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Cheapest Way To Travel: My $1,800 Flight for $93

Everyone wants to know the cheapest way to travel. I posted this on Twitter the other day and got a strong response pressing for more information on the cheapest way to travel.

Here is the Tweet:

By now you’re probably wondering – how the hell did I manage to do this?

I’ve talked about the cheapest way to travel previously, in this post and this podcast, but I think the cheapest way to travel is a complex enough subject that it’s going to require actual words on paper that people can use as notes, rather than listening to me just throw terms out there on the podcast.

So – this is a long post, but well worth it.

Cheapest Way To Travel: Index

  • Expenses
    • My rent alone is $2,000/month.
    • Sunk costs.
    • What are your expenses?
  • Credit Score
    • Get yours
  • Future Plans & Goals
    • What do you want out of life in the next 2-3 years?
      • Home/mortgage?
      • Car payment?
  • How I Do It
    • I easily obtain $500+ a month on free travel for a nominal fee.
    • Every credit card I’ve opened.
  • Scam?
    • I show my credit scores since I started playing this game.
    • Further resources to help you.
  • Your Turn
    • Post your travel goals and I will individually respond with a free “consultation”.

Let’s go!

Cheapest Way To Travel: Expenses

Let’s start by breaking these down. What are your current expenses in life? In my case, I’m paying $2,000+ a month for my rent alone. That is a sunk cost – money I will gain nothing from, and will never get back.


Sure, I avoid the pitfalls of home ownership (having to repair stuff yourself, a mortgage, etc.) and I have freedom to up and move whenever I desire – but it’s still money going nowhere but to someone else’s bank account.

In addition to that, I spend at least another $700-$1,000 a month on groceries, gym membership, going out occasionally, travel, and all the other expenses that life throws my way.

Before we continue any further, I want you to sit down right now, open up a Word document or grab a sticky note – and estimate your own expenses. Write it down or type it up.

Cheapest Way To Travel: Credit Score

Go to, and create an account. Put in your SSN and other miscellaneous information, and you’ll have your credit score in less than two minutes.

Write it down, too.

Cheapest Way To Travel: Future Plans

Do you want to buy a new house or a car in the next two to three years? If so, write it down in the Word document. Write down specifically what you want and when you hope to purchase it.

If you don’t have any plans along these lines, leave it blank.

Cheapest Way To Travel: How Do I Do It?

Now, if I told you that every month I obtain $500+ (that’s on the low side, it’s often $800) of free travel just by putting my rent on a credit card, is that something you’d be interested in?

If so, read on.

But, a disclaimer is necessary: I am not a financial expert. Do not take my advice and blame me if you run your credit to the bones. I have played this game for a year now with wild success and has set me up very well to travel for barely anything for the next several years. There are many other more detailed resources that I will link below as well.

It’s very, very simple.

I open credit cards that have good sign up bonuses for meeting a minimum spend; usually those minimum spends fall somewhere at 1k/2k/3k/5k thresholds. When I meet the minimum spend on those cards, I collect the sign up bonus, which have been worth anywhere from $500 to over $1,000 for the eight cards I’ve opened this year.

For the record, those cards are:

US Airways Dividend Mastercard (50k) – no longer available
Barclays Arrival+ ($400 statement)
IHG Rewards (60k points)
Hilton Citi Reserve (2 free nights)
Citi AA (50k)
Citi AA Exec (75k)
Citi Prestige (50k)
Citi Premier (50k)
Starwood AMEX (25k)

For the record, none of those links are affiliates.

Cheapest Way To Travel: How To Meet Minimum Spend

I pay my rent on my credit card. It is that easy. I use a site called Radpad; they do charge a percentage fee, and it’s varied this year from 2.25% to 3%. For a $2,000 rent check, it comes out to be roughly $60 bucks a month.

But if that’s the cost to obtain nearly free travel, that’s a price I’m more than willing to pay. To top it off, I also don’t have to worry about writing a check and getting it into the rent deposit box on the first of every month. When I get a new card, I swap the rent payment method on the Radpad site and they take care of the rest. The convenience factor is just a bonus on top of the free travel.

Cheapest Way To Travel: Is It A Scam?

Look at the screenshot I posted above from Twitter. That ticket is real, and I’m happy to provide further proof if requested.

I need to get to Krakow from Dallas on March 28th. At the time of writing this, that flight is $1,779. I paid $93.20

And on top of that, it has to connect through Chicago and Warsaw. It should also be noted: that’s only one way.

