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Traveling is expensive, and with rising airline rates, the plane ride is easily the priciest part of your trip. What can you do if you don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars for plane tickets? With a few smart strategies and a bit of planning, there are plenty of options for getting free flights. Here are 8 ways to fly for free.
- How To Get Free Flights
- 1. Leverage Credit Card Signup Offers
- 2. Use a Credit Card to Earn Points or Miles on All Your Purchases
- 3. Check Out Frequent Flier Programs
- 4. Consider Dining Rewards Programs
- 5. Opt for Programs with Companion Tickets
- 6. Look for More Opportunities to Earn Points and Miles Toward Free Tickets
- 7. Ask for Frequent Flier Miles as a Gift
- 8. Check Social Media
- Bottom Line
How To Get Free Flights
As travel hacking becomes more popular, new ways to earn free flights are popping up. We sorted the options and vetted them out so that you can find at least one way to land a free flight.
1. Leverage Credit Card Signup Offers
Nowadays, many travel credit cards offer outstanding signup bonuses. Bonuses allow you to earn enough points to pay for a flight relatively quickly. One word of caution, however, is that applying for new credit cards shows up as a hard pull on your credit report. Applying for several at a time can decrease your credit score. Instead, be strategic about which ones you want to apply for and when to apply.
Here are two of my favorites for signup bonuses:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
This card comes with a reasonable $95 annual fee. The one-time welcome offer makes the annual fee worth it. If you travel often, this is an excellent card to have.
Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Perhaps the coolest feature is that your first bag is checked for free for you and up to eight others on your travel reservation. The annual fee is $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
Read our Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card review.
See more: Best Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses
2. Use a Credit Card to Earn Points or Miles on All Your Purchases
Those signup offers are tempting, but the best way to keep earning free flights over time is to use a credit card to earn points or miles for everyday spending. When you find a credit card that offers good rewards, use it for your everyday spending, pay it off, and reap the rewards for free flights.
If you do plan to use a credit card for your everyday spending as I do, I have a couple of great options for you to consider:
British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Read our British Airways Visa Signature® Card review.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Here are a few of the credits you can get with this card. You’ll receive up to $200 in Uber rides each year ($15/month), up to a $200 airline fee credit (for checked bags, etc.), and access to the AMEX Global Lounge collection for you and your guests to utilize before your flight. And there are some nice streaming benefits: you can get a $240 digital entertainment credit ($20 a month), which includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. You also get a $155 Walmart+ credit, which includes free shipping on purchases and a subscription to Paramount+ Essential Plan.
The Platinum Card® from American Express has one additional neat perk: a $100 statement credit to Saks Fifth Avenue annually (enrollment required).
Read our The Platinum Card® from American Express review.
3. Check Out Frequent Flier Programs
If you’re looking for free flights, check out frequent flier programs. Try to fly only with those airlines to earn free flights quicker.
Here are some of the best frequent flier programs to join for free flights:
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
You won’t find Alaska Airlines hubs everywhere, but if you’re on the West Coast, you most likely have already flown with them. Alaska Airlines is prominent in the Pacific Northwest, but you’ll also find hubs in New York, Atlanta, and other major cities. Their mileage plan allows you to earn miles by flying with Alaska Airlines and 28 of their partner airlines, which include American Airlines and British Airways. You can earn free flights relatively quickly here since you earn a mile for every mile you fly with Alaska. Click here for more details on how it works.
Another fantastic mileage program if you want to earn a free flight is the Delta SkyMiles program. Delta has more than 4,000 flights that take off every day to over 280 destinations, so there are plenty of opportunities to book a flight with them.
You’ll earn miles by flying with over 20 partner airlines, along with Delta, and you can use the miles on flights, seat upgrades, and hotels. Another great feature is that your miles never expire with Delta. Plus, you can sign up for the I mentioned above to increase your earnings rate. Click here for more details on the program.
4. Consider Dining Rewards Programs
Some frequent flier programs let you earn miles when you dine at certain restaurants to earn free flights from eating. Most of these programs are straightforward. You link your card and you’ll earn miles when you dine out at participating restaurants. Some programs will even give you a signup bonus like rewards credit cards do, giving you a lump sum of points or an accelerated earning rate for a short period. A word of advice: some programs have limitations, including days, times, and locations for earning points.
Here are some programs that offer dining rewards:
With the Southwest dining program, you can earn 3 miles per dollar spent on dining out, as long as you remain subscribed to email updates. If you opt out of email communication, you will earn 1 point per $2 spent on eating out at participating restaurants. You can earn 10 points for every restaurant review submitted.
As a new Rapid Rewards Dining member, you can earn a bonus point offer when you dine and spend at least $25 within 30 days of joining and a completed restaurant review within your first month. Members can earn an additional 500 bonus point offer after earning their first 1,500 points through any mix of dining and review writing. Members can then earn 300 bonus points for every additional 1,000 points earned through any combination of dines and reviews.
You can earn up to 5 miles per dollar on dining out at participating restaurants with the AAdvantage dining program. Your earning rates come in tiers, with the lowest being 1 mile per $1 spent. The program offers a welcome bonus so that you can work towards earning that free flight right out of the gate. The limited-time offer allows you to earn 500 bonus miles if you spend $25 or more within your first 30 days of creating an account.
With Delta’s dining rewards program, you’ll earn up to 5 miles per dollar spent and a 500 SkyMiles bonus for signing up. The lowest-earning tier gets 1 mile per $2 spent, like American Airlines, but your rewards and bonuses increase the more often you dine out during the month. If you dine 11 times before the end of the year, you can be a VIP member and earn 5 miles for each $1 spent that you could use towards earning a free flight. You can also earn 1 mile for every $1 spent at participating Starbucks, so that morning caffeine fix can help you earn a free flight.
JetBlue offers a 500-point signup bonus for their dining rewards program. TrueBlue Dining members earn 3 points for every $1 spent at qualifying restaurants, bars, and clubs. Even if you're already a TrueBlue member, you need to sign up for TrueBlue dining to earn rewards.
With the Alaska Airlines dining rewards program, you can get up to 5 miles per dollar spent on dining out. You'll earn 1 mile per dollar when dining out at restaurants and 5 miles per dollar when you reach VIP status. Alaska Airlines also gives you 500 bonus miles for signing up and spending $30 within your first 30 days.
With United’s dining rewards, you can earn up to 5 miles per dollar spent (also a tiered program). Like most other programs, the lowest tier earns 1 mile per $2 spent. Pair this program with a card like the United℠ Explorer Card or the United Quest℠ Card, and you'll earn rewards with United faster than ever.
United gives you a signup bonus that can help you earn free flights quicker when you join MileagePlus Dining. You can earn 500 points when you spend $25 while dining within your first 30 days and leave a review for that restaurant.
5. Opt for Programs with Companion Tickets
One great way to earn free flights for family travel is to sign up for credit cards and programs that offer free companion tickets. Of course, you’ll have to pay for the first ticket, but the second one is free – except for taxes and fees. This is becoming an increasingly rare option for earning free flights, but if you can find an airline that offers companion tickets, we urge you to take advantage of this.
For example, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card does this for its cardholders. If you spend at least $30,000 in a calendar year (excluding refunds and returns), you’ll get a Travel Together Ticket, good for two years. Or, you can also choose to pay 50% of your airfare if you fly solo. The companion ticket only has to cover the taxes, fees, and any carrier charges. Spending $30,000 a year (or about $2,500 a month) may seem like a daunting way to earn free flights. However, it’s not difficult to do if you automate your bills to your credit card.
Southwest Airlines has the most popular credit cards for companion tickets. They offer the Companion Pass as a benefit that lets you choose one person who can travel with you free of any airline charges (not including taxes and fees).
