People redeem points for free flights all the time, it’s no big deal. Few people on earth however get to experience Emirates First Class Suites and it’s safe to say that even fewer do it for free, using just a checking account bonus. Yep, that’s right. We flew Emirates First Class, took a shower on the plane, visited the bar, even closed the door to our suite, just for opening a checking account…

How On Earth Did That Happen?

Credit cards constantly offer enticing bonus points for signing up, but lesser known checking accounts can also offer huge bonuses valid towards travel. Citibank regularly runs a promotion where you can earn 40,000 Citi Thank You Points, which you can use to cover all or part of an airline ticket,  just for signing up to their CitiGold checking account and paying a couple bills.. On top of the bonus, you also get even more bonus points for actually completing the bill payments from the checking account! That means by opening a checking account and paying two bills of any amount, once a month for two months, we earned $660 worth of airfare. We decided to pay our cellphone bill, since just about everyone has one of those and can relate...

But Emirates First Class Can’t Possibly Be $660?

If you haven’t seen Emirates' Jennifer Anniston First Class Suite commercial, there’s a part where she doesn’t want the flight to end, and asks “if they can fly this thing around for a bit longer”. Though three hours of pampering, showering and fine dining didn’t feel nearly long enough, Emirates sells First Class between Bangkok and Hong Kong for just $660, which provided more than enough time to get a real kick out of the experience. Since our points after paying a couple bills (about 50,000) were worth precisely $660, including all taxes and fees, this was literally free. The ticket was free, the real kind of free…

Surely There’s Some Fine Print? You Had To Pay Bills..

Everyone has to pay bills and everyone needs a way to pay them. Signing up for the checking account provided a way to pay, and Citi does not charge you to pay bills online using your checking account. The Checking account, a CitiGold account does however come with a $30 monthly fee, which can be waived if you keep enough money with them. We paid two of these fees and then cancelled the checking account after the points posted, after we booked our flights. If we had kept a higher balance, our account fees would have however been waived, but in the end, having the account open actually saved $100 off a Citi Prestige Credit Card annual fee we have.  If you want to be a stickler, you could say we paid $60 to fly Emirates First Class, but then you could also say we paid -$40 since we saved $100 off a related annual fee thanks to the account…