Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Forum Replies Created

  • in reply to: Amex Platinum insurance – MASTER THREAD
    Gavin454

    Does anyone know if a positive Covid antigen test (officially performed, of course) is acceptable proof for the travel insurance offered by the Platinum?

    Or must a PCR be performed?

    Just wanted to update that a rapid antigen test was indeed accepted for the claim.

    Thanks!

    Just to follow up on this – does anyone know if a self-administered rapid COVID test (with certificate) would be acceptable proof? I have one from Prenetics (Project Screen) left over from when they were often required for travel about a year ago.

    in reply to: Chat thread – Saturday 19th November
    Gavin454

    Don’t miss Cathay Pacific’s Green Friday sale beating Black Friday offers by a week! Pre -COVID I always worked on circa £2,000/£2500 for a business class return to South East Asia. The norm comparing point to point and Middle East carriers is now £4,000. The CX sale takes prices down to circa £3,200 to £3,500. Hardly a steal. CX sale runs till 29th November.

    It doesn’t seem too great… AMS to BKK (and back) was available for £1600 a couple of weeks ago on CX.

    in reply to: Chat thread – Saturday 19th November
    Gavin454

    Hi All,
    The hotel was the Conrad Tokyo booked on Amex Platinum through FHR. The rate I booked at was £1220 for the week with breakfast and a $125 credit. The cash rate for the room only was close to £550. In total I paid £1560 for an experience that would have cost over £14000 without miles etc. Simply amazing.

    Glad you enjoyed Japan!

    The Conrad in Tokyo was expensive pre-pandemic, but rates became very cheap by historical standards during the pandemic and up until sometime earlier this year, approx. £100-£150 per night if I remember correctly (I saw redemption nights going for around 30k points). However, having just checked a few random dates it seems to be back to pre-pandemic pricing again now, or perhaps even higher. I paid approx. £280 per night in February 2020 which was on a flash sale rate.

    in reply to: What to do in Sofia, Bulgaria?
    Gavin454

    I’m staying in Sofia for 5 nights at the Intercontinental in a couple of weeks, also renting a car for the duration for the double tier points. However, I don’t think I’ll actually need the car. Would the best option be to just leave the car in the airport paid carpark for 5 nights? Seems to cost around £40. Looks like parking in central Sofia is not easy.

    Have considered just not picking up the car, but don’t really want to risk it in case the extra tier points are later removed.

    in reply to: Chat thread – Friday 11th November
    Gavin454

    Hi All,
    After 3 years of waiting and one quite significant legal battle I am finally flying ANA First Class from Heathrow to Haneda this evening. This is using Virgin points which feels like the holy grail of redemptions.
    I am only in Tokyo for 5 days. Is there anything I must do/see in such a short visit?
    Nick B

    I’m sure this will get sneered at by some (and I would get why!), but if you’re up for ‘bonkers’ then go to the Robot Restaurant.

    I’ve read that it’s permanently closed, probably due to a drastic dropoff in customers during the pandemic – not sure if there are any plans to reopen.

    in reply to: New £300 Platinum dining credit July 2022
    Gavin454

    Utterly bizarre experience at the Savoy Grill yesterday. When I came to settle the bill, I was told they couldn’t accept the Amex Platinum as the waitress was aware of ‘some sort of scam’ where people are trying to use it to get a free meal.
    I asked to speak with a manager, but nobody was available (there seemed to be a very rowdy and drunken group at one table with a number of staff intervening, and some sort of an issue going on at reception), and unfortunately I couldn’t wait for however long it might take (an early curtain at the opera).

    Very frustrating, I would definitely be kicking up a fuss. Perhaps they can refund your payment and re-charge you on the Platinum over the phone (or in person if it’s convenient for you).

    If the restaurant won’t help, then maybe Amex can do something.

    Also, thanks for the review – I will remove Savoy Grill from my list of potential places to visit with the offer!

    in reply to: New £300 Platinum dining credit July 2022
    Gavin454

    I am glad to say that Japan is back on the list today 🙂

    Thanks! Was hoping it would come back before my January trip.

    It’s also still “pocket concierge” rather than individual restaurants, so still includes 800+ restaurants all over Japan.

