line with today’s cash prices so to my mind it turns on whether you are Avios-rich (there didn’t seem to be many other “low cost” or other options with SAA’s future a bit uncertain) but happy to be told otherwise.

    • AJA says:

      Harry, Sl and EJH enjoy your hols to SA. Its a great destination. It would be helpful to know what sort of budget you’re looking to spend on hotels. Two weeks will go very quickly, SA is a big country and it can take a while to get between places. JHB to CPT by air is 2hours.

      Personally I wouldn’t stay in JHB for more than a couple of days. It has several attractions including the panorama at the top of the 50 storey Carlton Centre (once the tallest building in Africa), Gold Reef City, a theme park revolving around the gold mine which closed in 1971. A few hours at Johannesburg Zoo is also interesting if that’s your thing. For hotels in JHB I’d recommend you concentrate on Sandton which has a direct rail link from the airport although you might consider hiring a car as SA is rather like the USA and public transport is really only for the locals. I’d recommend a day trip to Pretoria to visit the Union Buildings (SA has two capitals – Pretoria and Cape Town)

      The Kruger National Park is 500km to the norh-east of JHB, it is driveable in about 5 hours to get to the entrance so possibly better to spend at least a couple of nights there. Alternatively you could consider Sun City, originally a casino but now a holiday destination in its own right. It’s about 2 hours by car to the northwest and has the Pilanesberg National Park and you can go on a one-day safari arranged by the hotel in Sun City. I did it about 17 years ago and saw three cheetahs walk less than 3m from the Jeep, an absolute highlight for me.

      For Cape Town I’d suggest a trip up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, a trip to Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned for years), Camps Bay, Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, Boulders Beach for the penguins, and a trip to Cape Point although if you want the most southerly point in Africa head to Cape Agulhus. Also I’d recomment a wine tour, I’d recommend heading to Stellenbosch.

      My favourite Cape Town hotel is the grand old dame The Mount Nelson but that is very expensive and perhaps best just for the afternoon tea. I’d recommend instead staying in a hotel on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a destination in its own right.

      I could go on but perhaps one of the hotel reviews will be of Cape Town and environs. I’d happily write more but I wasn’t selected by the team (admittedly I didn’t suggest Cape Town as my favourite hotel).

      • Harry T says:

        Thank you for this comprehensive and extremely helpful comment.

        Budget will probably be about £200-300 a night, unless I blow all my money in Hong Kong and Tokyo in November.

        Is it worth doing a safari? I went on one as teenager in Uganda; girlfriend hasn’t done one.

        • Harry T says:

          I believe @Genghis recommended the Marriott hotel “15 on Orange” which appears to be a short walk from the V&A Waterfront, so could be ideal!

          • AJA says:

            You’re welcome. I think everyone should do at least one safari in their lifetime, so much better to see the animals in their habitat than in a cage in a zoo (though zoos have their place). I don’t know that Marriott hotel but there is the AC Hotel by Marriott Cape Town Waterfront which is 4 stars and is closer to the waterfront than 15 on Orange. That said I recommend the Table Bay Hotel which is right on the Waterfront, it’s about £230 per night for two for an ocean view room or £280 per night for a mountain view room, both including breakfast, in January so within your budget.

          • Harry T says:

            @AJA thanks, I will check out that hotel. Appreciate the suggestion.

        • Genghis says:

          Hi Harry T. 15 on Orange is a fair walk from the Waterfront. It’s a good hotel. My recommendation is to get a car at CPT and then drive around yourself. My recommendations to add for Cape Town area, I might have told you before, include Camps Bay and Bakoven Beach, penguins at Simonstown, Oranjezicht city farm market (really cool food place, open Sun morning and Wed evening. For wine and food, forget Stellenbosch and stay in Franschhoek. You can then visit some vineyards on the edge of Stellenbosch if needed. My son loved the duck parade at Vergenoegd but even as an adult I’d go. Picnic at Warwick by the lake. Most beautiful vineyard is Babylonstoren. Great burrata at Boschendal. Book lunch / dinner at La Petite Colombe. Happy to recommend loads of food places.

          Re Joburg, I’ve stayed in Sandton for work. It’s alright but a bit too big: free club access (and breakfast) on a points stay at the IC Sandton. I preferred what was the African Pride, now Autograph at Melrose Arch. Spend only a day or so in Joburg. Apartheid Museum and Soweto tour worth a look.

          We went to Kruger a few years ago – a tour using Intepid using Tesco cc points – and whilst the accommodation was rather basic, the tours themselves were fantastic. Bear in mind it’s a malaria area. There are some private game reserves – non-malaria – in the Western Cape but ££££.

          • Harry T says:

            Thanks, as always. Some excellent suggestions to ponder. I will definitely hire a car.

          • Lyn says:

            Harry, glad to see you are getting so many inspiring recommendations, including these eminently sensible ones from Genghis. The vineyard areas are beautiful, as is the coastline. And the mountains. It is simply a beautiful country.

            As you’ll have a car, consider driving part the Garden Route (Plettenburg Bay etc.) as well as Simonstown and the Cape promontory itself. If you are interested in gardens, Kirstenbosch is a possibility among many others. Yes, the Mount Nelson is the Cape Town classic, for afternoon tea or a drink at least. There are several smaller parks which may be worth considering if you can’t fit in somewhere like Kruger. You will probably find yourself planning another visit even before you leave.

