Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Fly for Free

Hello! We have just arrived home from a FABULOUS trip to Colorado to visit Forrest's Aunt Karen and Uncle Tommy and to do a little skiing. Well, Forrest skied. I spa'ed. I was a little hesitant to even go after all the snow we have been having in Alabama. Actually, we were supposed to go the time it snowed so badly in January but after 5 hours in the car driving on ice to get to the airport, they cancelled our flight so we had to reschedule. I have SO much to discuss about this trip and can't wait to document it all, however, lots of the good photos are on Forrest's phone so I'm going to have to wait until I have access to those before I tell the tale of our trip. Instead, I wanted to let you all in on my little travel secret--we fly for free. If you are ever wondering how people are always traveling so much, it's probably because they also do it for free. The best part? It's not that hard and takes so little time, you will probably be mad you haven't done this before now! I can't take credit for coming up with this info, however. Forrest actually researched several travel blogs, his favorites being Mommy Points and The Points Guy. You can read these and several other blogs to get the basics on using credit card points for flights on just about any airline using just about any credit card. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll just tell you how we were able to do this trip for free on Southwest and you can tie up any loose ends on the other blogs. (Although I've got good ones about Delta and British Airways coming up so if you can hold tight I can explain their procedures and my experiences with them soon).  photo EE9DE6A6-6022-48BE-8D0C-E50A648292FE_zpsiwbnntkj.jpg

 Ready? Ok...here we go.

1. In order to fly for free on Southwest, you need a credit card. We chose Southwest because they fly out of airports that are close to us--Birmingham and Atlanta. Plus, they fly to just about anywhere domestically and now that they have bought Airtran, they fly to Mexico and several Caribbean locations. We currently have a free trip to NYC planned for later in the year and I'm working on one to Puerto Rico for the summer--all flights free. I also booked Forrest a free flight to New Jersey using my points when he had to attend a training back in January! You want to go HERE to sign up for your Southwest Rapid Rewards Card. Here is the key---you need to do it when they are offering 50,000 miles for starting out. Don't do it if it is less than 50,000!! You need as many as you can possibly get FOR FREE!! Guess what--they are having that deal RIGHT NOW so you need to sign up immediately! Go do it!!
2. Ok so now you have your card---get another one. Yes--you need 2!! I have the Premiere Card and the Plus card--they explain the differences on the website so make sure to check them out. There are a few fees associated with them (like right now it's $99) but if you use the points correctly and fly for free, then you are actually making more money than you spend. The system should automatically put both of your cards under your one Rapid Rewards number, but I always call and double check. This means all of your points that you earn on each card goes to the same place. Why do you need 2 cards? So you can earn companion status! Hooray! The Points Guy tells you all about companion status HERE if you don't believe me. Get this---once you accumulate 110,000 RR (Rapid Rewards) points, you get to choose a companion to fly with you FOR FREE! Like, no points, no dollars, FREE. This means that since I earned companion status, I get 2 for one flights. Every time I buy a flight on Southwest (and by "buy" I mean "pay with points--aka free money") Forrest gets to go with me FOR FREE. I just click a little link on my reservation and voila! He is my flying companion! (There is even a precious card you get to present!) You can even CHANGE your companion if you call the nice people at Southwest if you don't have particular one in mind. It does take time so make sure to check with Southwest on this. Ok so got it? 2 credit cards at 50,000 each equals 100,000 points FOR FREE so you only have to earn 10,000 on your own.
3. BUT CATHERINE! I don't want to jack up my credit in the name of free flights! I hear you--loud and proud. You have got to be realistic with yourself when you do this program. In order to earn the 50,000 you have to spend $2000 on each card in your first 2 months of having your card. That is NOT an issue for us, and we are not crazy spenders. When we are trying to earn the points, and actually every day, we put EVERYTHING on our cards. Gas, groceries,  bills, insurance, everything. Then, we buy reloadable gift cards and put them into our Blue Bird account with American Express and we use that to pay our mortgage and other things you really can't put on a card. (If you don't have Blue Bird you can just buy those gift cards and use them as your credit card--it's simply moving money from one place to another). I could talk all day about this so I'll do another post on it soon. Just know that when we get 2 cards, we always are able to reach the spending minimum and we never have credit issues. We don't buy things that we don't need and we always pay off our balance at the end of the month. If we can't afford it we won't buy it in the name of credit card points.
4. Ok, so you have your 2 SW cards and you have spent the required amount of money. PAY OFF the cards! The points take 6-8 weeks to arrive but we've found they arrive faster if you actually pay them off when you hit the balance. So if say you just went out and bought gift cards right away, go home and pay your card off. Then sit back and psycho stalk relax and wait for your points to appear in your account!
5. Make sure to spend enough in the next few months to earn the additional 10,000 points needed for companion status and pay that off too. You get 1 point for every $1 spent, and 2 points for every $1 on Southwest/AirTran. Make sure to read all of the benefits/qualifying info HERE. You get an email that you have achieved companion status (a GLORIOUS email) that prompts you to enter your companion. You have to do that before your companion can actually fly! AND just a little FYI that nearly happened to us--the main flyer MUST fly or the companion can't go. It doesn't matter the reason. For example, during the bad snow Forrest was actually in ATL, where our flight initiated. I was just going to stay home and not brave icy I-20, but if I didn't fly he didn't fly and it didn't matter that he was there. They have to be on the same flight as you at the same time---plain and simple. That means your companion can't be someone far away from you.
6. Book your free flights!

Now, if you don't care about companion status,  you can still get 2 cards and just not worry about the extra 10,000 if you don't want to. You will still get about 4 free flights and if you continue using the card you accumulate more points.You can also just sign up and get the one card for 50,000 and be done with it, but if you really want to maximize your spending, you should get 2 if you can qualify. I also will do a post soon about how to easily reach the minimum spending level, even if you are short on cash. Oh, so many posts to write!
I hope that this was informative and helpful to you! Please leave a comment or email me if you have any questions, or consult The Points Guy or Mommy Points or any other travel blogs!
Do you fly free like me? Let me hear from you! We can share our tips and tricks!
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2 comments:

  1. This was so interesting! I've never really understood how the whole credit card points for free flights thing worked. Thanks for making it simple to understand!

    From Mississippi With Love

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow this sounds really cool....but I'll admit a little intimidating and difficult. I'm just so afraid I'd screw something up!!

    Hmmm can you do balance transfers from other cards to gain points??

    ReplyDelete

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