How To Fly From New York to London For Only $5.60

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cheap flight to London

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!

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31 comments

  1. Great post! I thought I got a deal for our London flights for March 2017 at $326 from lax without using miles! Btw, you ca.mn meet minimum spending requirements without spending money. Google manufacturerd spending. πŸ™‚ I’d be broke if I had to spend my own money to meet the minimums on all my reward cards!

    1. Woah, that just blew my mind, Maggie. Thank you for that tip! Definitely makes me want to get a few more rewards cards now! That’s absolutely a deal, too. Without using miles?

    1. Oh good, Cynthia, I’m glad this was helpful for you!! I was definitely confused in the beginning, too, so I thought I’d lay out my experience in case it could help others.

  2. Hahah LOVE IT! We use miles for almost every trip! All our friends think we’re ballers but I always have to insist and tell them we use our credit cards for EVERYTHING so we can accumulate free miles and that’s how we travel so much! They still seem to think there’s some other magic trick…..but hey, can only tell them so many times!

    1. I’m sure credit card miles could still work for you, no matter where you live! I just used New York to London because that was the specific experience I had. I hope you look into it more!

  3. Wow that’s incredible you were able to fly to London for only 30,000 points. I’ve gone on a domestic flight to California that required more points than that! 50,000 I think!

    1. Wow, really?? That’s crazy! But in general I think it’s sometimes more expensive to fly cross country USA than to Europe, which is insane!

    1. Yes, I agree Karla-people like me! hahaha..although I generally am pretty cheap with flights and only buy when it’s the absolute lowest it will go.

  4. I have gotten hundreds of dollars worth of flights through credit card points. I used a Chase card to pay for my $500 RT tickt to Europe last fall and I *still* had enough left over to shave $250 off my flight to Singapore later that year. My Southwest rewards card was fantastic when I was still living in the States. I got a RT ticket to Memphis that was about $300, two RTs from New York to Austin, Tampa to Mexico City, and Belize City back to Memphis all on Southwest points. There were still taxes and international fees, but travel hacking has been massive for me the last two years.

    Sadly, I’m now in re-building the points phase. The best time to open a credit card and get that bonus is when you know you’ll be making big purchases, so holidays or before a big trip are great times. It’s something I recommend every travel to look into!
    Amy recently posted…How to Rock a Travel Snapchat AccountMy Profile

    1. Wow, that’s crazy! Which Chase card did you use? I know people swear by Southwest, but I never seem to be able to fly anywhere I need to go with them! Did you get a rewards bonus with them through signing up?

      Yes, you’re so right about the big purchases thing. I was super lucky that my family wanted to chip in and make it a family card for the holidays, but next time I’ll definitely wait until I’m about to make a few big purchases.

    1. I’m not honestly sure how I did it, but all I paid for my ticket was $5.60 plus the 30,000 miles. I definitely had to put in different combinations of places, as I said, but in the end the cheapest was NYC to London!

  5. Great tips Eva!

    I basically did something pretty similar to travel this Summer. I live in Puerto Rico, so, for some reason if I tried to book a flight from here to Europe will always be more than a $1000, so, I checked the same flights departing from JFK and they were always less than $400. I had enough miles in Delta for a roundtrip SJU-JFK which I used and then booked my flights from JFK to Europe.

    I wish more people get to know more about these tips!
    Brenda recently posted…TBEX: Why every travel blogger should attend at least onceMy Profile

    1. Ah, nice!! Yes, it’s definitely cheaper to do separate legs sometimes if you’re departing from a tricky location. I am really lucky because I’m usually located at least semi-near NYC!

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