There's something quintessentially American about New York City. Maybe that's why it attracts over 65 million visitors per year, including nearly one out of every three international visitors. But New York isn’t cheap. Hotels in particular can take a big bite out of your budget. The flip side, however, is that your choices for airlines and accommodations are vast. That means that there are a lot of ways you can cover major costs with credit card rewards points.
As part of our post-pandemic travel planning series, we’ll guide you through how to make this dream a financial reality. Check out the rest of “Our Money’s on Travel” for more advice on making a great escape this year.
- New York is served by three airports and dozens of airlines, offering multiple ways to use your credit card points.
- New York offers a hotel for every budget that you can book with credit card points.
- Flexible rewards cards may let you purchase New York City attraction passes or other fun things to do with your points.
- Plan your trip early so you can choose the right cards to use, and so you'll have time to earn any sign-up bonuses.
- When using credit cards for travel rewards, always pay off your card in full each month and choose one that fits in with your long-term spending plan.
How To Fly to New York City on Rewards Points or Miles
New York is unique in that it has three separate airports you can use to get to the city:
- LaGuardia Airport (LGA): A hub for American Airlines and Delta, it's also served by seven other airlines including Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): American Airlines and Delta also use JFK as a hub (for Delta, it's an international hub), and it's the main hub for JetBlue. More than 60 other airlines fly here, including Alaska Airlines, British Airways, and Lufthansa.
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR): The international hub for United Airlines, Newark also serves over 30 other airlines, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier, and Spirit.
How Much Do Award Flights to New York City Cost?
Award flight costs can vary widely depending on where you're flying from, which airline you use to get there, when you're going, and what kind of seat you book. Prices are also rapidly changing right now as the industry recovers from COVID, and as more people become vaccinated and travel. Either way, using credit-card reward points to book your trip can significantly reduce the cost of flights.
To help give you some idea of the cost, we've gathered a sample of round-trip economy ticket prices from across the country for the major airlines operating out of each of the three main airports for New York. These examples were collected eight weeks in advance of a June Monday-to-Saturday trip. All example prices are per person, based on the date of research, and subject to change.
|Airline||Departure City & Airport||Arrival Airport||Mileage Cost Round-Trip||Cash Cost Round-Trip||Value of 1 Mile Used for This Flight (Cents)|
|American Airlines||Chicago (ORD)||LaGuardia (LGA)||58,500 miles||$651||1.29|
|Southwest||Seattle (SEA)||LGA||44,518 miles||$623||1.61|
|Delta||Orlando (MCO)||LGA||49,000 miles||$368||1.16|
|American Airlines||San Francisco (SFO)||John F. Kennedy (JFK)||105,000 miles||$983||1.29|
|JetBlue||Los Angeles (LAX)||JFK||52,700 points||$668||1.46|
|Delta||Atlanta (ATL)||JFK||67,500 miles||$607||1.16|
|United Airlines||Dulles (IAD)||Newark Liberty (EWR)||26,400 miles||$893||1.06|
|JetBlue||Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)||EWR||33,600 points||$422||1.46|
The general rule of thumb for redeeming rewards points is to find an option that gives you at least 1 cent per point. You can calculate the value you’d get on a particular award flight by dividing the dollar price by the number of miles required. For example, if you use miles to purchase the American flight from Chicago O’Hare to LaGuardia, each mile will be worth 1.11 cents. For the JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to JFK, each mile is worth 1.51 cents.
Average Mile Valuations Hint at What To Expect
While you’ll need to check flights from your home airport for the dates you want to travel, it can help to have an understanding of how much a reward mile tends to be worth from each of the airlines. According to research done by The Balance, the average value of 1 reward mile on Southwest Airlines when used for domestic travel is worth 1.61 cents and a JetBlue mile is worth 1.46 cents. Large legacy carriers tend to give you the most value for your points on international or premium class routes, but these two smaller carriers shine for domestic economy.
You can also use these charts to figure out whether you’re getting more or less than the average value of a particular airline mile for any specific flight.
Credit Cards That Can Help You Earn Miles
One way to earn enough points quickly to get to New York is to sign up for a credit card that offers a sign-up bonus. Give yourself several months before you plan on traveling, though, so that you have enough time to earn the reward and enough lead time to book the flight.
Co-branded airline credit cards can be a particularly valuable way to earn enough points to fly one or two people to New York. Here are a few standouts:
- JetBlue Plus Card: Offers 60,000 bonus points (worth an average of $876 when used for domestic economy tickets) for spending at least $1,000 within the first 90 days. You'll get 6 points per dollar spent on eligible JetBlue purchases, 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Annual fee: $99.
- Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card: Offers 70,000 bonus miles (worth $812 when redeemed for a domestic economy ticket, on average) if you spend at least $2,000 within the first three months. In addition, you'll earn 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants, grocery stores, and on Delta purchases, and you'll get a $100 Delta flight credit every year if you spend at least $10,000 with the card. Annual fee: $0 the first year and $99 per year after.
- United Explorer Card: Offers a bonus of up to 65,000 points (worth $689 in domestic, economy travel, on average) if you spend at least $10,000 within the first six months. You'll also earn 2 points per dollar spent on United purchases, dining, some hotels, and at restaurants, plus 1 point per dollar on everything else. Annual fee: $0 the first year and $95 a year after.
- American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select: Offers 50,000 bonus points (worth $645 when used for domestic, economy travel, on average) for spending at least $2,500 within the first three months. You'll also earn 2 points per dollar spent on gas, on American Airlines purchases, and at restaurants, along with 1 point per dollar on everything else. Annual fee: $99.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Earn 65,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on your card in the first three months of membership (worth $975 on average when used for domestic, economy travel, on average) through July 14, 2021. Earn 2 miles per dollar on Southwest purchases; and 1 mile on everything else. Annual fee: $69.
General Travel Cards
In addition, if you want more than one option, you might consider a flexible travel card. You can often use these to book the same flight in two different ways: by using points to book flights through the card issuer's travel rewards portal or transferring those points directly to the airline loyalty program and booking from there. It's good to run the math to see which one stretches your points further. Here are some flexible rewards cards that do that:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: You can earn up to 80,000 bonus points (worth $1,000 towards travel booked through the Chase portal) if you spend at least $4,000 within the first three months. You'll also earn 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. Annual fee: $95.
- American Express Green Card: Offers 45,000 Membership Rewards Points (worth $450 toward travel booked through Amex) for spending at least $2,000 within the first three months, plus three points per dollar on restaurants, travel, public transit, and 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases. Annual fee: $150.
- Capital One Venture Rewards: Offers 100,000 bonus miles (worth $1,000 toward travel booked through Capital One) when you spend $20,000 or more within the first year, or 50,000 bonus miles (worth $510 toward travel, on average) for spending $3,000 or more in the first three months. This flat-rate card also offers 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases. Annual fee: $95.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a $50 grocery credit along with the 80,000-point sign-up bonus. If you plan to buy groceries while in New York and you plan on getting the Sapphire Preferred before your trip, take advantage of this credit.
Get a New Card Six Months Before Your Trip
As you plan your strategy for booking New York flights with points, remember that sign-up bonuses take time to earn and receive them. It typically takes up to eight to 10 weeks for your points to arrive in your awards account after you’ve hit the spending threshold the bonus requires. So, give yourself around six months to get your card, earn and receive your points, and book your flight far enough in advance to get better fares.
How To Pay for a Hotel in New York City With Points
New York offers a wide range of hotel types, from boutique hotels to well-known brands. There's likely something to make everyone happy. However, New York’s room rates are among the most expensive in the nation, which is why using rewards points to book can be a smart way to save money.
Here's an example of what you might expect to pay in points at popular hotels in New York for a room for two adults booked eight weeks in advance of a Monday-to-Saturday trip. As with flights, your actual points cost may be higher or lower depending on many different factors.
|Hotel||5-Night Stay Cost in Points||5-Night Stay Cost in Dollars||Tips|
|Park Hyatt New York||150,000 Hyatt points||$4,011||You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt at a 1-to-1 rate.|
|The Chatwal, a Luxury Collection Hotel||320,000 Marriott Bonvoy points||$3,775||Your fifth night is free when you book five consecutive nights.|
|West 57th Street by Hilton Club||564,000 Hilton Honors points||$1,568||Your fifth night is free when you book five consecutive nights.|
|InterContinental New York Barclay||51,400 IHG Rewards points||$1,420||You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to IHG at a 1-to-1 rate.|
|Radisson Hotel New York Midtown - Fifth Avenue||350,000 Radisson Rewards points||$1,168||Radisson Rewards Visa cardholders can earn up to three free nights in their first year.|
|Millennium Times Square New York||196,000 Hilton Honors points||$1,010||Your fifth night is free when you book five consecutive nights.|
|Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel||176,000 Marriott Bonvoy points||$902||Your fifth night is free when you book five consecutive nights|
|The New Yorker, A Wyndham Hotel||150,000 Wyndham Rewards points||$835||Chase Sapphire and Reserve cardholders can book Wyndham hotels through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal and receive a 25%-50% points bonus.|
|The Carvi Hotel New York, Ascend Hotel Collection||100,000 Choice Privileges points||$744||Choice Privileges loyalty members earn a $3 Uber credit, $5 Starbucks gift card, or other perks for each weeknight stay.|
|Holiday Inn Manhattan 6th Ave - Chelsea||105,000 IHG Rewards points||$683||You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to IHG at a 1-to-1 rate.|
As you can see from the chart, points you put toward a stay at the InterContinental New York Barclay could be worth 2.76 cents per point, which is an excellent rate. Conversely, booking a stay at the West 57th Street by Hilton Club would give you just 0.28 cents per point, or less than a tenth of the value of the InterContinental.
