How to Fly for Free

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This year, I earned close to 300,000 airline miles, and only 20,000 of those miles were actually accumulated in the air. Essentially, what this means is that I've flown for free on pretty much all my trips. I even flew first class from London to New York City with British Airways with my miles, paying only the taxes associated with the flight. So how did I do it?

Simply put, if you want to fly for free, you need to get miles. What most people don't realize is how easy it is to get air miles. In fact, airlines make it really easy for almost anyone to get air miles. Here are some simple tips that tell you how to start collecting and putting away air miles towards a free flight.

Get an airline miles credit card
If the travel rewards you want are airlines miles, then getting a travel credit card which is affiliated with a single airline alliance is the best thing you can do to get a ticket in business class. You'll not only accrue miles in one place, but you'll also receive special deals and rewards that many general travel rewards cards don't offer.

For starters, you get a big sign up bonus. My American Advantage card gave me 25,000 miles just for joining. That's enough miles for a free round trip domestic ticket, or I can use those miles for an upgrade. Other airlines that offer great travel rewards for signing up for cards are United Airlines, which gives you 30,000 miles for signing with them, and Delta, which offers air miles and elite status when you sign up.

Best of all, the money you spend on your credit card is converted into miles. I put all my expenses on my credit card because it's an easy way to gain free miles without having to do anything extra. Just remember to pay your balance off each month, and don't spend more money than you have.

These cards come with an annual fee, but many waive the fee for the first year after you sign up. And to avoid paying the fee the second year, I simply cancel the card a few days before it is up for renewal.

Watch out for deals
I sign up for all the airline mailing lists so I can keep an eye out for special deals, like getting 2-for-1 miles or special card offers for extra miles. Last year, British Airways offered a card that came with 100,000 miles just for signing up. American Airlines just offered the same deal a little while back. Continental just announced that they will give their customers 25,000 free miles for opening a Chase bank account. I got 5,000 AA miles by opening a CitiBank checking account; American Airlines gave me 1,000 miles for watching a demo on their new shopping toolbar, and after getting on the Gap mailing list, I got triple miles just for buying some clothes. In short, airlines give out great deals for signing up with their partners, so keep an eye out for them.

Sign up for an unbranded credit card
Sign up for the Starwood Express card and get 10,000 sign up points. When you convert 20,000 points into miles, you get a 5,000 bonus.

The new AMEX Hilton HHonors Surpass card gives you up to 40,000 points when you make your first purchase and an additional 20,000 points after you stay at a Hilton property. Those points can be converted into airline points. Even better, the card also gives you Gold VIP status for a year and a Priority Pass card (discount access to over 600 VIP airport lounges). The American Express travel card gets you up to 3 points per dollar on purchases and a 20,000 sign-up bonus. Note that AMEX points can't be redeemed for miles on every airline.

Shop at member stores
All airlines have special offers with big retailers like Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Target, etc. Shopping at those preferred stores will earn you two to four miles per dollar spent, and sometimes they'll offer even more. If you spend $1,000 a month, you can earn up to 3,000 miles just by shopping through their websites. The products don't cost extra. I do all my shopping through airline malls simply for the extra miles they give you! Same price, extra rewards.

By utilizing even a fraction of these tips, you can accrue enough miles to get free flights. Sign up for a credit card, do some shopping, and you'll be flying for free in no time. Use their system against them to get tons of miles quickly and fly anywhere you want without spending any extra money. That is the best way to fly!

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