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Five Chances at a Low Airfare

Paying Bottom Dollar

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Technique #2: Bid for your Ticket

Using the Internet services like Priceline and Hotwire can be risky.

Tickets are non-refundable once purchased, and the buyer will not have a choice of airlines or flights. You choose the day of departure, but not the specific times within that chosen day.

The trade-off can be a significant savings on seats that are unlikely to sell via conventional bookings. It's a way for the airlines to increase their revenues by getting at least something for their efforts.

Like the air courier technique, this is for people who are flexible in their itineraries. Don't book your honeymoon here.

Another caveat: do the homework.

There are excellent sources of information that will give you successful and unsuccessful bids from shrewd offers of your own can be formulated.

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Technique #3: Frequent Flier Miles Credit Cards

Some are specifically tied to an airline frequent flier program, others are bank-based offerings associated with one or more carriers. But all of them offer frequent flier mileage without leaving the ground.

The cards typically pay you one frequent flier mile for every dollar charged to the card. Cash advances and interest payments do not usually earn mileage.

Much depends on your spending habits. Yet if you're like most of us, those trips to the grocery store and shopping mall add up quickly.

They also present excellent opportunities to "save up" for a big trip that might be otherwise beyond reach.

Next year, we plan to take a trip to eastern Europe as a family of four. This is a pricey proposition. But we have slowly collected frequent flier miles via credit cards for several years, and hope to pay for two or three of the tickets without spending actual money.

In short, this technique makes it possible for my children to see their grandfather's childhood home and experience a different culture. Not bad when you consider the miles were tied to dollars we were going to spend anyway.

It is important to choose a credit card wisely. Some attach annual fees and very high interest rates. People who don't pay their balances in full might be better served finding a low-interest card that does not offer frequent flier miles.

But for those of us who don't set foot on an airliner every week, this is a chance to make our mundane purchases pay us with the gift of travel.

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Next: Consider an unconventional way to save on airfare.

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