How We Flew to Paris—For Free

Updated on Apr 01, 2016

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This past summer, my boyfriend and I flew business class from Atlanta, Georgia, to Paris, France.

You might think that’s the world's snobbiest opening line, but there's a reason why I’m sharing this. (You’ll find out below.)

Guess how much we paid? Do you think we paid $5,000 for business class tickets? $10,000? Maybe we got a fantastic deal and were able to pay economy-class prices (around $2,000)?

No—wrong on all counts. Our trip was free. That's right, f-r-e-e, as in zero dollars and zero cents.

What We Used

No, we don't work for an airline and we don’t have any family or friends who work for airlines. We're not criminals who have figured out how to sneak our names on the ticket list. We didn’t win a grand prize.

We simply used the power of a rewards credit card.

For the past two years, my boyfriend and I have had United MileagePlus® Explorer Credit Card. We earn one mile for every dollar that we spend and two miles per dollar any time we book a flight on United.

We also received 30,000 bonus miles for signing up for the new card, and we receive 10,000 bonus miles each year we spend more than $25,000 on our card.

How We Did It

We put all of our normal expenses on this credit card, such as groceries, gasoline and utilities.

We've even stuck some big-ticket items on this credit card over the years. When we renovated our home, we spent thousands of dollars on materials like wood, insulation, paint and tools — and all of it went onto our credit card.

When I needed to replace my laptop, or when one of our cars needed a major repair, we charged it to our frequent-flyer rewards card.

Pay That Balance

Don't worry; we're not paying a dime in interest. We've never held a balance on our cards. We pay the entire monthly bill the moment that it's due. Sometimes we even pay our card weekly so that our “debt utilization ratio” stays low.

Our credit scores are in the high 700's to low 800's.

After two years, we accumulated more than 200,000 miles on our United credit card. This was enough for us to fly business-class to Paris and back ... for free.

I shouldn't say it was totally free. The United card comes with an $85 annual fee, which is waived the first year. You could argue that we paid $85 for this trip. That's not so bad, is it?

Other Benefits

If you can avoid holding a balance on a credit card, I'd highly encourage you to use a rewards credit card like I do. It's a great way to earn miles for your normal, daily spending. It also comes with other fringe benefits, such as the ability to check your first bag for free, priority boarding, no foreign transaction fees, and even visit the airline club once a year.

During our flight to Paris, we had a layover at Frankfurt, Germany. We were able to take a shower at the airport club lounge. Who showers during a layover? That's the type of fringe benefit that you can enjoy as a result of using a rewards card.

Although my experience is specifically with the United Mileage Plus card, I have other friends who have used many different types of rewards credit cards to garner free flights.

Pick the Right Card

Which brings us back to why I’m sharing this story: Because I know that you can enjoy free flights, too.

Scroll through the many reward credit cards and pick the one that fits your personal spending habits. My only advice is to consolidate most of your miles with one airline rather than racking up lots of miles spread out over several different airlines.

Best of luck, and send me an email or a tweet when you fly business-class to Paris yourself. I can’t wait to hear other success stories of more readers taking free flights.

This is a guest post from Paula Pant, the founder of Afford Anything, a website devoted to helping people invest, grow riches, quit their jobs, travel the world, and enjoy life.

*Editorial NoteThis content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. 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 bythe credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.

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