How to Get Free Flights With Credit Cards (It’s NOT “Too Complicated”)

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I’ve earned millions of points & miles over my lifetime.  It’s allowed me to do some amazing things.  For example, I’ll soon be flying a $20,000 ticket on Singapore Airlines completely paid for on points!

The world of points & miles can prove to be overwhelming at times.  There are so many different things to take into consideration – travel credit cards, credit scores, spending requirements, bonus categories, etc.

And learning the best ways to spend your points can have its own set of challenges!  Every single one of us has gone through this at one point – so don’t fret.  I’ll go over how to get flights with credit cards by using those rewards you’ve earned!

It’s surprisingly easy to get flights with credit cards – I’ll show you the ropes

How to Get Flights With Credit Cards

One of the largest misconceptions is that all airlines are the same when it comes to award flights (flights that are paid for completely with miles).  Each airline has their own method of calculating award prices.

Some of the more popular airline programs include Southwest, American Airlines, Delta, and British Airways.  And they ALL calculate award prices differently.

An important note to remember is that most airlines have a bunch of partners as part of an airline alliance.  Think of this as a “team”.  Within this “team”, you can use your points you’ve earned with one airline to get a ticket on another.  For example, you can redeem Delta miles for flights on Air France, because they are in the same alliance.

Award Regions

American Airlines categorizes certain countries into “regions.”  The amount of miles you’re charged depends on the zone you’re flying to.

For example,  it costs 30,000 American Airlines miles for a one-way coach flight to “South America Region 2.”  South America Region 2 includes:

  • Argentina
  • Brazil (excluding Manaus)
  • Chile
  • Paraguay
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

So you can fly from anywhere in the Continental US to ANY of these countries for 30,000 American Airlines miles one-way in coach.

You can check out our guide on all the ways to use American Airlines miles and all the ways to earn American Airlines miles.

Distance-Based Flights

British Airways prices award flights by how far you travel.

For example, if you take a one-way flight of 650 miles or less outside of the US, you’ll be charged 4,500 British Airways Avios points.  But if you fly between 651 and 1,150 miles, you’ll be charged 7,500 points.

You can earn these valuable points with cards like the British Airways Visa Signature® Card.

The information for the British Airways Visa card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Award Flights Based on the Cash Price of the Ticket

MMS is a huge fan of Southwest.  We love the free checked bags, no change or cancellation fees, and the Southwest Companion Pass.

Southwest prices its awards based on the CASH price of the ticket.  You can pretty well figure out how much value per point you’re receiving simply by dividing the cash price of the ticket by the number of points it costs (though points won’t cover taxes & fees on your flight).

In most cases, you’ll get ~1.5 cents per point.

Earning Airline Miles

The Power of Welcome Bonuses

Credit cards are all competing for a spot in your wallet and will reward you handsomely for that opportunity.

Nearly every single card has a welcome bonus.  For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card offers 60,000 Southwest points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening (worth ~$900 in Southwest flights).  This is the credit card company saying “thank you for giving us a chance to earn your business, here’s a token of our appreciation.”  This is the best, easiest, and fastest way to earn miles and points!

While asking someone to spend thousands of dollars in a short period of time may be a stretch, there are unique ways to ensure you meet that bonus:

  • Ask friends and family if they have bills (which they do) that you can pay with your card.  They hand you the cash, and you pay your bill off.  BAM!
  • Are you a college student?  My wife paid her tuition on credit cards and earned $1,300 in points!
  • If you are renting, ask your landlord if you can pay rent with your credit card!  Just be aware they may charge you a fee.
  • Start a business as I did!  I’ve been able to earn over 100,000 AMEX Membership Rewards with my side hustle.

If you are looking for ways to get flights through credit cards, earning welcome bonuses is a great place to start!

Best Airline Credit Cards for Flights

There are a ton of different cards you can use to earn airline miles directly.  Here are some of my current favorite cards for earning airline miles:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
  • United℠ Explorer Card
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

When you are using any one of these cards, you are earning airline miles that deposit into your frequent flyer account associated with the airline.  If you don’t recall creating a frequent flyer account, give the airline a call.  When you apply and are approved for an airline credit card, a frequent flyer account should automatically be created for you.

Best “Flexible” Credit Cards for Flights

But not all credit cards are earning points for one specific airline…  Some earn flexible points.  Here are just a few below:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – #1 card for beginners
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card – #1 card for small business owners.
  • American Express® Gold Card My current favorite card to use for spending
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – The ultimate fancy traveler card
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – The easiest rewards program to use

You can transfer the points you earn with these cards to various airline and hotel partners.  For example, you can transfer:

  • AMEX Membership Rewards points to – Air Canada, Air France / KLM, All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Delta, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines
  • Capital One miles to – Air Canada, Avianca, Etihad, Emirates, Air France / KLM, Singapore Airlines, Qantas
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards points to – Air France / KLM, British Airways, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic
  • Citi ThankYou points to – Avianca, Etihad, Air France/KLM, JetBlue, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic

This is just a snippet of all the airlines you can transfer your points to.  My favorite card to spend on right now is the American Express Gold Card.  Actually, it is my all-time favorite credit card.  If I were to spend on a card that was branded to a specific airline, I would be limited to one airline instead of 18!

Bottom Line

There is a ton of opportunity to earn points & miles from the best travel credit cards to travel the world for free.  Being 25 years old, so many people my age are anti-credit card.  Yet, those same people cannot understand how my wife and I are able to travel so much.  Without points & miles, we wouldn’t have been able to travel as we have.

Let me know your favorite strategy to earning free flights!  And subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on money saving tips, tricks, and deals;

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Million Mile Secrets features a team of points and miles experts who have traveled to over 80 countries and have used 60+ credit cards responsibly to accumulate loyalty points and travel the world on the cheap! The Million Mile Secrets team has been featured on The Points Guy, TIME, Yahoo Finance and many other leading points & miles media outlets.

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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