Home > 2014 > Personal Finance

3 Insider Tips for Getting the Best Airfare Deal

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 1 Comment

If you love to travel but have a limited budget, one way to fly for cheap is to cash in the miles or points you get from a rewards credit card. But if you haven’t earned enough rewards to take the trip you want, there is another option: Find cheap airfares.

Despite all the information available to consumers online, however, finding bargains can be time-consuming and confusing. Steffan Ileman, who for many years ran a travel agency and airline consolidation (airline ticket wholesale) business, has written a book, What the Airlines Don’t Tell You, designed to share what he learned.

Some tips, like looking for flights on certain days of the week (it used be Tuesdays and now it is Sundays?) are hype, he says. “(Airlines) base their fares on an inventory system to maximize profits,” he says, “and it is a complex system.” In addition, he warns that some airlines are implementing “subjective” pricing where the prices you see online are based on how much they think you will pay. That makes it harder to figure out ways to save, but there are still deals to be had.

Here are three tips that can help you get the best deal possible for flights.

1. Book Your Summer Travel Now

You may be feeling overwhelmed with the all the things you need to get done during the holidays, but if you are hoping to travel overseas this summer, now is the time to start researching airfares. Be prepared to book in January if you are looking for the best deal. Wait longer and the seats available at lower fares may be gone.

Where do you find bargains? For international travel, consolidators or high-volume specialty travel agencies can be a place to go. Consolidators are high volume agencies that typically concentrate on a particular region or location and buy tickets in bulk to resell. One place to look for a consolidator? Ethnic travel agencies that serve customers from the part of the world you plan to visit. “Today these fares are generally referred to as ‘bulk fares’ since no fare is shown on the ticket, and the actual cost of the fare is a secret between the airline and the agency that issues it.” Ileman writes in his book.

2. Don’t Just Think Price

I often face a dilemma when I travel: Do I spend an extra hour and 15 minutes to drive to Tampa (and pay for parking there) for a cheaper fare? Or do I fly from my home airport of Sarasota where flights are generally a little more expensive, but the airport is only 15 minutes away? Sometimes the answer is clear: The fare out of Tampa is significantly less expensive and/or the flight schedule is more flexible. But sometimes it is more of a tossup.

That’s something to keep in mind when you are looking for flights. How much are you willing to pay for the “hassle factor” of a less convenient but less expensive flight?

As Ileman writes in his book:

My definition of the best airfare is a balanced combination of getting the lowest possible fare plus other important considerations so you can arrive at your destination safely and in the best possible shape for your pleasure or business trip. These considerations include the type of aircraft, seat configuration, number and length of connections and, of course, the airline’s track record for maintenance, safety and customer service.

3. Research Like a Pro

If you’re a very frequent traveler, or if you work for a company that books its own travel, you may want to go so far as to invest in a Global Distribution Systems (GDS) terminal. For a couple hundred bucks a month (maybe less if you are a good negotiator, Ileman says) this terminal will give you access to the same tool travel agents have: an instant look at all flights to your destination on all airlines around the world, including a complete inventory of seats, amenities and other information that can help you choose the best option. Online travel search engines available to consumers don’t even come close to the features these terminals offer, he says. With fewer travel agencies in business, the companies that license these terminals may be willing to offer attractive deals to those who want to lease them.

Again, this is not for the casual traveler, but it may be a huge time and money saver for globe trotters or road warriors. Don’t think it’s worth the money? Consider using a travel agent, especially for international trips or cruises. While airlines have stopped paying commissions on US domestic flights, that is not the case everywhere in the world. That means the agent may be able to help you find the right itinerary at the right price, and you won’t have to pay a booking fee.

No matter how you decide to find cheap airfare, you can double dip, so to speak, if you charge that purchase to a credit card that earns travel rewards. Always check whether your purchase will be considered a “foreign transaction;” and, if so, use a card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Sometimes purchases made online in the US are considered overseas purchases because the merchant is based in another country. And remember, top rewards cards usually require an excellent credit score, so stay on top of your credit if you’re planning to apply. You can see two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    One of the suggestions the author makes in his book is to visit ethnic communities, or churches or other places of worship that serve those communities.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team