The Balance’s research into the average value of hotel points may also help give context to the points prices you see when you go to book a room with rewards.
Credit Cards That Can Help You Earn Points for Hotel Stays
You can use flexible rewards travel cards for hotels too, but another good strategy is to use a co-branded hotel rewards card to knock out the accommodations portion of your trip. Here are some cards that can help you do that:
- IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Offers 150,000 bonus points (worth $1,110 on average toward low- or mid-tier rooms) and a free reward night for spending $3,000 or more within the first three months. You'll also earn 15 points per dollar spent on IHG purchases (in addition to 10 points you get as an IHG rewards member); 2 points per dollar spent on restaurant, gas, and grocery purchases; and 1 point per dollar spent on all else. Annual fee: $0 first year of card membership, then $89.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card: You'll earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points (worth $1,040 on average toward low- or mid-tier rooms) if you spend at least $3,000 in the first three months. You'll also earn up to 7 extra points per dollar for Marriott purchases in addition to the 10 you get as a Marriott Bonvoy member (17 total), for Marriott purchases, 2 points per dollar spent on other purchases. Annual fee: $95.
- Hilton Honors Amex Surpass Card: Offers 130,000 Hilton Honors Points (worth $624 on average toward low- or mid-tier rooms) if you spend $2,000 or more within the first three months, plus 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton; 6 points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, and restaurants; and 3 points per dollar spent on all else. Annual fee: $95.
- Wyndham Rewards Earner Plus Card: Offers 45,000 bonus points (worth $392 on average toward low- or mid-tier rooms) if you spend at least $1,000 within the first three months, plus 6 points per dollar spent on Wyndham hotels and on gas, 4 points per dollar spent on groceries and restaurants, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. Annual fee: $75.
Marriott and Hilton will give you your fifth night free when you book at least a five-night stay with points. And the Citi Premier credit card offers a fourth night free when you use the card to book a room through the Citi ThankYou Rewards travel-booking portal.
In a city like New York where hotel prices are sky high, using a general travel rewards card’s travel portal to book a hotel room with points could give you a distinct advantage: You aren’t limited to a single brand like you are with rewards points from a hotel chain.
While many of the options we found in our research require at least 100,000 points to book a five-night stay, we found multiple five-night stays in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal that cost 60,000 points or less for Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders (booking prices are subject to change):
- The Frederick Hotel: 43,490 points or $543.60
- Hilton Garden Inn New York-Times Square Central: 37,060 points or $463.25
- The Evelyn Hotel: 49,250 points or $615.60
- Park Central Hotel New York: 59,080 points or $738.50
When Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cardholders redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, points are worth 25% and 50% more, respectively.
While You’re in New York City
New York has endless options. You can use credit card points to pay for some of these too, especially if you use a flexible travel rewards card.
For example, you can use your Chase credit card points to book tours, museum admissions, Broadway tickets, carriage rides, and more through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. American Express Experiences gives Amex cardholders a chance to book concerts, art shows, and exclusive events.
Also, certain credit cards provide increased reward rates for entertainment and dining purchases, two categories you’ll likely spend money on while you’re in New York. The Capital One Savor card is an excellent example, as it gives you 4% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases.
The Bottom Line
If you've got some travel to make up for and want to be around a lot of people again, New York may be the perfect spot for you. It doesn't have to be expensive. Depending on where you live and how much you plan things in advance, you can get almost the entire cost of your trip covered with credit card points.
Now's an especially good time to start saving up your credit card points, as many issuers have adjusted their policies to offer more points for pandemic-worthy purchases such as takeout and groceries. These are good cards to bring with you on your trip to New York to pay for food, so you can even start saving up points for your next trip, too.