As you can see above, I opened a couple of American Airlines (AA) cards earlier this year. I netted 50k AA points for the Citi AA card and another 75k for the AA Exec. On top of that, US Airways merged into American – the 50k points from that card transferred over, too.

Prior to booking this flight I was sitting on a nice stash of 196k AA miles, and that’s after I used 25k to fly first class from NYC to LA in November.

The flight to Europe, from Dallas to Krakow (with only one connection in London) was all of 20,000 of those miles. Plus $93 in taxes because the UK is greedy. If I didn’t have to transit through London Heathrow (one of only 3 places in Europe with direct flights to Krakow), the taxes would have been only $5.60.

Five dollars for an EIGHTEEN HUNDRED dollar flight.

Of course, there is the value of the miles! If you want to do the “math” on what those miles are worth, just divide the number of miles by the ticket price. In this case:

20,000/$1,779 = .08895

In the case of miles, we’re dealing in thousands – we’d move the decimal places two points to the right and come out with 8.89, but let’s go ahead and just round that to 8.9.

This is the “value” of my redemption in terms of a monetary price per mile; the formula being:

Ticket Cost / Number of miles redeemed

Basically, my American Airline miles were used at a value of 8.9 cents each.

But what is an AA mile worth?

That depends on your opinion, as they’re a constantly fluctuating currency based off of latest news, flight availability, and more. They are truly a stock. There are sites that have monthly valuations of all airline currencies and they’re worth. Here is one, and here is another.

The overall consensus is that right now, AA miles are worth roughly 1.8 cents each.

This means that my redemption at 8.9 cents is very, very good. On top of that – I never would have paid for that coach seat. That is an absurd price. I’m interested in the cheapest way to travel, not get ripped off by airlines. I flew round trip to Budapest last year for only $700 round trip. I never would have paid that price, but because of airport availability (Krakow is not a big place) and the somewhat last minute nature, these are the cards I was dealt.

Cheapest Way To Travel: You Can Do It Too

I’m offering free advice in this thread for anyone who wants it.

Take all that information in the Word document, and paste it in the comments below. If you don’t want to give your credit score, give a range (i.e. 600-700, 700-800, etc).

Add in one other thing: where you’d like to travel to. Make it a high aspiration. Want to spend two weeks in Rome? Cool. Stay in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives? Yeah, who wouldn’t?

Just look at this:

cheapest way to travel
I am going to respond to every single comment in this thread, and show you how you could do the trip at a fraction of the list price. I’ll give you miles cost, show how I searched for it, the cards I’d consider, etc.

All you have to do is provide:

  • Your monthly expenses
  • Credit score range
  • Where you want to go

Seriously, it’s that simple.

I’m giving the free advice because travel has done wonders for me as a person, and everyone should have that opportunity.

As I transition to the next part of my life – away from the corporate world and towards a more nomadic lifestyle, you can expect a lot more posts along these lines.

Leave a comment below with your travel goals, and let’s see what we can do.

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  • Kyle, my question is do you have any travel hacking tips (miles, etc.) for individuals with horrific credit scores?

    • Honestly I wouldn’t even try to play this game unless you have 700+. Mine was 777 when I started and 767 now.

      Work on improving credit first otherwise it’ll only be a deeper hole.

    • There are some promotions you can take advantage of though, and if you can open just ONE card with flexible currency you can at least start building up a bit.

  • Cool.

  • Seth Rose

    Great stuff, Kyle. Thanks for sharing.

    My question/concern is how to keep track of all these cards? What if you open up a card, forget about it or don’t hit the limit, etc.?

    And is it time consuming to open all these accounts or simpler than it looks?

    • Hey Seth, first off, you’re very welcome.

      Secondly, I could write a whole post about it…maybe I will.

      To keep track of all the cards, I keep a small, money clip wallet. I can fit maybe three credit cards in there (plus my two debit cards and ID). These are usually the card I’m trying to meet a minimum spend on, as well as my most valuable “everyday spend” cards (i.e. I still use the Citi Premier card everyday because it has 2x points on dining, but the AA Citi cards stay at home). I keep the other cards in a drawer on my desk.

      I use (free) to monitor all the different amounts on the cards. I’m also incredibly OCD, I have to admit. I log in to every credit card every 3-5 days and simply pay the whole amount off. I never cut it close to the end of the month. And it’s not that time consuming because they’re all linked to the same major banks (for example, as you can see I have 5 different Citi cards – all accessible from my main Citi login as well as my actual debit/savings account I have with them).

      If you open a card and forget about it…well, that’s kind of on you! When I get a new card it’s the only thing I use to buy anything (exception is cash on dates) until I meet that spend. It should be easy enough to remember that.

