Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The HfP chat thread – Wednesday 16th September

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We have decided to run this daily chat thread on Head for Points during the coronavirus outbreak.

Historically, the daily ‘Bits’ articles were the de facto repository for random comments and questions.  With the news flow being lighter, we are running fewer ‘Bits’ articles.

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 at home, we want the HfP community to have a place to chat.


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Comments (142)

  • jil says:

    Any idea the AMEX NH hotels offer £180 – £50 can be triggered by 2 spends, the T&C is not very clear, and I have two 1-night stays in the coming.

  • Nick says:

    Does anyone have advice on where to start with a S&S ISA? Or experience/review of OpenMoney, which seems to be cheapest overall? (Yes I know Nutmeg does Avios and bungs Rob a load of cash, but I’d rather not pay excessive fees.) I’m not after full investment advice – it’s something I know I need to research properly – but pointers from this very experienced crowd will be very welcome.

    • Doug M says:

      If you just want functionality then iWeb are very good. Same platform seemingly as Halifax Share Dealing who are also good. Much depends on whether you’re going to buy funds or shares. I’m a share person so those recommendations based on that. Many here mention Vanguard life strategy funds, which I think you buy directly with them.

    • Neil says:

      There a good comparison on the Monevator site (as well as lots of useful articles ).
      The table is here –

      • Genghis says:

        Exactly. The broker you should use depends on a few things as mentioned: funds (OEICs etc) vs shares (including ETFs and Investment Trusts), how often you’ll trade, what you actually want to buy (ie Vanguard Investor only sell Vanguard funds and so there’s no property), how much you’re investing etc.

        My advice if you’re a complete novice is to do some research on Monevator. I recommend keeping any portfolio as simple as possible to allow you to stay the course.

        For what it’s worth, I use Vanguard Investor (not the cheapest for larger amounts but I like the platform, the complete transparency on costs, and no extra trading costs so I can put in money as often as possible) investing in VEVE and VFEM (good balance between simplicity and cost). I’m too young to invest in bonds and I’ve proven ability to stay the course in downturns.

        • Harry T says:

          How young is too young for bonds?

          • Neil says:

            No right or wrong answer and would suggest looking at asset allocation on Monevator for a few articles and lots of opinions

          • Genghis says:

            Neil’s right, but if I explain some of my thinking, you may get an understanding. I plan to invest in bonds from age 40 at a glide path down to my early retirement to decrease some of the volatility. Like I said, in the interim I don’t mind seeing volatility in the portfolio as it hasn’t affected my ability to continue investing so I’m OK with 100% equities. I’ve a stable occupation at a stable company – albeit in financial services – and sufficient cash holdings so will unlikely need to access the portfolio between now and when retire. That’s the plan anyway…

          • Spk says:

            Some advisors recommend a thumb rule of 100 minus your age as your allocation to equities and the rest to be invested in bonds. It comes down to your risk appetite!

          • Lady London says:

            I think the world is changing and bonds should not be an automatic choice from, say, 60 or so as I gather has been something like standard wisdom previously.

            Also for a window of 1-3 years from now I think some big names may default ob their corporate bonds or at least need to refinance at junk levels

            I am not an expert at all in this.

          • Neil says:

            I think that official vocab guidelines state that junk does not sell as well as high yield 😉

          • Lady London says:

            Er.. sorry. Of course when I said junk i really meant high yield. How careless of me 🙂

          • The Savage Squirrel says:

            I looked at bond/share allocation in great detail a few years ago.

            My conclusion was that for anyone who can have any sort of flexibility in factors such as retirement age, acceptable income, and doesn’t expect to die imminently, the basic answer is that there’s absolutely no point at which bonds are a good investment vs sticking with shares and taking your chances with market swings. That includes during retirement too. The main impediment to this strategy is the human loss-aversion heuristic and consequent inability to ride out market swings.

            This is not conventional wisdom, but conventional wisdom is too narrow in its thinking and the breadth of factors it takes into account … and wrong.

        • DK says:

          You can buy all Vanguard funds via HSBC Invest Direct. You pay to trade but portfolio fee is flat regardless of portfolio size. Can work for some

    • Waddle says:

      Another thing to consider is if you invest through HSBC as a platform and put enough money into it, you may become eligible for Premier and create a path to the World Elite MasterCard. AFAIK HSBC’s ISA is fee-free to invest in its list of funds.

  • Aston100 says:

    Being of a certain age, I’ve decided to lease a Volvo.
    Does anyone know if Volvo Finance (I believe it’s actually Santander) will accept monthly payments by credit card, or failing that a debit card?
    The dealership seemed to think it would be direct debit only, but thats what VWFS told me for my previous lease and I’ve since heard that they do actually take debit cards.

    Obviously, this is for making use of a points generating card, directly or (more likely) through Curve (free / blue).


    • Oh! Matron! says:

      Not helpful, but the s90 I hired in Gothenburg made me question why I, and others, bought Merc and BMW

      • Aston100 says:

        That’s interesting. I’m going for an s90. It is the bottom of the range trim – the momentum plus, but seems to be very reasonably specced.
        Some really good lease deals on that particular car right now.

    • Anna says:

      Hi Aston, also being of a certain age we have an SUV on finance through Santander! After the first couple of months (and seeking info here), I just cancelled the direct debit and now make a monthly payment online with my IHG card (no Amex, sadly). They don’t send reminders so it’s worth putting in your diary. I think another reader said they had an issue with the account number but I’ve never had a problem. It’s a good system, it shows how much is outstanding, offers an overpayment facility (if you’re buying the car like us) and emails you a receipt so you can file these away electronically in case there are ever any questions over payment.
      Next car will be with a company which accepts Amex though!

