If you have never flown First Class, you must! By playing the credit card game you can upgrade your flying experience to First Class for FREE simply by being clever. Forget the constricted, uncomfortable seats and the dreary, overworked flight attendants in Economy. When you fly in First you step into a much more glamorous world where nothing is too much trouble…
Another glass of champagne? Food cooked by an actual chef on board? Showers in the sky? It’s all possible if you fly in First and it’s a different world from flying cattle class.
Of course, most of us simply don’t have the leftover funds to splash out and pay for First Class, but by playing the credit card game well, you never need to fly coach again!
What To Expect In First
A warm welcome where staff already know your name.
Champagne. Obviously. As much as you want!
High-end cheese trolley.
Seats that turn into beds.
Deliciously scented free amenity kits.
Sleep. Perhaps the most valuable experience of all. The possibility of actually falling asleep onboard!
I have reviewed my First Class flights worldwide separately but rather than bore you with my glorious experiences, I would prefer to share with you how you can take out a number of free credit cards to achieve the nirvana of First Class yourself.
Best Travel Credit Cards
There is only one way to score FREE flights (in any class) and that is by playing the credit card game and to make use of the sign up bonuses. A hotel-branded or flight-branded credit card will usually have some sort of built-in upgrade benefit and you can usually collect enough miles for a free flight just by hitting the spending target.
In the UK I don’t just have one card, I have three which I interchange. I aim to hit the spending target on all 3 every year to optimise my earnings. This is a great strategy to score those free flights.
If you are US based and need points, a brilliant way to load up on a massive bonus of points is outlined in our easy guide.
Take Out The FREE Amex Gold Credit Card
If you apply for the Amex Gold Card you get 22,000 bonus membership rewards when you apply and spend 2,000GBP in 3 months. Drop me an email to get the 22,000 rewards. Apply direct and you only get 20,000 rewards.
The Amex Gold costs you nothing in year 1 and so you can get hold of this bonus without paying any credit card fees whatsoever (you should always pay your credit card off in full). This bonus is worth 22,000 airline miles as American Express Rewards can immediately be converted to most airline miles. The transfer usually takes around 2 working days and the minimum transfer amount is 1000 points.
If you have the American Express Gold Card you also earn 1 Membership Rewards point per 1GBP spent which converts to miles on most airlines (see this article for how many points convert into each airline mile).
As you can see, this card is a great FREE way to earn miles with the spend target bonus of 22,000, but it’s not the best way to earn these miles ongoing as the Starwood card earns 1.5 air miles per GBP spent.
Take Out A Starwood (Bonvoy) Credit Card Too
Even if you have the Amex Gold card you can also apply for and get the bonus for the Marriot/Starwood/Bonvoy points credit card. This card will soon earn you the rebranded Marriott Bonvoy™ points and these points can be converted into all the airline miles.
This credit card is the best UK credit card to collect Emirates Skywards Miles because you earn 1.25 Airmiles per 1GBP Spent. This is the best ongoing Emirates and American Airlines miles earning rate of any UK card at the time of writing this article.
If you want to apply for this card and drop me an email and I can supply you with a referral to get you 33,000 points if you spend 1,000GBP in the first 3 months of membership (you get 3,000 more points with my referral than just applying direct).
Get 1.25 Airmiles per 1GBP Spent
To earn 1.25 Airmiles per 1GBP Spent you need to transfer 60,000 points in bulk and you will get 25,000 Miles which includes a 5,000 bonus. This values the FREE sign up bonus on this card, which is 33,000 points, at up to 275GBP of in air miles (There is a *1,000GBP min spend to get your bonus and your mile valuation may be different from mine).
This means that the ongoing earning rate is 1.25 miles per 1 GBP spend if you transfer your miles in bulk.
This credit card has some major benefits in addition to offering a nice load of Marriott Bonvoy™ points when you hit your spend target. It not only offers one of the few ways to collect Emirates Skywards Air Miles in the UK but also offers a great way to collect American Airlines miles from the UK.
33,000 points if you spend 1,000GBP in the first 3 months. This is a GREAT signup bonus! You must drop me an email for a referral to get the 33,000 points. Order direct and you only get 30,000.
75GBP annual fee (can be cancelled at any time and you will get a pro-rata refund of the fees).
Earn 3 points per 1GBP spent. I value 3 points at $0.04 or 0.03GBP.
The Cost Of The Card Is More Than Offset By The Bonus
The SPG card costs 75GBP per anum but the fee is easily offset by the 33,000 Bonvoy points. The annual fee is refundable pro-rata.
The Best British Airways American Express Card
I have the Premium version of this card too. All 3 Amex cards can be applied for at the same time if you like. If you have one or two of the above, you can additionally apply for this one as the cards are unrelated in Amex’s eyes.
The standard BA Amex has no fee when you apply or ongoing. It currently earns a 5,000 Avios bonus when you spend £1,000 (plus additional 1,000 referral bonus) plus 1 mile per £1 spent and generates a 2-4-1 voucher each year when you spend £20,000. The voucher lasts for 1 year.
The BA Premium Plus American Express is the one I use. It has a £195 annual fee. It currently earns a 25,000 Avios bonus when you spend £3,000 (plus additional 1,000 referral bonus) plus it earns 1.5 miles per £1 spent (3x if you book BA flights with the card). Crucially this card generates a 2-4-1 voucher each year when you spend £10,000 (instead of having to spend £20,000 of the free card) AND this voucher lasts for 2 years rather than the 1-year voucher you get on the standard card.
Key Features Of The British Airways Premium Plus Amex Card
£195 annual fee.
Earn 1.5 Avios airmile per £1, which I value 1 Avios at £0.01 so you recoup £0.015 worth of Avios every £1 spent (see my write-up about what an Avios is worth).
APR is high and varies month by month so you should pay this card off every month.
You can apply directly on Amex and you get and for a limited period you get an increased sign up bonus of 25,000 Avios (was 18,000). You earn an extra 1,000 Avios if I refer you. With my referral you get 26,000 Avios if you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months of membership. Please contact me for a referral.
When you spend £10,000, you receive a voucher which enables you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one. This voucher is valid for two years.
Value Of The 2-4-1 Voucher
The value of this voucher depends on where you fly. I tend to fly Club World in within Europe and most often to Nice. This is largely because I like to make use of the excellent British Airways Galleries Lounges at Heathrow and Gatwick. A single Club World return flight to Nice which costs 15,500 in Avios Off-Peak or 18,000 Peak and so is worth either £155 or £180 to me.
Even if I use my voucher in a short-haul, with £10,000 spend I will earn 10,000 x 1.5 Avios = 15,000 Avios (which I value at £150) and will get a free flight worth at least £155. This is a return of over £300 for the £190 fee. When you include the 26,000 bonus Avios which you get for signing up (worth £260 to me); the benefits will be worth: £150+£155+£260 = £565 – £190 fee = £375.
I am also planning to travel to Orlando next year. This is will cost me 100,000 Avios + £396 in taxes and fees for one person in Premium Economy on my preferred dates. If I chose to travel in Business with a mix of Peak and Off-Peak dates, this would cost me 137,500 Avios + £ 506.17 in taxes and fees. This would value my 2-4-1 voucher at £1,000-£1,375. As you can see, assuming you can snag a longer haul flight, the benefits are even greater!
Note: You don’t get the initial sign-up bonus if you have previously held either BA Amex in the previous six months.
So there you have it, play the credit card game right and you will end up with a stack of miles to use for your next First Class ticket.
Reviews within this content are solely the opinion of the author and have not been sponsored, influenced, or reviewed by American Express.