Want to travel, but don’t want to shell out hundreds for plane tickets? I don’t blame you. With rising airline rates, the plane ride to get to your destination could easily be the most expensive part of your trip.
But if you’re smart about it, there are plenty of options for getting free flights.
In fact, I recently encountered one on a trip from Boston to Indianapolis. Coming home from a visit with family in Boston, my two-year-old daughter and I were subjected to multiple delays. And, let me tell you, there’s nothing more fun than spending hours upon hours in an airport with a preschooler.
On the last leg of our flight, we got delayed once again. It was already 10:00PM, and my daughter was veering into overly-tired-slap-happy territory. This phase is normally followed by a tantruming breakdown. So when the desk agent called for three individuals to stay over until the next morning’s flight in exchange for flight vouchers, I didn’t hesitate.
Sure, I had to stay at the airport until after boarding. But I wasn’t getting any sleep that night one way or the other. And the airline paid for a hotel room, enough vouchers for several meals, and $600 per ticket in travel vouchers. I think one night with an over-tired kid in an uncomfortable hotel bed is worth $1,200+, don’t you?
Maybe you won’t get every flight you ever take for free. But these ten options can net you free travel for at least some of your trips.
1. Get bumped.
The quickest way to get free flights may be to get bumped. This is a hit-and-miss option, but if you do manage to get bumped to a new flight, you could get anywhere from $100 to $1,000 in vouchers per ticket.
You’ll still have to pay for the original flight you get bumped from. If the agent asks for volunteers to be bumped to another flight, you won’t pay any extra for that flight, and you’ll get vouchers good for future airline tickets.
2. Leverage credit card sign-up offers.
These days, many travel credit cards are offering killer sign-up offers – some of which can even get you a free flight from the start. Right now, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World MasterCard is offering a 40,000 mile bonus offer, and the Priceline Rewards Visa is offering 5,000 bonus points for new account holders.
The key is to choose a credit card you haven’t had recently, so you’ll be eligible for the bonus offer. Then, track your spending so that you can meet the spending requirements to earn the bonus miles.
3. Use everyday credit card rewards.
Those sign-up offers are tempting, but the best way to keep earning free flights over time is to sign up for a credit card that offers great miles for everyday spending. When you find a credit card that offers good mileage bonuses (we particularly love the Barclaycard Arrival Plus), use it for your everyday spending, pay it off, and reap the rewards for free flights.
4. Check out frequent flier programs.
If you already fly frequently, frequent flier programs are your best friend. Once you join one or two frequent flyer programs, try to fly only with those airlines. Sure, you may pay a small premium for your tickets, but if all those frequent flier miles are consolidated with one airline, you’ll earn free flights more quickly.
5. Consider dining rewards programs.
Many frequent flier programs let you earn miles when you dine at certain restaurants. And you don’t even have to charge the dinner out on a credit card to earn the miles.
The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Dining program, for instance, lets you enroll any debit or credit card. Swipe the card when you dine at partner restaurants, and you’ll accrue miles. The bonus here is that you’ll still earn your regular credit card rewards as well.
6. Opt for programs with companion tickets.
One great way to earn free flights for family travel is to sign up for credit cards and programs that offer free companion tickets. The Delta Reserve card is one card that offers one free companion voucher per year. You’ll have to pay for the first ticket, but the second one is free – except for some small taxes and fees.
7. Look for free tickets from the financial world.
Free airline tickets are quite a popular item for financial firms to give away these days.
For instance, Fidelity is offering American Airlines miles for certain levels of account deposits. And United offers miles when you borrow money through the P2P lender Prosper. If you’re in the market for a brokerage account or a mortgage, look for companies who are offering airline tickets as incentives.
8. Ask for frequent flier miles as a gift.
This year when mom asks what you want for Christmas, don’t ask for a Starbucks card. Instead, ask for some of her frequent flier miles. Most frequent flier and some credit card rewards programs will let an account holder transfer miles directly to another account holder.
In other cases, the miles holder could just use miles to buy a ticket for a specific trip, putting it in your name. Sometimes, this is actually the smoothest way to get miles as a gift, since you don’t have to mess with transfer fees and such.
9. Check social media.
Follow your favorite airlines on social media. Often times, they’ll offer bonus miles for liking a post, or they’ll run contests that you can enter with the click of a button. We don’t recommend spending hours of your life entering contests you may never win, but if you’re already on Facebook, and the contest takes two seconds, why not? Here are a couple of recent ones we found:
10. Get a job at the airline.
If you truly love travel, consider working for an airline. It’s an excellent way to fly for free, and you can get nearly anywhere if you fly on standby.