One of life's greatest little pleasures is discovering a perfectly legal loophole that allows you to get something at a discount or even for free. There aren't many avenues that the average person can use to "stick it to the man," but a clever scheme is a great way to get back at big companies for all the times they've treated people unfairly. And when that loophole involves getting freebies regarding driving, flying, or lodging, it's that much sweeter because those things are typically pretty expensive.
Whether it's an airline miles strategy that results in an insane amount of usable credit, or a shrewd plot to get out of having to pay for parking tickets, don't blame us if these tactics leave you feeling a little bit inspired. Here are some of Reddit users' most clever, devious loopholes they found to drive, fly, and lodge on the cheap. Content edited for clarity.
"Not exactly a giant loophole, but I used to live in a very rural area with really slow internet. Anyway, I’d rent movies on Amazon and stream them and the definition would get pretty rough sometimes and it’d have to buffer a bit, but overall not enough to ruin a movie for me. Well, Amazon will refund you if rented a movie and it gets a notice that the streaming wasn’t great. I rented a whole bunch of movies I normally would never pay to rent and got refunded for all of them. Yes, I was sacrificing quality, but I basically had a 'free' streaming service until I moved and got better internet. I never requested any refunds. I’d usually get an email a couple of days after renting a movie saying something along the lines of, 'We noticed your streaming experience wasn’t up to par, here’s a refund.'”
"As anyone who has lived in apartments for a while knows, security deposits are basically a scam since they always use it to paint and have the carpets cleaned regardless of how clean you leave the place.
In California, state law requires apartment complexes to mail you the remainder of your security deposit as well as itemized receipts for what they spent it on within 30 days of your move out date or you're entitled to a 100% refund of the deposit.
I got those sons of biscuits twice with this when they were a few days late mailing my deposit back and got full refunds both times. Those are still some of my proudest moments."
"I can't say I know anyone who's done this, but here's a classic that's stuck with me since reading Abbie Hoffman's 'Steal This Book.'
Every year the National Park Service gives away surplus elks in order to keep the herds under its jurisdiction from outgrowing the amount of available land for grazing. Write to: Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone, Wyoming 83020. You must be prepared to pay the freight charges for shipping the animal and guarantee that you can provide enough grazing land to keep the big fellow happy.
Under the same arrangement the government will send you a Free Buffalo. Write to: Office of Information, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20420. So many people have written them recently demanding their Free Buffalo, that they called a press conference to publicly attack the hippies for creating chaos in the government. Don't take any buffalo from these petty bureaucrats, demand the real thing. Demand your Free Buffalo."
"If you know that certain routes at your airport are always oversold, just buy a fully refundable fare a few days before the flight takes off because it will typically be one of the oversold tickets. Then just go to the airport, offer to give up your seat, and reap the rewards. If it's not overbooked, refund your ticket.
I usually book 12-18 tickets in one day and hit one after another up until my planned departure in the evening. I try to spread it across 5+ airlines to avoid seeing the same staff, but when executed well, I fly everywhere in the world for free. Southwest has the best policy, which is $300 plus twice the value of your ticket. I have thousands of dollars of credit with all the airlines that I can't use fast enough. It's a simple trick that works well; I've earned over $90,000 by getting compensated by airlines."
"For many years, I lived in Washington, D.C., a city which has a practice of refusing to issue parking tickets for Sunday churchgoers, most of whom don't even live in D.C. (an interesting cultural phenomenon unique to the city; many families moved to Maryland due to gentrification and other reasons but have remained loyal to their churches).
My car has been blocked in many times and the city refuses to do anything about it, effectively creating a religious free pass for parking violations. One time I got a parking ticket and filed an appeal saying that I was at a religious service (even though it was a Tuesday night). I wound up doing this three times over the years.
I didn't win, but all my tickets are still pending appeal, and one of them is from 2003. I'm pretty sure the city does not want to confront the quagmire they have created by refusing to enforce laws based on religious reasons. I told my friends about this and several of them have done it as well."
"Any time a bank offered a new account bonus. You'd be surprised how many don't require you to keep the account open. They just say something like, "If we're not the best bank, then $50 is on us." TD Bank said that in their promo for example. Closed the account same day truthfully saying that their completely inferior to my bank.
They tried to weasel out of it by saying that a Credit Union is 'not a bank', but it is and I threatened to sue for false advertising if they didn't honor it."
"Around 5 years ago I used to work as a Sales Rep at a cell phone booth. Every new smartphone that would be released, the wireless provider would usually send us a demo unit of that phone with a demo line. The demo line would have unlimited talk, text, and data but would deactivate after 2-3 months. This was so we could show customers how the phone works with all of its features.
