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How to travel for almost free

It is possible to travel often without breaking an arm and a leg.

As an avid traveler I am always looking for tips and tricks of purchasing cheap tickets and finding affordable hotels. I have a friend who travels often by redeeming Airline miles. She also books hotels and rent cars with airline miles but the idea didn’t make sense to me till last year. She would go on vacations and stay in nice hotels and when I ask how she says “I used points”.

“Uhn? Points? That makes no sense to me”.

This was always my reaction

Being the curious soul that I am, I started researching the idea of “points” and the possibility of exchanging points for services. It was recently that I realized the beautiful art of earning and using airline miles, also known as “points”. I see this method as a way to recycle money. The purpose of this post is to earn you how to earn airline miles and exchange it for plane tickets.

Exploring the colorful streets of Bogota, Colombia

I recently bought a one way ticket from Johannesburg, South Africa to Tokyo, Japan for $65. The trip cost about $2000 but  I paid $65 for it?

How you ask?

By using airline miles.

I also booked a ticket from Seoul, South Korea to Chicago, IL for $42. The flight cost over $900 but I paid $42 for it. Sounds ridiculous right?

The flight was also purchased by using airline miles.

I only paid $42 for the flight above but I redeemed 35,000 miles. I will also attach my flight itinerary from Johannesburg to Tokyo:

The ticket above cost $65 because I redeemed 50,000 airline miles.

The fastest way of earning airline miles is by opening an airline credit card. Some people might not like an idea of opening a credit card account but think about it this way- a credit card can be used for purchases to replace cash or debit cards. Miles can be earned on those purchases while the balance on the credit card can then be paid off in a timely manner- this is an ideal win win situation. The miles become very useful when planning a solo vacation, a couples get away or to pay for your flight during a group trip.

Earning and redeeming airline miles has encouraged my hobby as a traveler because traveling has become more affordable for me. I have saved thousands of dollars by booking flights using the airline miles I earned and I will be discussing the several ways that I earn airline miles.

Here are ways to earn airline miles:

1) As I stated earlier, the fastest way to earn miles is by opening an airline credit card account. United Mileage Plus, American Airlines AAdvantage or Delta Skymiles give a lot of bonus miles for spending a certain amount within the first few months of opening an account. Each airline above belongs to a network of airlines called an alliance. You can get a credit card from any airline within any alliance as long as the airline offers a credit account. It is recommended to get one credit card from an alliance and use it to earn points across the same alliance. For example, American Airlines AAdvantage card can be used to purchase tickets and also earn miles within the same alliance.  There are 3 major alliances- Star Alliance, Sky Team and One World.

As an opening bonus for new credit accounts, United airlines is currently giving 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2000 on the card within the first 2 months. American Airlines is giving 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3000 within the first 3 months and Delta SkyMiles is giving 30,000 miles after spending $1000 within the first 3 months.

You can also open a free non-credit account for each airline stated above and earn miles as you fly across each alliance. The only way to earn miles using this option is by flying.

Living my best life in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

2) Use the credit card for daily purchases and shopping. Shopping at some stores earn up to 10 miles per dollar!

Maximum miles can be earned by the using the airline credit card for day to day purchases. Also, using airline credit cards to shop at certain stores can earn up to 10 miles per dollar.

3)Dining earns miles. I get up to 5 miles per dollar for dining at certain restaurants.

Views of Old City, Jerusalem

4) United Mileage Plus offers opinion surveys in exchange for miles. I take as many of these as time permits.

5)Registering your airline rewards number with some hotels, for example, Best Western also earns miles after you stay at their property.

6) Another great way of earning airline miles is by charging big purchases on your credit card on behalf of family and friends. For example, if your friend is moving and wants to buy a new TV or some furniture, the cost can be charged on the airline credit card in order to earn points. This method is only advisable if the friend/family member gives you cash before making the purchase.

Caution has to be exercised with using airline credit cards just like any other credit card. I have learned to exercise self control therefore, I only use the credit card for necessary purchases and I pay it off. A lot of self control is necessary in order to use airline credit cards to their full potential.

How to redeem airline miles

The process of redeeming airline miles is similar to purchasing a ticket. On United Airlines website for example, while searching for a ticket, you can select the option of purchasing using miles and it will show the price in airline miles instead of cash. This is process is similar across all airlines.

Redeeming airline miles on United Airlines website

A small fee is usually added in addition to the airline miles which serves as taxes.

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How to travel for almost free


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