Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The HfP chat thread – Tuesday 17th August

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We are running this daily chat thread on Head for Points during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Comments (394)

  • Boi says:

    With these kind of prices hfp community would like to know what card to use and MS opportunity 🤣
    https://flyokavango.com/

    Disclaimer: I am from Maun ( and I wonder how this will benefit my “people “)

    • Erico1875 says:

      Thats cheap 😁
      A few years back, I did some work for a Luxury Safari tour opp. Some of the lodges she sold were £10k plus per night

    • Amy C says:

      I’m sure trophy hunters will be delighted by the shortcut. Loved the delta (and Maun) when I went 2 years ago, will be going back (hopefully) next May!

    • Jonathan says:

      I went to the Okavango delta with Wilderness Safaris in 2005. They are streets ahead of more mainstream operators in quality & the CSR side.

      They pay the local indigenous tribes royalties to operate on their land & provide significant employment opportunities that would not otherwise be available whilst operating at a level that has no or minimal impact on the landscape/environment. The camps are all constructed in a way that allows them to be removed with no trace.

      The prices are high due to the low scale they operate at but it’s definitely not the free flowing champagne vibe of luxury lodges in SA or Kenya. I also didn’t like the faintly colonial atmosphere of a lot of more traditional safari destinations.

      I’d love to go back but unfortunately it’s at the very occasional luxury price point (~$2k/night) for me. Definitely the best option if you want to safari once & do it right though.

    • N says:

      I’m always quick to recommend Flat Dogs in Zambia when it comes to safaris

    • WaynedP says:

      Nostalgic, thanks. Beautiful part of the world.

      Nice bit of entrepreneurship that’s to be encouraged. I imagine they paid more to refurbish the plane than to purchase it at the price of 767’s these days.

      I recall John Travolta saying he didn’t allow himself to dream of owning his own 747 (too costly at the time), but since Covid, I suspect he’d be able to pick one up for a relative song these days.

      • Boi says:

        It is indeed a beautiful part of the world, that I am happy to call home.

  • Tom says:

    I’m about to go on gardening leave and have around two months to kill. Are there any destinations you guys would recommend for some backpacking (particularly accessible via VA as have plenty of miles). I need to do some research as not entirely sure where you can go at the moment. It’s much easier finding somewhere nice for a few nights hotel break in Spain for example – but the idea of going somewhere for longer is a bit tricky. In a normal state of the world I would have booked flights to HK and just have seen what happens!

    • Sam G says:

      I’d probably stick to Europe , had a fantastic few weeks travelling the length of Italy years ago and its easy to change plans if restrictions hit or get back with a cheap Ryanair or Easyjet hop. Nearly all the “traditional” backpacking options of Asia / Aus etc are out. You could enter Thailand via Phuket but COVID is hitting hard elsewhere and the weather isn’t great now either so might not be much fun

      The other option is South America, if you are strategic about your planning you could do 2 weeks in the US at the end from somewhere like Colombia and then fly back on VA from there and not need to quarantine

      Enjoy it ! I had quite a bit of time off earlier this year and only got as far as Kent!

    • Super Secret Stuff says:

      For 2 months right now I would go inter-railing around Europe

      • Michael C says:

        Hoping to do this soonish: excellent value tickets of “unlimited travel on xxx days within a yyy-week period”, including first class.

        • mr_jetlag says:

          Ooh this is on my bucket list; in addition to a month on Inter-Rail we would then try and push further east on the Orient Express to Istanbul…

    • TDS says:

      What about walking some (or all) of the Camino de Santiago? There are various routes but the main one is about 500 miles.

      • Lyn says:

        France has its own Pilgrim trails as well, some of them linked to the Camino de Santiago.

    • Yorkieflyer says:

      I’d go Greek island hopping

      • WaynedP says:

        +1

        There must still be some real gems especially at this time of year if you’re into snorkelling or scuba.

    • Anna says:

      I was just saying last week I’d like to spend a few weeks exploring the lesser known Canary Islands like La Palma and La Gomera. It’s easy and cheap to get a flight to Tenerife and then take ferries between islands (which is quite an adventure in itself. You’d have volcanoes, rain forests, beaches, historical sites and landscapes which can make you think you’re in Hawaii or Costa Rica at times!

