Airline Miles: A Retiree’s Free Vacation

Dave Ramsey says this about collecting airline miles on your credit card so that you can travel for ‘free’:

What you’re talking about sounds great in theory. The problem is that it doesn’t work out so well in the real world. Did you know that 78 percent of all airline miles are never redeemed? And, if you’re one of the 22 percent who attempt to cash in on them, you’ll find that the airlines make it virtually impossible for you to travel when you want, how you want, or even where you want.

Boy oh boy is Dave Ramsey wrong when it comes to retiree’s and their frequent flyer miles. Of all the retiree’s I know, they charge practically every single thing (rent, mortgage, taxes, groceries, car repairs, utility bills, to name a few) on their airline credit cards and yes Dave, they actually take a vacation, and fly in an airplane for free! The airlines do NOT make it impossible to fly because most of them now offer airline credit cards with NO blackout dates. The retiree’s fly when they want and where they want to. Wisdom and financial smartness comes with age. Every single retiree I know who does this has learned the secret to achieving free vacations, at least once per year! They only charge on their cards what they normally would have paid cash for, needs vs wants AND they pay off their cards in full, at the end of each and every month.

Me personally, I go one step further. As soon as I use my airline charge card to purchase a need, I immediately pay my card off. In other words, I’m literally spending only what I actually have but doing it on a credit card while racking up frequent airline miles. Both my husband and myself do this and we earn about 2 roundtrip tickets each year in the continental USA. The reason why we both do it is because we (stupidly) thought our kids and their respective families would be coming down to Florida each year to see us AND we (stupidly) said we’d “buy” at least one round trip ticket per family to help alleviate the costs for them.

Turns out, nobody’s coming down. No problem. Nick and I will be using the airline miles ourselves. Our goal is to get enough points to afford a week (7 nights, hotel and air) in St. Lucia or Barbados at ab all-inclusive resort. We haven’t decided which one yet. We could even qualify for a cruise. That’s what most of our retired friends do. They take one cruise per year (re-positioning cruise, which is cheaper) and use their miles for a one way ticket back home from either Europe, Africa or the Caribbean.  I told you these retiree’s are smart! They know how to live. They have learned how to be financially responsible and have a good time!

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They certainly know what to tell Dave Ramsey when it comes to frequent flyer miles. Retiree’s have credit cards that do NOT have an annual fee, no black out dates nor miles that expire after two years or so. It doesn’t take three years to accumulate enough points for one measly $250 round trip cost. It all depends on what you use your card for. Many retirees pay their property taxes with their credit cards. That’s 5,000 points sometimes, right there! Many one way tickets are only 7,500 points! Many cards offer a 20,000 point sign on bonus and additional 5,000 bonus points throughout the year. You have to pay attention AND you have to be frugal smart. As long as you use those cards to pay your regular monthly bills and don’t go off on a shopping spree or technology craze, you should be alright.

My husband had to be in New York City a few weeks ago. Because of the weather, driving would be impossible. No problem. He logged onto his fave airline, so much in advance that a one way ticket only cost $99, which equaled about 6,500 points. I will admit that if you do fly at peak times, a one way ticket could cost upwards of 22,000 points. But, isn’t that just like real life? Anyway, Nick used his frequent flyer miles to book a round trip ticket for ‘free’ which was especially good right about now because he really didn’t have the cash to travel. Nick’s points actually came out to be a life saver. He just logged on, chose what ever day or flight he wanted, even got to pick out his own seat. All he had to pay was a $5.20 tax, which he charged, of course, on his airline flyer charge card (and got double points) and he was on his way.

Here’s the good part: while in New York, Nick got the flu and was unable to fly back home on his scheduled time. No problem. I just called the airline, told them Nick had the flu, they immediately refunded back ALL his airline miles and when Nick felt better, I purchased another ticket for him reusing his own, fully refunded airline miles, for free. No penalties. No fees. No questions. No hassles. No argument. DONE!

Sorry Dave Ramsey. Being that you’re in your 60’s yourself, you really need to get with the program. We retirees could probably teach you a thing or two.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

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4 comments

  1. Hi Cindi, I spent some time this morning catching up on your new blog post. Sorry you have the flu again! I have been lucky so far although it is very prevalent in the area.
    2017 was my first time in the world of credit card free travel rewards and Barclays New Arrival $50,000 bonus miles gave my family a five day suite with kitchen and living room and an additional luxury room in Dennis, MA on Cape Cod for $550 out of my pocket. And Bank of America 20,000 bonus gave $200 off my flight to New Mexico and I just about have the rest of the flight cost covered with other purchases which I have a year to accumulate. Loved the Hot Air Balloon ride in Sante Fe during the balloon festival and characters balloons were amazing! Getting the cards did ding my credit score 35 points for the hard inquiries though along with using more credit to charge my carpet thus upping my credit utilization. All my balances were paid in full with the statements, which I probably should have paid them before the closing dates like you do.
    I am glad you have started a new blog. I missed it. Sincerely, Lara

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lara! How have you been? I’ve missed YOU!
      That’s terrific all the travel you’ve been able to take. Aren’t frequent flier miles the bomb?? So good!
      We only have two cards (one each) and accumulate miles individually that way. It takes us a year each to get enough miles for at least one round trip fare each. The secret is making sure you pay the balances off in full each month, otherwise you fall down the debt rabbit hole. Nope!
      Anyway, so good to hear from you again. Thank you for your comment.

      Like

  2. How have I been? Thanks for asking.
    Crazy! January 27 th is my twentieth year anniversary of leaving corporate America. February first I start Medicare and just went through that selection process. And the mail and phone solicitations for this health insurance are absurd! Luckily DH’s old company hires Tower One to help with the selection and they continue to assist.
    My adult children threw some real curve balls at me at Christmas which still emotionally are impacting my thoughts.
    I have been decluttering my home now for a year and still have difficulty getting rid of items with only sentimental value from myDH and parents..
    At Sixty when I got my widow pension I wrote down some financial goals and found that when I was sorting my filing cabinet, You probably would relate to many of the items on this list. I thought then that if I could save a portion of this pension each month it could make the difference up for taking It early. Oh the math calculations I did! I was pleasantly surprise to find out my calculations were on target where I am right now even with the many splurges on renovations, gifts, and travel last year. I had a column called FUN on this sheet with a question mark then a note, use the excess to enrich my life with “my” being underline! Since I usually are gifting my family instead of using it on myself.
    So with the stock market gains now is it time to cash out some of this money for more FUN and if so what Dreams should I fulfill? Still pondering this.
    I too still find it Impossible not to continue using Thrifty habits to stretch my dollars to maximize their purchasing power!
    Life is usually good, no it’s great as Tony the Tiger use to say!
    Still formulating resolutions and plans for 2018. I myself have no guilt prioritizing my only purpose is pursuing what makes me happy and I wish the same for others, Too bad so many feel the need to control other people’s freedom of choice in relationships. Sincerely, Lara

    Liked by 1 person

    • The stock market has given many, many people a goodly amount of ‘fun’ money! Go have some fun…..guilt free. You deserve it. Thanks for sharing and updating me. 🙂

      Like

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