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How to Fly for Free

Fly for Free

It’s that golden time.

You’ve retired after years of labor. The future awaits you, with its vast expanses — ready for you to explore.

Retirement can be a time to rest, relax, and reflect on all you have accomplished. It is also a great time to travel to places you have always longed to visit.

Traveling and exploring can come with hefty costs. This is where miles come into play.

With miles, you can travel the world for free.

Let me guide you on how to accumulate miles so that you can live your dreams and tour the world without burning your wallet.

How a Credit Card will Help you Travel for Free

When you make use of a rewards credit card, you earn miles. Then, you can redeem your miles for flights, hotel stays, and travel accommodations. This is just one way you can collect miles.

In this post, I’ll cover various strategies to accumulate miles through a rewards credit card and how to redeem the miles for award flights.

Hop aboard.

Accumulate Miles

There are several ways to accumulate miles, one of which is through credit card welcome offers.

Credit Card Welcome Offers

There are many banks out there, each with a slew of credit cards. Just like a store wants to sell their merchandise, so too, banks want you to go out and sign up for their credit cards.

The banks use a marketing tool to get you to sign up for their credit cards. They market their credit cards and make it attractive for you to sign up for them by putting welcome offers on their credit cards.

If you sign up for a credit card, you can often get a welcome offer as a reward. “Apply for the card and get this amount of miles once you’re approved for the card!” Consumers are the targets and fall for it, often signing up for a new card just to get the welcome offer.

Consumers love accumulating credit card miles, and if signing up for a new credit card means getting miles on the house, then you’re in. Yes, you may be the target audience for selling credit cards and are incentivized by all those enticing offers. But it can work to your advantage. Who doesn’t want extra miles?

So if your biggest pull to a credit card is the welcome offer, that’s okay. You can bank on the banks. When you apply for a new credit card, you can earn a welcome offer of a nice number of miles.

The bank may try to get you to open a card, but you can rack up miles simultaneously.

Requirements to Apply for a Credit Card

You may find out about a credit card welcome offer through different channels. It may be a promotional email from a credit card issuer, a pre-approved notice in the mail for a specific card, or one of plenty of strategies used in the market.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind before you can apply for a credit card.

Good Credit

You must have good credit to get approved for a credit card.

When you apply for a credit card, the issuer usually pulls your credit. You are a good candidate for a new card if you have good credit. In contrast to bad credit, which would not be a strong reason for a credit card issuer to approve you.

Take measures to ensure your credit is in good standing. This includes having two credit cards open for at least two years, making timely payments, and keeping balances on your cards to a minimum.

Player 1 and Player 2

This step is not required but recommended.

The easiest and most efficient way to get as many miles as possible in the shortest amount of time is to apply for credit cards using a system of Player 1 (P1) and Player 2 (P2).

P1 and P2 is when you have two people involved, namely a husband and wife, to work toward one goal. If your spouse or partner is on board to play, you can both sign up for new welcome offers.

If you take advantage of a P1 and P2 system, you can apply for more credit cards quickly. This translates to more welcome bonus miles.

And when you’re done, all the miles you earn remain in your one basket.

For this system to work, P1 and P2 must both be eligible for approval for new credit cards, which means both players must have good credit.

Earn the Welcome Offer

So there you are, applying for credit cards for which you are eligible. You have good credit, and you are using P1 and P2.

Choose cards that have good welcome offers.

Hopefully, you will get approved for a credit card. Once you get approved, even if the card has a welcome offer, you still have to earn it. You earn it by fulfilling the spending requirement that an offer usually includes.

Spend requirements are to the effect of spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of when you open the card. You earn the bonus miles once you meet the requirements.

How to Easily Meet the Spend Requirement

You can meet the spending requirements using several tactics.

One idea is to prepay expenses that can be prepaid.

Think tuition for school or college. You can prepay utility bills such as water, electricity, and natural gas, and you may even be able to prepay groceries. Another option is to buy gas gift cards. In addition, you can add money to your Amazon or Walmart wallet or credit to your E-ZPASS account.

