Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.
Scott’s Cheap Flights just celebrated its 6th birthday. In those 6 years, plenty of other email-based flight deal subscription services have popped up to try to replicate Scott’s success. But, for many travelers, Scott’s Cheap Flights is still king of the flight deals.
Let’s dig into the three subscription tiers and review what we like about Scott’s Cheap Flights — and what can be improved.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is an email subscription service that sends out flight deals for international and domestic (U.S.) destinations. It has free and paid options, and the service claims that most of the deals it sends out are 40% to 90% off average prices.
Scott’s Cheap Flights operates on a “freemium” model. That means you can sign up to receive flight deal emails for completely free as a “Limited” member. If you like what you’re seeing, you can upgrade to the Premium version to get more deals and faster notifications.
Free subscribers get limited international economy deals from up to 5 origin airports. For infrequent travelers, this may be all you need. You’ll get a heads up about great deals, such as a recent alert of $462 round-trip flights from airports across the U.S. to Athens, Greece:
However, flight deals are delayed by about 30 minutes from when Premium subscribers receive the deal. Also, you won’t get emails about domestic deals, error fares or premium cabin deals. But, it’s a free service, so it’s hard to complain about these limitations.
The emails include instructions on how to book the flight deals, including what travel dates and airlines are available and what platform to book the flight through (either directly with the airline or through an online travel agency like Expedia).
Scott’s Cheap Flights “Bestie Test”
With the proliferation of low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines and Ryanair, it isn’t hard to find cheap flights. However, not all airlines and itineraries are created equal. One of my favorite aspects of Scott’s Cheap Flights is “The Bestie Test,” where the service will only send out a deal it would recommend to its best friend.
That means a cheap airfare isn’t enough. The itinerary needs to have a good routing that minimizes your travel time, so either a nonstop flight or one with a reasonable connection time.
Plus, the deal needs to be on an airline that’s not considered a low-cost carrier and not for last-minute travel.
Here’s how to sign-up for Scott’s Cheap Flights:
- Go to Scott’s Cheap Flights
- Sign up either by entering your email address, first name and a password, or by connecting your Google account
- After an intro to Scott’s Cheap Flights, you’ll be prompted to set your home airport
- Next, enter up to 6 destinations that you’d like to visit
- Finally, you’ll get the chance to enter up to 4 additional airports from which you also want to get flight deals. These can be nearby airports or airports you don’t mind flying to for a great deal.
The last prompt is about what types of deals you want to see. If you’re just hoping to test out the free version, select “economy class deals” and click next.
However, if you want better deals — like premium cabin deals, mistake fares or weekend getaways — you’ll need to upgrade to either a Premium or Elite membership. If you want to see if these paid subscriptions are worth the cost, you have the option to test drive either service for free for 14 days:
If you’re a semi-frequent flyer, it’s probably worth upgrading to Scott’s Cheap Flights Premium. For $49 per year, the subscription unlocks:
- All economy deals (international and domestic) for up to 10 origin airports
- Mistake fares from your chosen airports
- Weekend Getaway ideas
- Bucket-list deals, such as deals to the Galapagos Islands, Cuzco (for Machu Picchu), Buffalo (for Niagara Falls) and Munich (during Oktoberfest)
Plus, becoming a paid subscriber helps support the Scott’s Cheap Flights team to search for and find flight deals. I’ve been a Scott’s Cheap Flights Premium subscriber since May 2016 — back when Scott’s emails were a bit more simple:
Each time my subscription comes up for renewal, it’s been an easy decision to continue to pay for another year of Premium deals. Scott’s error fares have helped me book absolutely incredible deals, including:
- Atlanta to Santiago, Chile for $62 round-trip nonstop on Delta
- Miami to Barcelona, Spain, in business class, for $264 round-trip (this mistake fare was cancelled by the airline before I could fly)
- Miami to Tokyo for $312 round-trip, one-stop on American Airlines
- New York to Singapore, then to New Delhi, then back to New York for $364 round-trip
- Los Angeles to Nani, Fiji for $395 round-trip nonstop on Fiji Airways
These are just the best deals I’ve booked over the years. Depending on how many origin airports you select, you can expect to receive multiple flight deals each day — from domestic destinations to trips around the world.