      • ChrisA says:

        +1 for Europe. This summer and last I’ve taken the car into France/Germany/Switzerland after several years of feeling the need to go long-haul. Put simply, I’ve really enjoyed re-acquainting myself with some fantastic culture, scenery and food – all of which is comparatively ‘on our doorstep’

        • Tom says:

          Some great suggestions, thanks very much everyone. Europe does seem to make sense. I think I’d rather save Italy for a trip with a future partner (feels too romantic to do solo, maybe I’m wrong) so will look at some of the suggestions above. I did Athens briefly last summer with a bit of island hopping/day hikes and it was seriously awesome so definitely got an appetite for more of that!

    • Tracey says:

      Have you had your covid vaccines? For ease of travel and to offer yourself some protection, I’d be getting vaxxed first.

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      Italian / Swiss Alps. Went last August to Valle Antrona for a couple of days. The refugios are amazing, and much better than the french Refuges: the quality of food and wine is much better. It means you can travel light and hop from one to the other, criss-crossing across the border

      Failing that, have you thought of Tour Du Mont Blanc? Easy enough to do on your own, and there’s companies that will shuffle your stuff from one place to another. Was in Chamonix also last year and loved that

      Or you could go “all in” and do the GTA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grande_Traversata_delle_Alpi

    • Harry T says:

      I don’t think Virgin Australia miles will be much use at the moment 😊.

      I would recommend interrailing Europe, if vaccinated. Easy to get around and plenty to see. We are currently doing this for three weeks, albeit with more planes than trains. Your VS miles can be used on KLM and AF, to get around, if you need to fly. Avios and money can be very good on Iberia and Vueling; if you play around with the options.

  • BJ says:

    Today may be significant (or mot) in relation to the amex BA cards. There are now 10 working days left until the previously announced changes come into effect on 1st September. That is the amount of time amex suggests we allow for decisions that go to manual review. Thus, some may have decisions to make and act on ASAP to ensure they do not get caught out by time. If you believe that the 1st September changes will be limited to those already announced then you have most likely decided your strategy and can proceed as planned. I believe it is more likely than not that these changes will indeed be limited to those already announced, at least for a while. However, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that further changes may become apparent only from 1st September. For example, will we start losing vouchers if we cancel cards or will we indeed be forced to use the card earning the voucher to book the flights? Personally I think both of these are extremely unlikely and I am not bothered by them. Even in the event they did come to pass we could adopt strategies to soften their impact. However, there is one issue that is bothering me and if my fears are justified, it is now a very pertinent issue. My concern is that from 1st September, or some point thereafter, we will no longer be able to upgrade or downgrade the BA cards at will to our personal best advantage. Frankly, this has been to good to be true and I cannot see it lasting indefinitely. If this does come to pass then many of us might ultimately be disappointed if we are currently holding off upgrading or downgrading and triggering vouchers until after 1st September. If upgrades or downgrades feature in our strategy it might be worth considering again whether we are best to jump now when we are certain of what we are getting than run the risk of waiting until 1st September.

    • Rob says:

      Unfortunately, due to staff changes at Amex, we have temporarily lost our news flow.

      I don’t know, for eg, if the bonus will change on 1st. This makes it tricky for us to write an article recommending what to do.

      • BJ says:

        I think your coverage on this has already been good, especially the last article which set out the questions and options very clearly on the basis of what is known.

    • JDB says:

      @BJ I think you are right that the upgrade/downgrade routine becomes even more untenable with the increased disparity between the free/BAPP vouchers. They could either stop it or make simple changes such as not carrying over the spend, no pro-rata refund, limit on times you can upgrade/downgrade etc. It actually becomes a regulatory issue as customers are not being treated fairly (under FCA core principles) if you effectively give the voucher to one set of customers for £25 vs the published £250

      I think you may be a bit sanguine about the other bits…

      • BJ says:

        Questions on upgrade/downgrade definitely feel more like when and what, not if. Regards the other stuff, I think if amex and/or BA had a problem with it then they would have fixed it already. However, amex has surprised us often enough within the past 2-3 years so further shocks in any shape or form could happen.

        • JDB says:

          @BJ in respect of needing to use ‘the’ card for payment and still holding the card at the time of travel, yes they could have fixed it before. However, they have not only kept those terms in the revised post 1 Sep version, they have slightly changed the wording, so someone has thought about it. It isn’t just a copy and paste. Also, keeping otiose terms would be pretty sloppy work.

        • Paul Pogba says:

          They have slowly fixed loopholes some of us took advantage of (self referrals, churning cards every six months), its not impossible they close another one off.

  • Tom1 says:

    never booked UUA before – is it just like an avios booking in that it’s entirely refundable up until 24 hours before flight?

    And still earn normal avios and tier points? I couldn’t find that bit in the avios uni page.

    • Andrew says:

      You earn the Avios and tier points based on the original cash ticket not the upgraded cabin.

