I Saved $800+ by Pairing Basic Economy With the Right Credit Card and Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
INSIDER SECRET: With a credit card that offers perks like free checked bags and priority boarding, it’s easy to outsmart basic economy and save big.
As an example, on a recent trip to Denver I was able to save $254 per ticket and get two free checked bags just for having a stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and the right credit card.
On this particular trip, the cost of round-trip tickets was outrageous, so I decided to buy two separate one-ways for myself, my daughter and my mom. I got lucky with cheap outbound flights on ultra-low-cost Frontier and was able to find an even better deal on our return tickets.
Here’s how the deal on the return flight came to be.
Outsmarting Basic Economy
Just remember, when booking a basic economy fare, you’ll usually be forced to board last and be restricted to just one personal item (no carry-ons). But if you have the right credit card, it’s possible to outsmart those restrictions.
In this case, I used Chase Ultimate Rewards points to pay a majority of the cost of the tickets and charged $5 to my United℠ Business Card. Because I’m a United Business Card cardholder, I get priority boarding and a free checked bag for charging a portion of the ticket to my United Business Card.
So not only did I save $762 by booking three basic economy tickets instead of standard economy seats, but I also saved $60 by getting two free checked bags for being a United Business Card cardholder. That’s $816.60 in savings if you account for the $5.40 I charged to my card.
Again, it’s important to note that with a basic economy fare (regardless of what credit card you hold) you won’t be able to select seats, which can be an issue for families or groups wishing to sit together. Here’s a good guide to the basic economy fare rules from each of the major airlines and tips to avoid checked baggage fees.
Also, take a look at this list of the best credit cards to avoid baggage fees. Free checked-bag perks are common with cobranded airline credit cards but don’t forget about the other cards that can help you avoid charges for airline checked baggage. American Express offers several cards that include annual statement credits to cover incidental fees for your preferred airline, including:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Up to $200 annual statement credit for incidental purchases on one selected airline
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express: Up to $200 annual statement credit for incidental purchases on one selected airline
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Up to $250 annual airline fee credit with the airline of your choice to cover incidental air travel fees
These statement credits can cover all sorts of fees like inflight meals, lounge passes and checked baggage fees — but if you want priority boarding you’ll have to choose a cobranded airline credit card.
For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.
Featured image courtesy of Efetova Anna/Shutterstock.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® CardAPPLY NOW
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
$95 annual fee.
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! :)