I have a confession to make…
I’m a bit obsessed with traveling for almost nothing using frequent flyer miles. In the past 5 years, I have taken more than 15 international flights, and on average paid about $150 (mostly taxes and booking fees) for each flight.
I’ve done some pretty crazy stuff to earn frequent flyer miles — like strolling into my bank a few times per month to deposit 5,000 one-dollar coins from the U.S. Mint, or buying everything besides groceries and toothbrushes through an airline shopping portal.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do any of this to earn a free first-class flight. In fact, in the next few hundred words, I’m going to tell you exactly how to do it with less than 30 minutes of effort.
By the way, you should know that before I started obsessing over frequent flyer awards, the closest I ever got to a first class seat was the walk to the back of the plane. Most business and first class tickets cost thousands more than coach. In fact, the last flight I took to South America for $137 retailed for over $5,000.
And yes, it WAS hard to wipe the smug grin off my face knowing that the people sitting around me had shelled out $5000 more for the same flight.
The secret to getting enough miles for a free flight without working too hard is to earn them from the credit card companies.
Chase, Citibank, and American Express are in an arms race for your business, and if you know how to play the game properly, you can reap huge benefits.
The offers change every couple months, but here are a few current offers that will do the trick.
Citi American Airlines 100,000 American miles (50,000 miles each for 2 cards)
Both the Chase Sapphire and Chase British Airways card also feature “no foreign transaction fees” which makes them a card you can take abroad and use for regular spending outside the U.S.
The Citi cards have a 3% foreign transaction fee, so you won’t want to use them abroad.
The right credit card choice depends on where you are going and how much time you have before you leave. Some of the offers have a minimum spending requirement before the points are awarded. For example, you need to spend $3000 on the Citi Card in 4 months to earn the miles.
If you don’t spend enough money normally to hit the minimum spend, don’t worry. I don’t either!
Sending some cash to a friend using Amazon Payments is probably the best way to hit the minimum. Of course, the friend has to be someone you trust so they can write you a check once they receive the money. You can send up $1000 per month with no fees, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting your miles.
You can find some other creative ways to put money on a credit card without any real spending in this article Ways to Goose Your Minimum Spend for a Credit Card Signup Bonus
If your departure is less than 4 months away, you should probably choose the British Airways card. With this option, you get 50,000 miles when you make your first purchase, so you won’t need to wait long to get your miles and book your flight.
It might be a good idea to give us a call at 517-680-4800 or shoot us an email to support [at] scholarabroad.com to talk through your strategy. Some destinations are easier to get to with certain airlines, so we can help you come up with a customized plan based on your situation.
We are currently testing out some new consulting services. In the future, we’ll be charging a fee for help with booking frequent flyer awards. For now, get in touch and we’ll set you up for free.
p.s. You probably don’t need to be reminded, but signing up for a credit card requires that you have a little financial discipline. Make sure you read the terms and conditions before applying for any card, and always pay your bill, in full, on time.