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This post was inspired by the plight of my friends in Los Angeles who haven’t bought their plane tickets yet for next month’s Del Close Marathon Improv Festival in New York City. The principles are equally applicable to anyone who wants to fly for free next month from a starting balance of zero miles.

Let’s start from a few premises:

  • Free flights are better than paying.
  • Opening up a credit card is by far the quickest way to get free travel.
  • With almost every credit card you open, it takes at least six weeks to get the rewards that you need for free travel.

The reason why you normally have to wait at least six weeks to get your rewards is that all rewards cards I know of except the Alaska Airlines credit cards have a minimum spending requirement to earn the bonus miles advertised for new customers.

That minimum spending requirement can range from any one purchase with the card to $10,000 over the first three months. Usually your bonus points post to your account about the time that the credit card statement closes on which you met that spending requirement. Hence the six delay from credit card application:

  • Apply for card and receive it in the mail 1-2 weeks later.
  • Meet the minimum spending requirement on the card during the first statement period, which closes 4-4.5 weeks after card arrived.
  • Bonus points post within 0-0.5 weeks of statement closing.

If you need free flights next month, you can’t wait six weeks to get your miles before redeeming them.

Enter the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®.

This card is perfect to get $460 in free flights next month for two reasons:

  1. You can redeem Arrival miles for any flight on any airline with no blackout dates.
  2. The way you redeem Arrival miles is to remove travel charges you’ve made on the card (like flights) up to 90 days after making those charges.

What are the four steps to getting $460 in free flights next month with the Arrival card?

1. Get the Arrival Plus

The first step is to apply for the Arrival Plus.

Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

I got the card for myself in February. I was instantly approved with a credit line of $5,000, and my card came in the mail in just a few days.

2. Purchase your ticket with the Arrival Plus.

Pick any flight on any airline, and purchase the ticket you want.

I highly recommend hunting around for the lowest priced ticket before buying because then you’ll have more Arrival miles left over for future free flights, hotels, and car rentals.

To make sure you are getting the cheapest price on the flight you book, set up a Kayak price alert and monitor it for a few days.

Any flight up to $460 can be retroactively made free by steps 3 and 4 below.

3. Spend $3,000 on Your Arrival Plus in the First Three Months

The next step is to use the card for your daily purchases until you hit at least $3,000 spent on the card in the first three months, which will unlock the card’s bonus miles which you’ll use retroactively to get that flight you just purchased for free.

The flight you booked counts toward that $3,000 figure, which works out to only $1,000 per month.

4. Redeem the Arrival Miles to Make Your Flights Free

Redeeming Arrival miles is incredibly simple. All the travel purchases we made in the course of meeting our minimum spending requirement are put together in one place in our online Barclaycard account, and we can use miles to remove those charges from our bill any time in the 90 days after making the purchases.

Here’s how to redeem Arrival miles in detail.

This is the reason why the Arrival Plus gets you free flights next month and other cards don’t. With other cards, you need the miles in hand to book a flight. With the Arrival Plus, you can book the flight now and redeem miles up to 90 days later to remove the charge retroactively.

Caveats

When my friend Ronnie asked for advice on how to get a free ticket to New York, I prefaced my response with:

  1. Do you have the credit history necessary to open a new credit card?
  2. Do you have the discipline not to spend more if you get a new credit card than you do right now?
  3. Do you have the discipline to pay the credit card off in full each month, so you never pay interest?

If the answer to any of those questions is “NO,” don’t get the Arrival Plus. But if the answer to all of those questions is “yes,” and you need a free flight next month, the Arrival Plus is your best bet.

More Explanation of the Arrival Plus

Hopefully you understand how you can open the Arrival Plus and get a $460-or-less flight for free next month. But there’s probably a lot you don’t understand about the card like what it’s sign up bonus is, the rewards it earns on purchases, and its other benefits and drawbacks.

I left all that stuff out of this post to keep things short, but you should read up on all the Arrival Plus before applying. It’s actually a great card for people who are new to miles and points or uninterested in getting heavily involved but would like a free flight every once in a while.

For everything you need to know about the card, see my Arrival Plus Primer.

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles if you make $3,000 or more in purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. 40,000 bonus miles equates to $400 off your next trip!
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • No mileage caps or foreign transaction fees
  • Get 10% miles back when you redeem for travel (i.e. redeem 25,000 miles for travel and get 2,500 miles back)
  • Use miles for a statement credit toward any airline purchase to any destination with no seat restrictions and no blackout dates
  • Easily redeem your miles for statement credits toward flights, cruises, car rentals, hotels and more
  • Complimentary subscription to TripIt Pro mobile travel organizer – a $49 annual value!
  • Complimentary FICO® Scores as a benefit to active cardmembers. Opt-in to have instant and convenient access to FICO® Scores from your Barclaycard online account.

Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!


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