Another idea you can use to reach your spending goal is to buy Visa or Mastercard gift cards. Many office supply stores, pharmacies, online retail shops, and groceries sell actual gift cards. The gift cards can be used at any store that accepts Visa or Mastercard. The concept is that you pay now for the card but can purchase things later.

I’ll mention a third way to fulfill the spending required for a welcome offer. It’s to pay your income tax by credit card. If you don’t think paying taxes can be rewarding, this suggestion is here to surprise you! There are 3 companies the IRS is partnered with. You can pay your taxes by credit card through PayUSATax, Pay 1040, and ACI Payments.

Ask Family

If none of these systems work for you, don’t forget that you can contact trusted family or friends to help you reach the spending required. If someone you are close to agrees to make purchases through your credit card, that can be helpful. Just be sure they pay you back.

So these are some helpful tips if you need extra help reaching the spending required on a welcome offer. Obviously, if you can reach the amount by using your card for regular purchases, that is the easiest way to go about it.

Once you meet the spending goal, you earn the bonus miles.

Here’s another way to earn miles and how to use your miles.

Use your Card for Purchases

The next best thing, or arguably the best thing, you can do to earn miles is to swipe a rewards credit card.

I’ll elaborate. Many credit cards offer rewards on various purchase categories you use your card for. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in yearly purchases as one of its reward categories.

If you have the card, you earn 6% cash back for every dollar you spend on groceries.

This is just one example of many categories you can earn rewards on and just one card option of hundreds.

You can earn huge amounts of cash back if you maximize the reward capabilities on your credit cards. All you must do is swipe the right credit card to earn the most rewards.

Going back to our example above, that would mean using the Blue Cash Preferred card at the supermarket to earn 6% back for each dollar you spend.

How to Use the Right Card for Each Purchase

Keeping track of each credit card and its reward potential can be confusing. A newly released app called CardRight might be what you need to fix this issue.

CardRight keeps track of your credit cards. One of its many features is that the system will notify you which of your credit cards you should use at each place you shop. The app will recommend the card for you to use for each of your purchases based on which card will earn the most rewards.

Let’s say you are filling up your car tank with gas. If you were to check your CardRight card dashboard, the app would show you which of your cards to use to pay for the gas. If you have the card, one popular option is the Citi Custom Cash Card. With the card, you earn 5% cash back for each dollar on purchases in your top eligible category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 you spend per billing cycle. One of the top eligible categories are at gas stations. Use the Custom Cash Card for gas, earning many miles.

Reward Programs

Remember that you can also earn the following rewards when you purchase reward credit cards or earn welcome bonuses.

Cash Back

You can earn rewards as cash back. Cashback, hence the name, is a money back. Cashback is often delivered as statement credits. One example of a credit card that earns cash back is the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card.


Some reward cards offer points. Points are similar to miles in that they can usually be transferred to other programs so that you “buy” something with your points.

What sets apart points and miles is that points can be used more freely since you earn them as rewards in a non-airline rewards program. So you can choose to redeem points as cash back to use however you wish, through a travel booking website for many travel options, or with airline and hotel partners for flights and hotels.

When you earn points, the points will always come through a specific reward program. Reward programs include Amex Membership Rewards, Bank of America Preferred Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and plenty more. What makes each reward program unique is how much they value each point. Whether it is 1 cent per point, 1.5 cents per point, or 1.45 cents per point, it all varies based on the credit card you use and the reward program the card is under.

Another fact about each reward program is the options for redeeming your points. Whether it includes all the redeemable options listed just before or just a couple will be accurate according to the reward program and the credit card.


All of the above is in contrast to miles. Miles is “currency” in an airline’s reward program.

Miles are usually what you get on airline or hotel reward credit cards.

For example, with the United Explorer Card, you earn 1 mile on all purchases. The miles you earn are United Mileage Plus. These miles can be redeemed for award flights through United Airlines and its airline partners.

You can’t transfer your United MileagePlus miles to other travel booking websites.

Miles can also be earned on a miles card such as the Capital One Spark Card. You can redeem your miles as cashback or transfer them to airline and hotel programs.

Redeem your Miles

I have covered reward types and their specifics; let’s examine the terminology used to see how you can redeem your miles for travel.

How do you turn the miles you earn on a credit card into free travel?

