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The HfP chat thread – Sunday 20th June

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We are running 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 (296)

  • Patrycja says:

    I’m looking for a bit of advice. I am planning a trip to Poland in the middle of July (my only brother is getting married and I would not miss that for the world). We are flying from Edinburgh and I want to make sure I have all the rules covered.
    Is it correct that Amber arrivals do not need hotel quarantine anymore, we can quarantine at home? We also need to get the amber Covid test package for day 2 and 8 (from a single provider available). Does it have to be booked before we leave UK? Poland might move to green while we are away due to very low rates. Can we get BA lateral flow test for pre-departure test on return or does it have to be a specific government facility for Scottish arrivals? We will of course have to complete a locator form as well. I would appreciate if anyone has been through the process and could advise. Many thanks!

    • SteveJ says:

      Amber is (and always has been) home quarantine. Are you or will you be double vaccinated by then? Rumour has it quarantine rules may be relaxed for the double jabbed.

      • Patrycja says:

        Hi Steve, it’s not what I’ve seen in government website but wanted to check with someone that had an experience of it.

        https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-international-travel-quarantine/pages/red-amber-and-green-list-countries/

        My husband is double vaccinated but I only had my first dose and won’t have second until August

        • SteveJ says:

          Ah, you are in Scotland, ignore me, I was referencing England rules.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          On your link it says.

          Amber list countries and areas

          If you’ve been in an amber list country in the 10 days before travelling to Scotland, you must:

          complete a passenger locator form
          take a COVID-19 test before travelling
          book and pay £170 for day 2 and day 8 COVID-19 travel tests – you must book your testing kit using the CTM Booking Portal – any other type of testing kit, such as free NHS kits or those sold by private businesses, cannot be used for these tests
          On arrival in Scotland you must:

          isolate at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days
          take a COVID-19 test – on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of your 10 day isolation

          It clearly says at home or another place you have found yourself. Therefore not managed.

          If it goes green BEFORE you return then you would be subject to the green arrival rules. If it’s within the 10 days after you return you would need to finish your isolation.

          • Patrycja says:

            Thank you, I just wanted to make sure that it is definitely correct. It does not mention pre-departure test apart from the fact that is can be lateral flow or PCR. Do you know if any company can be used for that?

    • Colin MacKinnon says:

      Coming back, you only need to book the online Scottish tests a day or so before you travel – and before you complete the UK passenger locator form (it takes about an hour for the test booking reference number to come through, and you need that number to fill out the PLF).

      So it will be worth waiting until then in case the rules change, making it easier or with fewer tests.

      • Patrycja says:

        That is very helpful. There will be a review while we are in Poland so that fact we don’t need the package booked until the locator form is completed means we can await the results and then book the right package.

        • Mikeact says:

          You might want to double check your travel insurance is going to be valid……Amber destination etc.

          • Patrycja says:

            We are going to get a specialist insurance as our BAU insurance is invalid due to advice against all travel to Poland. Good point for all other travellers to check it up!

        • fivebobbill says:

          I just yesterday returned from Portugal to Northern Ireland, and under UK rules. First of all, you will only need ONE reference number for your UK Locator Form, I did not have a Day 8 test booked before travel, nor for return, only a Day 2, but that ref was sufficient for the UK online form.
          Furthermore, my PCR tests were booked with Randox, if the rules are changed and some of the tests are no longer required on your return Randox will refund you for any tests if they are unopened, so i would suggest you book and pay for all of your tests separately so as not to disturb the individual packaging.
          One final thing, NO-ONE is running the numbers on the departure PCR at departure and arrival airports, all you need is a template page with your name, DOB, Passport and date of test and your away!
          The whole thing is an absolute con

          • Patrycja says:

            Thanks! I’m flying from Edinburgh and we only have 1 provider to chose from. I might call them to see if it is possible to change your package if countries move into different status. Poland has 25% of Covid rates of UK. My husband only needs his vaccine certificate to enter, I have to do lateral flow test on arrival. Coming back is extremely complicated but it’s once in a life time event, I’m not going to miss it.

