Alex and I have tickets and hotel booked for Paris, France. We paid under $500 for the tickets. I’ll tell you how we did it.
I heard about American Airlines merging with US Airways. Both of these airlines had affiliated credit cards with awesome reward bonuses. US Airways had a card that you paid an $89 annual fee and made one purchase with the card for a reward of 50,000 miles. American Airlines had a card that waived the first year annual fee and rewarded 50,000 points if you spent at least $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Eventually, in the spring of 2015, these two airlines merged. This also combined the two mile plans into one.
Alex and I both signed up for both cards. This meant that once we hit our spending goals we had 100,000 miles under American Airlines EACH!
Chris: 100,000 (50k US Airways, 50k AA)
Alex: 100,000 (50k US Airways, 50k AA)
Now that we had 200K miles to spend we decided to go to France! American Airlines has a deal that off season trips to Europe are only 20K miles per leg. We could fly to Europe 2 times each with that deal and still have miles left over. There is a catch though. The flights are limited and not available for some dates. It just so happened that the Friday we wanted to leave Portland, the economy flight was unavailable.
But wait! We had so many points, I tried searching for First/Business Class tickets. There was a route available on our date. It cost 50K per leg per person, or 200K miles total. We jumped on that deal hard.
The only actual money we had to pay was our taxes and the $89 annual fee for 2 cards.
PDX to Paris: $11.60
Paris to PDX: $256.80
Annual fees: $178.00
TOTAL: $446.40 ($223.20/person round trip first/business class)
This sort of trip takes a lot of planning and good timing. Unfortunately the US Airways card is no longer available so the trick to get 100K points is much harder now. We spend about $1000 a month on groceries, shopping, gas, utilities, cell phone bills, Netflix, internet, etc. So we could easily hit the $3,000 minimum spend in 3 months. But we had to space our card applications out so we wouldn’t be forced to spend more than we needed. When we hit the minimum spending, we simply put the card into our “sock drawer” and never use it again.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: The only way this sort of thing is EVER worth it, is to pay the credit card balance every month. Interest will cost you and your trip is no longer “almost free”. I pay the balances off weekly and monitor the accounts with Mint.com
Often I get asked, “Doesn’t it hurt your credit score?” The easy answer is, “Not at all!” My credit has gone up significantly. If you are worried about your score going down, you may have a limited understanding about how credit scores work. Check this site out if you still don’t believe me. CreditKarma.com is also an excellent free way to monitor your credit and learn why it goes up or down.