    Does anyone know if a restaurant can be booked and charged in advance using pocket concierge? If so, I could potentially use this year’s £150 credit, as well as next year’s credit. The FAQs seem to imply that your booking in charged in advance when confirmed.

    https://help.pocket-concierge.jp/hc/en-us/articles/360000052881-How-do-I-complete-my-payment-and-what-do-I-do-when-I-am-leaving-the-restaurant-Pocket-Experience-

    in reply to: Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (Vietnam)
    Gavin454

    In HCMC, I found the Reunification Palace and War Remnants Museum interesting (I’m interested in the history of the Vietnam War etc). The Reunification Palace has been left the same as it was in 1975 when the war ended, and was formerly the workplace and home of the president of South Vietnam.

    in reply to: The car hire tips thread
    Gavin454

    If you make a booking, make sure it’s refundable.

    Different things happen in different markets, but I have experience of renting in France several times the past couple of years, and especially this year there’s usually been a big price reduction about 48-72 hours before pickup, with Europcar in particular. I’ve managed to cancel and rebook most times for around 50% to 70% discount on the original refundable booking made in advance. The “post discount” price often ends up being similar or sometimes cheaper than typical rental prices over the past 10 years before the current high prices.

    It doesn’t always happen though, must depend on availability.

    in reply to: 2,500 points on a £10 spend on the Amex Gold card
    Gavin454

    Didn’t find it on my Platinum card.

    in reply to: Platinum foreign dining credit in Japan
    Gavin454

    I noticed this morning that Pocket Concierge/Japan doesn’t appear on the Amex Dining Collection list anymore.

    And I booked two restaurants yesterday in the hope of redeeming the £150 dining abroad credit!

    That’s a shame! I was looking forward to using it on my trip in January/February.

    Hopefully they’ll add some restaurants individually for Japan, because currently there are none.

    Gavin454

    Thanks for the map, very useful.

    I wouldn’t recommend Skylon, which is just over the river from the theatre. The food seemed overpriced and not particularly good.

    in reply to: Change BA flight for free on day of travel
    Gavin454

    In theory you can do it in the app or the website once midnight ticks over. Don’t do online check in. Not sure how robustly it works though!

    I’ve done it many times online or via the app, usually at 00:01. It’s very easy and takes no longer than a minute.

    in reply to: Korea
    Gavin454

    I thought the pre-arranged daytrip to the DMZ was just mindblowing, and very emotional
    hearing the (young) guide’s story of how her family was separated.

    Skinfood products are fantastic, if you like that sort of thing!

    Also strongly recommend it!

    Unfortunately, the tours to Panmunjom (the Joint Security Area tour where you can go inside the negotiation huts that straddle the border and come within a few metres of North Korean soldiers) have been suspended since March 2020 with no signs of reopening.

    in reply to: No USA ESTA if you’ve been to Cuba since 2011?
    Gavin454

    I was affected by this rule when it was first introduced (in 2016?) due to having an Iranian visa in my passport from 2011. Incidentally I also visited Cuba in 2012 but there’s no evidence of this in my passport.

    Back then, getting a visa appointment was not difficult although it took up several hours queuing and waiting inside the embassy. The visa officer who saw me seemed surprised I was applying for a visa! It was a very quick appointment and immediately approved. Now I have a 10-year visa with no need to renew esta during that time, although I have to carry 2 passports to the US now as I renewed my passport this year.

    Not sure what I should do post-2026 if I want to return to the US. Hopefully I can go back to using esta again.

    in reply to: Tier points run to Geneva (today)
    Gavin454
    in reply to: Japan opens again
    Gavin454

    It will be interesting to see what happens in Japan regarding all the pandemic health measures stuff (masks, plexiglass, hand sanitizer stations, constant “reduce the spread” talk from politicians etc). It can’t carry on forever. They currently seem to be in the same place that Europe was about 1.5 to 2 years ago.

    I’ll hopefully be going in January-February for skiing after cancelled trips in 2021 and 2022 – glad to have booked an award flight a while ago when availability was quite good!

    in reply to: How do British Airways profit from Avios?
    Gavin454

    Even recent compelling deals (Amex Plat @ 70k points, Barc Avios @ 50k points) which can be readily turned into Nectar are dismissed almost immediately. Be it due to the upfront cost of the card or general apathy. Explanations around Pro-rata refunds, Amex offers, insurance cover etc. don’t seem to register.

    Indeed, a friend said I was flash and extravagant for using an Amex, I tried to explain I could refer him and it would be profitable for us both, and that I make quite a bit of profit out of the Amex/points game. He wasn’t interested at all, more than happy to continue putting all his spend on his debit card instead (with no benefits).