One time we got a demo line that didn't expire after the 2-3 months. So my manager at the time told me to use it as my work line. I didn't want to carry two cell phones so I cancelled my personal line and used my work line as my personal too. Fast forward one year later, my manager is transferred to another store and we get a new manager. New manager has no idea about my work/personal line. I left the company 6 months later with my demo line and to this day I still use this demo line. Have not had a cell phone bill for over 5 years and counting."
Last summer, I went up to Northern Michigan with a buddy of mine. He's got a nice summer cabin in a small town called Oscoda. It's a nice little place, with beautiful lake beaches and other fun outdoorsy stuff if that's your thing, but there's not an awful lot to do up there otherwise. We walked from his cabin into the town, and walked into a closing K-Mart. I walked over to the electronics aisle, hoping to find some bargains on video games. Unfortunately, they only had one lousy game: Putty Squad for PS4, and they had an awful lot of copies. I checked the price. They were on clearance for $14, but were marked at an additional 90% off, bringing the price down to a measly $1.40 each. I did the sensible thing that anyone else would've done and bought 20 copies, even though I had no interest in ever playing any of them nor did I own a PS4. Receipt for proof. After a weird look from the cashier, he removed the security labels from the games and sent me on my merry way with a bag full of sealed games I spent under $30 for. I brought them home with me, and traded them into GameStop one by one every time I went, getting approximately $7 per copy in store credit. I traded in such a high volume of copies, I was banned from trading in games to GameStop! Fortunately, it's a system-issued temporary ban to prevent people from loading off stolen goods. I just traded in my last copy last weekend when they were doing a 50% bonus trade-in credit promotion, and got $10 in-store credit. I made something like $150 in store credit total off of $28 plus tax, and even though this pales in comparison to some of the other posts in this thread, I consider this a victory and it makes for a funny story to tell.
"My friend works for a company where he spends the entire week traveling and staying in hotels which he can charge as a business expense. Because of this, my roommate and I listed our air mattress on Airbnb for $150 and he's the only one that ever stays there.
He's only in town once every couple weeks, but whenever he is, we have a small house party entirely on the company's dime! So yeah, we basically get paid to have our friend crash with us a few times a month."
"I spent five years on a US Navy submarine. Every two years, we would do a six-month-long deployment in the western Pacific. During my second deployment, I got boondoggled with a few other dudes; basically, the boat went out for deployment without us and we got sent to attend various training schools in Pearl Harbor for the first half of the deployment, and then we were supposed to catch a flight to meet the boat.
We showed up with our orders to check in at Pearl Harbor, but there was some miscommunication as the office personnel had messed up. We weren't enrolled in any of our classes and we didn't have barracks, meal credits, or anything. They had no idea we were coming. They gave us something called a 'non-availability chit,' which allowed us to stay at any reasonably-priced hotel on the government's dime.
Natural, we found a palace of an estate a block away from Waikiki to stay at. We showed up for roll call the next day and the officer in charge more or less just told us, 'Yeah, I don't want to see you guys again, ever.' Also, we couldn't get ahold of our boat because it was underwater doing secret things. Once the administrative guys got everything straightened out, they realized that our return plane tickets were already paid for and the paper was done, so they pretty much just said, 'Oh well.'
All this essentially meant that we were getting a per diem and having our housing covered by the Navy, never had to muster for work, and never had to check in anywhere. On top of that, we were still collecting our normal pay and allowances. For three months, I grew a beard, got high as a kite as often as possible, learned to scuba dive, did some surfing, got it on with a bunch of international tourists, went on pub crawls every weekend, hiked, and did lots of snorkeling. More than once, I woke up on the beach with no recollection of how I got there. It was the best vacation ever. Thanks, Navy!"
"So many Starbucks loopholes:
Starbucks has a gold card membership program where you get free drinks for your birthday. It costs $5 to join (basically you have to load money onto a gift card). BUT you can buy 365 gift cards and say your birthday is a different day on each one, and basically end up with free Starbucks for life as long as you pay the down payment first. A man actually did this and they were basically powerless to stop him.
You can order any iced beverage but request no ice. There are lines on the sides of each cup that they measure to so that when they put the ice in, it fills the drink. But if you ask for no ice, they have to fill it up all the way to the top and you get more drink. After requesting for a small or medium drink with no ice, request a large cup of ice. Pour the drink into the cup of ice and voila! A large drink for the price of a small or medium sized one.
