How to Get Free Flights and Upgrades

If you’re still paying full price for first class airfare, you’re grossly overpaying. Getting free upgrades, and even free flights, isn’t as hard as you think and it doesn’t even take a lot of time, knowledge or luck! Take a look at these great ways to score free goodies the next time you take to the friendly skies!

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1. Start earning points with the right credit card

One of the best ways to earn free flights is by researching and obtaining a competitive rewards credit card. Most cards offer substantial sign-up bonuses that can be redeemed for your first free flight! Be proactive and watch the qualifications and restrictions, though! Sometimes you need to spend up to $3,000 within the first 2 months to earn your sign-up points. We found that the quickest way to free flights is to use your rewards card for all of your purchases: from groceries to making your monthly car payment. Put the money you would have used on those payments in your bank and then pay off your card balance every month with the money in your bank. You’ll earn a litany of points that can be converted into frequent flyer miles so you can travel the world for free! When you do your research, evaluate any brand loyalty you have and the perks that come with branded cards. If you find that you often fly the same airline, it may be more beneficial for you to get a rewards credit card with that specific airline. Depending on the company and the credit card, you could get added extra perks like seating upgrades, priority boarding and one free checked bag per flight.

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2. Try your luck at the gate

You can also snag some perks and rewards if you get friendly with the gate agent before your flight. Don’t be shy and ask for what you want. We’ve frequently received first class seats just from walking up to the agent and simply asking if we could be upgraded. As always, the early bird gets the worm so arrive at least an hour before your plane departs to give you a shot at getting upgrades, if any are available. On the flip side, arriving late could also score you some perks if you’re lucky. Getting bumped to a later flight may score you a first-class seat as a bonus. And if you’re willing to arrive at your destination later in exchange for the opportunity to fly first class, you could always volunteer your seat if the flight is overbooked. Volunteering our seats has scored us everything from hundreds of dollars of spending money in our pocket to another free flight, depending on how overbooked the flight was! And remember what your mama taught you: always dress to impress, even in an airport. You’ll have better luck scoring an upgrade if you’re dressed like you belong in first class. Traveling alone or having frequent flyer status also tends to put the odds more in the favor of an upgrade, as well. And if anything goes wrong, speak up. Often if you bring a complaint to the attention of the airline, you can get rewarded in bonus miles.

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3. Redeem your miles strategically

The last tip in getting free flights is to use your miles intelligently. Add every member of your family to your rewards programs (yes, children can earn free miles and points, too!) Try to utilize every promotion that your rewards offer, as well. Sometimes credit cards will offer quadruple points if you shop with a certain vendor, or spend a specific amount on a certain date. Also, if you receive miles from multiple sources, it would be beneficial to consolidate them for only 1 or 2 airlines. Your points will go the furthest that way. Then check to see if a partnering airline may offer better point redemption, or if you’re able to link your reward programs between vacation necessities like flights, hotels, car rentals or even cruises. Stay organized with your points, too. You’ll want to keep track of any expiring points so you don’t miss out and make sure that you check all of your rewards programs monthly for accuracy. Then, once you’re ready to redeem your points, we’ve found that playing around with multiple different redemption scenarios helps us to get the most bang for our buck with those hard-earned points.

Kimberly Beard

Kim is the Retention Marketing Manager for ParkSleepFly.