How to Fly for Free with Points

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FIRECracker is a computer engineer/children’s author, who used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. But instead of drowning in debt to buy a house, she saved and invested instead. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her to retire at 31 and travel the world.
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Photo Credit: Yuichi Kosio @Flickr

Here at Millennial Revolution, we do NOT talk about eating cans of beans and living like a hobo. We hate self-deprivation and we think you should too. Why? Because frugality for the sake of frugality is stupid. We love travelling, and that’s one area we’ll never cut. Other stuff can go to Hell, but there will ALWAYS be room in our budget for adventure.

The trick is to spend money on things that make us happy. Not the things that bleed our wallets dry without adding to our happiness. Those things need to be ruthlessly cut and obliterated from our lives.

And one of those stupid things? Overpriced plane tickets.

Whenever the oil price climbs even a smidgen, Airlines immediately jack up their prices with a “fuel surcharge”. And when oil prices plummet (like they did last year)? They don’t pass the savings on to customers and instead sneakily pocket the difference.


Well, you know what? We don’t have to put up with that kind of bullshit. Giving the airlines more money is NOT going to make me happy. That money is better spent on other things I care about (like booze and space cakes)

So how do we get to exotic places without shelling out for overpriced plane tickets?

By Travel Hacking.

By Travel Hacking, we look for credit cards with the highest sign-on bonuses, and rack up enough points to fly for free.

And you can do all this without leaving the comfort of your house (or in our case, AirBnB). All you need to do is type into a computer box and free shit comes out. How awesome is that?

Okay, let’s get this travel hacking mania started!

north america
Photo credit: Florian Fuchs @ wikipedia


To go anywhere within North America (round trip), you’ll need around 25,000 Aeroplan points per person. So to get a free trip for you and your spouse, simply apply for the American Express Gold Rewards and the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite cards above. Since there are no fees, you’re only paying for the taxes (around $386.22/couple if you’re going from Toronto to LA, for example. And flying out from Vancouver or Calgary is around the same.).

I know that sounds high, and it’s because the taxes Canadian airports and Air Canada charges is INSANE. If you were to fly out from Buffalo, NY, the taxes magically drop to $28.80/couple.

The other option is to use more points to cover the taxes, so you pay nothing. But since you need around 45,000 extra points to cover $386.22 of taxes, that’s pretty steep. And since Aeroplan miles are worth 3 cents per mile, 45,000 points is $1350. Not worth it.

If you REALLY don’t want to pay the taxes, you could get your spouse to apply for those 2 cards as well, to get 100,000 points in total, and use up 95,500 points to get 2 tickets completely for FREE. But in my opinion, it’s better to save those points for another trip and pay the taxes.

Even if you decide to pay the taxes, that’s $386.22/couple, which is way less than the regular price of around $1000/couple. So you’re still saving $613.78. Not bad for 30 mins of work, applying for 2 cards.

And if you’re near Buffalo, you can cross the border and fly for only $28.80/couple, saving you $971.2.

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0


For Europe, you’ll need 60,000 Aeroplan points for a round trip per person. So looking at the cards, if you get the American Express (25,000) + TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite (25,000) + TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum (10,000), that’s enough for a round trip to Europe for just $89 + taxes (around $340.16) per person.

So if you get your spouse to apply for the same cards, you get 2 round trip tickets to Europe for $680.32 from Toronto to London.

If you buy regularly priced plane tickets, they cost $2215/couple. So you’re still saving $1534.68 with points.

However, if you fly out from Buffalo, the taxes are only $488/couple, saving you $1727.


  • Taxes vary depending on a) where you are flying out from and b) the airline carrier (United tends to charge fewer taxes than Air Canada). So play around to see which one gives you the best deal.
  • Once you get the points, cancel, wait a few months, and reapply (American Express has a clause against this, but the TD and CIBC cards don’t)
  • Don’t forget to cancel all the cards before the year is up, to avoid getting charged the yearly fee.
Photo credit: 663highland @ wikipedia


And to get to Asia, you’ll need 75,000 points/person. So if you and your SO apply for all 4 cards above, you pay the $418/couple in fees +210.72/couple in taxes. So $628.72 for 2 round trip tickets to Japan.

