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If you’re like many millennials, you are all about that work life balance.
You appreciate taking nice, long vacations away from the office. And, since you’re reading the Millennial Money blog, chances are you are even excellent about putting money aside in savings so that you don’t go into debt for your vacations.
But, are you missing out on an opportunity to travel more and spend less by earning free flights with credit cards?
What if – you say to yourself when you’re daydreaming in the office – you could purchase your flight using credit card points alone? That way, you don’t even have to touch your savings to go on vacation. Or if you do, it’s only to make your special getaway even more memorable by putting the money you would have spent on airfare towards an adventurous excursion or a delicious once-in-a-lifetime meal.
Congratulations! A lightbulb has gone off. You now know you don’t have to break the budget in order to travel. You’re ready to learn about how to get free flights with credit cards, and we’re here to tell you what to do.
How To Fly For Free with Credit Cards
Sure, it may take an extra level of thinking. But don’t assume it’s too complicated just because paying out-of-pocket is the only way you know how to book flights.
Using your credit card points to book free flights is not only doable, but it’s actually extremely common.
Just follow these simple steps as you prepare for your next big flight.
1. Research the Best Airline Credit Cards
The best airline credit cards reward you for everyday purchases, plus extra points on travel.
If you are loyal to a particular airline, the best thing to do is to start by looking into that airline company’s co-branded credit card.
Every major airline usually offers a rewards credit card that comes with perks like membership, upgraded seats, and VIP lounges for layovers.
We recommend you find about 3 of the best airline credit cards and compare them to find the one that suits your lifestyle best.
Here are some suggestions:
Avianca Vuela Visa® Card
- 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase, 20,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in first 90 days
With a whopping intro bonus of 40,000 LifeMiles when you make just a single purchase in your first 90 days, you could earn enough miles for 2 round-trip flights within Central America, and almost enough for 2 round-trip flights within North America.
Additional Avianca Vuela Visa® Card Perks include a 15% discount on a la carte LifeMile purchases; free bag on trips between North America and Central America; 50% discounts on award tickets for travel from the U.S. to Central America or Colombia after $12,000 and $24,000 spent each year.
You also get unlimited 3x LifeMiles on Avianca purchases and 2x LifeMiles at gas stations and grocery stores. Earn 1 LifeMile per $1 spent on all other categories
- Annual Fee: $149
- Current Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus LifeMiles just by making your first purchase and spending $1,000 within 90 days.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express®
- 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months
For a limited time, the welcome bonus has doubled from 30,000 miles to 60,000 when you spend $2,000 in your first three months!
Additional perks include Being a Delta Gold cardholder automatically puts you in the club.
Enjoy priority boarding and your first bag checked for free when you use your Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card to book the trip.
Also, get ready for ZERO foreign transaction fees – no surprise fees when you return home!
You will also earn 1 mile per eligible $1 spent on everyday purchases.
- Annual Fee: $0 in the first year, $95 after that
- Current Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. PLUS – enjoy a $50 statement credit after you make your first Delta purchase on your card in your first three months.
2. Sign Up For Credit Cards With Big Welcome Bonuses
One way to front-load your credit card reward points bank is to shop for cards that offer a welcome bonus for spending in the first 3 months.
Here is one of our favorites:
United℠ Explorer Card
- 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
If United is your go-to airline and you plan on traveling more than three times annually, this airline reward card might have your name on it.
Are you ready for this? UNLIMITED FREE CHECKED BAGS for all United flights. Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United ClubSM with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary.
You’ll also receive two United Club passes annually.
You will also earn double the miles per every $1 spent on restaurants and hotels whether you’re on vacation, taking the family out, or dining out with colleagues.
Did we mention your miles never expire? Cash in on those 60,000 bonus miles right away, or save them up for a trip across the globe.
- Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
- Current Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
3. Start Making All Your Purchases On Your Travel Rewards Credit Card
When you’re trying to earn enough points to get a free flight with a credit card, you want to pay for as many purchases as possible with your credit card that your points will accrue quickly.
That’s why it’s so important to be able to pay off your balance every month.
If your card is maxed-out, chances are you won’t get points until the balance is paid off, AND you won’t be able to accumulate any more points because you’ve hit your spending limit.
So what do you do to earn as many travel rewards points as possible?
Find a card that rewards you for everyday spending, and switch all of your auto-pays to be paid with this card. Calculate the total of your monthly bills and pay them fully every month before or on the due date. (This will help you avoid any unnecessary fees or interest.)
