Get a free flight with this credit card

Airplane in the cloudy sky - Passenger Airliner / aircraft

%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%If you're looking for a free way to get away from the winter weather, here's how your credit card can help.

The summer holidays may seem a long way off, particularly with the horrendous weather we are 'enjoying' at the moment. But get prepared today and you can enjoy a heavily discounted - or even free - flight when the summer months arrive.
Reward credit cards are a good way to pick up freebies, such as flights. They work by paying you in points each time you use them. You can then exchange those points for rewards.

Two of the main schemes for travel freebies are Avios (formerly known as Airmiles) and Flying Club miles from Virgin, and there are rewards cards specifically designed to help you collect even more points.

Here I've picked out three of the best cards.

British Airways American Express

The British Airways American Express card gives you one Avios for every £1 you spend. If you spend £20,000 or more within the first year you'll also receive a complimentary companion voucher to take a friend along with you on a flight.

Right now you can also earn an extra 9,000 Avios as a welcome gift, when you spend £1,000 or more in the first three months of having the card. That's enough for a free return flight to Berlin, Milan or Paris. Save up more points and you can go even further. If you have 15,000 Avios, for example, you can exchange them for a return flight to destinations such as Rome, Lisbon, Stockholm, Helsinki, Warsaw and Budapest.

There is no annual fee and the APR is 15.9%. To be in with a chance of opening a card you'll need to have an annual salary of at least £30,000.

The premier version of this card will net you more Avios, comes with a 25,000 bonus Avios offer and a companion voucher when you spend £10,000. But this one has an annual fee of £150 and an APR of 56.4%. So it's not one for everybody!

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Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard

This pair of cards are a firm favourite for stocking up on Avios. The American Express card pays our 1.25 Avios for every £1 spent while the MasterCard cards pays out the same for every £5 spent.

At the moment there's a bonus offer of double Avios with the American Express card for the first six months, up to a total spend of £2,500 per month.

One downside with these cards is the £24 annual fee to watch out for and the high APR of 22.7%.

TSB Avios Credit Card

The Avios offer from TSB has two credit cards attached to it, one from American Express and one from MasterCard. When you spend on the Amex card you'll receive one Avios for every £1 spent (on eligible purchases), and on the MasterCard you'll earn one Avios for every £5 you spend.There is no annual fee with these cards and the APR is 17.9%.

If you open a Premium Avios Credit Card the number of Avios paid out will rise to 1.25 but this also has a £50 annual fee and an APR of 23.7%

When you make eligible foreign exchance purchases, you'll earn two Avios per £1 spent on the Amex and two Avios per £5 spent on the MasterCard.

The card also has a 0% balance transfer offer of six months with a 3% fee. If you decide to move a balance over you'll be rewarded with 1,500 extra Avios for every £1,000 you transfer, although there are better balance transfer cards around.

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Virgin Atlantic White Account from MBNA

Virgin has a similar scheme with its MBNA offer. It has two cards and pays out one Flying Club mile for every £1 spent on the American Express card and one Flying Club mile for every £2 spent on the Visa credit card.

There's a special bonus offer for new customers of £3,000 miles with your first card purchase. You'll also get an extra 7,000 miles if you apply before 31st March this year and spend at least £1,000 in the first 90 days.

Keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic mainly provides long-haul flights. Therefore you'll need quite a few miles banked up to be able to get a free return flight. For example, 7,500 miles will get you flights to Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Manchester. But if you want to go further afield you'll need a lot more.

London to New York is 35,000, to Cancun you'll need 45,000 and Hong Kong requires 50,000 miles.

To be in with a chance of earning more, the Virgin Atlantic Black Account from MBNA, might be better. This one is only suitable for regular flyers though. You'll earn 18,500 miles with your first purchase, plus an extra 6,500 if you apply before 31st March 2014.

There's also a hefty 52.2% APR and a £140 annual fee to watch out for.

Avios extras

There are currently extra deals available with Avios, so keep an eye on its website. Until 20th January there are flash sales lasting 48-72 hours, offering up to 50% off Avios on selected flights, hotels and car hire.

Check the small print!

Before you apply check the small print - often you'll need to pay taxes, fees or surcharges so the flight may not be 100% free. Despite this, you're still getting the actual flight cost for nothing.

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Make sure your holiday doesn't end in disaster – get travel insurance

The five worst holiday disasters
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Get a free flight with this credit card

If you are a victim of a strike, or any other event beyond the airline's control (including ash clouds!), they must offer you a refund (in which case it's up to you to find a way home) or an alternative flight. While you are waiting for the flight you have the right to food and refreshment and accommodation.

If you are on a package holiday, your tour operator is entirely responsible for looking after you until you get back to the UK.

This is more likely to happen due to the financial crisis, but in some situations you are covered. 

If you pay by credit card and it's over £100, you'll get a refund from the card company. 

Your travel insurance may well cover you too, but check before you go.  

Talk to the airline, and if it is temporarily misplaced they should arrange for it to be sent to your accommodation, and you should be either given cash to cover the essentials in the interim.

If it's completely lost you must wait 21 days and then make a claim for compensation. If you are travelling as part of a package you can claim costs from your operator.

If you are travelling within the EU you need an EHIC card, which gives you access to public healthcare. However, this won't necessarily be free, and if you need extra services such as accommodation for a carer, a helicopter home or a delayed flight, you could end up seriously out of pocket.

The only protection that will guarantee you will be looked after without running up a horrendous debt is by having travel insurance - which often covers up to £10 million of costs.

The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing, followed by theft from a car and bag snatching. Meanwhile, 752,000 of those surveyed had items stolen from their hotel room or villa.

If you have anything stolen, your only protection is insurance. You need to tell the local police immediately and get a crime reference for your travel insurer.

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