One week from tomorrow, I will be flying to London. I’ve been planning on this trip since last October when I bought my tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Yes, my inner 11 year old is freaking out right now). When I planned this trip, I had lots of money in the bank. I had just ended a full-time job, where I managed to save about $10,000. This was before my 2 months living in New York City unemployed. It was before my 4 months backpacking through Central America. It was well before my 6 week ultimate USA road trip. While I am beyond thrilled that I was able to have all of these opportunities, they all cost a good chunk of change. So when it came time for me to buy my flight across the pond, I needed to find a really cheap flight to London.
Luckily, I thought ahead. I was reading about the concept of travel hacking and using points to pay for flights. Let’s look at what I learned and how I applied this information to be able to buy a cheap flight to London for only $5.60.
How to Find a Cheap Flight to London
The best way to purchase a flight using airline miles is to sign up for a credit card that offers bonus miles. The points you rack up with a regular rewards credit card aren’t worth very much, let’s be honest. You really need at least 20,000 points to be able to go anywhere. If you started with 0, it would take forever to get that first 20,000.
On the other hand, by signing up for a card with a large point bonus, you already have a leg up. By doing a bit of sleuthing, I found that the largest point bonuses go to those who sign up for an airline’s credit card while in flight.
Step 1: Research Airline Credit Cards & Book a Flight with that Airline
I didn’t do much research before choosing American Airlines. In fact, I decided totally spur of the moment to sign up for a credit card on board an American Airlines flight from Cincinnati to New York. However, I had done enough research ahead of time to know what I was getting myself into.
You can either go the route I did, and just sign up for any credit card of the airline you happen to be flying with next. Or you can strategize and book an upcoming flight with your airline of choice. Just make sure that airline’s credit card has a good sign up bonus!
Step 2: Apply for an Airline Credit Card While Aboard your Flight
I applied on my flight because the AAdvantage Card I was applying for was being offered with 50,000 bonus points. I knew my credit score, which is fairly good, and knew that I would most likely be approved. If you don’t have a fantastic credit score, think twice before applying. It could knock your credit score even further if you apply and don’t get approved.
These 50,000 bonus points sound great, but what’s the catch? Well, unfortunately there is definitely a major catch. You must spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account in order to receive your 50,000 points.
Step 3: Spend $3,000 in 3 Months (Or your credit card’s equivalent)
Almost every rewards card that offers a sign up bonus comes with a catch like this. If you don’t think you’ll be able to spend $3,000 in 3 months, I would re-consider signing up for a rewards credit card. It may not be worth it to you.
If, however, you travel often in areas that allow credit card usage, you probably find that you spend at least $3,000 every 3 months. If you live in a major city, you’re definitely spending at least $1,000 a month, I’ll bet. Just start using your credit card for every single transaction you make. You can even align signing up for a credit card with making a major purchase you would have to make anyways.
Bonus Step: Pool Resources to Achieve $3,000 Minimum
Or, you can do what I did. Since I signed up for my AAdvantage card on my flight last November, before going to Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, I didn’t receive my card until I arrived back home in December. At that point, I didn’t have a lot of expenses. I was living with my parents for the month, up in Syracuse, NY with not much to do or spend money on besides normal Holiday shopping and eating out.
I struck a deal with my parents, since they were going to be spending money anyways, they agreed to pay for things using my card. My brother also chipped in, and so we used the “family credit card” for all of our Holiday shopping, eating, etc. We even bought my Mom’s Christmas present, an iPad, on my credit card. It was pretty easy to get to $3,000.
I’m well aware that this is a special circumstance, and I’m extremely lucky to have a family that would support me in that way. But I encourage you to think outside the box. Maybe your partner wants to chip in and then you can both enjoy a vacation? Or go in on the credit card with a best friend or two. 50,000 points is enough to get at least 2 to 3 people a domestic roundtrip flight.
Step 4: Purchase Your Flight Using Miles
Now that you have your bonus miles, it’s time to purchase your flight.
Things can get pretty confusing when you’re trying to purchase flights using points. Don’t assume that just because you have lots of miles you’ll be able to get a free flight. Many flights come with taxes and fees that will seriously jack up the price.
I was not expecting to see a flight to London from Syracuse, NY cost over $100 in taxes and fees. I had to fiddle with my departure airport and date a few times until I found my cheap flight to London for only $5.60 in taxes and fees.
Flights range in points from 7,000 points for a domestic flight to 60,000 points for first class international flights. My flight from New York to London cost me 30,000 points.
And there you have it, 4 steps to getting your cheap flight to London!
Have you ever used credit card miles to purchase a flight? If not, are you considering it for a future flight? Leave me your airline tips & tricks in the comments below!
Happy Exploring, Wherever You Are!
Like What You See? Pin It!