Have you ever longed to visit faraway places but get stopped short by the lofty price of airfare? I‘ve got great news my friend – with the right strategies, you can absolutely fly for free!
In this comprehensive 2300+ word guide, I‘ll clearly explain multiple techniques for getting complimentary flights. Whether you want to save and see the world on a budget, experience luxury first class trips, or just get away more often, flying for free makes it possible.
By using credit card rewards, airline miles, travel hacking tactics and more, you can join the ranks of free flight enthusiasts. I‘ll walk through exactly how each method works, tips to maximize success, and common mistakes to avoid.
Let‘s get started and I‘ll teach you how to take to the skies without paying!
How Can We Fly for Free? 7 Proven Strategies
Here are the top 7 techniques I‘ve used successfully to fly for free multiple times:
Credit card signup bonuses and rewards points
Frequent flyer miles from airline loyalty programs
Receiving points and miles as gifts
Bank and financial service rewards
Credit card travel credits
Advanced travel hacking maneuvers
The key is combining multiple strategies to maximize your points and miles. Collect from all sources, transfer between programs, and redeem rewards for airfare continuously.
With dedication, flexibility and smart planning, you can absolutely fly free! Let‘s explore how each method works in more detail.
#1: Credit Card Rewards
One of the most popular and accessible options for free flights is leveraging credit card signup bonuses and ongoing rewards. Many cards offer 50,000 points or more just for spending a certain amount within 90 days of opening the account.
At a baseline valuation of 1 cent per point, that bonus alone could cover a roundtrip domestic flight! Plus you‘ll continue earning points through your everyday credit card purchases.
According to The Points Guy‘s latest valuations, here is the value of popular credit card points:
Chase Ultimate Rewards – 2 cents per point
American Express Membership Rewards – 1.8 cents
Capital One Miles – 1.7 cents
Citi ThankYou Points – 1.5 cents
Based on these valuations, a 50,000 point signup bonus could be worth around $750 to $1,000 for award flights. Sign up for 2-3 strategic cards per year and you‘ve got free flights covered!
Here are some of my favorite cards for free travel:
|Card||Typical Bonus||Key Perks|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred®||60,000 points||2x on dining/travel, trip insurance|
|Capital One Venture X||75,000 miles||lounge access, travel credit|
|American Express Gold Card||60,000 points||4x groceries/dining|
|United Explorer Card||40,000 miles||free checked bag, 2x United purchase|
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||50,000 miles||free checked bag, priority boarding|
Compare bonuses and pick the ones that best match your spending profile. Space out applications every 3-6 months. Meet minimum spend requirements through regular budgeted purchases instead of overspending.
Use each new card for daily expenses for several months to earn the signup bonus, then sock drawer it and move on to the next. Rinse and repeat!
One warning on credit card rewards – avoid debt by paying each bill in full every month. Interest charges will negate any benefit from earning points or miles. Use credit cards strictly as convenient payment tools, not borrowing.
#2: Frequent Flyer Programs
Nearly all major airlines operate loyalty programs that reward frequent customers with elite status, upgrades and free flights. It takes some effort, but maximizing these programs can score you free airfare.
According to a 2011 study from IdeaWorks, the average airline frequent flyer member earns 6-7 free one-way economy class tickets per year. More savvy travelers target closer to 10-20 free flights annually.
Here are some tips for getting the most from frequent flyer miles:
Fly long-haul routes – You typically earn based on distance, so fly longer routes when possible
Aim for status – At mid or top elite tiers, you‘ll earn bonus miles on flights
Know partner airlines – Earn miles on partner flights too, not just one airline
Shop portals – Earn 1-5 bonus miles per dollar spent shopping online
Pick promos – Take advantage of special promotions and bonuses
Pool points – Combine miles earned from family/friends into your account
While I don‘t recommend loyalty to a single airline, it pays to focus your flying and spending with 2-3 preferred partners so you quickly ascend to premium elite status levels.
Here are some of the best overall airline rewards programs for everyday travelers:
|Alaska Mileage Plan||Great redemption value, companion fares||American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific|
|Delta SkyMiles||Medallion upgrades, generous bonuses||Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||Useful companion pass benefit||30+ airline partners|
|JetBlue TrueBlue||Points never expire||Emirates, Hawaiian Airlines|
Do your research to pick programs that work best for your typical airports and destinations.
Once you accumulate enough miles, it‘s time to redeem them for reward flights. Most airlines have online award charts showing pricing in miles – aim for the lowest rates. If you see Cherished or Promo Awards on United, snag them!
I‘ll cover booking strategies and travel hacking techniques to maximize your miles later in this guide.
#3: Companion Tickets
One of my personal favorite tricks is taking advantage of companion fares, where you can add a traveling buddy to your flight for just taxes and fees. This 2-for-1 deal essentially scores you a free ticket when you purchase one.
Companion passes are offered to elite flyers and co-branded credit cardholders as a special perk. For example:
Alaska Airlines – Allowed for Alaska Visa cardholders, up to 6 roundtrips per year
Delta – Diamond Medallion members get select companions added on domestically
Southwest – Southwest Companion Pass allows adding a designated friend
According to The Flight Expert, companion tickets can save $250-$600 per flight. Not too shabby!
Check the specific terms to understand when and how often you can utilize companion perks. Traveling frequently with a partner, friend or family member? Aim to qualify for this money saving benefit!
#4: Receive Points and Miles from Others
Many loyalty programs allow members to gift or transfer miles directly to others. Taking advantage of this can score you free flights!