    Out of the few people I do know who are into it, most of them waste their points by reducing the cost of cash flights, or making long-haul economy redemptions when they could have just paid cash for not much more than the fees/taxes. The problem is that people often see Avios as “free” and so consider the fees/taxes component to be the only cost. However, even if they come via flights booked by your employer, you still have to consider the opportunity cost of not converting them to Nectar @ 0.8p

    in reply to: Japan during pandemic
    Gavin454

    The hardest part was probably getting the Japanese family tree, though it seems they’d have accepted a marriage certificate instead. I don’t have anything to compare it too though, I think it’s 15+ years since I last had to do a visa application and I think it was all dealt with by my employer back then.

    Yeah, the Koseki / family register is a really annoying hurdle, and the main reason the application was difficult – since it can only be obtained inside Japan, and needs to be less than 3 months old. But also, having to book a visa appointment online at midnight 3 weeks in advance (fully booked within 1-2 minutes), having to visit the embassy twice, having to bother my fiancées elderly relatives in Japan to fill out an invitation letter when they don’t even have a computer etc. It’s just a bit galling when we could go visa-free before, and there’s no actual scientific covid-related reason for these visa rules being imposed.

    in reply to: Japan during pandemic
    Gavin454

    How did you manage to get a visa?

    I may be going on a temporary visitors visa (for reason of family visit) next month. I’m quite strongly resenting all the hurdles I’m having to jump through to get a visa, especially while Japanese people can come to the UK freely with no visa, and even breeze through the e-gates. I’ve been to various countries that require a visa and Japan has been the least straight-forward. Even countries like Iran, Uzbekistan, Russia, were much easier!

    I’ve noticed that the hotels we usually stay at in Tokyo seem quite a bit cheaper than we’ve paid in the past, sometimes half the price in GBP.

    in reply to: 10,000 United miles – what to do with them?
    Gavin454

    If you go to Japan at some point when it reopens, you can book most domestic routes for 5,500 (no additional taxes or fees to pay)

    in reply to: Where best to fly with a companion voucher?
    Gavin454

    Do be sure to check what you’re paying with the voucher vs. cash prices.

    Personally I’ve never found value in using companion vouchers for my typical travel, and I let my last one expire a couple of months ago (had it in my account for 3 years!)

    However at the moment, cash prices are inflated so I suspect value can be had.

    Gavin454

    My Jan/Feb flights were cancelled and rebooked from BA5/6 onto BA7/8 on the same days. However, I’ll sit on it for now and see what happens with opening up (or not). Gives me the option to refund later and not lose £35. Plus potentially, if the trip is able to go ahead, then I may rebook onto JAL which is an option by phone according to Flyertalk.

    Presumably, BA are not expecting a big increase of demand going into 2023.

    Gavin454

    Do you really want to be chaperoned by a tour guide? It’s really strict from what I heard. You have to have everything pre-planned including meal times plus only use Japanese government approved agencies. You will also have separate rules for wearing a mask to the Japanese (and yes that includes children). There is a separate minder who makes sure you only take mask off for a brief moment while eating.

    You will also need to get a visa yourself and the agencies can’t help with the application process. They will provide the documentation (ERFS), but you need to apply in person and collect in person from Embassy in London. Once you agree on the itinerary, you have to pay for the tour in full (non-refundable in most cases) and they need to submit the proof of payment to Ministry of Health to issue the ERFS certificate. Naturally most agencies don’t tell you this when you enquire.

    The current lead time for issuing visas is 4 weeks minimum. You need to book an appointment to visit the Embassy and the slots are released 3 weeks in advance. They are released at midnight and all slots almost gone within minutes. You can call to check for cancellations. Then it’s about a week to get the visa. But what if you don’t get a visa? You lose money for the tour.

    Tourists should be avoiding Japan on principle for implementing this ridiculous and discriminatory system.

    Japan is currently one of the most COVID-infected countries in the world, since it’s going through exactly the same wave that (almost) every other country is dealing with right now too, give or take a few weeks. Their unscientific border restrictions have done exactly nothing to prevent or dampen it. Japanese people are free to travel the world without restrictions or visas for almost all countries.

    As someone else said, the procedure is far more difficult and complicated vs. getting a visa for North Korea (pre-pandemic), and the rules for the tours are also largely more strict and onerous!

    Gavin454

    I originally signed up to the Platinum card about 18 months ago. After 6 months, I had a 35k retention bonus. I’ve waited about 1 year + 2 weeks since my first retention bonus, and just been offered 50k for my second on chat via the app (got passed to the retentions team).

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