Compared to $3406/couple in regular tickets, you save $2777.28! Wow, for some reason the taxes for PEARSON to Japan is WAY lower than to Europe. Weird.

If that doesn’t sell you on points, another advantage of having these cards is that they include all sorts of perks, like insurance (auto rental, trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage, etc) and free passes to the Air Canada lounge. We love this perk, but if you get it Do NOT get so enamoured with all the free food, magazines, and free wifi that you forget you’re SUPPOSED to be on a flight, and sprint to your gate 10 mins before it closes. *Facepalm*

In Canada, I like Aeroplan miles over the other points programs, because they offer the highest sign-on bonuses. We don’t have as many travel hacking options as our American neighbours, so it’s more challenging but it can still be done.

Here’s a table summarizing the best point cards being offered right now, their rewards, their insurance coverage, and the links to apply for them.

Full disclosure: The links below are NOT affiliate links, meaning I’m NOT getting paid for any of these recommendations. My first priority is to make sure you, the reader, don’t get screwed by unscrupulous companies, so I will only ever recommend products we personally use, regardless of whether we get paid or not. That’s another reason why I love being FI. I have the freedom to recommend only the products I love. If a company ever offers to pay me big bucks to recommend their shitty products, they will be treated to a giant screenshot of my middle finger.

Warning: If you currently have or have had debt issues in the past, do not, for the love of God, apply for these cards! Travel hack responsibly PLEASE.

(current as of June 17 2016) American Express Gold Rewards TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum CIBC Aerogold Infinite


Annual Fee Free first year, $150 after Free first year, $150 after $89 $120
Signing Bonus Points 25,000


(Note: Transfer Amex Gold points to Aeroplan 1:1 for free)




(exclusive offer until Sept 2, 2016)

10,000 15,000
Minimum Spend  $1,500 in 3 Months


First Purchase


First Purchase


First Purchase


Basic Rewards 1 pt : $1 1 pt : $1 .66 pt : $1


1 pt : $1
Accelerated Rewards 2 pt : $1(gas, grocery, drugstore &travel)


1.5 pt : $1(gas, grocery, drugstore & Air Canada)


1 pt : $1 (gas, grocery, drugstore)


1.5 pt : $1 (gas, grocery, drugstore)


Insurance Auto Rental,Travel Accident,Flight Delay,Baggage,Trip Interruption,Out of Province Travel Medical,Hotel/Motel Burglary


Auto Rental,
Travel Accident,
Flight Delay,
Trip Interruption
Out of Province Travel Medical
Trip Cancellation
Auto Rental


Auto Rental,Travel Accident,Flight Delay,Baggage,Trip Interruption,Out of Province Travel Medical


Gimme gimme!


Gimme gimme!


Gimme gimme!


Gimme gimme!



And there you have it. All the info you need to know to travel hack your way to victory (within Canada). If you’re American, you are in Travel Hacking paradise, because you have WAY more options than us. Here’s a list of American cards my friends use when travelling:

So, how much has Travel Hacking saved us on our world trip?

No Travel Hacking

Destinations Cost per couple (CAD)
Toronto – San Francisco $692.8
San Francisco – Los Angeles $162.96
Los Angeles – Boston $453.56
Boston – London $1817.64
Zurich – Singapore – Zurich $1,638


Zurich – Toronto $2001.5
Total: $6766.46


Travel Hacking

Destinations Cost per couple (CAD)
Toronto – San Francisco $121.09
San Francisco – Los Angeles $162.96 (for short flights, it’s better to pay with cash)
Los Angeles – Boston $35.6
Boston – London $70.6
Zurich – Singapore – Zurich $220.20
Zurich – Toronto $153.8
Total: $764.25


So with a bit of travel hacking, we managed to save “$6002.21” on just the flights! (enough for a whole year of vacation back when we were working!) And that’s not including the free hotel stays we got with another card. I’ll talk about how to hack your way to free hotel stays in another post.