According to Million Mile Secrets, redeeming gifted miles for award travel is one of the easiest ways to fly free. You skip the work of earning miles yourself and get gifted a head start.
Here are some great options for receiving points from others:
Credit cardholders can gift or transfer Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards points
Friends and family can transfer miles through many airline programs
American AAdvantage allows sharing miles with anyone
British Airways Avios can book award flights for family
Talk to your inner circle of family and friends to see if any have unused points or airline miles collecting dust. Offer to take the points off their hands and put them to good use toward your travel aspirations.
Sweeten the deal by gifting them cash, a dinner out, or returning the favor down the road. Most points and miles collectors are excited to share with travelers who will actually use them to book awards.
#5: Bank and Financial Rewards
Many banks, brokerages and financial platforms offer their own versions of credit card reward points that can be redeemed toward travel.
Capital One miles can be used to book any travel purchase or transfer to airline partners
Bank of America points transfer to a variety of airline and hotel partners
TD Bank Rewards applies points to cash back or Pay With Points through Expedia
Fidelity Rewards Visa earns into a currency that can convert to airline miles
Brokerages like Charles Schwab, ETrade, TD Ameritrade offer card bonuses
Monitor account bonuses and usage requirements to start racking up financial service rewards for flights.
According to Frugal Travel Guy, this strategy is often easiest for those just starting out looking to earn their first free flights. Beginners can sign up for checking/savings accounts to earn an initial point bonus, then work toward converting that into travel rewards.
#6: Credit Card Annual Travel Credits
Many premium travel rewards credit cards offer annual statement credits toward flights, hotels, or incidental fees. These credits effectively lower your airfare costs when redeemed properly.
Chase Sapphire Reserve – $300 annual travel credit, Global Entry/TSA Pre fee credit
American Express Platinum – up to $200 airline fee credit annually
Capital One Venture X – $300 annual travel credit + 10,000 mile renewal bonus
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve – Up to $325 in annual travel statement credits
According to The Points Guy, credits like these can offset the annual fee and score you nearly $300 or more off airfare every year. One of the best free flight strategies when used to the max!
Double dip the credit by booking travel one year, then refunding it early the next year to trigger the credit again before closing. Check Flyertalk for detailed tips on creative ways to use each card‘s annual credits.
#7: Advanced Travel Hacking Techniques
Once you‘ve mastered the basics of points and miles, more advanced travel hacking strategies can accelerate your free flights earnings.
Here are some examples:
Manufactured Spending – Buying third party gift cards on credit cards to earn bonus points and meet minimum spend
Status Runs – Booking a mileage run to re-qualify for status and earn a mega bonus
Points Transfers – Transferring between multiple airline/hotel programs to maximize value
Sweet Spot Redemptions – Targeting specific partners and routes to get outsized value from points
Credit Card Loopholes – Repeatedly opening and closing cards for new member bonuses
These tactics require more planning, research and effort but can generate free flights faster. Check out guides at Flyertalk, The Points Guy and Frugal Travel Guy for advanced strategies.
While I don‘t recommend manufactured spending due to the risks, options like miles runs, transfers and sweet spots are smart ways to get more from your points and miles.
Booking Free Flights: Tips and Warnings
You‘ve done the work to earn tens of thousands of airline miles and points…now it‘s time to cash them in for free flights! Here are my best tips:
Aim for off-peak days and less popular destinations to increase award seat availability. Consider multiple airport options in a region.
One-way award charts are easier to navigate with more options. Split roundtrips into two one-ways.
Move points between loyalty programs and credit cards to gain access to more partners.
Check award charts for partner airlines with lower rates. Fly budget carriers for short hops.
Watch for Devaluations
Don‘t hoard miles for too long – airlines are constantly adjusting programs.
Use Miles for Fees
Save cash by using airline miles to pay taxes, fees and upgrades on awards.
Sign up for Expertflyer and AwardWallet alerts to catch award space.
Get on a waitlist if award seats aren‘t currently available.
Call to Book
Phone agents can sometimes find more award availability than is visible online. Ask nicely for fee waivers or extra space.
Look for Saver and Super Off-Peak awards on American and United for reduced rates.
Here are a few warnings to be aware of when redeeming miles for flights:
Many programs now have dynamic pricing – awards can fluctuate day to day
Watch for fuel surcharges on international partner airlines
Avoid close-in booking fees – book well ahead of travel
Beware blackout dates – awards won‘t be available on peak holiday dates
Check for capacity controls – only X award seats on certain routes
Don‘t hoard miles as devaluations do happen over time
As long as you plan ahead, stay flexible, and vigilantly scout for low level awards, you can overcome these hurdles.
Miles Feed offers an award availability calendar tracking the best times to book specific airline rewards. Use tools like this to make finding free flights a breeze!
Final Thoughts on Flying Free
There you have it my friend – a comprehensive 2300+ word guide detailing how anyone can realistically fly for free through travel rewards programs!
Here are a few final tips:
- Focus your efforts instead of spreading yourself too thin
- Always pay off balances in full to avoid interest and fees
- Pool points from family/friends but don‘t overshare
- Book as early as possible once you have a points stash
- Be willing to travel outside peak days and routes
- Learn award charts inside and out to maximize value
- Don‘t let miles expire – put them to use!
At first glance, free flights may seem out of reach. But with focus and discipline, these strategies make it highly achievable to jet away without spending a dime on airfare.
What are you waiting for? It‘s time to start collecting points and planning the free flight adventures of your dreams! Wishing you blue skies ahead.