To qualify for this Companion Pass, you have to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 135,00 qualifying points in the same calendar year.
6. Look for More Opportunities to Earn Points and Miles Toward Free Tickets
American Airlines offers miles for using all kinds of products. Here’s a list of companies they partner with:
- American HomeMiles – Register and earn bonus miles for buying and selling your home and paying for movers. The more you sell your house for or the more you buy one for, the more miles you’ll earn. Moving earns a flat rate.
- Bask Bank – Sign up with Bask Bank and earn 2.5 miles for every $1 saved annually with a Bask Mileage Savings account. If you open an account with at least $25,000 between September 1, 2023, and November 30, 2023, you can earn 5,000 bonus miles.
- Miles for Opinions – Take surveys geared toward your interests and earn free bonus miles.
- Miles From Home – Earn miles when you buy or sell your home through this realty service.
- PreFlight Airport Parking – You’re going to pay to park at the airport anyway, so why not earn miles for doing so? You’ll get 1 mile for every dollar you spend on parking.
Check if your mileage program or credit card issuer is offering any bonus miles for signing up for products or services you were going to use anyway. These points or miles can go towards earning free flights.
7. Ask for Frequent Flier Miles as a Gift
One of the easiest ways to earn flights is to ask for frequent flier miles as a gift. This year, when mom asks what you want for Christmas, don’t ask for a Starbucks card that you may forget about. Instead, ask for some of her frequent flier miles. Most frequent flier programs and some credit card rewards programs will let an account holder transfer miles directly to another account holder. American Airlines, Delta, and Southwest all have information online about how to give – or gift – miles.
In other cases, the miles holder can use miles to buy a ticket for a specific trip, putting it in your name. Sometimes, this is the smoothest way to get miles as a gift since you don’t have to mess with transfer fees.
8. Check Social Media
Follow your favorite airlines on social media. Often, they’ll offer bonus miles for liking a post or run contests to earn free flights that you can enter with the click of a button. We don’t recommend spending hours of your life entering contests you may never win, but if you’re already on Facebook and the contest takes two seconds, why not? You never know when an opportunity will pop up to earn free flights.
Many airlines are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Twitter is a fantastic spot to find deals and work out issues you’re having. Oddly, companies reply much faster on Twitter than traditional means of getting in touch, like email or phone. Here’s a quick list of the Twitter handles of some of the biggest domestic airlines to get you started:
- Southwest Airlines – @SouthwestAir
- United – @United
- Alaska Airlines – @AlaskaAir
- Frontier Airlines – @FlyFrontier
- Virgin Atlantic – @VirginAtlantic
- Delta – @Delta
- American Airlines – @AmericanAir
- JetBlue – @JetBlue
Which credit card has the best flight benefits?
If you prefer to fly with Delta, check out the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. Perks include a free checked bag, priority boarding, and a $100 Delta flight credit for a reasonable annual fee. You can also rack up miles quickly by earning elevated rewards on everyday purchases like groceries and dining.
If you do not have a preference for a particular airline, you'll likely appreciate a general travel rewards card with a sensible annual fee like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Benefits include trip delay insurance and lost baggage insurance. You can also get 25% more value for your points when you use them to purchase travel through Chase.
Which credit card is best to earn airline points?
The best credit card to earn airline points or miles depends on a variety of factors including how often you travel, the airline you prefer to travel with, and your monthly spending. Check out our list of the Best Airline Miles Credit Cards to find one best for you.
The most crucial step is to use your credit card for all your purchases to earn points or miles toward free flights. With the list above, you can decide which credit card suits your lifestyle for maximizing your points. Remember to automate all of your bills to your credit card and to use your card for your regular purchases (and to pay off the balance each month).
Then look into other options like dining rewards and frequent flier miles. With a little strategy and devotion, you may never have to pay for a flight again.