How to Fly for Free on Your Next Vacation 

Why pay your own flight when someone else can?

Flying for free on your next vacation can be as easy as paying for your groceries every week with the right credit card. The right travel rewards cards — and the right tips for using them — let you rack up rewards fast, which means you could book one or more free flights within a few months. But it’s important you don’t go into debt or pay high-interest rates just to get a free flight because you might end up losing money. Read on for tips on how you can earn a free flight using your credit card.

How to Get a Free Flight Using Credit Cards

By using your credit cards strategically, you could potentially fund your next vacation. Through a combination of careful planning and smart credit card usage, you can amass enough points to pay for a flight much sooner than if you used your card indiscriminately.

Here are tips on using travel rewards cards to earn a free vacation:

1. Choose a Credit Card Affiliated With the Right Airline

Many airline miles credit cards are affiliated with a specific airline through which you redeem your miles. Thus, it is important that you choose a travel rewards card that is aligned with an airline you can actually use.

For example, if you live in or near Atlanta you’ll likely fly out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where Delta is one of the major carriers. In this case, choosing a card that helps you earn Delta miles is probably a better idea in that case than choosing a card that earns miles for a smaller airline. This way you’ll rack up more points per dollar spent on Delta purchases by simply flying on the main airline at your airport of choice.

If you’re not sure what airline you’ll fly with, opt for a travel rewards card that lets you redeem miles or points through a bank or a network travel redemption portal instead.

Related: The Best Airline Credit Cards

2. Strategically Spend on Certain Rewards Categories

It is very common for rewards credit cards to have spending categories that reward you more points per dollar spent. For example, a travel rewards card might award you with two or three points per dollar spent on travel and restaurant dining purchases, and only one point for all other purchases. By strategically using your credit card on travel, dining, gas or whichever category rewards you the most, you can rack up more rewards points faster, which can then be redeemed for travel perks like flights and hotel stays. That said, it’s important not to spend just to earn points; use your card to make purchases you’ve already budgeted for so you can pay off your balance each month and enjoy rewards.

3. Find Out How to Maximize Earned Miles

Take some time to research all the ways you can redeem miles or points, so you understand how to make the most out of your rewards. If you can vacation in off-peak times, you may be able to increase the value of your miles by double or triple. If you’re already a member of an airline’s mileage program, you may be able to leverage credit card miles to obtain a more elite member status, which can lead to increased redemption values. If you or your spouse have two credit cards with the same issuer, you might be able to combine those points and leverage them further.

4. Always Go for the Sign-Up Bonus

The sign-up bonus for many airline miles cards can be 25,000 to 75,000 miles, which is often enough to cover one or two flights just with the bonus. Find out how much you have to spend during the first few months to get the bonus and make an effort to put all your everyday expenses on the card you reach the sign-up bonus requirement. Many credit cards state their sign-up bonus in terms of how much you need to spend in 90 days, so you can actually calculate how much you’d need to spend each day to hit the bonus. You can also use this calculation to determine how much the sign-up is really worth compared to the redeemable rewards. Also, if you’re planning on making a major purchase, time it strategically so you can leverage the sign-up bonus on a new card without overspending just for the sake of earning a sign-up bonus.

5. Set a Goal for How Many Miles You Need

When it comes to travel rewards cards, careful planning can lead to a huge win. Find out how many miles you’ll need to cover the flights for your next vacation. If you’re planning a vacation next year and know you need 75,000 miles to cover the flights, you can make a plan to earn those miles in the time you have. For example, you might have a new card with 50,000 bonus miles. Therefore, all you need then is to earn 25,000 miles or about 2,083 points each month for a year to hit your goal. Breaking the numbers down makes it easier to manage. Combine this type of planning with smart rewards category spending can help amass points very quickly.

See: Top Hotel Rewards Credit Cards

The Bottom Line

Flying for free on your next vacation is totally doable, and many people make it a point to employ these tips to do just that. The key is not to go into unnecessary debt just to earn a free flight — then you’re really not saving any money at all. Keep an eye on your balance and always pay it off each month. Otherwise, you could face a looming balance, interest charges and a dip in your credit score. A tropical beach vacation without any worry of debt makes for a much better outcome.

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