Getting free flights, the holy grail of credit card rewards, is easier than it seems. While some people spend years diligently saving up enough miles to fly free, others have figured out a way to earn free flights in a matter of minutes. We’re here to spill the beans.
Actually, it’s really no secret at all. Travel hacking is the totally legal and cunningly simple craft of getting free flights with credit cards. What makes travel hacking so appealing is that it’s easy, fast and can be used even if you’re not a big spender, frequent flyer or credit card aficionado.
Why spend $25,000 and wait a year to earn enough miles from your credit card for a free flight when you can do so right away just by signing up for a new card offer? In fact, you can sign-up for multiple credit cards and get multiple free flights – every year. Here’s how it’s done.
Get a Travel Credit Card with a Strong Welcome Bonus
Credit card welcome bonuses are one of the easiest ways to get a free flight. Simply apply for a credit card with a sign-up bonus large enough to fund free airfare. You can sign-up for multiple credits cards throughout the year, giving you multiple tickets.
There are a host of Canadian travel cards that offer enough points for free return airfare to anywhere in continental North America including the Amex Gold Rewards card, TD Aeroplan Infinite card and Alaska Airlines MasterCard. Other cards, such as the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard and the Scotia Amex Gold Rewards card offer $250 credits towards your flights.
Here’s a list of the best free flight welcome bonuses in Canada today.
|Credit Card||Sign-Up Bonus||First Year Free||Annual Fee||Minimum Spend||Transfer Partners|
|AMEX Gold Rewards||25k Membership Rewards ($250 statement credit)||✓||$150||$1,500||Aeroplan 1:1, Avios 1:1|
|TD Aeroplan Infinite||30K Aeroplan Miles||✓||$120||First Purchase||N/A|
|Chase Marriott Visa||30k Marriott Rewards||✓||$120||First Purchase||Aeroplan, SPG|
|AMEX Business Gold||40k Membership Rewards||✓||$250||$5,000||Aeroplan 1:1, Avios 1:1|
|BMO Air Miles||800 Air Miles||✓||$0||$1,000||N/A|
|MBNA Best Western||20k Best Western Points||✓||$0||First Purchase||Aeroplan, Alaska|
|Scotiabank Gold AMEX||$250 Statement Credit||✓||$99||$750||N/A|
|MBNA Rewards World Elite||$100 Statement Credit||✗||$89||First Purchase||N/A|
|Amex Platinum Air Miles||2,000 Air Miles||✗||$65||$1,500||N/A|
|BMO Air Miles World Elite||2,000 Air Miles||✗||$120||$1,000||N/A|
|MBNA Alaska Airlines||25k Miles||✗||$75||First Purchase||N/A|
|AMEX SPG||20k SPG Points (5,000 point bonus when transferring to Airline partner)||
|$120||$500||Aeroplan 1:1, Alaska 1:1, Avios 1:1 Marriott|
|AMEX Business SPG||20k SPG Points (5,000 point bonus when transferring to Airline partner)||✗||$150||$1,000||Aeroplan 1:1, Alaska 1:1, Avios 1:1 Marriott|
|WestJet World Elite||$250 WestJet Dollars / Companion Voucher||✗||$99||First Purchase||N/A|
|Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite||$400 Statement Credit||✗||$150||$1,000||N/A|
|TD Aeroplan Infinite Privilege||65K Aeroplan Miles||✗||$399||First Purchase||N/A|
|AMEX Platinum||60k Membership Rewards||✗||$699||$1,000||Aeroplan 1:1, Avios 1:1|
|AMEX Business Platinum||75k Membership Rewards||✗||$399||$5,000||Aeroplan 1:1, Avios 1:1|
Be Conscious of Annual Fees, But Don’t Obsess
Try to find a welcome bonus offer that waives the first year annual fee (at the top of the list). In the least, the sign-up bonus should be worth more than the annual fee. Regardless, switching from your current credit card that has an annual fee, to another credit card that has an annual fee but also provides a welcome bonus, will earn you an extra free flight you would not otherwise if you stayed with your old card. In other words, switching pays, with or without an annual fee.