    • Wollhouse says:

      And, depending on where you live in Scotland, you may wish to fly into Newcastle, you are then able to drive to your home to quarantine. The difference being that if flying into England you have a wide variety of gvt approved firms to choose your pcr tests through. If you fly into Scotland, you have one company only and their pricing is much higher; it is perfectly legal to fly into England and drove across the border to quarantine at home for an Amber country. You can also complete your plf when you’re away. So, wait until the last minute to complete in case Poland goes green. I recently flew into Newcastle and drove home to the borders and used Better2Know for tests. I ordered the day before I flew home. Both day 2 and 8 Tests arrived in time to test for day 2 and the results were available the next day. Clearing through Newcastle was fast and painless, they had lots of agents. Egates weren’t open but it took less than 20 mins

      • Patrycja says:

        Good point! We are considering flying with BA via London as one of the options. This would make testing much easier

  • SteveJ says:

    Platinum MR retention query.

    Called the other night and spoke to Philippines, offered a paltry 6,000 to stay (which I rejected). Suggested next tactic? Call again at a time to get Philippines and hope next agent has better access, or try calling when Brighton are online?

    • Andrew says:

      Most people are getting 50k at the moment if speaking to Brighton during office hours (although I think they do work weekends)

    • Tom H says:

      I got 10 for gold, and I believe that’s not as good as some others

    • BJ says:

      I cancelled everything and got 5% for a year, worked superbly well 🙂

    • SteveJ says:

      35k offered just now, Philippines again. Maybe should’ve tried a 3rd time tomorrow but have snapped it up. Not bad for 2x 5mins work.

      • HeadingForNoPoints says:

        When was your last retention bonus?

        • SteveJ says:

          Not had one before, first time Plat holder, held card for 2 months (hit spend required to trigger SUB)

    • Super Secret Stuff says:

      Easy answer: ring brighton! They know what they’re doing and if you talk seriously but undecided you’ll get it

      • Jonathan says:

        You’ll only get it if the algorithm has decided you qualify for it already. I got bounced 3 times before giving up & cancelling. I did get 2x redemption points in May & ?August last year though plus 2 x Waitrose credits, Marriott £400 & 3 24k referrals so couldn’t really complain too much!

        • Louie says:

          Except that wasn’t the case with SteveJ above who was offered 6k then 35k points a few days later…..

  • Michael C says:

    Veryyy tenuously related to summer travel…has anyone ever used ShadeStation to buy sunglasses online?

    • BJ says:

      No, but I used Fashioneyewear with no issues at good prices. I think it was KBuffet who commented on a previous post that Mavrick something shares the same owner and they currently have an amex offer. Thus, you might want to check it out. I was after New Wayfarers but they had all the major brands IIRC plus prescription.

    • DZOO says:

      Yep, no issues

  • James says:

    Has anybody tried out the brand new Royal Senses Curio Collection Hilton in Crete yet? Going for a week next month and very much looking forward to it. Booked via BA but hoping my HH Gold will get us a perk or two.

    • John says:

      What about the new Curio in Olbia? It’s open since a few days

  • Maciek says:

    Has anyone received the GUF from BA’s Gold Upgrade Voucher offer? I didn’t receive the email, but have registered successfully, however no GUF has materialised and I can’t find any record of this promotion in my emails or BAEC account…

  • Waddle says:

    Tried to make an online payment on my Biz Plat last night. Transaction was declined and I received an email saying:

    “We were unable to approve the transaction below as you are spending more than usual.”

    Email also had a link to reduce the balance. My balance is zero and I haven’t spent on the card for a few weeks…

    Do I call up?

    • Blenz101 says:

      Why are you trying to make a payment if your balance is zero? Is it more likely that you confused their payment system by trying to put a charge card into credit?

      • Waddle says:

        Sorry I wasn’t very clear. I tried to make a purchase on my Biz Plat (not pay it off) and the transaction was declined because Amex said I was spending too much even though my balance is zero.

        • Yorkie Aid says:

          I think I’d be calling up ASAP. It might be an IT glitch or someone might be spending on your card. I would definitely want to find out which.

        • Blenz101 says:

          Ah. That makes more sense. Deffo give them a call to see what is going on and get any block released.

