Think that a trip around the world is out of your budget? We are here to tell you that it is not impossible. The Top Ten Ways to Save Money for Your RTW Trip series will focus on the best ways to save money to enable someone from any budget level to achieve the RTW dream. It is Our Goal to enable each and every one of you to travel the world as much as your heart desires. These simple tips can be followed by every traveler to save money while preparing for an RTW trip and will enable almost anyone to realize the RTW dream. For a list of all of the articles in this series, click here.

I am excited! Today’s tip is so huge, so extraordinary, that I can hardly contain myself. I want to scream from the rooftop that with this one tip you can save $7,500 – $10,000 per person! With this one tip, you can cut out the single biggest trip expense of every RTW adventure. Are you ready for it? In this article, we are going to show you exactly how you can get a 16 segment RTW ticket for free! Actually free is a slight exaggeration since you do still have to pay the taxes on the tickets (about $400) but that is still an enormous savings of $7,500+ per person and can help propel any travel dream into the realm of achievable reality.

Fireworks on Eiffel Tower

How to get your (almost) free RTW tickets:

First, some background information.  After the recent bout of airline consolidation, we are left with two major global airline alliances. The Oneworld Alliance includes 12 primary members such as American Airlines, British Airways, LAN, and Qantas.  The Star Alliance is the world’s largest airline alliance and includes 28 member airlines, such as United Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, and COPA.

Each of these alliances offers Round the World tickets, but some of the member airlines for both alliances also offer  a special Round the World award that can be purchased with airline miles. For the Oneworld Alliance, American Airlines offers the Explorer Award, which includes 16 flight segments and up to 50,000 total miles for only 160,000 AAdvantage miles. For Star Alliance, United Airlines offers the Round-the-World Award for 180,000 United MileagePlus miles, which includes unlimited miles, up to 16 segments, but only 6 stopovers (defined as a stop of more than 24 hours).

American Airlines

Maria and I chose to pursue the Explorer Award from American Airlines as it offers more flexibility, has a lower cost, and has more easily attainable miles.  Even though the Star Alliance is larger and offers more routes, we chose not to pursue the United award because the 6 stopover limitation is a big drawback and it is more difficult to earn 180,000 United MileagePlus miles.

For the most concise explanation of the American Airlines Explorer Award program, make sure to read the Flytertalk One World Award FAQ.

So now for the all important question:  How can you earn 160,000 AAdvantage miles?

Similar to Tip #3 for getting free travel gear and Tip #4 for free electronics, there are credit card sign-up bonuses that can enable you to earn all 160,000 AAdvantage miles that you need in a matter of months without ever boarding an American Airlines flight. American Airlines branded credit cards are offered exclusively with CitiBank and there are a number of products available that can quickly get you to that magic goal of 160,000 miles.  The two best offers are:

Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCard:  50,000 AA miles after $3,000 spend

Citi American Airlines Business AAdvantage Visa: 50,000 AA miles after $3,000 spend

Most people are able to get both a Platinum and Business version of the American Airlines credit cards from Citi which will net you an easy 106,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles; only 54,000 to go!

The remaining 54,000 points are a bit trickier and you may do one of several things depending upon the current rules of the Citi credit card program.  Credit card programs such as this one are dynamic and do change quite often, so please make sure to read up on the latest information on this flyertalk thread to make sure you maximize the options available.

Option 1: Maria and I were able to apply for multiple Platinum cards, each with a 50,000 point bonus. This option disappeared briefly during early summer 2013, but then came back after a few months. It may or may not continue to work, so read the flyertalk forums for the most up-to-date information.

Option 2: At the time of this post, it is possible to get multiple AAdvantage Business cards. Currently, it is possible to get approved for the Business card once every 90 days and still receive the 50,000 mile bonus.

Option 3:  Although Citi may not allow you to get two of the same Platinum cards, you may be able to get one Platinum and one Citi Gold AA Visa Signature Card.  Since the Platinum and Gold cards are different products, Citi will usually approve one of each.

Option 4: American Airlines is currently merging with US Airways, and soon their rewards programs will merge as well.  The US Airways Premier World MasterCard comes with a 35,000 mile bonus after the first purchase, and the annual fee is waived for the first year. Keep in mind that it is not known exactly when or how the US Airways miles program will be merged with American’s, but it should happen within the next 6-12 months. Those 35,000 US Airways miles should be worth at least 25,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles once the merger is complete. Since the required spending is only one purchase of any dollar amount, why not take advantage of this option?


Finally, if you prefer to travel in luxury, the same Explorer Award is available in both Business and First class.  Business class is very affordable at 220,000 miles, while First class will set you back 330,000 miles. For some, the Business class upgrade may be appealing since most RTW travelers will have 3 or 4 very long flights where those upgraded seats may be worth the extra price.

With these credit card options, it is possible to get 160,000 or more American Airlines AAdvantage miles in just a few short months. With it, for just a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a dream RTW ticket that would normally cost between $7,500 and $10,000. Oneworld Alliance offers a fun RTW planning tool that can help you take the first step toward envisioning your adventure of a lifetime. The only question left now is where do you dream of traveling?

Disclaimer:  Credit cards should always be used responsibly and we only advocate using credits cards if you can pay the statement balance in full each month to avoid finance charges. Credit cards, when used correctly, are a great tool to build your credit and should never be abused.