|by Jason Steele|
Recently, I booked a truly free flight for my family; Three round trip tickets to Albuquerque. I did not use frequent flier awards and I paid no taxes. How did I do it? Over the weekend, I visited a bicycle race where Frontier Airlines was a sponsor. The nice people who were at the Frontier booth had hundreds of promotional cards, of which they were happy to let us have a dozen. Each card was worth between $10 and $50 each. After scratching off the codes and entering them into their web site, we found out we had a $50 card, two $40 cards, six $20 cards, and three $10 cards. The next day, Frontier announced their annual Colorado Day sale, with fares for as low as $9.99 each way to….Albuquerque! After we found a free Saturday with three seats open seats in each direction, I was able to use each of the six $20 gift cards to book six one way flights for three people to visit ABQ and return to Denver, the same day. With taxes, each flight came out to $17.99 per person, each way. The fantastic thing is that the promo cards are just like gift cards, they actually cover taxes. The last time I used one, I simply paid the taxes on an award flight with miles. Finally, the amazing thing about our little day trip is that we will all be receiving frequent flier miles for this flight that we didn’t pay for!
Red Or Green?
When visiting Albuquerque, red or green is the major decision you have to make. That is because the delicious New Mexican cuisine is always smothered in either red or green chiles. Note that New Mexican cuisine is entirely different than Mexican food. With no overnight stay and a Denver bus pass to the aiport, we won’t pay for parking or lodging for our quick day trip. Therefore, our major expense will actually be the food, but fortunately, that is a major motivation for visiting.
Other Gift Card Deals
Another trip we will be taking is to Chicago this fall. I was just about to book flights on American Airlines when I realized that I had read somewhere that gift cards could be useful on that carrier. Sure enough, I found out that Costco was selling American Airlines gift cards for .90 cents on the Dollar. Therefore $400 worth of gift cards were selling for $360. This is why I love Costco, another chance to save a quick $40. Like the promotional cards from Frontier, American treats these cards like cash for the most part. They can be used to pay for an airfare, but they are not valid for paying additional fees.
Yet Another Way To Save Money With Gift Cards
Many credit cards offer additional cash back for spending at grocery stores. Some offer this promotion at certain times of the year, while others give you the extra cash back year round. Most grocery stores also sell gift cards from many of the major airlines. Simply purchase these gift cards at the grocery store to add to your cash back. I certainly would only buy them just before booking a flight. In fact, if you have a card that gives you more cash back on grocery store purchases, you can use this trick to save money on all sorts of things, not just airfare.
Leave no stone unturned in the quest to cut down on travel expenses. If that means asking for a bunch of promotional gift cards, do it! If that means buying discounted gift cards at warehouse stores, why not? The airlines spare no expenses pricing their product so as to earn the maximum revenue, and we as customers should be trying just as hard to get the best value possible. Every now and then, that actually means you can travel for free. Now, all we have to do to prepare for our New Mexico trip is make sure our passports are up to date : )