If you choose a credit card with a big welcome bonus and use it to pay for all of your expenses, you should be able to hit the $3,000 spending threshold in less than 6 months.
Finally, spending you can feel great about!
4. Choose Your Favorite Destinations
Feel like a local with regular regional travel.
If you have your sights set on frequenting one particular area of the globe, consider these region-specific airline credit cards:
Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®
- 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days
Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® cardholders can earn bonus miles at all the shops and restaurants in the HawaiianMiles Marketplace, AND earn 3 miles per dollar on Hawaiian Airlines purchases.
Also, earn 2 miles per $1 on gas, dining and grocery stores PLUS 1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases 365 days of the year.
Here’s the best part – 60,000 HawaiianMiles translates to about $550 in value (calculations may vary). We hope you like to hula!
- Annual Fee: $99, waived the first year
- Current Offer: Earn 60,000 HawaiianMiles after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days
British Airways Visa Signature® Card
- 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
Welcome to the most generous sign-up-bonus-package we’ve seen. Earning both bonuses equates to about 100,000 in Avios miles valued at 1.5 cents per mile.
You do the math – this means you can earn up to $1500 in free flights with this credit card.
It’s called British Airways for a reason. Whether you’re spending dollars, pounds, or Euros, there is no foreign transaction fee.
And, okay, we lied – you’re NOT just limited to the UK with this card. Since British Airways is a member of the Oneworld Airline Alliance, your Avios are redeemable for booking flights on partner airlines, including American Airlines, JAL (Japan Airlines), Iberia Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. This is worthy of a tip of the top hat.
Bring a friend along. For every calendar year, you make $30,000 in purchases, you earn a Travel Together Ticket that’s good for two years!
- Annual Fee:$95 annual fee
- Current Offer: Earn 50,000 Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, PLUS an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first year.
5. Redeem Your Credit Card Points For Travel
Every credit card is slightly different, but when you’ve saved up enough travel rewards points, you’ll log in to your credit card account, find your rewards balance, and click on “Redeem” to see what fabulous destination your points could carry you to.
Be on the lookout for less-than-obvious ways to redeem your credit card points for free flights, like this deal from Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card.
Here’s how you can save enough points to earn a companion pass to bring friends along – for FREE:
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- points automatically transfer to your Southwest account
We know you’ve heard of it. It’s the urban legend of airline rewards. What are we talking about? The holy grail of travel rewards – The Southwest Companion pass.
This feature means that your bonus miles and Southwest Rapid Rewards points can help you book a free flight for a friend. That’s right – add a second person free of charge to any flight you book with Southwest, as long as there is a seat available for purchase on your flight.
You’ll only need to pay taxes and fees for your companion’s flight, but not for the ticket itself.
Your Southwest Rapid Rewards points apply to a fixed value on flights based on distance, whether there are price surges or not.
You will earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases throughout the year.
- Annual Fee: $99
- Current Offer: Earn 40,000 Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months + 35,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months of opening account
6. Book Through Your Credit Card Directly
Find cards like the Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, where your points earn 25% – 30% on the dollar when you cut out the middleman and book directly through your credit card’s shopping portal!
Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in the frist 3 months
Make your 10,000 miles-welcome-bonus stretch farther. These 10,000 miles equal approximately $130, which you can apply to any flight you want.
Enjoy a 20% savings via statement credit after you use your card on certain in-flight purchases like food, beverages, and audio headsets. (On Delta flights, only.)
You will also earn 2 miles per $1 at US restaurants and on purchases made directly with Delta, PLUS 1 mile on every eligible $1 spent on other purchases.
Pro Tip: Fly between Delta hubs to make sure you’re getting the most value from your Delta’s SkyMiles.
- Annual Fee: Only $0 Annual Fee card in the Delta family
- Current Offer: Earn 10,000 Bonus Miles after spending $500 in purchases in your first 3 months.
Anybody Can Get Free Flights With Credit Cards
If you’ve ever assumed you couldn’t afford to take a vacation, think again. People all around the world are taking more free flights than ever after learning these simple ways to earn free flights with credit card miles.
We recommend you start with 1-2 of these cards, once your credit score is high enough and you have enough cash flow to pay off your balances every month.
Then, watch your points accrue and buy some DEET-free bug spray for your next ecotourism excursion to the rainforest!