        • Sam G says:

          I had same with mine, I had to pay it off to zero and then it still took 2 calls to get it working again

  • Keely says:

    Morning all …a bit of OT advice from the financial experts on here …and picking up a bit on the comments on the Nutmeg article a few days ago . Considering taking husbands pension more flexibly . It’s a decent pot (well it is to me!) at £700k . Been given advice that we would need specialist advice in region of £4K just to consider whether this would be the best thing ? I get that we need that advice if we do take it but seems that we would pay this and if they don’t agree then we wouldn’t be able to proceed anyway, even if we think it’s best…? Unsure of best way to proceed …? Any advice please? (Btw I get that the govt don’t want us all to access our pots and then end up on benefits /pension credit etc as this defeats why they want us all to have pensions…can assure you I’m not going to spend it all on a massive splurge. Tho it would mean more Avios …) thanks !

    • Ls says:

      £4K (or about 0.5%) for advice is worth its weight in gold if it protects your investment that is well on the way to £1 million. Remember you will have to live off that money for the rest of your life. Putting it in potential jeopardy for the sake of a few avios really is not worth it. Forget the avios here, if independent advice really says that nutmeg is the best, then the avios are a bonus. But I strongly suspect longer term you will be better off elsewhere and just buying the avios.

    • Blenz101 says:

      The pension wise section on gov.uk website sets out the circumstances in which regulated advice is required by law.

      I would suggest that you post your question over at the MSE forums to get some initial guidance in the first instance.

      • Keely says:

        Thanks .Ive looked at pensionwise but it’s clear the government don’t want you to take this option. I’ll take a look at mse , good call

        • Blenz101 says:

          If it is DB then they don’t want you to take it for very good reason, you will likely be much worse off. I guess there may be some very specific circumstances in which this doesn’t apply but in order to test this it requires advice which is regulated to give you the appropriate protection.

          In fairness the freedoms would never have been in place when your husband started paying in and have just opened up in the last 5 years. So having the option to take regulated advice now is better than no option at all which is what you previously had.

          • Lady London says:

            Well Blenz101 perhaps you can explain how are Defined Benefit schemes allowed to proffer amounts for leaving the scheme that fall below the actuarial value of the benefits? And sometimes substantially. I could accept an industry-wide smallish gap being allowed but I have seen quotes over 20% less.

            If a scheme is not mandated to provide fair value at a minimum then surely they are deliberately putting a member who wants to exercise their rights into a position where they will be worse off thus frustrating the statutory right to transfer?

    • Lady London says:

      Yes you’re stuck with it. Courtesy of our fine regulator little people should not be allowed to utilise the Pension Freedoms granted by the government in 2015. Plus the funds management industry would also like to keep hold of it. G*d forbid you should actually spend some instead of having it dribbled out to you week by week while the funds management industry earns off what’s left.

      And your corporate Defined Benefit pension fund will be hoping he’ll die early so even if they might still have to dribble out a much reduced pension to you until you die too they have carefully analysed when that will be and will get to keep the rest.

      See yesterday’s thread for someone similarly trapped. Count on it likely to cost you quite a bit more than £4k on your sum to get out. Do it quickly as the door is about to be even more fully closed shortly with more restrictions after the killer ban on contingency fee advice last October.

      Use common sense where you invest it and don’t accept any hard sell. A few incidences of scammers have been blown up by the industry and vested interests to block everyone.

      • Keely says:

        Thank you LL . I’m starting to see that this is the reality . Our thoughts (based on countless relatives) is that we would want to utilise more of this fund in the first 15 years of retirement when we are still hopefully fit and healthy and able to travel and prob need less after that …so many people I’ve known just need less money in much later years . (And don’t get me started on potential care home fees) .
        Maybe we will just have to take the 25% tax free and leave the rest as DB . But it is really annoying me ..husband has worked very hard for this and yet is unable to access it . They are treating us all like idiots..,,

        • Ken says:

          Your husband’s pension will do exactly what was signed up for. His ‘access’ is exactly what was always promised. His pension likely to be far better than an equivalent person in a defined benefit scheme.
          It will pay out far more than he ever paid in.

          Who pays for care fees if all the pension gone by then ?

          • Keely says:

            With all due respect, you have idea how much it will pay out . Nobody does . He could die one day after retirement ….
            But! I accept your points , he is in a better position than lots of other people .
            My understanding about the regulations was to give freedom of choice …

            And re the fare home fees , well, exactly . The problem being that all the people who have been sensible and saved and bought their own homes etc will pay. Those people who haven’t bothered will still get access to pensions/care home fees …
            But I dont want a war of words , was just looking for opinions/advice on options. Thanks for commenting !

          • kitten says:

            *Ken don’t you mean defined *contribution?

        • Lady London says:

          you can’t just take the 25% tax free. you would have to be moving it.

          if you don’t move it then you can take a reduced pension (vastly reduced) and take a lump sum at the time you commence taking it. That lump sum might be restricted below 25% actually. In an older scheme (but not more recent ones) you may have a right take a lot more than the 25%.

          Bear in mind Rishi can change that 25% figure and a few other rules anytime. Covid moneyprinting has to stop, government receipts are down, and Rishi looks like doing a budget in November then March?

          • Keely says:

            Oh . I had thought we could….looks like another call to the administrator to clarify . It’s a minefield …

      • Ken says:

        The pensions freedom introduced 2015 was primarily about defined contribution schemes.

        You could always transfer a defined benefit scheme, the 2015 act added more safeguards primarily upon taking advice.
        The bar to transfer is set high because the risks are both catastrophic & irreversible.

        Defined benefit schemes do exactly what they say on the tin. I’m not sure if anything in the 2015 legislation had the intent of making it easy to access these schemes. In general people are far better off sticking with them.

        If you genuinely are better off transferring (say impaired life expectancy), you shouldn’t have any problem.

        • Rob says:

          But, for example, I am not. I won’t need the money from my old HSBC pot and it is more useful to take the assets and put them outside the IHT net.

    • AnotherUser says:

      One caution – if this is a Defined Benefit pot then, assuming your husband’s in at least average health for his age, cashing out the pension generally won’t be a good bet. Companies are often closing these DB schemes to move to defined contribution schemes at least in part because these cost the companies less…

      • Keely says:

        Thanks . I’m genuinely aware of the benefits of DB , I really am . And his company has closed the DB scheme . It’s just that there are options and we believe it might be better for us. Husband unfortunately has not had great health and was diagnosed with a significant health problem 18 months ago . We have been assured he should be fine but it does make you think….

        • Chris Heyes says:

          Keely No expert “but” if Husband has not had great health, and diagnosed with a significant health problem ! with his pot 4k is relatively very good value for the expert advice he needs ?

          • Keely says:

            Thanks Chris . It’s not necessarily about the £4K. I understand that it’s a lot of money and there may be factors we haven’t considered . It’s morethe fact that my understanding is that we have to pay this fee but if the ‘expert’ disagrees with our view that it is the best thing for us, then we still can’t access yet have to pay the fee …

        • Sarah says:

          Keely, I transferred my defined benefit pension to a SIPP and am able to access the 25% tax free lump sum at the age of 55. This is up to a maximum of 25% of the lifetime allowance which is £1,073,100, or 25% of your husband’s pension pot. I paid no fees for advice and the criteria for removing this pension was very strict as obviously it is a huge decision.

          • Keely says:

            That’s interesting. When did you do this? I’m unsure of when the rules changed to make it compulsory to get this additional advise …

        • Matthew says:

          I know lots of colleagues who have transferred out of of DB having seen large CETV figures. They all looked somewhat grey when COVID hit and the value of their pots plummeted. I don’t know one that has more now than when they started. Does your husbands DB scheme pay a spouse pension for x amount of years if he dies? Also, does he plan on working after the pension would transferred out? A lot of the £4K goes towards indemnity policies I believe for fear of bad advice. Apparently lots have withdrawn from this market fearing a backlash come 10-15yrs time for mis selling. Clearly there are circumstances where it’s better to have your pot out but obvs not for everyone. My company allow you to take your pension at 55 (albeit with reduced benefits) but by the time I get to that, I’ll be subject to the 10yr pegging to the state pension age which means 58 at the earliest.

          As others have mentioned, the risk of taking it out (aside from the investment risk) is that it can run out, whereas a DB will keep paying until death and in my circumstance, pay a spouse pension for another 10yrs then stop.

        • AnotherUser says:

          Sorry to hear that. Regardless of what you decide to do with pension, I hope your husband’s health is more stable in future!

