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Updated: Mar 15, 2024

How to Travel In Business & First Class Using Airline Miles

Business and first class airline tickets can cost a ton of money. See how you can use airline credit cards to fly with the most expensive tickets on the cheap.
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When I was a kid, I used to love flying. I would savor every sight and sound, and I found the airplane seats to be luxurious.

Airline travel is still fun for kids, if only because they can still fit comfortably in an economy class seat.

As an adult, the only way for me to recapture the joy of airline travel is to find a way to sit in first or business class.

This is occasionally possible when I have to buy a last minute flight, and the first class price is about the same as economy.

Other times, I might get offered a reasonably priced first class upgrade at check-in.

But most of the time when I’m able to travel in the front of the plane, it’s because I used an airline credit card to earn miles to book an award ticket.

This is usually the goal when I’m travel hacking. And when I travel for business, I use airline credit cards to reach the next level of elite status, increasing my chances for an upgrade.

The different types of premium seats

To understand how great it is to sit in a premium cabin, you want to learn what first and business class really is.

When you travel domestically, you see the larger, first-class seats at the front of the airplane.

These domestic first-class seats are infinitely more comfortable than being squeezed in economy class, but it gets better when you travel overseas in a premium cabin.

While domestic first class seats are wider and have a bit more recline, international business class seats usually turn into a bed!

Also, there is such a thing as an international first class which is another level above business class. With international first class, you get an even wider seat, and occasionally you even get a mini-suite with a door.

If business class is like going from a Chevy to a BMW, flying in international first class is like owning a Rolls Royce, complete with champagne and caviar.

However, as the business class becomes more luxurious, many airlines are removing their international first class cabins.

Furthermore, more airlines are adding a premium economy section to their international flights, using a seat that’s similar to ones found in domestic first class.

How to pick the best airline credit card for you

Experienced travel hackers know that there are ways to use your credit card to fly in first and business class flights. For paid domestic flights, you have to earn elite status to get the free upgrades.

And for international flights, you need to redeem mileage awards. But to choose the right credit card, you have to choose the right airline first.

For most of us, the right airline will be the one that offers the most flights at our home airport, so we can avoid changing planes whenever possible. But if you have a choice of airlines, consider these factors:

Delta is great for first-class upgrades, especially when you have their SkyMiles Platinum or Reserve cards to help you reach the highest level of status possible.

However, redeeming Delta SkyMiles for business and first-class flights is unpredictable at best.

United’s Explorer and Club credit cards are perfect for earning miles toward award tickets, but they won’t help you earn elite status any faster.

I especially like the ability to earn 1.5 miles per dollar on the Club card, but it’s a costly perk.

Finally, American’s AAdvantageExecutive card will allow you to earn miles toward award flights while also giving you a boost toward elite status.


You don’t have to be rich or have a very generous employer to enjoy first and business class.

I’m able to deal with economy-class on domestic flights, but I never want to leave the country in coach.

Therefore, I like to earn miles from my credit cards and save them up for a big international trip in business class whenever possible. And if you play your cards right, you can too.