Hacks · Travel

How to get Airline Rewards and Fly using Points

The most beautiful view on my most recent trip during covid-19.

Hi friends!

I’ve started to get a reputation for getting extremely good deals on flights, as well as flying for free. Even flying my family for free in first class.

Did you know that you can do the same?

And that airlines will many times automatically give you perks when you have an open credit card with them (and a family with small children, though this post is for anyone!)

Today I’m going to share about 3 different airline rewards systems I have used and my thoughts, including a funny story about not such a great experience!

Southwest Airlines: This is possibly my favorite airline for their rewards system. The deal most frequently out there is to spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of opening the credit card, and you get 40,000 points. These points, my friend, can truly take you far! 40,000 points is enough for about two tickets, possibly more depending on fluctuations. Look out for the $69 annual fee that is paid immediately. (But well worth it, in my opinion!) Southwest Airlines is a great family airline. I am thinking about the time that we boarded a SWA airplane and the flight attendant told us that if we took a certain seat, she would make sure to wave away anybody from sitting in our row. So that even though we didn’t pay for a third seat for our child, we could have the extra room. She knew that it wasn’t a full flight and she actually turned people away politely showing them another seat that was available. It was amazing and talk about special treatment! I’ve actually had no cons with this airlines, except that I have been on some that didn’t feel very comfortable. But my most recent flight with them, during covid-19 times, was absolutely wonderful. They actually have completely refreshed air every 3 minutes from a new air filtration system that takes in air from outside. And when I flew with them in August 2020, they had middle seats open for social distancing.

Delta: At the time of writing, Delta has many options for rewards credit cards. The one I have experience with is the Delta Skymiles Gold American Express Card. It currently offers 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months of opening the card. Now, I have opened and closed this card twice. The second time, I received an email for an exclusive offer of 60,000 points when I spent $1,000 in the first three months of opening. I did an internet search and asked my husband to check his Skymiles emails, and could not find this exclusive offer online. I opened the card and really enjoyed the extra points! It was pretty shocking to only spend $1,000 instead of $2,000, as well. Also, the $99 annual fee is waived for the first 12 months. Please confirm all of these details before opening your own card; I’m sure that goes without saying, but anyway!

There were some cons with these award tickets. *this is long but important if you are a family with a lap infant who is booking award miles tickets*. We have a family of 4 and used airline award miles with Delta to get 3 first class tickets (sooo exciting!) The fourth was a lap infant. This is where we ran into trouble. We went to check in and found ourselves waiting for many phone calls that totaled 1 hour, an hour that we almost didn’t have to give before going through security and getting onto our plane! It was a bit stressful. Not only that, I overheard one airline ticketing attendant say to ” just bump us down, we were somehow bumped up to first class for free.” This deflated my sails at the elation of my very first time flying first class! I stepped into the conversation and kindly but firmly let her know that we booked these flights with our airline award miles for first class, and did not get these flights last minute as a free perk. It was annoying, at the least! The kind woman on the phone kept calling person after person and could not add the lap infant to my ticket. I was very surprised that there was no protocol for her to follow and that she had to call customer service and stay on the line for 1 hour to finally get our lap infant added. She assured me that there would be no problems on the return flight. However, we were detained 1 hour, again, upon return with the same issue. I had even called in to customer service myself to check and make sure our lap infant was added, and she was added by name. It didn’t matter, as the ticketing agents struggled again with a seeming glitch. I do believe it was a glitch and hope that Delta got it sorted out for any other families who book award tickets and add a lap infant!

This is where having a family with small kids does turn into a positive when you finally make it to the gate, though! It doesn’t matter if you have a basic economy ticket, if you have a credit card with the airline, you get free baggage with your flight and for up to 4 people total on your itinerary. And if you have a family with small children, there is usually boarding right after the priority boarding. You can ask your agent if you aren’t sure, and don’t be afraid to smile and ask when you could board. We like to board early, even though it’s a tad more time on the plane and I’ll share why as the very last story on the bottom of this page!

American Airlines: American is probably my favorite for flying with a family. In our home airport, they are the only ones who have a nursing mother’s room and that was just so nice. They have bent over backwards to help us with strollers and carseats. And that is huge when you are flying as a pregnant mother with a 1 year old, for example! 🙂

Now, on to their rewards program. You receive 50,000 points when you open their Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card and spend $2500 in the first 3 months. The annual fee of $99 is also waived for the first 12 months. Again, please don’t take my word for it and be sure to read the fine print before you go to open your own! I don’t wish to lead anyone astray! I am not a spokesperson for any airline, just a blogger who is giving my free opinions and may be incorrect on some points. Though my aim is to be as accurate as possible!

