We live in an era when air travels are no longer a luxury. In fact, some of us probably fly more often than we take the bus or train. At the same time, airlines charge more than ever now for anything from a bag of biscuits to extra luggage. Despite the increased frequency of air travel for more and more people, flying is still considered relatively expensive. Yet, we often hear stories of how people fly for free – on First Class, no less. Is there some secret that we do not know about?
Actually, the trick is simple – credit card. Yes, you can actually fly for free if you know how to make use of your credit card(s). We’ll teach you how.
First thing first, enrol in an airline’s frequent flyer program. Which one to start with, you may ask. An easy guide to help you make that decision is: know your home base (your country of origin may not be your home base, say, if you are working overseas and travel a lot from that point) and know where you want to go. Then, start signing up for programs by visiting your target airlines’ websites. Most major airlines are members of one of three major airline alliances (SkyTeam, Star Alliance and OneWorld); these airlines form partnership with each other. Knowing the alliances will help you collect and redeem miles better.
Now, the million-dollar question: How can a credit card help you get an upgrade to First Class?
1. Credit Card Bonuses
Many Singapore credit card companies are willing to offer you huge frequent flyer mile bonuses (such as KrisFlyer miles) if you apply for a card with them. Apply for card after card and churn through as many applications as possible. Then, spend the minimum amount needed to get the bonus (for example, $1,000 in three months) and move on to the next card.
By simply getting one or two new cards, you can get enough frequent flyer miles for multiple round–trip flights. There is no need to go crazy and get 15 new cards or so. Of course, if you did, you could literally earn enough miles to fly around the world multiple times.
2. Apply for a Frequent Flyer Credit Card
Having a frequent flyer membership can earn you more than just free flights on your airline of choice. You know this already. Travellers with "status" are more likely to receive a free upgrade than the average frequent flyer member. Take it one level up by having a frequent flyer credit card such as Citibank PremierMiles card or ANZ Travel Visa Signature card.
You will come across plenty of banks tying up with airlines to co-brand their credit cards. Spending with these cards is another way to add miles, sometimes for double or triple the regular points. The reward will work both ways. The people who fly and spend the most are rewarded the most.
3. Pay Some, Get Some
If you're willing to cash in or use your frequent flyer miles, you may be able to get upgrades at a bargain. These days, not all business or first class seats are taken; they may be offered to economy-class travellers at check-in. Be on the lookout for such opportunity upon check-in. Credit card companies also work with airlines to provide such offers and let you swipe the card to book an upgrade. Your miles, and your credit card, are almost like currency at the airport.
Above all, do stay alert and organised. While rewards come easily, don’t get caught by hidden fees, fuel surcharges, and frequent changes to reward schemes. Not to mention filling out applications for multiple credit cards comes with the risk of big debts. Don’t spend beyond your means. The high interest rates are never worth the airline miles or the upgrade for that matter.
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