I Just Spent $500. No Wait, I Didn’t.

In late August I’m heading to New York for a wedding. While I have some leeway on the exact airport and exact date I’m coming and going, for the most part I have a set of parameters I need to meet. I went to my go-to airline search engine, Kayak.com, entered the dates and location and got a list of different options. The cheapest option that fit my travel filters was flying on Delta, at a total price of $534.

The least expensive option fitting my dates, times and airports was Delta. Roundtrip for $534

The least expensive option fitting my dates, times and airports was Delta. Roundtrip for $534

I selected the option and was directed to Delta.com. I reviewed the flights, entered my name and birthdate and was directed to the final purchase screen.

Just one click and I'd have my flight booked... And spend over $500

Just one click and I’d have my flight booked… And spend over $500

All set to go, I hovered over the button and clicked, “purchase” and spent $534 on a flight…


Except I didn’t.

Ah, there's nothing better than spending $500? Wait a second. Except for NOT spending $500.

Ah, there’s nothing better than spending $534? Wait a second. What about not spending $534?


See I’ve written before about earning free flights and collecting travel points, but I realize this may go over some people’s heads. Before I understood the ins and the outs of travel rewards, I knew it went over mine. “Free miles and double miles and triple miles and points and etc, etc… That’s great for you Steve, but you know the tricks, I don’t have the time to start learning about this.”

I know, it can be a lot to take in. It’s why most people just go for the credit cards or redemption programs that offer cash back. Getting cash back is easy for people to wrap their heads around. However if you want to earn the most bang for your buck, it truly pays to understand travel redemption.

Most people realize there are promotions and bonuses and rewards and points and all that, but don’t realize fully what it means. “It’s too complicated,” is something I hear all the time. Unfortunately when I advise friends to travel, “I wish I could but traveling is expensive and I just don’t have the money,” is something I hear even more. You simply don’t need to have a lot of money to travel. You don’t. I promise. You just need a plan, a goal, and the dedication to reach it. For example:

Over the years I’ve collected quite a few points with Delta. Whether through flying or shopping portals or their branded American Express credit card. And while Delta has gained a reputation for their miles being less valuable than many other programs, I’ve always had an excellent experience with them, and thus collected many, many miles. “The Points Guy” has written a great deal of how to use and maximize Delta miles.

So instead of dropping half a grand on a flight, I decided I’d redeem some of those miles. And since I haven’t written a blog post on my previous redemptions, I thought this would serve well to show exactly the steps I take to do it.

I went to Delta.com and signed into my skymiles account. This is just a loyalty account that every airlines and hotel offers and is always free to sign up for. I then did a search for the exact flight I had found just a few minutes before and clicked the button labeled, “redeem miles.” The same exact flight was available if I redeemed 40,000 points or “miles” plus additional taxes and fees.

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I selected the flight, which confirmed there was availability, selected the exact same return flight as I had previously planned on buying, and continued on with my redemption.

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That’s not a misprint. In addition to 40,000 miles I’d need to redeem, Delta would charge me $10 in taxes and fees for my roundtrip ticket. $10… Total…. No the decimal point isn’t out of place. Ten dollars. Onto the next page to do a final review and see the breakdown.

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Still $10.

Spending $10 surprisingly feels a lot better than spending $534. Who knew?

Spending $10 surprisingly feels a lot better than spending $534. Who knew?

I confirmed my dates and airports were correct one last time, and then hit, “Redeem.” And that was it. As in I just got a $534 flight for $10.

The confirmation email arrived a minute later, just as if I had purchased my ticket as normal and the $10 appeared on my credit card later that day. I had a full roundtrip ticket that would normally cost $534, for less than the price of a movie ticket. Simply by collecting airline miles over time, I saved more than $500.

All airlines have loyalty programs and I’d advise diversifying the points you hold onto. But in this example, simply by utilizing the free points I’ve collected, I got a virtually free flight. The next time you longingly look out the window or dream about that vacation you’ll, “just never be able to afford because travel is too expensive,” realize that travel really doesn’t have to be that expensive after all. Just by following a few simple steps, you can save hundreds or even thousands on a plane ticket. And believe me, paying $10 for a flight feels a whole lot better than paying $500 for a flight.