      I also keep an Excel spreadsheet of when I opened the cards and the spend I need to meet.

      And then I use (also free) to keep track of my different “points currencies” I have across all my accounts.

      I know this all seems complex but it is simpler than it looks. Once you open your first card and get your first 50k bonus a light bulb will go off. You’ll think, “It CAN’T be this easy”, but it really is.

      It takes me no more time than it would to pay a normal credit card bill to open these cards and pay them off. You can do all the applications online – the forms take maybe a minute to fill out. It’s just a typical name/address/SSN/income form. Now, the actual time of finding these flights as awards is definitely more time consuming – it probably took me at least a couple hours to piece together this ticket as it’s last minute, complex, and the destination is a small airport.

      But if you take $1,800 and divide by 3 hours that’s effectively like making $600 an hour, which is not too shabby 🙂

      I hope this helps man!

      • Seth Rose

        I think taking it one card at a time would help, just to get the ‘feel’ of it. Make sure that the card is paid off, then on to the next one.

      • Yes, start with one.

        The Chase Sapphire right now has an extra bonus, so I’d look at that one.

  • LA Playboy

    Great post Kyle,

    2 scenarios I want to run past you:

    1) Round trip flight from LA > Washington, DC for President’s Day weekend, Feb. 12th-15th. Pretty straightforward.

    2) Round trip flight from LA to Medellin, Colombia in August (don’t have exact dates, but let’s assume for 1 week). I’d also like to add a leg to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil to this trip for 1 week.

    So the agenda would be LA > Medellin > Rio > LA for a total of 2 weeks.

    I have excellent credit (780 last time I checked) and usually fly Delta (around 80K miles right now). I also pay for everything (minus my rent) on my AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest card.

    • *** Note for other readers, I talked to LA Playboy and he also has 87k Starwood (SPG) points stashed away, so I’m taking that into account. ***

      So firstly, SPG is a VERY flexible currency – for now. They’re merging with Marriott which I suspect will make their hotels worse and their points less valuable. But moot point. You can transfer SPG points to over 30 airlines, including the biggies. AA, Alaska, United, Singapore, Cathay, Lufthansa, etc…you get my point. You also get a bonus of 5k every 20k you transfer – i.e. if you transfer 20k miles, Starwood adds on another 5k = 25k total airline miles.

      Secondly, Delta kinda sucks because they don’t even post an award chart anymore, and they have weird algorithms that basically decide how many miles it’s going to cost. It’s quite bizarre.

      1.) Round trip LA to DC.

      Personally, knowing that the SPG points might go down in value, I’d be very inclined to transfer SPG to American (or Alaska) to book this flight. Delta wants 25k ONE WAY for this flight, and that’s with a stop. AA/Alaska will allow you to book it for 25k ROUND TRIP. Add in the fact that Delta’s flights have stops and Alaska has a direct flight (you can book an Alaska flight with AA miles), and that’s what I would do.

      Or just buy that flight. I took the Alaska direct LA->DC earlier this year and it was barely $200 round trip. I just checked now for those dates and it’s $277. Using the formula above of ticket cost ($277) divided by miles used (25,000) – $277/25,000 = .01108, or a redemption value of just 1.1.

      American miles are worth 1.8 so this isn’t a great deal. I’d be inclined to just pay for the flight, personally.

      2.) LA to Colombia/Rio

      Again, I’d probably transfer to American or their partner, LAN; though I’d have to do a bit more research to understand LAN’s award chart.

      But AA is a killer deal to South America during off peak dates (

      Make a note that Colombia is in South America 1, and Brazil is in SA 2.

      Make a note that come March 22nd of this year their award is changing drastically and this includes the off peak dates. But South America 2 has off peak dates between August 16 — November 30. Meaning you can fly one way for 20k points; and if you put that in hindsight the flight is probably almost 5x as long as the DC flight – which is 12.5k points one way.

      So what I would probably do:

      LA to Med: 17.5k points
      Med to Rio: 15k points
      Rio to LA: 20k points

      Total: 52.5k points

      I would probably only transfer 40k SPG points to AA (+5k for each 20, so they would give you 50k), and then buy the final 2.5k AA points for $88. Or just transfer the extra 2.5k in SPG points.

      At the end of the day you’d be left with all your flights covered for this trip and still have 47k SPG points left. Alternatively you could use 45k Delta points to go one way (crazy huh?), but there’s almost nothing creative you can do in that case. But eventually you need to use those points from Delta!

      Hope this helps!

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