This is archived and so the information is now outdated and included only for reference

Are you close to earning an East Coast Reward but don't think you'll earn enough points before the end of February? Would you like to have one last First Class experience before the scheme closes or even buy a lounge access pass?

There is a way to effectively pre-pay your rail travel and get your points for future journeys. East Coast sell 'Gift eVouchers' and these can be used to book travel on any rail operator. Best of all they earn rewards points based on the day of purchase not the date they're redeemed. I've tested this by purchasing a £25 gift card and the points appeared in my account 24 hours later (I would allow 2 days for them to post). These points are ready to use, they are not pending. I'm unsure whether the £22 minimum spend applies to Gift Voucher transactions so just in case I would recommend not purchasing a voucher under £22.

There's two ways you can use this:

  1. If you're 30 points short of an award, you could buy a 30 Gift eVoucher and then in a few days time you'd have the points needed to claim that award.
  2. If you have more disposable income and can afford to pre-pay your tickets you could buy enough eVouchers to cover any interesting rewards you want to achieve. For example I know I'll be spending over £500 on rail tickets over the first three months of the new franchise so it's better for me to pay for it now on eVouchers and get the 500 points rather than book the tickets when they become available and only get Nectar points.

How do you do this:

  1. Ensure you're logged into eastcoast.co.uk and that your Rewards account is active. Make sure the email address is still correct as your voucher code will be sent to that address.
  2. Go to the Purchase an eVoucher page on the East Coast booking engine (ensure your current points balance is showing on the right hand side).
  3. Click on 'Custom' and enter the amount required (don't do less than £22 as it may not earn points below that amount, the maximum can be anything you like).
  4. The next page is a standard East Coast payment page. Make your payment and you will receive a confirmation email titled "Gift Voucher details - Booking Reference xxxxxxx"
  5. You will now need to credit this voucher to your East Coast account. Go to the eVoucher page and enter the voucher code contained in the email. This will now be added to your account and can be used in full or part payment towards future bookings. If you've used vouchers before they'll also show in the list even if used up.
  6. Wait a couple of days and check your rewards balance. You should see the additional points have posted.

Any questions ask me on Twitter (@SaveECRewards) and post any comments you have below. Share this page with friends and relatives who would like to make the most of East Coast Rewards and if you'd like to show support for our campaign follow us on Twitter.

Questions

 

What happens if Virgin Trains East Coast decides to scrap the gift cards?

Just like regular tickets that have been purchased on the East Coast site the new franchise owner has to honour these vouchers. The East Coast website is clear that they have no expiry date. There may be a case where Virgin decides to refund the vouchers rather than honouring them but either way you won't be out of pocket.

What happens if my circumstances change and I stop travelling by train?

The vouchers are non-refundable but as they have no expiry date you can keep slowly using the balance until it is used up. I recommend buying only up to the value of tickets you know you'll be purchasing in the next few months.

Is there a limit I can spend on gift vouchers?

The actual limit in the system is £999999 so effectively no limit. If you and your family spend a high amount on rail travel it could well be worth getting the rewards points by paying for your future travel in advance using gift vouchers.

Are there any exceptions?

Tickets need to be booked on the East Coast (Virgin Trains East Coast from 1st March) website. All British (i.e. UK except Northern Ireland) rail operators can be booked on this site, however, it can't handle sleeper reservations. All other tickets (including advance purchase fares) can be booked on this site.

I thought this was 'Save East Coast Rewards'?

The ultimate aim is to convince Virgin Trains East Coast that East Coast Rewards is a better system for encouraging loyalty than Nectar. However, we live in the real world and know that companies often don't do what is best for their customers and will carry on regardless with their plans. So in order to deal with the possibility that the plan to scrap East Coast Rewards goes ahead we think existing members should take advantage of East Coast Rewards while they can.

Am I doing anything wrong/immoral here?

No, you're just taking advantage of the current rules of the scheme. In fact you're giving the train company money sooner in return for better rewards so it's a win/win situation for both parties. I'm hoping that this will also show Virgin how much the current scheme is valued if people are taking action like this to avoid Nectar.