      • Anna says:

        Considering a Volvo when we replace our other car – you get all the good stuff but no-one wants to steal it!

        • Nigel W says:

          Got to say we’ve had an XC40 for nearly a year now and very happy with it.

          • Colin MacKinnon says:

            Got a 16-year-old Volvo XC70 and its just passed its MoT – £120 all in for test an d couple of bushes and light bulbs. 160,000 miles and going strong.

            But my wife’s 12 year-old Citroen C4 diesel is just £30 a year road tax and sips fuel!

      • Aston100 says:

        Thank you. Did they automatically send you the details of how to pay online (as part of the initial paperwork), or did you have to make enquiries?

        • Anna says:

          I had to do quite a bit of digging. The car dealership kept saying direct debit only, so I eventually found a number for Santander and called them. They confirmed they would accept MC or Visa payments and directed me to the payment page on their website. Once I found our account number (either on the paperwork or from the dealership) it was easy – you just input the account number and your date of birth and postcode and go straight to the payment page. Pay direct with card, don’t waste your Curve allowance. Our total payment to Santander will be well over £20k so a decent amount of points, not to mention counting towards free night certificates and status.

  • Navara says:

    Did she 😂

  • Ian says:

    Looking at a couple of nights in London at half term with two kids (under 8). Will do some museums and touristy bits.
    Any thoughts on which is better hotel in COVID days:
    – Hotel Indigo – Kensington
    – Crowne Plaza – Kensington

    Both are ~£100 per night for a room for 4. I’m IHG Spire Elite

    • Rob says:

      Indigo is NOT Kensington – it’s opposite Earls Court tube which is pretty dodgy. Hotel itself is decent enough.

      CP is opp Gloucester Road tube. Overlooks a busy road but literally 5 mins walk to the Natural History, Science Museum, V&A. Has a nice garden. Fully refurbed a couple of years back, looks great inside.

    • Michael C says:

      Ian, I had this identical question a few weeks ago! Rob kindly steered me towards the CP, with 2 double beds.

    • Anna says:

      I’ve got the CP Kensington booked for our wedding anniversary weekend next spring because it was £100 per night for a club room! There do seem to be a couple of nice suites which look ideal for families so you may be lucky with an upgrade.

      • Michael C says:

        I was all smug with my great 2-night family club room offer for Winter Wonderland…until I paid and they cancelled Winter Wonderland the following week!! Will still have a good time…Kew Gardens & some skating, I reckon!

    • Sukes says:

      I had a really excellent stay at CP kensington last mth. Lots of sanitiser everywhere and housekeeping on request only. I think we hit sweet spot prior to the masses returning. Club lounge was closed so we had a la carte breakfast where food was superb and you could order whatever you wished. 5-7pm comped drinks at the bar which was pretty much an open bar. On last evening however snooty lady appeared and told staff off because apparently they should only be offering us the club lounge standard beer and wine…. we had the split level club superior suite, I think was rm 225, which is an easy 1 flight stairs so you could avoid lift, and had 2 bathrms. Garden was also lovely. Would happily return.

  • Boris says:

    Hey all, been off of here for a while. I know Rob touched upon this before but can’t recall what was said.

    In the past 2 year I have had emails from BA and Easyjet because of the data breach. I don’t think anything was compromised but obviously that could change at anytime.

    Does anyone have any suggestions as what I can do – I remember somewhere mentioning joining a class action but thats about it

  • ChrisBCN says:

    Interesting article – judge says it is fair for airlines to cancel the return part of a flight if you don’t show up for the first (which we knew) but also adds that if the airline fail to tell you (a note in MMB is not enough) then you can have compensation.

  • Charlieface says:

    Any EC261 advice here?
    My sister’s KLM flights (the one I mentioned a few weeks back where the prices were jumping around), the outbound has been cancelled, inbound probably also in a few more weeks.
    She still wants to fly, but they’re only offering her a 3-flight connection via CDG and AMS (was 2 flights) which is a bit ridicuous with 3 little kids. She wants BA direct to LHR, then a taxi or car rental (no flights to NCL other than AF and KL), they won’t give her that. They won’t entertain booking BA at all, never mind a taxi.
    At what point can she say: this is unreasonable, I want something more sensible on a different airline?

    • Jonathan says:

      If the original flight was cancelled, she’s legally required to be offered a refund. Of course they’re not going to want her using an airline they’ve got no agreements with, and nearly all airlines will try and make it as difficult as possible to obtain a cash refund

      • Genghis says:

        Also entitled to a rerouting? If a refusal I’d probably try the credit card co (assuming S75 eligible) as joint and severally liable.

    • Anna says:

      Where is she flying to?

    • Lady London says:

      I cant remember why they are not using Eurostar?

      • Charlieface says:

        Eurostar don’t do intercontinental 🙂

        She tried again today, got a supervisor who refused to even rebook on AF to MAN, apparently rerouting is maximum 30 miles. Said they would have to get authorization, which would take 3 days… Then they got angry and slammed the phone down.

        I think she’s going to try again tomorrow direct to Amsterdam call centre, hopefully she’ll get someone who a) speaks English properly b) will be a bit more reasonable.

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