Minimum Spend Requirements
Many credit card welcome bonuses will require that you spend a minimum amount on your credit card within the first 3 months to be eligible for the welcome bonus points. Others will simply require that you activate your card with a purchase. Make sure the minimum spend requirements are reasonable. If you need to engineer some spend to get the bonus, that’s ok, but do it intelligently. Don’t buy something you don’t need just to meet the spend threshold, buy a gas or grocery gift card, something you know you’ll use in the future.
Churning is the practice of opening up one credit card, getting the welcome bonus, using it, then doing the same thing all over again – rinse, wash, repeat. Many Canadian credit card issuers have now put limitations on the number of times you can sign-up for the same card. However, there are plenty of exceptions, and of course there’s nothing stopping anyone from going from one card to another, rinse, wash, repeat.
One thing to take note of, there are some cards you may want to keep even if they come with an annual fee in the second year. For example, some cards offer free first checked bags for you and up to 8 travelling companions. Other cards come with annual companion ticket vouchers, free hotel nights, 4 lounge access passes, travel insurance, etc… all of which make up for the cost of the annual fee and then some.
Some rewards programs offer more flexibility than others, because they allow you to transfer your miles or points to other programs. Aeroplan probably has the largest number of miles partners in the Canadian marketplace.
For example, the Amex Gold Rewards card allows you to either redeem your 25,000 point welcome bonus for a $250 travel credit, or you can convert your points 1:1 to 25,000 Aeroplan miles – enough for a free return flight to anywhere in North America.
If you’re looking to earn more than one free flight, or maybe enough points for a trip to Europe, or a bump to first class, you may need more than welcome bonus from the same rewards program. The good news is, there are some great strategies available.
Some programs, such as Aeroplan and Air Miles have multiple credit card partners, each offering sign-up welcome bonuses. For example, if you wanted to fly you and your spouse to Florida and back, you can sign up for the American Express Gold Rewards card (transfer points to Aeroplan 1:1) and the TD Aeroplan Infinite card and get a total of 50,000 Aeroplan miles.
However, you can also get credit cards like the Chase Marriott Rewards Visa card and convert their bonus points into Aeroplan Miles – getting even more of the same miles for free!
Double Dip With Your Spouse
Another great opportunity is for both you and your spouse to sign-up for each new card, as opposed to adding your spouse as an authorized user. Taking the Aeroplan example above, you’ll end up with a total of 100,000 Aeroplan miles, with absolutely no annual fee in the first year for either of you!
For most credit cards you’ll able to use household income, as opposed to individual income, to meet minimum income requirements. So even if one spouse isn’t working, they’ll still qualify.
Get Additional Free Flights With Free Stopovers
One of the big, yet vastly under-utilized, advantages of airline rewards programs like Aeroplan and Alaska Airlines, is the ability to book multi-city trips, on one ticket. For example, if you’re flying return from Toronto to Los Angeles, it will cost you 25,000 Aeroplan miles. However, for the same 25,000 Aeroplan miles, you can fly return from Toronto to Los Angeles with up to 2 stopovers along the way, for example, Chicago and Denver.
How Many Cards Can You Apply For in a Year
Many people get concerned that if they apply for too many credit cards in a short period of time, their credit score will suffer. We’re not suggesting you apply for 2 cards at the same time. However, if your credit score is in relatively good shape, applying for a new card every 3-4 months shouldn’t be a problem.
Fly Free Now!
Your ticket to a free flight is as easy as taking the next 10-15 minutes to apply for a new credit card. With so many great credit card sign-up bonuses available in Canada, there’s no easier method to hack your way to free travel than credit card welcome bonuses. Give it a shot with one credit card and see just how easy it is. With plenty of no first year annual fee offers with hefty welcome bonuses, it’s completely free to try!