How to Fly Business Class for Free without Flipping Credit Cards
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How to Fly Business Class for Free without Flipping Credit Cards

If you are like me, you love to travel to exotic places with your family.  I cannot count the number of times that I have taken my daughter to Hawaii on vacation.   I’ve also taken her on road trips in Andalusia and France within the last two years.   We’ve gone backpacking in Vietnam and we have done Japan.   My next trips are booked for Portugal and the Czech Republic.

To boot, I have work obligations in Europe and travel there independently and frequently.

Flying comes naturally to me, and I am very able to fly long haul flights in coach class.  But, as I have grown older, I have also grown to appreciate the benefits of flying in business class or first class.   At the very least, it is the difference between my sleeping and not sleeping on a long flight.   And, all too frequently, it is the difference between being herded like cattle and treated like a human being.

The cost difference between flying coach and flying business class is often extreme, with business class seats selling for 10 to 12x coach seats on keys international and transcontinental routes (LAX – JFK, JFK – HND, LHR to any US destination).  For this reason, it is vital to me to maintain large balances of frequent flier miles on those airlines that are most likely to get me to my destination and to have availability for a reasonable number of miles in business class, either on their own metal or on a partner’s metal.

That increasingly means constantly trying to build my balances in United Airlines’ and American Airlines’ frequent flier programs.   I have found great and valuable business class redemptions on Delta, Singapore, and British Airways and if I lived in Atlanta, Singapore or London.  I might focus on those companies, but United and American are the two US airlines with the most extensively international partner networks.  They are also the two where I routinely find seats using my miles in business class out of New York airports, flights that would otherwise be extremely expensive to purchase and where I receive well over 4 cents per point in value (and sometimes much more).     

There are plenty of great credit cards that will give you United Airlines Mileageplus miles.  For those that are within Chase’s 5/24 rules, I highly recommend the new United card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, where miles can be transferred 1-to-1 to United.  If you have a small business, the new United Business card or the Chase Ink Business Preferrred card work great.  But, even when you have the cards you need, earning large volumes of United miles can still be difficult without setting foot in an airplane.   This is where I pay my taxes using sites like pay1040.com.   With a card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited card that gives me 1.50 points that I can transfer through a Sapphire card to United, I am essentially buying points for less than 1.25 cents each when I pay 1.87% to use the service.   Since I can redeem these points in business class on United flights for well over 4 cents each, it makes a lot of sense for me.

(Find the best travel credit card for your spend patterns with BestCashCow travel maximizer tool here.)

American Airlines miles are no less valuable, but are much tougher to come by than United miles (or Delta miles), especially since none of major credit card transferrable currencies transfer to them.  Citibank and Barclays offer American Airlines cards that earn 1 point per dollar in spend, but neither have premium cards that accrue points that can be converted to American AAdvantage® miles.  This is where Bask Bank is coming to the rescue, by giving you American Airlines AAdvantage® miles instead of interest.   I wrote about Bask Bank’s new offer here and detailed why depositors should allocate some of their resources to this new bank.  Bask Bank is offering attractive bonuses, and in the comments to that article, some have pointed out that they are calculating the cost per mile to be well under 1 cent each if they can meet the deposit bonuses Bask Bank gives for $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000 deposits.   I’ll avoid the details of these calculations here and just say that I personally find that American Airlines AAdvantage® miles are a currency that I want to accumulate and from which I can routinely extract 4 cents per mile (which, under any circumstance, is much greater value than I am foregoing in interest).   In fact, for those who are able and who can also extract this value in long haul business class seats, it remains an attractive proposition to earn miles from Bask Bank instead of interest, even with deposits that are above the highest bonus levels.  

Learn More About Bask Bank here.

Ari Socolow
Ari Socolow: Ari Socolow is the Chief Economist and Editor-in-Chief at BestCashCow. He is particularly interested in issues relating to financial literacy and bank transparency. Since co-founding this website in 2005, Ari has been frequently cited in the media as an expert on local and national savings accounts, CD products, mortgage and loan products and credit card rewards products.

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