Free flight to Europe? Sign me up!

Deah in front of small plane in Haiti

With vacation time quickly approaching, C and I wanted to nail down our destination so we could start planning our next trip. The first thing we did was check our various accounts and see if some of our “points”, “miles”, and “rewards” were doing some serious accruing.

So many rewards programs to choose from….

And it turned out, they were. We’ve been flying on United Airlines or their partners off and on for several years, and I had over 40,000 miles just waiting for me. After a quick search on their website, I found it would only cost me 30,000 miles and $38 to “purchase” a one-way flight to Bologna, Italy, which is close to where we were planning on starting our “Balkans” vacation. A few clicks and I had a (almost) free flight to Italy!

Book early for summer break:they fill up fast!

It was a good thing I checked all my accounts, because next I realized that I had 41,000 miles on American Airlines that were going to expire in May if I didn’t make a purchase.It had been a few years since I’ve flown on American Airlines and I kind of forgot I had an account with them. If I wanted, I could have simply used 300 points to purchase a magazine for myself or a friend, or I could have bought a gift card or used their shopping portal to make a purchase, thus extending my mileage account for 18 more months. But I decided to check to see about flights might get me home from Europe, and although their deal wasn’t as good as United’s, I was able to book a one-way flight from Bulgaria to home- originally over $3,000 (who pays that??) but now 30,000 miles and a $250 fee.

This one looks like it has no fee but they snuck one in later. Still, $250 to fly from Europe isn’t terrible!

Now we needed to get C some flights so he could go on vacation too. He has a more flexible work schedule than I do, and he’s taking off around mid-May to hike the Camino Santiago in Spain. Because his dates are really flexible, and he’s retired military, he’s going to register to fly Space Available. Luckily there are several terminals near us so he can register with a few and see which one has flights going to Spain or southern France around mid-May.

Air Force's first African American female fighter pilot
Okay, you don’t get to fly in a fighter jet but you do get to visit a military base to depart and return.

To get C back home at the same time as me, we had to get a little creative. Neither of us had enough miles in our various airlines to get a free flight. But I was determined! Several months ago, we opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for this very reason. This credit card is really geared towards travelers. It offers free trip protection if you purchase a flight on the card. It also covers lodging and meals if you’re delayed more than 12 hours. There are no foreign transaction fees when you’re overseas, and you earn double points when you use the card to book travel, rent a car, take a taxi, pay a toll.  I even link it to our toll tags so we get our weekly tolls paid for with this card- and earn double points every time. But the BEST feature it offers is this: if you spend the minimum requirement of $4,000 in the first three months- we did this by not using our usual credit or debit cards for those three months and just putting EVERYTHING on the Chase card- you earn a 50,000 point reward. You can then transfer those points to one of their partner airlines or hotels- and happily for us, United is one of their partners.

Just a few of the benefits with this card.


C had 24,000 miles in a United account but needed 6,000 more to get a free plane ticket to return home with me from summer vacation. We were able to transfer 6,000 points from the Chase bonus to his United account,and bought the plane ticket for him for just 30,000 miles and a $30 fee.  The great thing is that we still have almost 60,000 points in the Chase Rewards account, and if we continue putting some travel related expenses on it over the next few months, we will have enough in there to purchase a round trip ticket for winter break. The card does not have a fee for the first year, and if they won’t waive it for me for the second year, I’ll just cancel the card, use our rewards, and look back fondly on the free flights it helped us get.

This is just a few of the ways you can almost effortlessly add up miles and rewards to get free travel. There are whole websites dedicated to this kind of thing and with points magnifiers, shopping portals, and sign-up bonuses, you can be on your way to free flights within three months. The world is yours!

Leave a comment below and tell me your favorite way to get free flights.



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