New Orleans is a vibrant, lively city. Whether you’re looking for fresh beignets or scoping out some Mardi Gras floats, there is plenty to keep you occupied in this southern city.
However, depending on when you’re looking to travel, it can get pretty pricey. Fortunately, New Orleans is well connected, both in terms of hotels and flights, which means you can get—and stay—there for cheap using credit card points. If you play your cards right, you can minimize your costs on everything from airfare to rental cars.
As part of our post-pandemic travel planning series, we’ll guide you through how to do it. Check out the rest of “Our Money’s on Travel” for more advice on breaking away this year without breaking your budget.
- All major U.S. airlines offer flights to New Orleans, so there are plenty of options for award flights.
- Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and IHG have multiple properties each in the city, along with scores of boutique hotel options. All of these can be booked using your credit card reward points.
- Book rental cars using your credit card issuer’s travel portal or use a “purchase eraser” card to remove travel purchases from your credit card statement.
How To Fly to New Orleans on Rewards Points or Miles
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is the main airport for New Orleans. Located 12 miles west of the French Quarter, it’ll take about half an hour to get to the heart of things, depending on traffic. Fifteen different airlines fly directly to New Orleans, which means you’re absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to booking flights:
|Air Transat||Copa Airlines||Spirit|
|Alaska Airlines||Delta||Sun Country Airlines|
|American Airlines||JetBlue||Vacation Express|
The airport has nonstop flights from 46 different cities within the U.S., so no matter where you are, you’ll be able to find a flight.
How Much Do Award Flights to New Orleans Cost?
The cost of an award flight will vary based on your departure airport and demand. For most of us, that means U.S. based airlines, including American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta, United, JetBlue, and Southwest. All of these airlines provide plenty of routes throughout the U.S. to New Orleans.
Each airline will charge you differently based on its own reward program rules. Southwest and JetBlue tie the cost of an award ticket directly to the cash price of your ticket, which means when you fly on expensive dates your award ticket will be expensive as well.
Delta, Alaska Airlines, United, and American Airlines all operate on a dynamic pricing model for award tickets that also fluctuates with demand, though they aren’t necessarily tied directly to the cash price of a ticket. This dynamic pricing can work in your favor if you manage to find cheap tickets on your dates of travel.
Let’s take a look at the cost of a flight to New Orleans from Los Angeles in economy class. These prices are the best rates we could find for the month of June, and were researched six to eight weeks in advance. They are always subject to change.
|Airline||Mileage Cost Round-Trip||Cash Cost Round-Trip||Value of 1 Mile Used for This Flight (Cents)|
|Delta Air Lines||19,000||$336||1.77|
These are prices throughout June, which is right on the cusp of the summer season. All of these can fluctuate during the peak of the summer travel season, but you have plenty of choices.
When booking award flights, be aware that you don’t usually save money by booking a round trip. The cost will generally be the same whether you book two one-way tickets or one round-trip ticket, so it may be a better idea to book two one-way flights. This allows you flexibility to change or cancel one leg of your flight without affecting the other leg.
The general rule of thumb for redeeming rewards points is to find an option that gives you at least 1 cent per point. If the point value is lower than that, you may want to save your miles and pay with cash instead if you can. You can calculate the value by dividing the dollar price by the number of miles needed. For example, if you redeem miles for the Alaska Airlines flight above, each one will be worth 2.31 cents, which is a good value. For the United flight, your miles would only be worth 1.10 cents each—still acceptable, but not exceptional.
Flying from a smaller regional airport may cost you more in dollars or miles. Let's take a look at the cost of a flight from the Ontario International Airport, a mid-sized airport about an hour-and-a-half from Los Angeles that may be more convenient than LAX for some people.
|Airline||Mileage Cost Round-Trip||Cash Cost Round-Trip||Value of 1 Mile Used for This Flight (Cents)|
|Delta Air Lines||44,000||$537||1.22|
As you can see, in many cases, the mile values are different here from what they were on the previous routes from LAX. But it’s hard to say in general whether your miles will be worth more or less for any given flight when you choose a smaller airport. It may be worth checking both options if they’re equally convenient for you.
Average Mile Valuations Hint at What to Expect
While looking over award requirements and cash pricing for any particular flight, it can help to have an understanding of how much a reward mile is worth from each of the airlines in general. According to research done by The Balance, you may be able to get more value from Southwest or JetBlue than from other airlines. 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 flights.
Credit Cards That Can Help You Earn Miles
Credit cards are a lucrative business for banks and airlines and they’ll do whatever they can to make you a customer. This includes enticements like large welcome bonuses that will be credited to your account once you meet a minimum spend requirement. If you’re looking for a quick way to earn enough miles for a flight, credit card sign-up bonuses and welcome offers can be a good way to get you (and your family) on your way to the Crescent City.