The gold Starbucks membership has a system where you get a free drink after paying for a certain amount. But that drink can literally be anything, at any size, as long as it actually counts as a drink. And there is technically no limit to the number of espresso shots you can add to a drink, so you can request for, like, 75 shots over ice (stored across many cups) and it will all be free, even though it is the equivalent of multiple drinks, not just one.
Lastly? Many Starbucks have a mobile order system where you can request a drink ahead of time online, and it will already be pre-made when you reach the counter with your name on it. Thing is, baristas aren't supposed to ask for your name when you grab a drink off the mobile order station (Sensitivity Training!)...so technically you can just steal a drink from the station and nobody will even question it, because they'll assume you're just picking up your order. Then when the real person shows up, they'll wonder where their drink is and it will generally be assumed that a mistake was made. Just make sure you're not stealing the same names and it won't be noticed."
"When I was in grad school, I moved into an apartment complex that had promised me free shuttle rides to the nearby train station. It was a big factor in deciding to move there because I didn't own a car.
Well, a couple months after I moved in, they started charging for the shuttle rides. They had these punch cards that were $10 for 10 punches. The problem was that these punch cards had no security features in them. They were just cards made out of colored cardstock.
After realizing this, I used Photoshop to mimic the cards as best as I could and had several sheets printed at a local print shop, then I carefully cut them out and started using them. I had to be careful that I didn't let the bus driver punch the 10th slot because then he would take the used-up card. I didn't want those cards to be returned to the office and have them notice a discrepancy that the driver wouldn't. I used that stratagem for about a year before I moved out."
"I coach a high school team and we recently bought airfare with Spirit airlines to take nine students to a competition. Two of the students canceled about a month out from the trip, so we had to replace them with two different students.
However, the Spirit Airlines policy calls for no name changes on tickets and you can't even pay a fee to change the name. The tickets were basically lost at that point and it was looking like we'd have to buy new tickets. Spirit's customer service is overseas and they plainly don't care at all about customer service (because they don't actually work for Spirit).
That said, Spirit Airlines DOES allow passengers to correct misspellings, and these folks don't really recognize nonsense names. So over the course of four phone calls, I changed the names of the canceled students to the names of the new students, two letters at a time. No one in Spirit customer service made a note (because who would care), and no one ever noticed that the 'correct' names during the intermediate steps were nonsense. Take that, Spirit!"
"I leased a 2014 Prius for two and a half years for essentially the cost of a set of tires. I did a three-year lease with high mileage; normal mileage would have been 30,000 miles for three years, and if you go over you pay a dollar a mile or something like that. Instead, I did a 60,000-mile lease with the extended service package and put nothing down. The total cost out the door was something like $80, and the monthly payment was $410. After installing a new set of tires at 25k miles for $400, my total cost for the entire time I was leasing came to $12,800.
I drove it for two and a half years and put 48,000 miles on it, but because I didn't use up all my miles or the last two service appointments on the extended service package when I turned the car in, I had what was called lease equity. I decided to buy a new car instead of leasing, so the dealership put the lease equity as the down payment of about $12,400. Since I ended up only paying $400 more than that over the life of the lease, I essentially got free car for two years and five months."
"Calgary, Alberta has some of the highest parking rates in North America due in part to 65% of the market share being held by a company called Impark. Freedom of Privacy laws now forbid the government to give personal information to corporations, which means if you get a parking ticket, Impark can no longer get your personal information to call you or track you down.
Furthermore, a court battle was won a few years ago in which a guy was taken to small claims court by Impark to pay his unpaid parking tickets. His claim defense was that the 'damages' being sought by Impark (around $1,500) was an imaginary number since the most damage he could have caused by parking without paying was the value of the hours he didn't pay for (closer to $200). The court ruled in his favor, though he was forced to pay the $200.
All that means that it is completely not worth it for Impark to take unpaid ticket holders to court. You can still be towed from an Impark lot, but most of them are extremely difficult to get a tow truck into or out of (especially if you park in a difficult to reach area). As a result, Impark tickets are really cheap wallpaper and I rarely fear parking in their ridiculously expensive lots whenever I feel like it."
"I used to travel for work when I lived in Greensboro and worked in Boston, so I'd book the same flights every week. I'd leave early Monday morning and head back on the 5:30 PM flight on Friday night.
The thing is, I knew ahead of time that my return flight would be overbooked. In fact, it was usually so overbooked that they had as many as six or seven passengers too many, so they offered people money/miles/flights as needed.
Every Friday, I'd wait for them to make the first announcement offer, which was usually a voucher. Pfft. Then the second announcement would come, probably a slightly larger voucher. Double Pfft. But the third announcement, that's when they started offering the good stuff. I'd take that one, which would at least be a round-trip anywhere in the continental US. Sometimes they offered a flight and a voucher, and once or twice they even offered a free trip anywhere in the world. Saweet!
