Quickest Route to a Free Flight
Many of the first reward credit cards were offered by the airlines with the promise of a free flight. Decades later, flights rewards are still one of the most popular credit card rewards. This is because there are few rewards more exciting than a free trip to somewhere fun.
In fact, there are so many travel rewards credit cards available now that banks compete by offering sign-up bonuses of tens of thousands of points or miles; enough for a free flight by itself.
Here are some cards that can offer you the fastest path to a free flight:
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers new applicants 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within three months of account opening. Barclaycard's miles are worth one cent each as statement credits towards flights as well as other types of travel purchases including rental cars and hotels. So you can use your 60,000 mile bonus to pay for a flight that costs up to $600. You also get 5% of your rewards back when you redeem them, so you will get another 3,000 miles, worth $30, when you redeem 60,000 miles.
To use your reward miles, you simply book travel the way that you normally would and pay for it with this card. When the statement comes, you can go online to redeem your miles for statement credits. This card has an annual fee of $89 that is waived the first year.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Venture® Rewards Credit Card from Capital One® offers new applicants a one time bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening. These miles are worth one cent each--$500 total--towards flights or other travel reservations. Cardholders earn 2x miles on every purchase, and miles can be used for a statement credit for any travel expense.
Cardholders can now receive up to $100 in application fee credits for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
With the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® from Citi, a Credit Cards House advertiser, you can earn 50,000 bonus American Airlines AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 within 3 months of account opening. American offers one-way award flights throughout the United States and Canada for as few as 25,000 miles, this sign-up bonus offer will get you well on your way to an award trip just for the cost of taxes.
Cardholders are also eligible for reduced mileage awards, up to 7,500 round trip, which can make reaching an award trip that much easier. Other cardholder benefits include preferred boarding, a 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases, and a free checked bag for yourself and up to four others traveling with you (which normally costs $25 per bag, each way). This card also features double miles on gas station and restaurant purchases. There is a $99 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Instead of directly offering airline miles, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card offers points in Chase's Ultimate Rewards® program, which can be transferred to your choice of six different frequent flyer programs. You earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening. This card also features double points on all dining and travel purchases, and one point per dollar earned elsewhere.
Once earned, you can transfer your points to miles with United, Southwest, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Aer Lingus, Air France/KLM, Iberia JetBlue and Singapore, and, and redeem those points for award flights. You can also use your points to book flights, hotels, rental cars, and other travel reservations directly through Chase's online travel agency. Points used to book travel directly thrrough Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth 1.25 cents each, so the 50,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $625 towards travel reservations including all taxes and fees. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
For a limted time, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card card comes with a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after $1,000 of spending within three months and is worth approximately $580 towards flights.
There is a $99 annual fee for this card, but customers receive an additional 6,000 points each year upon renewal.
While some credit card offers can seem "too good to be true," you should use some caution:
- Avoid signing up for new credit cards if you will use your new line of credit to overspend and get into debt.
- Reward credit cards are best used by those who avoid interest charges by paying each month's statement balance in full and on time
- Anyone who finds that they are spending more money in order to earn rewards should also avoid reward credit cards
- Keep in mind that for your “free” flight you may still have to pay the cost of taxes and airline fees
First published , last updated
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.