          • Harry T says:

            @Lyn thank you for the suggestions, as always! A colleague at work who is from South Africa actually suggested the Garden Route, so I think we will check it out. I love a road trip.

            You’re right, I don’t think it will be our last trip!

      • EJH says:

        Thanks, this is extremely detailed really helpful. We were thinking of staying somewhere on the V&A waterfront to your suggestion and will check out some of the more specific recommendations below.

        • AJA says:

          You’re welcome. One other suggestion I have is to visit Groot Constantia which is a winery on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. It was founded in 1685 by Simon van der Stel who was appointed by the Dutch East india Company to govern the Cape of Good Hope.They do wine tastings and their wines are fabulous.

  • KD says:

    Has everybody spire received there 25k IHG points? I can’t work out if they were my achieving spire ones or the latest ones

  • Adam says:

    What’s people’s view on the 10% that Qatar are offering for vouchers. 8 of us are booked for Bali in business for June. Almost certain this will be cancelled however want to do the same next year.

    • Rob says:

      I was told by a reader with a voucher that they can’t be used against Promo Fares, as these are web only. This may or may not (depending if you rebook during a sale) mean you end up worse off than taking cash, even with the 10% kicker.

    • Lady London says:

      10% can be found around a lot of the time on QR cash fares. Doesn’t always work on a promo but can sometimes.

      I think I’d want at least a 30% uplift on a QR voucher.

  • Chris says:

    Rob you shared earlier this week that you have 6.1mn points. That’s an impressive number and I think I will need 10 lives to collect them. How did you manage that and over how many years?

  • Doug M says:

    Amex MR. I bought an Alaska flight last September in US$ for the equiv of about £150. Got 150 MR plus 150 for Outbound spend, nothing for airline. Spoke to agent as it annoyed me, and was told that absolutely it was one of the other not both. Pointed to another flight with AA and he agreed I’d got both, he said that was absolutely incorrect, and then tried to tell me he was doing me a favour not reporting it for correction.
    Alsaka flight cancelled and asked fro refund, done very promptly and refund comes to Amex last week. Removed the 150 + 300, for Airline and Outbound.
    Shoddy customer service, trivial amount but it further entrenches my view that all is fair in gaming.

    • Harry T says:

      That’s bizarre – sorry to hear you lost some points.

      For reference, in the last two months, I have received triple points on my Amex Gold credit card for buying:
      – Virgin Australia flights in AUD
      – Jetstar flights in AUD
      – Qatar flights in AUD
      – Swiss flights in Euros

      It appears as separate transactions for “Outbound Spend” and “Airline Spend” or something similar.

  • Novice says:

    Just cannot get through to BA for a refund. Now thinking Amex chargeback or S75. Any reason not?


    • Doug M says:

      None. It would probably help to have some notes on your attempts to contact BA.

    • Anna says:

      Have you tried cancelling online? A screenshot of the voucher page people are being directed to might also be useful.

    • Hannah says:

      I called (0800727800) today at about 1pm and managed to get through and get refunds for two bookings within 10 minutes. Not sure if I was just lucky but it may be worth trying again.

      • G Flyer says:

        I also got thru to BA (on UK number) in less than 2 mins on Weekday at ~3pm. Friends also have had similar under 10 min waits in past week, so I’d try them again?

  • George K says:

    Has anyone managed to pay council tax using Amex via PayZone terminals, (as opposed PayPOINT)?

    I’m trying to see if there is a way to shift this expense to an Amex card, as opposed to forever be relegated to a Mastercard…

    • Mark Beckford says:

      I’ve only tried at PayPoint at the Co-Op which has worked for me, not tried PayZone but you may as well give it a try. Usually places will say no or it’ll just decline it 1st time so might just be worth trying it out?

    • PJJ says:

      have you tried paying your Council Tax at the local Post Office using Amex ?

      • George K says:

        Hey. The post office is not listed as a location where you can pay council tax out for my council. Only payzone and bank transfer are allowed (besides non amex card payments)

      • Charlieface says:

        Doesn’t work, PO tills are coded to only accept debit cards

  • Mark Beckford says:

    Looking to cash in the BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher for a long haul trip but as expected the Air Passenger Duty adds a big hit.
    I read on the site about starting the journey at either Jersey or Inverness to avoid the duty. My question is if the 1st leg (JER/INV-LGW/LHR) MUST be taken? Likewise, on the return on the last leg (LGW/LHR-JER/INV), does this have to be taken as well or can this be dropped?

    Depending on the feasibility might either try this or try book in a short haul layover for 24 hours. To try bring the tax/duty down.

    • MattB says:

      First leg 100% yes

    • AJA says:

      It’s not just the APD though.that combined with the other fees and charges are the killer on the 2-4-1 on long haul. But to answer your question yes you can reduce the APD if you choose JER or INV as your starting point but you do actually have to start there. Bear in mind any APD saving is offset with the cost of getting there which really involves an overnight hotel stay as well. On the way home it depends as to whether you have luggage and if you can collect it at LHR to miss the flight to JER or INV. I personally don’t think its worth the hassle.

    • Matt says:

      You don’t need to book to go back to JER or INV – you can end in London.

    • planeconcorde says:

      Remember to avoid the APD that the connection time in London must be less than 24 hours. i.e. The time between when you arrive at LGW/LHR (from JER/INV) and depart from LHR to your final destination must be less than 24 hours.