      • Tom1 says:

        Ok thanks – and it’s refundable just like a full avios redemption?

        • Andrew says:

          The cancellation terms are as per the original cash ticket too.

        • Michael says:

          No, the refund policy is based on the underlying cash ticket.

        • BJ says:

          Everything is refundable atm via FTV. If you can live with FTV then it makes UUA a better more flexible deal than usual at this time.

          • Tom1 says:

            could I use a FTV for a multi carrier award in future? (Even though original cash flight was just standard return flight)
            Flights I’m looking at will be circa 80k + £950. Multi carrier flights would be more like 200k points but less cash.

    • BJ says:

      The rules are those relating to the ticket you purchase before UUA. For example, my costs to change a flight to Asia was approximately £280 change fee plus difference in fare plus the £35 avios fee because avios were also involved. Earnings per @Andrew. For a while there was a glitch where we got avios and TP for the upgraded cabin but this has long since been fixed.

  • Sarah says:

    Is there an easy way to find out what ihg hotels have reward night availability without searching every hotel individually? In particular are there any mr and Mrs smith hotels that have reward nights where a child can be included.

    • YC says:

      U can search by city or country and filter by brand

    • BJ says:

      Yes, just search by destination and it shows every hotel within a specified distance of your destination on the dates selected. I thought this was what everybody did so your question surprised me.

      • John says:

        But you have to search every day individually

        • BJ says:

          There used to be a way to search each hotel for a month or more but this is no longer possible unless I’ve missed something. However, if we find a date with no award night availability it does orovude tbe option to view available dates which is helpful.

    • Anna says:

      Most reward night rooms are standard rooms sleeping 2 people – your best bet is to find availability as advised above then contact the hotel to ask if they can add an extra bed for the child or if you can pay to be upgraded to a bigger room (you might get the upgrade free if you’re lucky and have status).

      If all else fails and you still want to use points for a family trip, HIs and HIEs are the properties most likely to have reward nights available for rooms with 2 doubles or a double and a sofa bed. Of course they are not the same level as Mr and Mrs Smith but they are great value and family friendly!

  • Lee says:

    Boots 10% back offer appeared on my gold card.

  • Jonathan says:

    Just booked our family summer holiday for next year. Flights on Emirates to DXB on A380. Any recommendations on what seats in J to reserve when travelling with a 2yo and 5yo please?

    • Blair says:

      Try front or close to front. Put the kids side by side in E/F and you sit a row behind in D/G. You’d be right by the aisle so could move quickly if the kids make for a jail break. There’s one toilet between F and J. Otherwise the J toilets are at the back, past the bar. And on busy UK-origin flights, the bar can feel a bit like last orders at Wetherspoons a few hours in. Not pleasant to have to push the sweaty backs of men thinking they’re charming the pants off the cabin crew with their slurred flanter just to get yourself to the loo. There are 4 loos beyond the bar, 2 small standard size, 2 above average size with a window which are good for changing.

      • Blair says:

        What hotel have you booked by the way? I’ve noticed the usual May onwards price drop isn’t yet showing in most hotels (that I’d want to actually stay at).

        • Jonathan says:

          Thanks. I haven’t booked it yet. Planning on JBH but waiting for the price to drop a bit.

  • Reney says:

    Has anyone done a test on beardy re creation since the 5th and had a statement date can confirm no charges so far?

    • Doug M says:

      Jean has a new moustache.

    • Aaron C says:

      Grey squirrel flies at midnight.

    • Blair says:

      Nothing so far but since the new T&Cs are now in effect, the rug could get pulled at any moment and no one will have any recourse to moan. We just have to try to helpfully provide DPs if anyone does spot a change.

    • John Caribbean says:

      Yeah, more than just a test transaction because I thought the date was the 7th and not the 5th for the change.
      Statement yesterday, no charges

    • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

      Data Point – you’re all hilarious! 🙂

      • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

        Data Point for Reney – I have done multiple Solihull credits from Beardy since the 5th. All have gone through in the same way they did before that date. No indication of any cash advance charges being applied. By way of comparison, when I did a one-off test transaction from Beardy to Che a while back a cash advance fee was applied immediately.

        • Reney says:

          thank you!

        • mr_jetlag says:

          I’ve done beardy to Ernie as well, no changes, although I might keep the card in credit this month to avoid any nasty shocks at statement date.

          • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

            Will that really help though? The cash advance fee of 5%, if applied, is due on a transaction whether or not you keep a credit balance on the card ( something Virgin may dislike in any event).

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