    • BJ says:

      Bird in the hand and all that… cannot trust politicians of any hue when it comes to pensions… make hay etc

      • Keely says:

        I agree ! And , after all, pensions have been known to collapse …

        • Lady London says:

          If your DB pension collapses then its liability to pay you goes into the Pension Protection Fund. If post-retirement age the guaranteed pension is still given. Pre-retirement members will have their benefits reduced by est. 10%

          • Keely says:

            That’s reassuring. Thanks LL . I just have vague memories (when pensions didn’t seem that important to me 🙄) of pensioners losing it all (daily mirror..??) . I imagine that’s why such a fund was rightly set up …

          • Keely says:

            Thank you for your useful advice further down . (For some reason I can’t reply to that particular comment ..!) . We are awaiting differing forecasts etc from the provider and will then go back to advisor. Annoying that the change was so recent but husband was only 55 last month anyway …

          • Matthew says:

            Isn’t it capped though If PPF has to step in. Got a figure of £30k per annum in my head but that maybe made up?!

        • kitten says:

          This is why you invest in mainstream investments in the regulated parts of the UK market where there is protection. There are some failures but few (Woodford, Equitable Life, Liberty etc.) but you will be as safe as you can be. You won’t be allowed to move unless you are prepared to accept at least some investment risk.

          • Lady London says:

            DB is protected as above by the PPF. not sure about works schemes if they go DC but suspect so.

            If you transfer out of a DB you are moving it into your own DC which is no longer a works/employers scheme. A more recent requirement on the adviser is that if he is by now in a different works/employer scheme he must consider moving DB from prev employer to that rather than to own scheme and if not there must be a good reason. Ill health (poor prognosis) and extreme financial hardship help the choice to move DB and can theoretically exempt from the contingency fee ban

          • WaynedP says:

            No protection similar to PPF exists for DC schemes, regardless of workplace or not. It’s not necessary as members’ benefits are held in trust in individual funds allocated entirely to that individual. DC funds pay for a pension for as long as they last. If funds run out before member dies, tough luck, you fall back on the mercy of relatives, charity or the State.

            The reason that PPF protection is needed for DB funds is that someone (other than the pensioner member) needs to keep topping up the communal fund until the very last of the promised benefits is paid, for as long as the last member remains alive (or their dependant beneficiaries). If employer goes insolvent before final benefit is paid, insurance scheme like PPF steps in.

            Other than irreversible aspect mentioned elsewhere, a big reason why there are high barriers to swapping out DB to DC is that the risk of outliving your fund value transfers from sponsoring employer (or State supported PPF) to each private individual. In other words you have strong protection against running out of pension funds before you die with DB, but zero protection (other than your own personal thriftiness) from running out of pension funds before you die with DC.

          • Lady London says:

            …and you must be in a position, virtually, that you could theoretically lose it and still be able to manage. Owning your own house and any other investments/pension, is useful for this.

            If you’re going to do it look at BJ’s comment and do it now. Google (avoid all the scammers which will pop up forever on your pc after that) others’ experiences, find the right adviser and be very led bt them as to the elements you would have to cover and be very clear on your situation with regard to the requirements before you formally fill out any papers for your request.

            Also note that whilst an adviser on a DB transfer is obliged to provide an investment plan if they recommend a transfer as you will be better off (required), you can submit their recommendation to the scheme to fulfil the advice requirement but are not obliged to follow that particular investment recommendation and not required to invest via that adviser (but where it moves must still be another pension…could be a SIPP). (Ken won’t like this? 🙂 ). So viewed that way, paying a fee for advice regardless of whether you move is quite fair.

            Impaired health/poor prognosis or dire financial straits (weirdly) may exempt you from the contingency charging ban ie an adviser could charge all or some of the fee only if you move in these cases. I would guess that to move without fee @Sarah did it before last Oct which is when the ban came in.

        • Sarah says:

          I did this in 2017 so I am not too up to date on rule changes since then

        • Harrier25 says:

          My God, people will happily pay thousands to a solicitor for not a lot, but when it come to financial advice they will moan & groan about paying £4,000 to get the best advice on what to do with £700,000 which they plan to live on for the rest of their life. The world is a mad place!

  • Tomgold says:

    are any lounges open at Athens airport?

    • MilesOnPoint says:

      Yes, Goldair & Aegean lounges are open but no lounge provided by BA for club or status pax (as of 16/06, family member flying back from Athens).

      Would suggest if flying BA that you access Goldair lounge using Priority pass / Lounge Dragon passes / airport lounge passes via ebookers+ . Good booze/food selection

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