Alright guys. Today is the day. The day I let you in on a little secret: how you can fly for free! In 2017, I was able to fly for free to both Hawaii AND Peru.
No, I’m not sponsored. Nobody else paid for my flight. It was free as in ZERO COST.
How did I do it?
Easy. Credit card points. Let me explain.
Step One: Educate Yourself
If you are interested in being able to fly for free, the first thing you need to do is educate yourself. Do you have a specific destination in mind? Do you live close to the hub of a major airline? What are your travel priorities?
I had a lifelong dream of going to Machu Picchu. A little desk research and I knew that I had to fly into Cuzco, Peru. Most airlines (especially from the US) don’t fly straight to Cuzco… so I had to fly through Peru’s capital, Lima. OK. Flights from Detroit to Lima were around $900-$1,400, depending on the airline. However, Detroit is only about a 4-hour drive to Toronto… and flights from Toronto to Lima were around $500. Progress. The airline was Avianca, which is a huge carrier in Latin and South America. Perfect.
Once I knew how much my flight was, I converted the flight cost to points with that Airline. Once I knew how many points I needed, I had to make a decision on which credit card to open to receive that number of points.
A great resource for anything points-related, and especially tips on how to fly for free, is The Points Guy.
Step Two: Apply for a Credit Card
I decided on Chase Ultimate Rewards, specifically the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. When I applied and was sent the card, I believe I had to spend $4,000 on the card in 3 months. Luckily, my dad helped me out by putting part of a trip to Europe on the card and paid me back. After I hit my spend threshold ($4,000), my account was credited with my bonus: 50,000 miles! That put me well on my way to paying for my free flights.
Because I do a decent amount of flying for work, I also randomly opened up a Delta American Express credit card. On the Delta card, you get free checked bags and double points on Delta flights. Detroit is a Delta hub so that’s the airline I use most often, because there are a bunch of flight options and usually they’re less expensive than the other airlines. When I opened my Delta card, my spend threshold was lower (I think $3,000) and the bonus was the same: 50,000 bonus miles.
Step Three: Spend that Money, honey
After I had my 50,000 miles in my Chase account, I needed another ~10,000 to book our flights to Peru. On this particular credit card, I get a point for every dollar I spend, plus double points on things like gas and restaurants. Here’s the tricky part: you have to put all of your expenses on the credit card, until you earn the number of points you need. Don’t let this be a trap! Make sure you pay your card off at the end of every month. I do not encourage spending more money than you have in your account AT ALL.
Step Four: Redeem
Finally, you’ve hit your goal number of points! Chase makes it very easy to redeem their points directly on the Ultimate Rewards website. I was able to redeem my points to fly for free round trip from Toronto, Ontario to Lima, Peru.
For the Delta card, I had been acquiring points without a real destination or goal in mind. I had about 30k before I applied for the credit card, and then got the bonus of 50k, making my total about 80k points. One day, a coworker pointed out that he had come across a Delta flash sale to Hawaii… only 35k points per person (which is extremely low redemption threshold!) Without giving it a second thought, I booked 2 tickets for the following January, when winter in Michigan would be at its worst. And just like that… my boyfriend and I were going to Kauai, Hawaii for free!
Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been able to fly for free! Where did you go? Where are you planning for your next trip?