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Cheap International Flights in Economy – Are They Worth It?

Cheap International Flights in Economy – Are They Worth It?
Ariana Arghandewal

Lately, a lot of really great economy class flights have been popping up to Europe, Asia, and everywhere in between. While a $457 flight from the West Coast to Switzerland sounds amazing to most people, I kind of cringe at the idea of spending 12 hours in economy class. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve done it before, but even at ~$500 roundtrip, I feel like I can do better. I’m not talking about redeeming miles, but putting that $500 towards gift card fees to generate enough miles for a business class ticket.

I’ve written about how to off-set manufactured spending fees before. While manufactured spending isn’t quite as lucrative now as it was a year or two ago, it’s still possible to eliminate most of the fees. Even if you take the lazy approach and churn $115,000 worth of Visa gift cards at a rate of $8.60 per $1,000 you can “upgrade” to business class for $989. If you’re buying $300 Visa gift cards at Staples (without any rebates), you’ll pay about $702 using a Chase Ink Plus card.

Two years ago, I was able to off-set my gift card fees and rake in a pretty nice profit while earning miles through those 5% cash back cards from Simon Mall. In that instance, generating $115,000 would not only have resulted in enough miles for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe, but I would have actually earned cash during the process. These days, I’m taking the lazy approach to MS (i.e. I’m not off-setting all of my fees), but I could still generate enough miles to travel to Europe at a lower cost than what some people are paying to fly economy class.

The point of this hobby for me is to upgrade my travel experience. I can afford to fly economy class, but at this point, it seems like a waste of cash. Especially, since it results in an uncomfortable flight at roughly the same cost as it would take me to generate enough miles for a flatbed seat. “But what about all the time you’re spending buying and liquidating those cards?” It doesn’t take me that much time. It takes me about 10 hours to earn 80,000 miles – so that 15 hours + ~$500 spent seems well worth it for a better seat.

Is this coming off as un-relatable to you all? Or have you also hit a point in your MS routine where cheap international flights just don’t get you as hyped up as the prospect of churning $115,000 worth of gift cards for a better experience? It took many years of suspicious cashiers and getting rejected before I got to a point where I finally found MS-friendly places to liquidate gift cards. Now that MS has become so much less stressful, I enjoy it and look forward to it. I know which stores to go to and when the lines are shortest so that I have to spend as little time there as possible. And even if I do have to stick around a while, it’s not so bad because I get along great with the store employees.

Anyway, not to veer too far off my main point, but I can’t muster up any enthusiasm for these cheap economy class fares. Not because I’m a total snob, but because the same money is better spent elsewhere. That being said, I want to hear from you all: Have you gotten your MS costs down to a point where paying for economy class travel just doesn’t make sense anymore?

View Comments (4)


  1. travelindandy

    March 11, 2018 at 7:57 am

    “Is this coming off as un-relatable to you all?”…short answer, yes.

    However, I am curious…does MSing devalue the travel experience in general for you? Another way to look at this is that the lack of comfort of the economy class experience is part of the “cost” of the ticket…or better yet, the “total cost” of the trip is money PLUS experience. Put that way, the total sum of an economy trip (even at the lower fare) still costs you more than the points/money plus experience of a business or first class ticket. Because you do seem to manufacture points rather easily, doesn’t that actually devalue the overall trip for you?

    You might say “I value the experience of business class more” but the thing is you’re only getting that experience because of the ease of MSing the points, so in actuality the money part of the total cost is very low for you. Its only costing you 15 hours of your time (which you make seem not to be that big of a deal).

    I think what makes the overall travel experience valuable and special for most people is how much work they put into making those trips happen. For someone like myself, who can’t MS and doesn’t have the myriad of cards, I find that I have a hard time of letting go of my points, because they were so hard to earn.

    Again, I’m sincerely curious. How much do you think MSing affects your appreciation of the overall travel experience?

  2. sdsearch

    March 11, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    This silly article is tottally from the view an MSer, as if everyone is. Far from it. Especially now that the Post Office no longer accept gift cards for money orders, and some Walmarts don’t either (plus not everyone lives to close to a Walmart), this is a stupid assumption in my opinion.

    It implies the silly conclusion that if you’re not a MSer, then all you can do is buy those cheap flights. How ridiculous! There are many other options, but none of the other options are explained in the article.

  3. Archon1995

    March 12, 2018 at 8:24 am

    I do not MS so your question at the end of the article doesn’t apply to me. But the title of the article led me to expect something other than a rumination on MS. Perhaps it could have had something indicating the topic would be about MS?

    It’s a decent article, nothing wrong with it, just not what I expected to read.

  4. pointchaser

    March 16, 2018 at 11:39 am

    @travelindadandy not at all. It does take some time and organization to MS in large quantities. Not to mention, planning and actually redeeming miles is often challenging. I don’t think it devalues the experience at all – I’m grateful every time I step into a premium cabin.

    @sdsearch yes, it’s written from the perspective of an MS’er. Just like your comment is written from the perspective of a non-MS’er. There are more choices than just “MS for miles or buy dirt cheap economy fares.” Sorry you didn’t get that reading the post. Also, the Post Office isn’t the only place you can buy mo’s.

    @archon1995 thanks for your feedback. I’ll take it into account when writing future titles.

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