Fly free with points: save thousands of dollars, and make your travel dreams a reality!
Updated: Apr 21
Fly for free you say? with reward miles, yes you can.
In just 3 short years, we earned enough miles to fly two people to Europe, during high season, eight (8) times!!!! Do you need me to repeat that? That's EIGHT free international flights in 3 years! Do I have your attention yet???
We use American Airlines loyalty program. Each airline has its own loyalty program. If American isn't your preferred airline, I would urge you to read through this, familiarize yourself with the way this works, and then check with your preferred airline to see what comparable benefits they may offer.
Here's how we earn points.
Earn points, option 1:
If you aren't already a member, sign up for a loyalty program, and earn miles when you fly.
You'll need an account to start accumulating miles. Here's a link to American Airlines Advantage Program. As a member, you'll earn miles every time you fly. We don't fly frequently, so we look to other ways to earn points.
Earn points option 2:
Earn points on purchases through American Airlines Shopping Portal
You can seriously multiply points through American's shopping portal. We have earned almost 25,000 miles in the last year, by shopping through the portal alone.
How the shopping portal works: American partners with different stores, and you are then rewarded for purchases. It isn't uncommon for stores to run point reward specials of upwards of 10 points per dollar!!!!! In addition to points, they often have coupon codes available. You can either shop through the portal site, or add their eshopping button to your browser. If you have the browser button, you will automatically be informed about available points and coupons when you open a partner site in your browser. You can explore the program here: American Airlines Shopping Portal.
Shop the portal first. If I need dog food, I purchase from Petco through the portal, and then pick it up in the store (to save shipping fees.) Auto parts? same thing...anything I can buy online through the portal, I do. Christmas shopping last year felt a little like playing the slots at the casino. I could hear the "ding ding ding," as points were racking up fast and furious!
One of my favorites ways to earn points: Use the American Airlines shopping portal to book your rooms at booking.com, you'll get 4 points per dollar! Be sure to go to the American Airlines shopping portal first, and then navigate to Booking.com. The booking.com site doesn't work with the eshopping button.
Earn points option 3:
Use partner credit cards to accumulate points on everyday purchases, and for paying your bills!
My husband I each signed up for the American Airlines Citi Card. Here are some of the various card options: American Airlines Citi Mastercards.
Check with your airline to find out which cards they partner with.
After meeting Citi Card's enrollment terms and conditions, (in our case pay the $99 yearly membership fee and spend $2,400 in the first 3 months) they give you 50,000 points. It's that easy. A high season trip to Europe is 60,000. Now you may be thinking, "$2,500 is a lot!" but I use this card to pay every single bill we have. If they accept a card as payment, I use it. Everything goes on the card, from food to entertainment, and everything in between. If I buy so much as a pack of gum, I use my card. We then pay our cards off at the end of each month. I know a lot of people don't like to use credit cards (SMART!) but you don't have to carry a balance. We don't pay any interest, because we pay the balance monthly.
Baggage fees: When you pay for your flight with an American Airlines partner card, you get your first checked bag for free. That's $25 per flight, so $50 if you are flying round trip.
Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend at least $20,000 in purchases during your card membership year, and renew your card.
MAJOR PERK FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS: No foreign transaction fees on purchases!!!!
Earn points option 4:
Get a second card.
Barclay Card also partners with American Airlines. We each signed up for these cards as well. After meeting their terms, we were awarded another 50,000 points each. We kept those cards for a year, and then canceled them. Since we already have one card that charges a yearly membership fee, the benefits of keeping a second card were outweighed by the $99 per year membership fee. I am not recommending you do this, but if you have very good credit like we do, you might consider it.
Earn points option 5:
Register with Simply Miles from American Airlines
While researching this article, I found a new way to earn miles! When you register a Mastercard with Simply Miles you earn more points with your purchases. How it works.
Register your card.
Search through current offers.
Activate the offer
Complete the purchase, earn more miles!
Other benefits of using miles:
Use your local airport instead of having to drive or fly to a major airport hub.
If you live very far from a major airport, like we do, using points can save you hundreds of dollars. For example: An international flight from our local airport to Frankfort Germany, would run us $1451, but From Chicago to Frankfurt the cost is $602, a significant difference! Now I can fly to Chicago for $281, so added to the $602, I can get to Frankfurt for $883. Reasonable! However, by booking these flights separately, you run into a lot of logistical issues, that can range from missed connections, to having to pick up and recheck your luggage. Whenever possible, you want to book all of your legs on one ticket.
Here is where your points come in. A flight from Chicago to Frankfort? 30,000 points, a flight from our local airport to Frankfort? 30,000 points. We can fly from our airport at no addition "cost."
(By the way, Google Flights is my absolute favorite place to shop for flights. Here is a sample search for a round trip flight to Frankfurt Germany.)
Book one-way flights, without having to take out a mortgage on your home. One way flights can be ridiculously expensive. Say I want to fly to Frankfort, pick up a car, make my way to Paris, and then fly home from there. A one-way flight from my airport to Frankfort Germany, $772. A Flight from Paris to my airport: best price: 1,500. So total $2,272 OUCH.
BUT if you book the same trip with miles: 30,000 points from our airport to Frankfort, 30,000 points from Paris back home. No additional "cost."
Total for this trip: $2,272, OR fly for free? Hummm, tough decision? Not for me!
Last year, we flew from our local airport to Edinburgh Scotland, then from Edinburgh to Dublin, and then flew home from Dublin FOR FREE
Here's us enjoying our trip even more, because we saved over $2,000 on airfare.
Next year, we are hoping to take all four of our adult children to France and England. We have accumulated enough points to fly us all, that's six people, FOR FREE!
A few things we expect to see when we fly to England and France for free: Stonehenge, The Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Château de Chenonceau.
When traveling internationally, airfare is a big chunk of your expense. If you can get there for free, it becomes much more affordable. I've given you some tools. Now get out there, start earning miles, go out and see the world, and let the airline foot the bill!!!
Also good to know:
Points can be used on things besides airfare: hotel, rental car, etc. However, I find that the airfare is the best use of the miles.
American offers reduced mileage rewards. follow this link for more information on booking travel through American with reduced rewards.
Miles can, of course, be used for flights in, and around, the United States. However, I find that I get the biggest bang for my buck using them on those costly international flights.
A little birdie (The Points Guy) told me that one of the best travel cards, hands down, is the Chase Card. As of publication, they are offering 80,000 points, and their partner list it quite extensive. You can use their points with various airlines, and their travel perks are next to none. Here's what the points guy has to say about the Chase Card, or get details on the Chase card here at Chase's website.
Important to know when booking flights with points through American: American partners with other airlines, in order to increase your flight options. For flights to Europe, they partner with British Airways. There is a significant difference in the amount of taxes and fee's you will be required to pay when booking with points. The last time I checked a flight, fees for booking an American flight to Europe: $5.90. Fees for booking a British Airways flight: $195! (and those are per "way." You'll be booking your trip in one way segments, making it easy for you to fly into Frankfurt, and out of Paris!
Here are my tips for planning travel: Planning your dream vacation, where to start.
If you are planning to visit Europe, Rick Steves Travel Guides are a must! Here's why....