After that, they'd book me a guaranteed seat on the next flight, which was never overbooked anyway. The best part was that the next flight would board the same connecting flight I would have taken if I had been on the 5:30 pm flight out of Boston. I didn't do it that way to scam them, it was just the only connection available for either flight.
I took that route 45-50 weeks a year for two whole years. I lost count of how many vouchers and free round-trip tickets I accumulated. I even got calls from the frequent flier miles rep telling me that I was 'abusing the system' and that if I persisted, I would have my miles taken away. I figured, who cares? I earned maybe two free trips a year with miles, which was peanuts compared to what I got by simply taking advantage of their weekly kindness.
They never did take away my miles, but my scheme ended about a month before my Boston job was over. One Friday, the gate agent announced that anyone who wanted a free round-trip ticket in return for giving up their seat should see her at the podium. Then she followed it up with, 'But not you, (my name).' Well, it was great while it lasted!"
"The parking garage where I park at my university gives you a ticket when you pull in that you have to take over to a machine to pay for your parking before you leave. The amount you pay is based on how long you were parked and the gate at the exit will only open if you insert a ticket that says it's been paid for. When I go in, I get a ticket, walk over to the machine, and immediately pay, so it only charges me for a few minutes and then I park there for eight hours for free."
"I'm originally from Japan but went to college in California. I used to travel home to Japan every summer and winter so it made sense to get a United Mileage credit card since I could rack up the miles.
During my sophomore year, I bought a pair of shoes from Nordstrom's website, but they didn't fit so I called to return them. They told me I could go to a physical store for a refund. Once I got to my local Nordstrom, they asked me if I wanted my refund to go back onto my card or if I would like my refund in cash.
I didn't have much cash on me and didn't feel like going to the ATM so I took the cash. However, I realized that I was still getting the points on my mileage card since it'd originally charged my credit card. After that, I would make all kinds of purchases on Nordstrom's website and then return everything, getting a cash refund every time. That scheme generated around 50k in miles every year and I was able to pay for a trip across the US using just miles after I graduated."
"My husband used to work for a grocery store chain that also had gas stations. About 10, years ago they came up with a promotion: buy groceries and after a certain amount spent, you earned a few cents off your gas. It was something like $100 spent = $0.05 off per gallon.
However, when it first came out, they didn't think to limit it. Families would share the same points card and build up points until there was more off per gallon than it cost, making it free. Then they'd get together, enter the points at the station, line up their cars, and everyone would get a full tank of gas for free. Technically, it was all totally legal. After a while, they put a cap on how much of a discount could be earned and limited it to one car per transaction. But for those people who pulled it off during its heyday, kudos!."
"I was a freshman in community college going into radio broadcasting. It was my second semester and it was becoming exceedingly difficult to get a parking spot because my classes didn't start until 9 am, but everyone else was taking 8 am classes.
The parking situation consisted of a large lot out back, but it wasn't nearly large enough for the student body and staff. There was a lot to the side and a lot across the street, but you had to pay to use them because they were privately owned. Each one involved a 5-minute walk just to get to the building, not to mention navigating to wherever your class was.
One day I was running late and, in my haste, parked in a small visitor lot right in front of the building. It was an awesome spot, spacious and a 45-second walk from my car to the classroom. At the end of my day, I went back out and found a ticket on my car which was hard to read because it was a carbon copy of the ticket they wrote. It was so hard to read, in fact, that I couldn't even make out the date and time it was written. Then it dawned on me...
'Why not just park here every day and put this under my wipers before I go in?' It wasn't foolproof by any means, but worst case scenario I'd get another fine and maybe an angry letter.
I spent three years at the school taking classes and working at the campus radio station, and I NEVER once got called out for it. I even had the presence of mind to put the ticket in a little Ziploc bag if it was raining, just like they did."
"For every family or single person making $30k or less per year, the IRS will file your taxes for you for free. If you go to a local branch during their specified hours, they will have their own agent look through your stuff and find basically everything you're qualified to receive.
This is great for college students and anyone else who may need to catch up or has never done their taxes before. When I was able to do this, the IRS people were super friendly and worked tirelessly to get me everything they could think of. I also didn't see many other people there, so I guess they were glad to be doing something.
You will sit down with an actual IRS agent who will look through your stuff and ask you questions to try to find everything you qualify for. There are free alternatives online and from local sources (my alma mater offered this from the business college), but in my opinion nothing beats having an actual IRS agent--the same guys who come to audit you--filing your taxes for you."