8 top tips for flying first class on frequent flyer award tickets

By Hilary Stockton, Editor, A Luxury Travel Blog

Ever dream of flying Singapore Suites, Cathay Pacific First Class, Etihad First Class Suites, Lufthansa First Class and other first class airline cabins, but think that they’re impossibly out of reach? They don’t have to be, depending in part on where you’re located, on your credit score, and on your flexibility. You don’t even have to be a true frequent flyer or do much actual paid flying. Here are 8 tips to help you fly first class on award tickets, whether for a honeymoon, destination wedding, anniversary, or special family trip:

1. Have a US social security number and credit history

You can of course earn frequent flyer miles from flying no matter where you live. And another option is buying some of the miles you need. But if you don’t fly a lot for work, it helps enormously to be U.S. based or have a U.S. SSN, credit history, and U.S. billing address. That’s because US banks offer much higher signup bonus for travel rewards credit cards than most of their foreign counterparts. In 2014 for example, we’ve seen a 100,000 Citi Executive AAdvantage offer that was possible to earn a couple times or more, and there have been targeted AMEX signup bonuses of up to150,000 for the AMEX Business Platinum card. Right now there’s a 70K offer for the Ink Plus small business card.

2. Have (or build) a strong credit score

Let’s be clear: I do NOT recommend applying for new credit cards if any of the following are true:

  • You have any credit card or other high-interest debt
  • You don’t have a steady income
  • You don’t always pay your credit card bill in full
  • You plan to apply for a mortgage, student loan, car loan, or other major loan within the next year or so
  • You tend to spend more if you have more credit cards

The miles and points game is only for those who are debt free, with a strong credit score, who are able to successfully apply for the most rewarding miles and points credit cards without actually spending any more than they would with just one credit card. If you have any high interest debt whatsoever, you’ll want to pay that off first before getting started and strengthen your credit score, otherwise your debt payments will easily negate the value of the miles and points you’re earning.

3. Strategically apply for credit cards

It’s important to have a strategy before starting to apply for new credit cards. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so I don’t recommend going out and applying for 7 or more new credit cards. First figure out what your travel goals are, and which miles and points will be most useful to you when redeeming for awards.

Next, consider which cards’ signup bonuses and category bonuses will best help you to earn the miles and points you need, and over what time frame.

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