BOOM! And that’s how we can travel the world on $40,000 CAD per year! And we didn’t have to sacrifice at all. All we did was apply for a bunch of credit cards instead of giving our hard earned money to airlines.

So, ready to travel hack your way to glory?

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29 thoughts on “How to Fly for Free with Points”

  1. Is that first picture Lake Louise in Banff? Beautiful there. I wish I had gotten into travel hacking more before my wife and I had a kid…lot tougher to travel now. I’ve mainly used my points for hotels but have used it for flights a few times. The problem I generally encounter is that the trips on points often require a layover. When we flew to Florida, a 3 hour direct flight turned into 5 or 6 hours and I didn’t want to risk having a cranky toddler. And even a flight to Buffalo from NYC…there was a layover. So a 1 hour flight turns into 3! Not sure, maybe I’m doing something wrong or perhaps the direct flights require more points that I didn’t feel as if it was worth it. I forget.

    1. Yup, that’s Lake Louise. Most beautiful place in Canada, in my opinion.

      I can understand the challenge of layovers if you have kids. In our case, we’ve actually been able to find quite a few direct flights with the points. But then again, we changed around the dates and locations, until we found a good flight. eg. we couldn’t find a direct flight with points to Scotland, so we went for London instead. And then used Ryan Air to fly to Scotland later.

      So maybe try out different carriers and see if you can get direct flights? I found that United charges less tax and is less restrictive than Air Canada.

      1. As an FYI that is not Lake Louise it is Moraine Lake (which is far nicer than Lake Louise IMO!). Definitely both beautiful though!

        1. There’s another, even NICER lake than Lake Louise?! Geez, how many beautiful lakes can one place have. Well played, Banff. Well played.

  2. Thanks for the post and so glad I came across your blog recently. It totally helped with getting the SO on board with what I have been saying all this time 🙂 Love the style of writing and content, FI and Travel–>2 of my favorite things. Looking forward to the next post already

    1. Thanks, Layce! Glad your SO is starting to come around. From experience, it’s WAY easier when both people are rowing in the same direction 🙂

      For us the FI + Travel life is working out fabulously. I’m rooting for you guys to come along too!

  3. Just want to say how refreshing it is to read a travel hacking post that isn’t just an affiliate link wrapped in words. I see maybe one of those a year.

    We’re big fans of travel hacking, but get the sense that it increases our spending on travel somewhat (mostly in that we now travel internationally two times a year instead of once every couple years). Not a big deal, but it’s something we’ve noticed.

    1. Thanks!

      Yeah, travel gets addicting. Still, even without travel hacking, we were going on expensive vacations 2 times a year before we retired. So I if I had known about the points back then I wouldn’t have given away so much money to airlines. Oh well, still worth it. I will always value experiences over things, so to me, it’s always worth it 🙂

  4. Now that’s an interesting way to travel, I’ll have to look at it in more detail soon. Do you just keep cycling through the cards to accumulate bonus points for upcoming flights? And do you need to be careful not to apply for too many in a short time period to avoid credit score problems from too many credit inquiries?

    1. Yes, we do keep cycling through the cards. (Amex has a rule against it, but the others don’t).

      Surprisingly, all the credit card churning has barely affected our credit score at all. Wanderer’s went down 10 points from 850 to 840 after going through 11 cards, so it really doesn’t do any harm.

  5. As always, loving the blog. Which of the cards gives you the free lounge access? I know AMEX platinum does but am not aware of any others that do.

    1. Also, just curious why it seems that RBC’s Avion Infinite card is always left out of these comparisons. Is it really that bad? I’ve been using it for years and have cashed in for many flights.

      1. I’m sure that one is fine too. But rather than using a whole bunch of cards with different types of points, we tend to stick with Aeroplan because it’s easier to amass a large amount. As far as I know, Aeroplan gives the most sign-on bonuses.

  6. Hey guys,
    Found your blog from Garths. Binge reading the both of em. Your story is inspiring.

    Ive been exploring travel hacking for a while now, I am wondering if the points expire within a certain period of time; do you need to use the points you accumulate right away or before you cancel the credit cards? Also, any experience moving money around to pay off minimum usage on cards?


    1. Hi Colby,

      Thanks! And to answer your questions:

      1) As long as you have some activity (accumulating, redeeming, donating, or transferring points) in your aeroplan account within a year, the points won’t expire.
      2) No, you don’t need to use the points you accumulate right away. You can cancel the cards, and as long as you use have some activity in your aeroplan account each year, you’re good.
      3) Most of the cards gives us points after first purchase, so didn’t needed to. For Amex, we use it exclusively for purchases until the min usage was met. Then we went back to our usual cashback card. I’ve heard of people buying Visa gift cards to reach the min though. That could be an option.

  7. Hey Firecracker! This was an interesting post. I have a TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card that I share with my husband. I researched several travel cards before choosing this one. We have over 80,000 Aeroplan miles accumulated on it. I might just get Amex as well for the extra Aeroplan Miles. Would you recommend that I take myself off my husband’s card to get welcome bonus miles for myself with a separate TDAVI card? Also, if I cancel my TD card, how long do I need to wait before I can re-apply? All of my banking is done through our Aeroplan card and we have been pretty clever about finding partners that help us double dip into getting miles. We are actually doing a road trip across Canada from Toronto to Edmonton, and staying at hotels that are Aeroplan partners to collect bonus miles all through our stay. Hotels like Fairmont, Marriott, Holiday Inn, and Best Western give you bonuses for each stay. For Holiday Inn and Best Western, we are actually collecting 2000 AP miles per stay, even though it’s just a night. I believe over our six day trip, we will come out ahead with 12,000 Aeroplan miles. And that does not include the miles we will get through our spending on gas. That’s more than half the amount needed for a round trip short haul flight.

    1. Hi Ambreen!

      Good job with all the Aeroplan mile hacking! I’m very impressed that you were able to get 12,000 Aeroplan miles through your hotel stays.

      Okay, so to answer your questions:

      “Would you recommend that I take myself off my husband’s card to get welcome bonus miles for myself with a separate TDAVI card?”
      – This is what we have done. We could’ve used a joint card, but we each applied for separate TDAVI cards to double our sign-on bonuses. Especially since there’s a super good deal to get an extra 25,000 sign-on points right now.

      “Also, if I cancel my TD card, how long do I need to wait before I can re-apply?”
      – We usually wait 6 months.

  8. Hey guys,
    Loving’ your blog and your inspiring story! Question – I’m looking at the TD credit card offers and don’t see anything that indicates there is no fee for the first year. Am I missing something?

    1. Hi Gigi,

      The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card is the one with the annual fee waived until Sept 2, 2016, but only with this link:

      The other one has a fee, but in my experience, if you have a good credit rating, you can go into a branch and ask them to waive the fee. Or wait for the next promotion (usually happens every 6 months or so)

      1. FYI – I just clicked on your link and it’s offering 30K miles until Dec! I’m signing up. Thanks for this awesome post. It’s nice to read how a Canadian can rack up the points without having to collect it the old fashioned way. It’s nice that the CC application can be done repeatedly! I never knew that before.

  9. Wow, great idea – you’ve never had any problems getting all those credit cards at once and it really hasn’t effected your credit rating?

    Also it doesn’t look like such a great deal from Vancouver – I just checked Air Canada flights from Vancouver to London and it still costs $1200 (for 2 people) in taxes and fees! What really sucks is when I checked how much it would cost just to buy the ticket it only listed $500 for taxes and fees – how the hell does that work?!?

    1. Nope. Even after apply for so many cards, our credit rating barely moved. I think the key is to space them out.

      For the Vancouver to London flights, play around with aeroplan a bit. We found good deals when we looked at different airline companies (US ones are cheaper than air canada), and flights that make a stop in the states before going to Europe.

  10. Hey I’m binge reading content, love these suggestions. How do you get around the required income per year amount? We too are FI but our income isn’t 60,000 each? Thanks!

    1. Since we both have very high credit ratings, it’s not an issue. We just apply for the cards and haven’t been denied 🙂 I think it only becomes an issue if your credit rating drops.

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