Travel

You'll Get 2 (Nearly) Free Round-Trip Flights to Hawaii With This Credit Card Hack

credit card flight hack
Haiku Stairway To Heaven | Kaveex/Shutterstock.com
Haiku Stairway To Heaven | Kaveex/Shutterstock.com

Aquamarine grottoes teeming with tropical fish. Red rock canyons, black sand beaches, and fresh lava hissing as it oozes into the Pacific. You already know I’m talking about Hawaii, a place you ought to visit more. America’s Polynesian paradise still tends to be 2,400 miles and at least $400 from the West Coast, even if flights to the islands are historically cheap right now.

But! You and a plus-one can get to the Aloha State for just a little scratch. Try out this travel hack and, come this winter, you’ll be picking wild guava from verdant volcanic slopes while the suckers back home are scraping ice off their windshields.

Get a British Airways Visa credit card

Step 1: You have to sign up for the British Airways Visa Signature card, which comes with a $95 annual membership fee. And no, there’s no getting around it. That fee is assessed on your first statement, so you can’t pull the “sign up and ditch after a year” trick.

Unfurrow those eyebrows. While $95 is more than you want to spend signing up for a credit card, there are still two (otherwise free) plane tickets waiting ahead. Eyes on the prize.

Spend three Gs within three months

To unlock the card’s sign-up bonus you’ll need to drop three big ones within three months.

If $3,000 feels like a lot of cash to blow through, consider signing up right before making an already necessary big purchase. Why, I signed up for my most recent credit card/flight hack after dropping a phone in the toilet. I recommend you do you, though.

Once you’ve spent and paid off those three Gs, you’ll get the reward: 50,000 Avios (i.e. frequent flier miles) on British Airways... an airline that does not fly to Hawaii.

Shop the airline's partner carriers if you really want Hawaii

So you wanted to travel to a Pacific paradise on the cheap and find yourself dealing with a Latin-sounding fake currency administered by a British airline. Patience, young Skywalker. The hard part is over.

British Airways will allow you to spend Avios with partner carriers such as Alaska Airlines and American Airlines. The nuts-and-bolts of converting points is, naturally, boring. But for the purposes of this hack all you need to know is: rewards are distance-based, and 12,500 Avios convert to a free economy seat on any flight between 2,001 and 3,000 miles long.

So, at 12,500 Avios per leg, you can get four seats of 2,001-3,000 miles. Or two round-trip tickets from the Mainland to Hawaii.

On Alaska Airlines, you can fly from Anchorage, Alaska; Bellingham, Washington; Oakland; Portland, Oregon; Sacramento, California; San Diego; San Jose, California; or Seattle.

On American Airlines, you can leave from Los Angeles or Phoenix. (American also operates flights from Dallas, albeit for 20,000 Avios a pop.)

Mind you, this works only on non-stop routes (connecting flights give less bang for your buck), and -- because of distance limitations -- converts to two round-trips only from the West. If you’re flying from the East Coast, you’ll have to get to one of those hubs or just pick somewhere else to go.

Alas, that place will not be as rad as Hawaii.

Book the ticket the old-fashioned way

If you’re flying with American Airlines, sign in to the British Airways Executive Club, where you can search and book directly. Click “Executive Club” from the top menu, “Spending Avios” from the drop-down, then “Book a Reward Flight.” Pick a date, and if the flight’s available you’ll be assessed the 12,500 Avios per segment (plus $5.60 in tax).

With Alaska Airlines, it’s nominally trickier. Search their website for flights, checking off the “Use miles” box directly above “From” and “To.” The only ones that’ll be eligible for your hardly earned Avios are those that cost “17.5k,” so make note of those flight numbers and dates.

Alaska flights don’t show up online with the Executive Club, so you’ll have to call directly to complete the booking. The number is 800-452-1201 (then 2, then 1). When I called I spoke with James, a chirpy chap who confirmed those costs.

You may not get someone as cordial as James. Your operator may try to assess a $25 phone booking fee. If you’re feeling entitled enough to make a stink about a $25 surcharge on what are essentially two free tickets to Hawaii, then go ahead and cry about the injustice (“The flight isn’t even available online!”). I bet they cave.

Congrats! Make you a mai tai and start asking your friends who among them has a hammock to spare along Waimea Bay.

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Adam Janos is a Brooklyn-based writer. He dreams of one day having a "viking funeral," even though that's an illegal method of burial and not something Vikings actually did. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamTJanos.