How to Get $2K in Free Flights for Holiday Travel, Without Blackout Dates

Enjoying wine at The Grand Hyatt Istanbul

Enjoying wine, taking abuse at The Grand Hyatt Istanbul

“Your blog sucks.” – My Wine-Tipsy Friend

I had no come-back…I hadn’t exactly been updating it regularly.

This critique came from the standpoint that I travel often (the understatement of understatements) but rarely describe my personal experiences in the countries I visit. My blog is “cold numbers and calculated how-tos.”

Lately money-making projects have taken priority over this blog that, in all honesty, doesn’t earn a penny other than promoting my frequent flyer mile accumulation service, MileMethod.

To be even more honest, I’m bored with the fluff and boasts of most travel blogs.

I don’t want to contribute to this kind of psuedo-worldly barrage of…moving on….

Most blogs’ generalized advice no longer applies since I learned how to almost entirely eliminate my largest travel expenses: accommodation and flights. (On the otherhand, I constantly learn new travel tricks from mile/point bloggers: travelisfree, milevalue, travel codex, frequent miler, to name a few).

Like these bloggers I admire, I too want to provide value beyond BS Top Ten Lists and filtered selfies.

This blog post gives a quick-fix to a big problem: how to find cheap airfare over holidays.

Actually, this post will sucker-punch the problem in the face.

Why pay airfare at all?

Park scene near Blue Mosque in Istanbul, where I recently spent 10 days

Park scene near Blue Mosque in Istanbul, where I recently spent 10 days

Why Is Airfare Expensive During Holidays?

That answer is: it doesn’t have to be if you leverage miles/points.

Many people believe frequent flyer miles useless because they:

  1. Don’t know how to redeem them
  2. Can’t find availability during their desired dates

For 90% of Americans…travel dates fall on major holidays.

These holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc—don’t have award availability because demand outstrips supply. When people pay to fly, airlines sell seats that would otherwise be available with miles.

Worse still, airlines charge more for paid seats during holidays. Supply and demand economics.

Inside St. Volodymyr's Cathedral in Kiev, where I am now

Inside St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kiev, where I am now for 2 weeks

How to Get $2K in Free Flights for Holiday Travel, Without Blackout Dates

WARNING: If you have Dave Ramsey worksheets magnetized to the fridge then this advice is not for you. If you cannot control your spending or have credit card debt, then this advice also is not for you.

If your credit scores are 720 or above…welcome to free-flight-ville:

First, apply for this credit card:

  • Citibank Prestige: Spend $3K in 3 months for 53K points plus $250 airfare credit per calendar year

Nine days after the previous application, apply for this card:

Meet the minimum spends, pay off each monthly bill in full, cancel cards 11 months later.

That’s it.

Of course, feel free to actually spend on the credit cards beyond the minimum spends to accumulate more points. Just keep in mind that spending is the least efficient way to accumulate miles/points.

You only want these cards for their sign-up bonuses.

Grainy dusk photo of the Dnieper River near my 1 Euro per night hotel in Kiev

Grainy dusk photo of the Dnieper River near my 1 Euro per night hotel in Kiev

How 2 Cards Offer $2K in Free Flights

Once you’ve spent $3,000 on each card within 3 months you’ll have 106,000 ThankYou points.

These points are worth 1.6 cents each when buying any American Airlines flight.

So…106,000 points are $1,696 in free flights.

Depending on how long it takes you to meet the minimum spend requirements, you’ll have the points best case before Thanksgiving; worse case, before Christmas. Just in time to visit grandma. Or the beach.

Or…anywhere AA flies.

Follow Travel with Grant’s instructions on how to book AA flights with ThankYou points: here

One of Citibank's many recent airfare reimbursements

One of Citibank’s many recent airfare reimbursements

Wait, Didn’t You Say $2K in Free Flights?!

Yes, yes I did.

Besides points worth $1,696 you’ll also receive $250 in airfare statement credits as a benefit of the Prestige card. Basically, airfare purchased on airline websites with the Prestige card will be reimbursed up to $250.

Best of all: this $250 statement credit is per calendar year, once in 2015 then again in 2016.

That’s $500…which more than off-sets the high annual fee.

Families can creatively maximize this benefit for holiday travel.

My parents and I all have Prestige cards…but they had no use for their statement credits in 2015…which means I had $750 ($250 x 3) in free airfare credit all to myself. A perk of advising my parents on miles/points.

Below are flights for which I used the $750 statement credit on award taxes and/or completely free airfare:

Reimbursed Citibank Flights

There will be no shortage of interesting travel between now and The New Year.

I hope this post saves you money over the holidays. If you want to fly almost free all the time checkout my service MileMethod. There are many, many more tricks for those who want to work the system.

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