So the term “free” is used loosely here. When it comes down to it, it’s damn near impossible to get a RTW ticket completely free, but I’m going to get as close as I possibly can. Here’s how.
My very first foray into the world of collecting frequent flyer miles comprised of opening two checking accounts at Chase bank. I was awarded 25,000 miles for each account, taking my Continental OnePass account up to 50,000 miles. I also applied for/received a Chase OnePass credit card, which awarded me another 30,000 miles.
Because Continental has good award redemption rates (even though they’re merging with United), I’ve chosen to focus my main miles earning on Continental. I’ve used the checking account debit cards to get miles for every dollar spent on stuff I buy every day anyway.
Because of my hard focus on Continental, I’m up to 93,776 miles. That’s not enough for a RTW ticket yet, but 120k is a business class ticket to Asia and back. And I’m almost there. Here’s the RTW award redemption chart.
I’m halfway to an economy RTW ticket, and I’ve only been playing the “miles game” for about six months. If I were to create a time-line of how long it would take to save up a RTW trip emergency fund as well as earning the remaining necessary miles for the ticket, I’m guessing the two would stay eerily close to one another.
However, I don’t want an economy ticket. I want a Business class ticket. My large number of OnePass miles motivates me to continue on the Star Alliance trail, but that’s not the only “route” I can take.
This info is from 2005, so I don’t know how accurate it is, but it’s really hard to find info on how many miles a RTW through OneWorld costs. However, this is a pretty good estimate.
As you saw above, I currently have 36,646 AAdvantage miles and 33,294 SPG points. If I were to transfer my SPG points to AA – and add on the 25% transfer bonus – I’d have 78,264 AA miles. I’ve also got another 100,000 coming down the pipeline through one of the recent Citi AA opportunities, so that would take me up to 178,264 AA miles.
What Happens Next?
I really want to get the most out of my OnePass miles, since CO won’t be around too much longer. I’m sure I’ll be able to use the miles on UA award flights, but I like CO’s award redemption. They are very transparent about it, and it seems reasonable.
How will I get to 220,000 (or 280,000) miles on either program, you might ask? I’ve got a few different techniques up my sleeve. I’ve become quite adept at using “pirate’s booty” to get my miles, and if I have to do that to get all the way to the massive completion point – I totally will.
What’s The Real Cost?
I’ve paid $90 in checking account fees, and about $70 in credit card annual fees. That totals to $160 thus far. However, I won’t be doing any credit card sign-ups in the future without having the annual fee waived. One could also argue that there’s a time commitment required, but I’m a fanatic for this stuff, so it’s not really extra time for me – I would be doing it anyway.
If I had to guess, I’d say I might spend another $40 in accidental maintenance fees, if even that. So the cost of a round-the-world ticket in business class will end up costing me less than $200 in effort – and possibly another $2-300 in taxes. This ticket costs approximately $12,000 when paid in full (before taxes), so I’d say ~$500 is not a bad price for transportation around the world.
Collecting frequent flyer miles isn’t for everyone. It requires time, patience, and the ability to take criticism from others. Many people think I’m crazy for doing this, but just last weekend, I flew to Tampa for free – due to my Delta SkyMiles(Pesos). If it weren’t for my getting into the mileage game, I’d have spent an easy $400 on that airfare.
Just know that traveling to far away (or even close by) places isn’t impossible. Money is not the biggest barrier to travel – you are. Sure, you’ll need some money, but even more so you’ll need your own personal motivation.
Simply put, don’t tell me you can’t travel because you can’t afford it. With a few short months of planning, you could take an extravagant long weekend trip without paying airfare or hotel rates. Seriously.
I will keep up this theme on my blog, as it’s something I’m pretty passionate about. If you have any questions on travel hacking in general, shoot them my way!