Is there a “best day” to buy airline tickets?

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When it comes to buying airline tickets, everyone wants to find the best deal. Sometimes you have plenty of time to research options; sometimes you have flexible dates; or maybe you even settle on another location that has cheaper prices. Other times travel is needed last minute, and both the dates and locations are set in stone.

Yes, earning welcome bonuses from the best travel credit cards are still the most effective way to score a cheap ticket to literally anywhere. And whether your travel is either one of these extremes (or most likely somewhere in between), you may be trying to figure out when is the best day to purchase airline tickets. Here’s what we know.

Let the suckers pay full-price for airfare. (Photo by NAN728/Shutterstock)

What is the best day to buy airline tickets?

This question is not a new one, as many have been trying to solve this rubric for years. Airfare prices fluctuate depending on time of year, demand, and perhaps seemingly certain days of the week. Knowing insider tricks to booking airfare can provide big discounts.

We searched to find what the experts say to find out the best day to buy airline tickets, and want to share with you how you can find the best deals.

Are Tuesdays really the cheapest day to buy tickets?

Listen, if you’re searching for an echo chamber to confirm any manner of suspicions, you can find whatever you’re looking for if you search Google long enough.

Articles by those “in the know,” like this one published by Business Insider a few years ago, appear to have researched and proved that Tuesday is in fact the best day of the week to buy tickets. Their data also points out that this is only true if tickets are purchased three weeks in advance. The savings, they found, typically average only a few dollars.

How far in advance should you book your airline tickets?

A recent article in Budget Travel agrees that while the middle of the week purchases may be slightly cheaper, the cost savings aren’t typically too great. However, this article does go on to say that last-minute airfare purchases are not the best idea. If your plans allow, it is almost always better to book at least three weeks in advance.

I’ve found booking airline tickets on a certain day of the week hasn’t made much difference at all. But how far in advance I’ve booked seems to have a far more potent effect. If it’s a popular time in the city to which I’m traveling (during a festival, sporting event, etc.), finagling my travel dates around those times saves a ton of money.

In general, some data points to prices being the cheapest anywhere from six months before departure all the way up until four to six weeks before departure. When you’re just a few weeks out, prices will usually be the highest.

If you really want to get the best deal, it’s important to keep your eye out for flight deals from services like Scott’s Cheap Flights, or you can set your own alerts on Google Flights to notify you when airfares drop on your preferred routes. Scott’s Cheap Flights sends out deals for a variety of dates and say that “deals pop up in every month for varying reasons and for different destinations” and that they typically see sweet spots for the best prices when booking two to six months out.

What are the cheapest days to fly?

A 2019 post in US News and World Report mostly agreed that there is not necessarily a particular day of the week to purchase airline tickets, but did give good advice on flying certain days of the week (check prices for flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays) and flying earlier in the day.

Again, this is totally YMMV, but Google can aid you in sniffing out these patterns with the many bells and whistles it offers with Google Flights. For example, you can effortlessly summon charts and graphs to help you understand the changing airfare landscape.

Here’s a graph of upcoming travel dates between Cincinnati and Maui. There certainly appears to be a pattern depending on the dates you fly, wouldn’t you say?

Is there another way to get cheaper airline tickets?

One thing to keep in mind is that not all airline tickets are the same. For example, Southwest offers two free checked bags per person and does not charge for additional items like carry-on luggage or change fees. However, some airlines like Spirit charge for checked bags, carry-on bags, seat assignments, or printing your boarding pass at the airport.

Even airlines like Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines have introduced “Basic Economy” tickets that charge you for items like seat assignments and sometimes carry-on bags. Therefore, it is always important to know what you are getting for a lower price.

Besides trying to figure out the best day to book tickets and the best day to fly, there is another way many of us manage to fly on the cheap (and sometimes free!). Read our beginner’s guide to points and miles for a complete explanation.

Miles and points earned from the best travel credit cards can help offset some or nearly all the cost of an airline ticket. With all of the options for credit cards, it can be overwhelming to find the right one. Here are a few of our favorites:

Yes, these cards earn points that you can transfer to airlines for free award flights. But you can perform another trick with these rewards — and it works hand-in-hands with any cheap fares you might find.

See, you can redeem Chase points through the Chase Travel Portal for flights at a rate of between 1.25 and 1.5 cents each (depending on which card you have). And you can redeem Capital One miles for flights at a rate of 1 cent each with the Capital One Purchase Eraser.

In other words, if you find a cheap fare that you want to buy, you can use points to either:

  • Purchase the whole thing and pay literally $0 out of pocket
  • Purchase part of the ticket for a steep discount

Using your points and booking through a bank’s travel portal for a cheap cash fare will make your points go even even further, many a time making it a better deal to book through the portal than transferring the points to the airline itself. Read our guide on when to use points vs. cash to delve deeper into the subject.

Can you be approved for top travel credit cards?

While banks don’t publish what their requirements are for approvals, most have good luck getting approved for these cards with a 700+ credit score. If you don’t know your credit score, there are many places you can check for free. But your credit score is not the only thing banks consider when applying for credit cards. They will also look at your income, number of recently opened accounts and payment history.

Chase also has the “5/24 rule” with most of its cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you have opened five or more credit cards in the past 24 months with ANY bank (except Chase business cards and certain other business cards) it is unlikely that you will be approved for either of the Sapphire cards.

Also keep in mind that the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card, which typically requires a credit line of $10,000 or higher. If your income or other factors would not result in at least a $10,000 credit line then Chase would likely NOT approve you for the card.

Should you apply for a travel rewards card?

While credit cards with travel rewards can be a great way for cheap or even free flights, it is very important to pay the credit cards ON TIME and IN FULL every month. Rewards credit cards typically have much higher interest rates, so any interest you would be charged by not paying the statement balance in full every month would negate the value of travel rewards. You’ll essentially want to treat a credit card like a debit card.

Bottom line

Exhaustive research in pursuit of the best time to buy airline tickets has been conducted. And while many agree that purchasing tickets at least three weeks in advance is better than at the last minute, and booking in the middle of the week can save you a few dollars, there is no consistent rule as to what is always the best time.

Your most effective approach is simply to search multiple airlines and be flexible with dates while considering what additional fees you could face on your flight. You can read our post on the best websites for booking cheap flights — and more importantly, how to use Google Flights.

Travel credit card rewards can make those expensive airline tickets much more manageable from generous welcome bonuses, great return on spend, valuable travel credits, and airport lounges. Just remember to pay your bills in full and on time to be able to take advantage of these offers.

Let us know your timing tricks to book cheap airline tickets! And subscribe to our newsletter for more travel tips and info.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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