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Plant city car lot owner would let you trade for a first-class plane ticket with $1,000 up front. Is this a crock or an extremely good idea? (Mar. 9, 2012)

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plant city car lot owner would let you trade for a first-class plane ticket with $1,000 up front. Is this a crock or an extremely good idea? (Mar. 9, 2012)

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Key takeaways:

The mileage reward represents 0.0075 of a First Class flight ticket with round-trip ticketing to an exotic location.

A sample ticket costs $749.55 per person.

If you trade in 15,000 miles of a low-mileage Ford, you would net $1,046.35 for the ticket.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Are you in the market for a new car? If so, you might be interested in a new travel program by a plant city car lot owner.

Scott Mullet of Madison, owner of Cruisin' Cars, is offering up a 60-minute test drive in a 2002 Honda Accord. A $1,000 credit would allow the driver to buy a first-class round-trip ticket to an exotic location for up to six passengers.

Think about that: A first-class ticket that costs $4,300 per person.

Mullet will earn the reward — after doing the sales pitch — by miles, earning $7.25 per mile for Honda incentive miles.

Why should you trade in your car, drive the new one for 60 minutes and get a free ticket to a destination of your choice?

A lot of people trade in their cars for things like an iPad or an Apple TV, but a car is a bigger ticket item.

'Let's do it'

The idea for the promotion came when Mullet found an empty lot behind his dealership. The owner had just sold the lot, and Mullet was thinking of ways to improve it.

"Let's do it," he said. "Let's do a first-class ticket with a $1,000 credit. People will do anything for money and free travel."

The problem was that Mullet didn't have a way to track down travel rewards or redemption values. But he found an online company called Aeroplan that provides a reward program for corporate travel, and asked if it would allow him to trade in miles and get a first-class ticket for his dealership.

He figured he could trade in miles that would earn him about $6.

Then came the nitty-gritty of developing the plan.

The trick is figuring out how to fill his car lot. Mullet is no car salesman, but he talks to people.

Finding travelers willing to take the free test drive turned out to be the hardest part of the whole process, said Mullet.

How many would respond to an ad in a car lot saying, "Come try out our new car? Buy it, and you can get a ticket to Europe"?

Mullet said he offered a deal for 15,000 miles: He would offer a $1,000 credit toward a ticket for an entire sale if they took the test drive. He would give the driver 15,000 miles for $13,750, based on the miles that can be earned by selling cars in Madison. That was a lot of miles.

The potential dealer would have to pay $13,750, round trip, to pick up the vehicle.

Only about 50 people responded, and just a handful had first-class tickets they would offer to trade in, Mullet said. He made contact with 10 of them. But not one of them was interested in the deal.

It was then that Mullet asked his good friend Stephen Wayment, owner of the 18-year-old Skywest Travel Company in Madison, to join the effort.

"It came up to $30,000 to do it and get 10 people for a test drive," Wayment said.

They had a great deal, with a ticket and car, for just $1,000. They set up a website:, and got the ball rolling with their website and the Facebook page, where people could learn about the promotion.

Mullet said they had about 100 people sign up for the promotion.

Then the pay-off came when he heard that someone had just bought a new Prius using the credit.

The next day, the promoter had earned the $1,000 reward, Mullet said. He's been thrilled since then, but it has made him wary of the "easy money."

"We just have to make sure the company I'm getting it from has the best reward company," Mullet said. "It doesn't make sense to spend $1,000 on the company when you can earn $7.25 a mile."

Miles and rewards

A first-class ticket for six people on United would cost $4,300, based on an American Airlines price list. A return ticket for just a man and woman, a ticket for two couples or a ticket for a family of four would cost about $5,200.

Miles cost an average of $51 per year when earned through travel rewards programs from airline partners or credit cards. Rewards can be traded in for miles at varying rates.

For example, Southwest Airlines gives away 4.3 miles per $1 spent on travel with airline credit cards, up to 50,000 miles per year. American Airlines offers 3 miles per dollar, up to 60,000 miles per year.

Amex's Citi SkyMiles program is the best for travel credit cards, offering 5,000 miles per $1 and 30,000 miles per year.

Miles for corporate travel programs usually carry lower rates than airline programs. Discounted rates, sometimes for 100,000 miles per year, are available through several credit card reward programs, including those from Capital One and Target, as well


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  2. Horton

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