Award Flights

Top option for free flights. You can redeem your miles to book award flights with specific airlines.

Following are some examples.

United Credit Cards

The miles you earn on a United credit card can be used at approximately 1 penny per point to book award flights with one of the following United airline partners:

  • United Airlines
  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss Airlines
  • TAP Portugal
  • Thai Airways
How to Book

You can book award flights here using your United miles with United Airlines and its partners.

If you have enough miles to cover the cost of the flight, you earn yourself a free flight.

Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards

The miles you earn on a Delta SkyMiles credit card can be used at approximately 1 penny per point to book award flights with one of the following Delta airline partners:

  • Delta
  • Aeroflot
  • Aeromexico
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Air France
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • Czech Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • ITA Airways
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Saudia Airlines
  • Tarom Airlines
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Xiamen Airlines
How to Book

You can book award flights here using your Delta miles with Delta Airlines and its partners.

If you would like to book award flights with one of the following Delta airline partners, then you will need to call 1-800-323-2323:

  • Air Europa
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Czech Airlines
  • Kenya Airways

American Airlines Credit Cards

The miles you earn on an American Airlines credit card can be used at approximately 1 penny per point to book award flights with one of the following American Airlines AAdvantage airline partners:

  • American Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • S7 Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines
How to Book

You can book award flights here using your American Airlines miles with American Airlines and its partners.

Please note, if you would like to book award flights with one of the following American Airline partners, then you will need to call 1-800-433-7300:

  • China Southern
  • GOL

Airline and Hotel Partners

Many credit cards also allow you to transfer your miles to one of their airline or hotel travel partners.

These are airline and hotel programs that the credit card partners with, so you can earn free flights and hotel stays.

For instance, you can transfer the points you earn on The Business Platinum Card® From American Express with the following airline partners:

Air Canada is at 1 penny per point; Air France/KLM is at 1 penny per point; Delta Airlines is at 1 penny per point; Iberia is at 1 penny per point; Hilton Honors is at a 1:2 ratio, and many more.

Booking Websites

Lastly, here’s another opportunity to redeem your miles. With some credit cards, you can use your points to book all travel things on a booking website.

For example, The Business Platinum Card® From American Express. With this card, you can use your points to book airfare, hotels, car rentals, and more through Amex Travel.

You can get 1 penny per point for airfare and 0.7 pennies per point towards all other travel.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can redeem your points at 1.5 cents per point for travel on Chase Travel(SM). You can book flights, car rentals, hotels, cruises, and more.

Finally, learn there are many ways to use your miles and rewards to travel for free. The sky’s the limit.

Search Free Flights on PointsYeah

What if you have a lot of miles to use for airfare but are confused about where to even look for a flight?

PointsYeah is a wonderful website for searching for an award flight. Your search is based on points.

Basically, you enter the miles you have towards travel, and the system will give you your award flight options.

PointsYeah is entirely free, has bonus features, and works very well.

They keep adding airlines they work with. Here are 17 of them currently available:

  • AeroMexico, Club Premier
  • Air Canada, Aeroplan
  •  Air France / KLM Flying Blue
  • Alaska Airlines, Mileage Plan
  • American Airlines, AAdvantage
  • Avianca, Lifemiles
  • Delta, SkyMiles
  • Emirates, Skywards
  • Etihad, Guest
  • Frontier, Airlines Miles
  • Jetblue, True Blue
  • Qantas
  • Spirit Airlines Miles
  • TAP Miles&Go
  • United Airlines, MileagePlus
  • Virgin Australia, Velocity
  • Virgin Atlantic, Flying Club

Off You Go!

Whichever way you go about it, you now know the ins and outs of how to earn free travel.

It is worth considering using your miles in exchange for free flights so that you can enjoy your travel experiences.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Oleksandr P; Pexels

About Due’s Editorial Process

We uphold a strict editorial policy that focuses on factual accuracy, relevance, and impartiality. Our content, created by leading finance and industry experts, is reviewed by a team of seasoned editors to ensure compliance with the highest standards in reporting and publishing.

Chaim Geller is a financial advisor and personal finance expert who works with individuals and businesses to provide resources to help them build credit, manage debt, and find the best credit card solutions for financial stability.

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