I haven’t always had perfect experiences with American Airlines, but in recent years they have been wonderful! I’ll share a funny story in the bottom paragraph that has to do with them but could happen on any airline!

Now that I’ve shared about 3 different airline rewards credit cards, I want to mention that a wonderful time to open an airline credit card would typically be a few months before you plan to travel. Sometimes even after you meet the dollar requirement, it can take up to 8 weeks to receive the reward points. However, I’ve always done this about 1 month before traveling and have received the points within a month almost every time. (Oops!)

It is also a great time to open a credit card with an airline if you are about to pay a large sum. Perhaps on baby-related items or other various bills. Such as a phone bill, utilities bill, etc. We like to use the new credit card for current monthly expenses instead of this being an extra expense, so that the rewards miles are a true reward!

If you are wanting to do what I do and strategically “play” the airline rewards credit card game, be sure to consider the following.

Southwest requires the credit card to be closed for 24 months before you may open a new one and receive the current rewards on it. If you open it less than the 24 months, you won’t know until you put the work in that you didn’t actually get the rewards points. I’m not sure that they tell you, so be aware! I believe the other airlines have similar requirements, however that crazy Delta exclusive offer came after I had just closed the card. It was probably 2 months later and perhaps was just a strange fluke!

*note, just be aware that opening and closing credit cards will affect your credit score. I usually wait until my score comes back up before opening another credit card and reaping those rewards.

It is also totally up to you if you want to keep that card open. But if you don’t fly internationally or get referral points from friends totaling enough for another flight, it may not be worth it to keep it open at 1 point per $1. Up to you!

Okay and now, at long last, here is my story to finish this.

It was our first Christmas married. And my husband and I decided to fly on Christmas Eve, as the cost was lower on this day. An untimely bathroom break for me caused us to saunter up to the door, only to eerily find that everyone was gone and the door was closed! One lonely agent waved to us, with shifty eyes and a big pasted on smile. Poor guy! Anyway, he let us know that we would not be flying on that flight. And that they had given our fully-paid for tickets away. On Christmas Eve!

We remained in good spirits, shocked though we were. The agent explained that he was looking for another flight for us and was sure we would be there by the afternoon instead of the morning. We called my grandma to cancel lunch with her (so sad). He showed us a brochure and pointed out the system of how they would compensate us. At the time, if it was 4 hours or less, we would get the price of my ticket only. If it was 4 hours or more, we would get 4 times the cost of my ticket. He got us set up with new tickets for a few hours from then and we walked back out and down to ticketing for that airline. We got there and they assured us they did not have any space on any flight to Philadelphia.

By some miracle, we were allowed back into the original gate to speak with that same agent for our original flight. I thought, for sure that we had just lost our tickets and all we had was about $200 ish to show for it. (I can’t recall why it was only one ticket and not both, but I think technically it was only I who was bumped, though they bumped us both!)

Our lovely agent was not exactly thrilled to see us again, it seemed. But he faithfully searched for a flight and got one for that evening. I believe we had nonstop flights originally but now we would go through Chicago ORD. I was so so thankful my family had moved our traditional Italian Christmas Eve get-together to Saturday, for the first time ever. And by this time, the goal was to just do anything to get there by Christmas day.

The agent just about sent us on our way to leave and come back later that night, but his fast-talking did not deter me. I had realized that we now would get 4 times the amount of my ticket back to us, since it was now 4 or more hours until our new flight. He may have seemed less than thrilled. He cut us a hefty check. A member of the cleaning staff stopped us as we walked out, saying incredulously that he had worked at the airport for years and never ever had he seen an airline make out a check to a customer like that! (I looked it up and there’s a law about customers being compensated, up to $1350. Many times you will get a say in being bumped, unlike our situation. And if they ask you what it will take and you’re willing, I’d say go for the highest amount!)

We were gleeful by this time and thankful that we had parked our car at the airport. We promptly deposited our check and enjoyed ourselves until it was time to come back that evening.

I’m so so thankful we made it on the evening flight and got to my parent’s home in time to enjoy Christmas Eve with my family!