I've been a travel hacker for quite a few years now. My family and I have traveled for free, or, for very little using reward miles. We've been to Mexico, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Aruba, Bermuda and Miami, benefitting from using reward miles we have accumulated through savvy travel hacking of reward points.
It is something we all want to do, and it is possible, but it often takes months of saving frequent flyer miles to be able to take advantage of free travel opportunities. There are numerous free or extremely low-cost options for flying for free, and the following are some of the most popular.
1. To begin, apply for a new Frequent Traveler Credit Card.
If you haven't done so already, you should because you are losing miles on every purchase you make if you don't use a travel rewards credit card or debit card. This is the quickest and most straightforward method of earning a free flight right away. Almost every airline has an agreement with a credit card company. Delta will give you 30,000 miles just for applying for their American Express card. When you sign up for the United MileagePlus card from Chase, you will receive 40,000 miles as a welcome bonus. You can find a complete list of all of the airline credit cards that offer bonus miles on Daily Markets, which you can access by visiting their website. Keep in mind that some credit cards have minimum spending requirements that must be met in the first few months, but that these can often be met simply by paying your bills on time. When you book your flight, you will be required to pay some taxes, but these are typically insignificant when compared to the cost of the flight. 30-40,000 miles is more than enough for a single domestic flight and is well on its way to covering the distance required for a single international flight.
2. Obtain a Non-Specific Travel Rewards Card by filling out the online application.
Are you not loyal to a single airline or are you unable to decide which airline's card is best for you? There are a plethora of travel rewards cards available that will simply earn you points that can be converted into miles to allow you to fly for free. You will receive 40,000 bonus points if you choose the Chase Sapphire. You can also choose from other credit card companies, such as American Express and Capital One. Cards that earn points are a great alternative to airline mileage. You can find out more about them here.
3. Offer to be bumped and use a voucher in exchange for your services.
To use your travel voucher, you must first be bumped from your original flight, which is not too difficult if you are adaptable. I've been offered them dozens of times and have accepted them whenever I am given the opportunity. When flights are oversold, which they frequently are these days, you can volunteer to give up your seat to another passenger. These vouchers can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the airline and route. The best way to be offered these vouchers is to fly on routes that are extremely popular. Most of the time, these are valid for one year and can be redeemed for a free ticket or applied toward the purchase of a more expensive ticket. One thing I don't care for about them is that they are frequently incompatible with one another. I recently spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone with Delta, attempting to do exactly that for a flight to East Africa, with no success. However, every dollar saved counts, and in some cases, it can even cover the entire fare.
4. Keep an eye out for overbooked flights.
This goes hand in hand with volunteering to be bumped up a level. When you are flying on a route that has a high likelihood of being oversold, your chances of receiving a travel voucher increase. Popular flights include the first flight of the day, popular destinations, flying on a holiday, and departing from a major airline hub, amongst other things. Please feel free to inquire with the agent at the gate as to whether or not they anticipate requiring volunteers to board the next flight. Keep in mind that adaptability is the key to success in this situation.
If you anticipate being bumped, make sure to pack your belongings in your carry-on luggage. Having everything you need is important if you are going to be away from home for an extended period of time, such as a weekend.
5. Use Your Companion Ticket
Take a friend, partner, boyfriend, or pretty much anyone you want as a companion on a free flight that you are currently taking advantage of. Several airline credit cards, such as Delta, will allow you to bring a companion along with you for free once a year when you renew your credit card with them. Taxes and fees ranging from $10.80 to $27.60 are the only expenses incurred by the government (with Delta). Other airlines also provide these benefits, so be sure to review the benefits of your travel rewards card before deciding whether or not this is something that would be beneficial for you to participate in.
6. File a Complaint with a Justification
This can feel a little shady, but believe me, you earn this benefit. If you have a less-than-pleasant flight experience, you may be eligible for compensation. Be truthful in your correspondence with the airline and submit a formal complaint. Email your complaint. Include your flight number, route, and frequent flyer number, as well as an explanation of why you were dissatisfied. Explain to them that you are requesting a free ticket as a result of your negative experience with them. Send a carbon copy to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the United States Department of Transportation so that the airline knows you are serious about canceling your reservation. The letter will also be certified on the DOT website, ensuring that it has been received by the airline.
The one time I took advantage of this situation was my flights to Hawaii. Three out of the four flights (layovers in San Francisco each way) were all delayed. I was very unhappy with the airline (that will remain nameless), so I emailed them to let them know what happened and that I wouldn't be flying with them ever again. A person with the company personally called me and offered flight vouchers of $250 for all four members of my family. I used those vouchers so we could fly to Cancun, Mexico the following spring. Speaking up about a bad experience with an airline can work to your advantage.
7. Make use of airline shopping portals to complete your purchases.
Most of the major airlines have shopping portals where you can earn miles on almost anything you purchase through them. They have every major retailer in stock, and the website is extremely user-friendly. You won't be able to earn a free flight in a short period of time here, but you can earn miles without ever flying. They frequently have promotions that allow you to earn a large number of miles for your money. If you need to earn a couple of thousand more miles to qualify for your free flight with miles, this is a good way to boost your total mileage.
8. Obtain employment with an airline or make a friend who works for one.
If you work for an airline, you will be able to fly for free, but it will take some dedication and perhaps a career change. You do not have to be a pilot or a flight attendant in order to take advantage of these benefits. Working for most airlines will automatically provide you with access to free flights wherever that airline operates is a bonus in and of itself. Some airlines may even allow you to bring along a companion for free if you are flying with your immediate family or friends. Making the right friends, on the other hand, maybe enough to get you a free flight.
9. Work for an Airline or Make a Friend Who Does
If you work for an airline, you will be able to fly for free, but it will take some dedication and perhaps a career change. You do not have to be a pilot or a flight attendant in order to take advantage of these benefits. Working for most airlines will automatically provide you with access to free flights wherever that airline operates is a bonus in and of itself. Some airlines may even allow you to bring along a companion for free if you are flying with your immediate family or friends. Making the right friends, on the other hand, may be enough to get you a free flight.
10. The Old-Fashioned Way of Accumulating Miles
When you have applied for too many credit cards and been declined, or when you have grown tired of churning them year after year, you can simply go back to the basics and start over. Simply earning the miles required to fly for free is all that is required. This begins with flying with a single airline on a consistent basis when it is reasonable to do so. But don't let loyalty compel you to take a more expensive flight just because you want to be loyal. Make all of your purchases through airline portals on the internet (see #7). Finally, if you do have at least one airline credit card, make sure to use it for all of your regular monthly expenses to avoid incurring any fees. Free flights will become available to you in due course, but they will not be as quick as some of the other options.
In final analyisis
Free or discounted airline tickets allow you to spend your money on other aspects of your trip, such as lodging or extended stays, rather than on your flight. Some methods are significantly easier to execute than others, and the methods numbered 8 and 9 are not feasible for everyone. The point is that there are many different ways to earn free travel, so make sure to take advantage of every opportunity to earn miles and points that come your way. When travel vouchers become available, take advantage of them. Never be afraid to voice your dissatisfaction with a bad experience, and don't forget to take advantage of the companion tickets your airline provides you every year. Being adaptable is the most effective strategy for finding bargains and earning free flights. Hopefully, you will be able to use one of these methods in the near future and earn a free flight. Also, check out how I flew first class for $200.