The only question is if getting premium deals like these is worth $49 of your travel budget. And that’s going to be a personal decision.
For many, the amount of money they save on flights from just one deal could easily pay for the subscription itself.
In June 2021, Scott’s Cheap Flights unveiled an even more premium membership level called Elite that costs $199 per year. In addition to all of the Premium perks, Elite members get mistake fares from all airports and premium cabin deals (premium economy, business class and first class).
To see if it’s worth the cost, I have taken the Elite service for a test drive for the past few weeks (I received a complimentary preview of the Elite membership from Scott’s Cheap Flights). In just a few weeks, I’ve been alerted to premium cabin deals such as:
- Premium economy to Istanbul for $983 round-trip
- Premium economy to Kenya for $1,248 round-trip
- Business class to Patagonia for $1,535 round-trip
- Business class to Seychelles for $2,595 round-trip
- First class to Geneva for $3,167 round-trip
While I find the Premium subscription price easily worth its cost, I’m not convinced quite yet if Elite is worth $199 per year to me. With that said, I primarily book economy tickets. For those looking for a really special getaway — or looking for the increased elite earnings of premium cabins — the $199/year price may be a worthwhile investment for curated premium deals.
Scott’s Cheap Flights generally does a pretty good job of filtering down to just the information you need to know in the deal alert emails. However, some deal alerts may have misleading information. Take for instance this recent deal alert to Austin (AUS):
As Atlanta is my home airport, Scott’s Cheap Flights only shows this one route and even indicates that the deal is available nonstop. But, of the airlines listed, only Southwest has a nonstop option.
Also, Delta isn’t listed but also had flights pricing out at $117 roundtrip nonstop — although these Delta fares may have been added after Scott’s Cheap Flights sent out this deal alert.
Which credit card to use for Scott’s Cheap Flights subscriptions
Although it’s a travel-related service, unfortunately, Scott’s Cheap Flights subscriptions don’t code as travel purchases. So, you won’t get bonuses for using travel-focused credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
So, if you’re working toward a sign-up bonus on a new credit card, it’s best to use that card to pay for your subscription. Otherwise, you’ll want to use an everyday spending credit card:
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®: 1.5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent
- Citi® Double Cash Card: 2% cash back — 1% when you buy, 1% when you pay your bill
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: 2X Venture Miles per dollar spent on all purchases
- Wells Fargo Active CashSM Card: 2% cash rewards on all purchases
Best cards to take advantage of Scott’s Cheap Flights deals
However, when it comes to booking a flight deal, you have plenty of ways to earn bonus points. Chase offers an industry-leading 5X points per dollar on airfare booked through its Ultimate Rewards portal on four of its cards — including two no-annual-fee cards:
- Chase Freedom Flex℠ ($0 annual fee)
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® ($0 annual fee)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®($550 annual fee)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card ($95 annual fee)
Plus, by booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, you can apply Ultimate Rewards points to your booking. That can turn a cheap flight into a completely free flight. For example, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can apply 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points to book a $300 round-trip flight for nothing out-of-pocket.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is currently offering a massive welcome bonus where you’ll earn 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. Those 100,000 points are worth $1,250 towards travel booked through the Chase Travel portal. Meaning, you could book four $300 round-trip flights with the welcome bonus alone.
$50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, and 1X points on all other purchases
Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
15.99% to 22.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction fee
However, sometimes flight deals aren’t available through the travel portal. So, if you’re booking directly with the airline, your best options are:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per year, then 1X)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve — 3X Ultimate Rewards points on travel not booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal
- Citi Premier® Card — 3X ThankYou Points on air travel and hotels
- American Express® Green Card — 3X Membership Rewards points per dollar on travel
Scott’s Cheap Flights has alerted me to many airfare deals that have saved me thousands of dollars over the years. If you’re looking to be alerted about cheap airfares, it’s strongly worth considering. Fortunately, you can sign-up for the free service to test it out and then upgrade to the paid version if you want the extra benefits.
Information about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.