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TPG Contributor JT Genter has recently been paying between 2.6-3.8 cents per mile for AA flights, which has made him quite the expert on finding flight deals. Here are his tips for how to find cheap flights on your own.
This year, I’ll be re-earning American Airlines Platinum status — valued at $2,840 — while spending just $1,749 on my tickets. And, I won’t be uncomfortable while doing so, flying 17,000 miles in international business class/domestic first class, 15k miles in American Airlines Main Cabin Extra and 5k miles in Cathay Pacific economy.
Here are some tools and tips for finding flight deals, including many I’ve used to score cheap fares:
1. Bookmark ThePointsGuy.com
The team here at TPG is committed to bringing you the best flight deals that we find. So, check back often for posts about Deal Alerts — such as the $99 one-way from LAX-Stockholm we posted about back in February, or this recent deal on flights from New York and LA to the Galápagos from $361.
TPG is how I found out about this incredible British Airways flight deal to Spain that I used to kick-off my flying this year.
2. Follow TPG Alerts on Twitter
To get the best flight deals sent to your phone, first follow TPG Alerts — our flight deal Twitter feed. Then click the gear icon next to the Follow button and select “Turn on mobile notifications.”
Not seeing that option? Check out this Twitter help article.
3. Use Google Flights Explorer
Google has an incredible tool that almost no one has heard of: Google Flights Explorer. Want to find the cheapest flights from your city to Germany? How about flights to anywhere in Asia? This is easily done with Google Flights Explorer.
To get started, visit https://www.google.com/flights/explore/. From there, you can set specific parameters and then bookmark that page to check back later. Make sure to scrape out the date in the URL (“;d=2016-03-03”) before bookmarking the page to avoid errors.
Since I’m focused on flying American Airlines for cheap before AA switches to a revenue-based earning program, I’ve bookmarked flights from AUS-Asia on American Airlines-marketed flights, and I check this bookmark periodically for incredible deals. This is how I stumbled across a recent flight deal to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) for just $547 round-trip (20,470 EQM; 2.7 cpm).
4. Use IFTTT Alerts
Two of the best flight deal blogs out there are theflightdeal.com and faredealalert.com. Since they post dozens of deals each day, it can be a pain to sort through all their posts for the few that are useful to you. Plus, with sites like the Flight Deal, some deals are hours old by the time they hit Twitter.
IFTTT (IF This Then That) is a much better way of following them.
Rather than laying out the steps to set up recipes, here are some templates to use. Make sure to put a keyword (i.e., “Dallas” or “Delta”) in the recipe to narrow the alerts to the most relevant to you:
- Get an email when The Flight Deal posts a flight deal
- Get a text message when The Flight Deal posts a flight deal
- Get an email when Fare Deal Alert posts a flight deal
- Get a text message when Fare Deal Alert posts a flight deal
5. Use Google Flights’ Saved Flights Option
Need or want to fly a specific itinerary and looking for a price drop? Have Google Flights do the leg work by saving an itinerary. First, find the itinerary through Google Flights, scroll to the bottom and click the star next to “Save this itinerary.”
Then, check back on your Saved Flights page to see the current price and price history. Or, you can open Google Now on your Google account-linked phone. If the price drops, the Google Flights card will appear to let you know.
As you can see, I didn’t have any luck with the above itinerary for months. But eventually, my patience paid off! This isn’t the first time it’s worked out this way either; I’ve used Google Flights Saved Flights to save $60-$80 off of other domestic itineraries. The “secret” is just to start early — preferably when you first find out that you need to fly this route.
6. Use AirfareWatchDog for Deals to a Particular Destination
A friend of mine recently moved to London, and he wanted to know how to find flight deals from the US to the UK so friends and family could visit. My recommendation: AirfareWatchDog’s “Fares to an Arrival City.”
I wouldn’t recommend AirfareWatchDog as a go-to place for flight deals, as there are far too many subpar deals. But, since AirfareWatchDog posts so many fares, it’s a way of finding out about good fares that might not be good enough to be posted elsewhere.
Pay with the Right Credit Card
No matter how cheap — or expensive — your flight is, make sure to use the right credit card to book it!
- Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express (3x American Express Membership Rewards = a 5.7% return, based on TPG’S latest valuations)
- Citi Prestige (3x Thank You Points = a 4.8% return)
- Citi ThankYou Premier Card (3x Thank You Points = a 4.8% return)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x Chase Ultimate Rewards = a 4.2% return)
What are your favorite tools for finding flight deals?
The Points Guy Assessment:
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- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
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- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards