How to Get Free Flights!
***Note to the Reader: I have personally used the techniques mentioned in this article, therefore I feel 100% comfortable recommending them to other financially responsible people who wish to make travel a priority. I do not, however, recommend using these tips if either of the following situations applies to you: 1) You have significant (or any) credit card debt, or 2) You simply do not trust yourself to open & manage several credit card accounts. In those cases, what I suggest could be more detrimental than helpful.
How I Got $3,650 in Free Flights!
I have been living out of a suitcase since December 2015. Crazy ~ I know. Because of this, I’ve learned how to get free flights basically anywhere I want to go. Getting frequent free flights, also known as “travel hacking,” has not only become a way of life for me, but it has significantly reduced my overall cost of travel. It has turned traveling from a luxury ~ into a reality.
And the good news is: virtually ANYONE can do this!!! If you are American, have decent credit & the ability to apply for a new credit card ~ then you can follow the steps I’ve taken & get your first free flight within the next 2-3 months.
So How Did I Do It?
In the fall of 2015, when I was figuring out how to make a “Life of Travel” a reality ~ I stumbled across several articles about “Travel Hacking.” At the time, I didn’t even know what travel hacking was. But I found out.
“Travel Hacking” Definition = The strategy of collecting frequent flier points & miles, with the goal of earning as many free flights, hotel nights, & other travel perks as possible.
In other words, “Travel Hacking” is learning how to game the system. It’s like going to Vegas with Rain Man. And none of it is illegal. In fact, credit card companies would never offer these perks if they didn’t want you to use & take advantage of them. It helps them create loyal, satisfied customers. These kinds of credit card “perks” are only offered in the United States and Britain ~ they simply aren’t available in other countries. So, if you are NOT taking advantage of these deals, particularly if you love to travel ~ you are leaving money & miles on the table. Don’t do that!!!
Moral of the Story ~
If you’re fortunate enough to be American or British & you love to travel, or you want to travel more ~ it would be a crime to leave all of those beautiful free flights & fabulous destinations on the table. Learn how to travel hack & GO earn some free flights!!!
How Many Free Flights Can You Get?
Are you wondering how many free flights I “earned” in 2016? I began to wonder myself as I sat down to write this article. I assumed it was in the $1,500 range. WRONG. I was way off. So let’s break it down. I want you to show you how much REAL money I saved by travel hacking. Here’s the breakdown of free flights I received in 2016, with approximate dollar amounts for flights:
Free Flights I Received in 2016
- January 2016 = One-way ticket, LAX to Lima, Peru = 60,000 Points = $600 Value
- February 2016 = Medellin, Colombia to Galapagos Islands, Ecuador (Baltra Airport) = 70,000 Points = $700
- March 2016 = Galapagos Islands (Baltra) to Cuenca, Ecuador = 25,000 Points = $250
- March 2016 = Cuenca, Ecuador to Quito, Ecuador = 10,000 Points = $100
- March 2016 = Round-trip ticket, Quito, Ecuador to Galapagos Islands (Baltra) = 30,000 Points = $300
- April 2016 = Quito, Ecuador to San Francisco, CA = 50,000 Points = $500
- April 2016 = San Francisco, CA to Portland, Oregon = 15,000 Points = $150
- June 2016 = Portland, Oregon to Las Vegas, Nevada = 25,000 Points = $250
- September 2016 = Portland, Oregon to NYC = 30,000 Points = $300
- October 2016 = NYC to Keflavik, Iceland = 30,000 Points = $300
- December 2016 = Portland to Palm Springs, CA = 20,000 Points = $200
Grand Total of Free Flights Received in 2016 = $3,650.00
$3,650 Worth of Free Flights??! Holy Crap!
Cards I Used to Receive Free Flights = Capital One Venture, Chase Sapphire, Southwest Rewards Card, British Airways Visa Signature, & Club Carlson Visa.
Steps I Took to Get Free Flights ~
Step #1 = I picked one credit card to be my “main” card. I chose one with the best “miles for purchases” ratio, cards like Capital One Venture and Chase Sapphire, which give you 2X miles for EVERY purchase. I then put ALL recurring monthly charges on this card, including my rent, telephone & utility bills, etc. I even paid my quarterly tax estimates using this card! Why? Because by putting high-dollar amount purchases on it, the miles began to rack up quickly.
Step #2 = I canceled any existing credit cards that I was 1) No longer using, & 2) Weren’t giving me miles or rewards. Some financial gurus (like Suze Orman) tell you to close no more than one account per year, otherwise your credit score gets dinged. If this is a concern for you, close one account instead of several. Personally, I closed three unnecessary accounts, and took about a 10-30 point hit on my credit score, which was not of huge concern to me.
Step #3 = I went to the The Points Guy website. His site tracks all the latest credit card offers, breaks down the benefits of each, then gives recommendations for his top choices. For example, if Chase Sapphire is handing out 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000, and is waiving the annual fee for the first year ~ that will likely be one of his top recommendations. Plus, he gives you the nitty-gritty on all the fine-print. Just going to his site saves oodles of internet-scanning time.
Step #4 = Based on The Points Guy’s recommendation, I opened four new credit cards: Chase Sapphire, British Airways, Club Carlson, & Southwest. But I didn’t open them all at once! I picked the card with the best offer AND one that waived their first-year annual fee: at the time, that was Chase Sapphire. I took a look at the amount I needed to spend in order to earn their “50,000 Mile Bonus” ~ then I tracked how much I spent on the card. Once I reached that amount (and received the 50,000 points), I stopped using that card. Then, I opened up the next account, did the same thing, and so on ~ until I had opened four new accounts, and received over 200,000 miles in “rewards.”
***Meanwhile, while I was opening all these new cards, I still used my “main” card for all recurring purchases ~ which meant that I had thousands miles racked up on five different credit cards!
Step #5 = Book your rewards flights! Some rewards systems are easier to use than others ~ my preferences are Capital One Venture and Chase Sapphire. On both, you can book flights with any airline, & I have repeatedly found better deals through their systems than I did on the internet. It’s painless and quick to book through them ~ whereas British Airways and Southwest, for instance, simply have more limited options.
That’s How I Saved $3,650 on Flights!
I can’t wait to hear about your own travel hacking experiences, and how much money YOU save using these techniques! Where do you really want to go that seems too far out of reach right now? Do you want to climb Machu Picchu? Swim with sharks in the Galapagos Islands? Salsa dance in Colombia? You can do all that and more using these techniques. If I can do it, you can too! And if you have any questions about travel hacking, email me or comment below!