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How to Fly First Class for Free

Posted: 08/21/11 04:59 PM ET

Do you dread or look forward to your next flight? Your answer probably depends heavily on whether you'll be flying in cramped coach or luxuriating in first class, sipping champagne and eating caviar, requesting turn down service for your bed (or suite), perhaps even taking a shower.

If you're rolling your eyes and thinking that only celebrities and the ultra-wealthy fly in first class, think again--many people with modest incomes manage to fly first class for free. So how do they do it? TravelSort blogger Ben Schlappig has had elite status with United Airlines since he was 14 and regularly flies domestic and international first class without paying for it. And we at TravelSort just flew Lufthansa First Class to Europe, using credit card bonuses and points. Here are our best tips:

Leverage Credit Card Bonuses and Points
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You may not have the time to do many or any mileage runs to earn miles, but everyone who has a good credit score (>720, out of a FICO score of 850) and pays off their balance in full every month should take advantage of some of the great credit card bonuses and points earning opportunities to easily earn 100-200,000 miles or points annually, enough for a free roundtrip first class international trip every year. For example, earlier this year the British Airways Visa offered a 100,000 point sign up bonus, and cards such as the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card offer 3 points per dollar spent on airfare and 2 points per dollar spent on gas and groceries.

The Chase Sapphire card is still offering a 50,000 point bonus after spending $3000 in the first 3 months, offers 2 points per dollar spent on dining, and points can be transferred to partners such as British Airways, Continental, Hyatt and Marriott, to name a few. For tips, see The Best Credit Cards for Sign-Up Bonuses and Everyday Spend
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