CheapAir Lets You Finance Plane Tickets Now…But Should You?

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You can finance cars, houses, engagement rings… and now, even plane tickets.

That’s right: CheapAir recently announced it’ll let customers finance travel purchases on its site.

It’s offering loans in partnership with Affirm. Terms are three, six, or 12 months, at an interest rate of 10-30% APR “based on creditworthiness.”

At first glance, I thought this seemed like a terrible idea — and in most cases, it is. But there are a few things you should know…

Should You Use CheapAir’s Monthly Payment Plan?

Here’s the thing: I have to give CheapAir credit for trying to disrupt the industry and allow more people to travel — I’m all about that.

But, I think it’s financially irresponsible to finance things you don’t need — which, in most cases, includes travel.

As awesome as it is, travel isn’t something you should go into debt over.

The one situation I think this could be really useful? In emergencies.

Not everyone has a credit card, but everyone has emergencies. Family is more important than money — and being with them during a sudden illness or funeral might be worth the high interest rates offered through this plan. (Especially since bereavement fares aren’t really a thing anymore.)

Other than that, though, financing probably isn’t a great idea.

Here’s what you could do instead…

1. Start a Travel Fund

Stephanie White / Getty Images

So you really want to go somewhere? Start planning (and saving!) now.

Create a budget, monetary goal and timeline. To stay on track, set up a weekly withdrawal from your checking account into a special savings account, or use a program like Digit that helps you save in the background.

Earn some extra money by taking on a lucrative side job or starting your own side hustle.  

Oh, and start thinking of everything in plane tickets. Tempted by a fancy dinner out? That’s a quarter of a roundtrip ticket to most places in the U.S.

My brain has calculated expenses like that for years — and it’s kept me focused on my one true love: travel.

2. Collect Points and Miles

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People wonder how I afford to travel so much. In large part, it’s due to my affinity for collecting points and miles.

Wanna get in on the game? These posts can help:

Or, check out Slingshot and RewardExpert, two new sites that create step-by-step travel reward plans to help you cash in on free flights.

3. Find Cheaper Tickets

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Before you resort to financing plane tickets, let me ask you: Are you paying too much for them?  

As I’ve outlined in other posts on saving money on travel, my favorite tools for buying plane tickets include ITA Flight Matrix, Skiplagged and Hopper. I also love Scott’s Cheap Flights for tracking mistake fares and flight sales.

Lastly, you should read these posts on when to buy plane tickets, and which days are cheapest to fly — it could make a huge difference in price.

Because, although travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer — it’s still not worth financing and going into debt.

Your Turn: Would you finance a plane ticket?

Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.

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