If you’re loyal to any particular airline, co-branded airline credit cards can be a good option:
- Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card: Earn a new cardmember bonus of 90,000 miles (worth $1,296 on average when used for domestic economy travel) after spending $3,000 on your card in the first three months of membership. Plus get a $200 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the same period. Plus earn 3 miles per dollar at Delta and on purchases directly from hotels; 2 miles on restaurants, takeout, and supermarkets; and 1 mile on everything else. Annual fee: $250.
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card: Earn a new cardmember bonus of 40,000 miles (worth $420 on average when used for domestic economy travel) and a companion fare (from $121) after spending $2,000 on your card in the first three months of membership. Then earn 3 miles per dollar on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile on everything else. Annual fee: $75.
- United Quest Card: Earn 80,000 miles after spending $5,000 on your card in the first three months of membership (worth $848 on average when used for domestic economy travel), plus 20,000 more miles after spending $10,000 in your first six months of ownership. Earn 3 miles per dollar on United purchases; 2 miles on all other travel, restaurants, and streaming services; and 1 mile on everything else. Annual fee: $250.
- 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), offer valid through July 14, 2021. Earn 2 miles per dollar on Southwest purchases; and 1 mile on everything else. Annual fee: $69.
- AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard: Earn 60,000 bonus miles (worth $774 on average when used for domestic economy travel) after making your first purchase and paying the annual fee, both within the first 90 days of card ownership. Plus, earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all AA purchases and 1 mile dollar elsewhere. Annual fee: $99.
If you would prefer the flexibility of transferable rewards points—which can be transferred to a number of different airline loyalty programs—you may want to consider a general travel rewards card. These give you to ability to transfer and book with different airlines in order to get the best redemption for your points:
- The Platinum Card from American Express: Earn a welcome offer of 75,000 bonus points (worth $870 on average when used for domestic economy travel on Delta) after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of membership. Next, earn 10 points per dollar spent at gas stations and supermarkets within the first six months of membership. Otherwise, earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with the airline or via amextravel.com and hotels booked via amextravel.com; earn 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Annual fee: $550.
American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Delta at a 1:1 ratio, which means 1,000 membership rewards points turn into 1,000 Delta SkyMiles miles.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card: Earn a new cardmember bonus of 80,000 bonus points (worth $1,288 on average when used for domestic economy travel on Southwest) after spending $4,000 within the first three months of card ownership. Plus, earn 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel and 1 point on everything else. Annual fee: $95.
Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to United and Southwest at a 1:1 ratio, which means 1,000 ultimate rewards points become 1,000 United or Southwest miles.
How To Pay for a Hotel in New Orleans With Points
New Orleans is a pretty big city with a population of almost 400,000 people. This means it has an excellent selection of hotels—made even richer with the city’s popularity as a travel destination. All the major hotel chains have a presence in the city, so you’ll have plenty of options when redeeming your reward points. These include Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, and IHG, though you can always choose to book a boutique hotel with a flexible credit card through the card’s booking portal. Some cards also let you use points to “erase” your purchase on your statement later.
Here is a selection of hotels in New Orleans and their costs in both dollars and points for a booked six to eight weeks in advance for a stay during the summer. This is based on research done at the time of writing and results can change at any time.
|Hotel||5-Night Stay Cost in Points||5-Night Stay Cost in Dollars||Tips|
|The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel||234,000 points||$1,361||Book at least five consecutive reward nights to get the fifth night free|
|JW Marriott New Orleans||240,000 points||$1,175||Book at least five consecutive reward nights to get the fifth night free|
|Holiday Inn: French Quarter-Chateau LeMoyne||144,000 points||$1,121||Get the IHG Premier credit card to get your fourth night free on award stays|
|Hyatt Centric French Quarter New Orleans||75,000 points||$1,098||You can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to World of Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio|
|The Troubadour Hotel New Orleans, Tapestry Collection by Hilton||140,000 points||$876||Book at least five consecutive reward nights to get the fifth night free|
|The Eliza Jane,
The Unbound Collection by Hyatt
|75,000 points||$790||Transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to
World of Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio
|Fairfield Inn & Suites New Orleans Downtown/French Quarter Area||160,000 points||$766||Book at least five consecutive reward nights to get the fifth night free|
|The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery||61,000 points||$611||Use points from Bank of America, or Capital One cards to erase this travel purchase|
As you can see from the chart, points you put toward a stay at the Hyatt Centric French Quarter hotel could be worth 1.46 cents each, which is an excellent rate. At the other end of the scale, you’d only get 0.48 cents worth of value from points used to book award nights at the Fairfield Inn & Suites.
You can get more context about the points prices you see when you’re booking by understanding what a particular hotel chain’s points are usually worth. According to The Balance’s research into the average value of hotel points, here are the point values you can expect in general to get when booking a low-tier or mid-tier award room.
Credit Cards That Can Help You Earn Points for Hotel Stays
There are several co-branded hotel credit cards that’ll help you earn enough points to cover the cost of your stay. You can also opt for general travel credit cards with flexible points, such as from American Express or Chase, so you can later transfer these points to their respective hotel programs. All of these cards come with large welcome offers that will help you quickly accumulate the points needed for your New Orleans trip.
