Sunday, January 8, 2017

Freakin' Cheap: Almost-Free Flights

How about an almost-free flight to Tokyo?

How about applying for a credit card with a 70,000 airline frequent flyer (FF) mile signup bonus, using the card for three months, then cutting up the card? 70,000 miles can buy a round-trip ticket from Minneapolis to Tokyo.

Flying is not always the best way to accumulate FF miles. Airlines are moving to price-based loyalty schemes. Instead of awarding one or more FF miles per mile traveled, Delta Airlines awards between 5 and 11 FF miles for each dollar spent on the ticket. If I'm lucky enough to find a really cheap fare, I'm not going to get so many FF miles.

These days, credit cards are a lucrative source of miles. It's not too hard to find signup bonuses ranging from 50,000 to 70,000 FF miles. Sign up for an airline-affiliated credit card, spend a minimum amount in the first two or three months, then get tens of thousands of miles credited to your airline FF account.

The key to collecting miles is to churn credit cards: apply for an airline-affiliated card, use the card for the required time period, get the bonus miles, then cancel the card. We've found that credit card issuers won't accept another application for about two years. So, two years later, reapply for the card and repeat the process.

70,000 miles is nothing to sneeze at. United Airlines has excellent availability in Economy between Minneapolis and Tokyo round-trip in the next few months for 70,000 FF miles.

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