If you’re looking specifically for co-branded hotel cards, these can be a good option:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card: Earn a welcome bonus of 125,000 points (worth $1,300 when used for a low- or mid-tier room, on average) after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn 6 points per dollar on all Marriott purchases, 3 points per dollar on flights booked with airlines and restaurants, and 2 points per dollar everywhere else. Annual fee: $450.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn a welcome bonus of three free nights (worth up to 50,000 points each) after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn 6 points per dollar on all Marriott purchases and 2 points per dollar on travel and everything else. Annual fee: $95.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn a welcome bonus of 150,000 points (worth $720 when used for a low- or mid-tier room, on average) after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account ownership. Plus, earn 14 points per dollar on Hilton purchases, 7 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or via amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from car rental companies, and U.S. restaurants; and earn 3 points per dollar on everything else. Annual fee: $450.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card: Earn a welcome bonus of 130,000 points (worth $624 when used for a low- or mid-tier room, on average) after spending $2,000 within the first three months of account ownership and earn 50,000 more after spending an additional $8,000 in six months ($10,000 spend total). Earn 12 points per dollar on Hilton purchases, 6 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets; and earn 3 points per dollar on everything else. Annual fee: $95.
- World of Hyatt Credit Card: Earn a welcome bonus of 30,000 points (worth $555 when used for a low- or mid-tier room, on average) after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account ownership. Plus, earn up to 30,000 additional bonus points by earning double bonus points in the first six months of spend on purchases that would normally earn just one bonus point, on up to $15,000 of spending. Earn up to 9 points per dollar on Hyatt purchases (with World of Hyatt membership), 2 points per dollar at restaurants, gyms, airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, and local transit and commuting. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar. Annual fee: $95.
- The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Earn a welcome bonus of 150,000 points (worth $1,110 when used for a low- or mid-tier room, on average) after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account ownership. Plus, earn up to 25 points per dollar spent at IHG (with IHG Rewards Club membership), 2 points per dollar on gas stations, grocery stores, and supermarkets, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Annual fee: $0 for first year of card membership, then $89.
You can also opt for a flexible point card with points you can transfer to multiple loyalty programs (such as cards from American Express or Chase, as described above).
If you’d prefer a card that allows you to simply “erase” your purchases as a statement credit, you may want to consider these cards, which will allow you to redeem your points at a value of one cent each against any of your travel purchases:
- Bank of America Premium Rewards Card: Earn a 50,000 point bonus (worth $500 on when used toward eligible travel expenses) after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card ownership. You’ll also earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, 2 points on supermarkets (through 12/31/21) and 1.5 points per dollar on everything else. Annual fee: $95.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 50,000 points (worth $500 when used toward eligible travel expenses) after spending $3,000 in the first three months and 100,000 points after spending $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months. Earn 2 points per dollar on all purchases. Annual fee: $95.
What About Rental Cars?
It’s easy to use your credit card rewards for a rental car, especially those with flexible points. You can use each issuer’s travel portal to book your rental and redeem your points. Otherwise, you can also choose to use almost any rewards credit card to redeem your points as statement credits (such as for cars booked through services like AutoSlash or Priceline).
These figures are based on a 5-day rental booked six to eight weeks in advance during the summer season. They are quoted at the lowest available rate, though be aware that figures can change at any time.
|Method of Booking||Cost in Points||Cash Cost|
|American Express||76,229 points||$533|
|Chase (Using the Chase Sapphire Reserve card)||34,042 points||$511|
As you can see, each issuer will give you a different amount of value on your points redemption, so you’ll want to look at each option before settling on a rental. Keep in mind that Chase will give you a different value for your points depending on which card you have. The above rate is based on a value of 1.5 cents of value per point, which is given to Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders. Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders will get 1.25 cents in value instead.
Even if you don’t choose to use your points for a rental car reservation, you can still make sure you come out ahead by using a credit card that offers bonus points on your purchase. Plenty of cards also offer additional bonus points for other kinds of travel spend, so make sure you’re using one that’ll maximize your earnings.
One final thing to consider when booking your rental car is which credit cards offer the best rental car insurance. Some cards, like those offered by American Express, will provide secondary rental car insurance if you pay with your card. Others, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve, will offer primary collision damage waiver insurance. This means the policy will pay for any damage whether or not you have individual insurance; if you do have other insurance, these cards will pay your claim before it's sent to your personal insurance company.
The Bottom Line
New Orleans is an excellent vacation destination. From its famed French Quarter to its over-the-top Mardi Gras celebrations, this charming city is worth a visit. And because it’s so well connected, with direct flights from 46 different cities and hundreds of hotels available for booking, you’ll be able to find your way there with ease.
Play your cards smart and book your trip to New Orleans using credit card points to save big bucks. Whether you’re looking for award flights, award stays at hotels, or even rental cars paid for with points, your credit cards can make your trip more affordable so that you can travel sooner rather than later. And don’t forget—use your cards during your vacation to start saving up for the next.