How To Fund a Trip to Puerto Rico With Credit Card Points

Use credit card rewards to cover flight, hotel, and even rental car costs

Pay for travel to Puerto Rico with credit card points

The Balance

If you're looking to get away somewhere warm and tropical with its own distinct culture but you don't want to break the bank to do it or lose a good chunk of your vacation in transit, consider Puerto Rico. This U.S. territory has enough to offer just about any traveler: families with young children, solo young adventurers, couples looking for a romantic getaway, and more. And you don't even need a passport to travel there if you're a U.S. citizen.

Paying cash for a trip to Puerto Rico can get expensive, just like any other vacation destination. Learn how to use credit card points to pay for most—if not all—of your trip. 

Key Takeaways

  • Hundreds of flights go to Puerto Rico each week from many popular airlines, mostly from the East Coast.
  • Puerto Rico offers a range of hotels to suit any budget and traveler style. 
  • You may be able to book a rental car with many different types of cards, but check your options in advance before opening a new credit card. 
  • You can use flexible travel rewards cards to pay for many adventures and activities in Puerto Rico, too.

How to Fly to Puerto Rico on Rewards Points or Miles

Puerto Rico has more than 1,300 weekly nonstop flights to the island. Chances are you'll get to Puerto Rico by flying to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). It's located in San Juan, in the northeast part of the island. More than 20 airlines serve the airport, including:

How Much Do Award Flights to Puerto Rico Cost?

Most of the direct flights to Puerto Rico depart from the East Coast. To give you an idea of how much it might cost in credit card points to fly to Puerto Rico, we've included a few examples below. 

Each of these example costs was gathered eight weeks in advance of a summer trip in July. Keep in mind that your price may be different, as mid-November to late April is usually the peak travel time to Puerto Rico (so summer flights tend to be cheaper) and prices are fluctuating as travel resumes as pandemic restrictions ease:

Airline Departure City & Airport Mileage Cost Round Trip Cash Cost Round-Trip Value of 1 Mile Used for This Flight (Cents)
Southwest Airlines Orlando (MCO) 61,254 $796 1.30
American Airlines Chicago (ORD) 130,000 $687 0.52
United Airlines Houston (IAH) 67,200 $678 1.01
JetBlue Fort Lauderdale (FLL) 38,400 $548 1.43
Frontier Airlines Atlanta (ATL) 40,000 $523 1.31
Delta Air Lines New York (JFK) 44,000 $491 1.12
Spirit Airlines Philadelphia (PHL) 28,000 $352 1.26

When you use credit card rewards to book travel, try to redeem them in a way that gives you at least 1 cent per point or mile. In the flight data we gathered above, JetBlue’s flights out of Fort Lauderdale offer the most value, while points you redeem for American’s round-trips from Chicago are well below the 1-cent-per-mile benchmark.

Average Mile Valuations Hint at What to Expect

While looking over award requirements and cash pricing for a flight, it can help to understand 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 on domestic economy flights.

Credit Cards That Can Help You Earn Miles

It can take a long time to earn enough credit card points to get to Puerto Rico, especially if you start from scratch. One trick is to find a credit card that offers a welcome bonus, which is a lump sum of points you earn for spending a certain amount of money on the card in a certain amount of time. These bonuses can cover some or all of your flight costs. 

In general, co-branded airline credit cards are the most cost-efficient way to fly since they offer the most redemption value for this purpose. Plus, they often entitle you to benefits like a complimentary first checked bag and priority boarding.

  • JetBlue Plus Card: If you spend at least $1,000 within the first 90 days after getting this card, you'll earn 40,000 TrueBlue points (worth $568 on average when used for domestic economy travel), which is more than enough for a roundtrip flight from Fort Lauderdale to Puerto Rico. You'll also earn 6 points per dollar on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per dollar at grocery stores and restaurants, and 1 point per dollar on all else. Annual fee: $99. 
  • United Quest Card: This new card offers a two-tiered bonus: 80,000 miles if you spend $5,000 within the first three months, and an additional 20,000 miles if you spend $10,000 within the first six months (100,000 miles is worth an average of $1,060 when used for domestic economy travel). You'll also earn 3 points per dollar spent with United after you spend $125; 2 miles per dollar spent on travel, dining, and streaming services; and 1 mile per dollar spent on all else. Annual fee: $250.
  • 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 per dollar elsewhere. Annual fee: $99.

You can also consider a flexible travel rewards card like the group of cards that offer Ultimate Rewards points through Chase. These may not always give you quite the overall bang for your rewards point as co-branded airline cards, but they often allow you to transfer your points to multiple airline partners or book flights at a discounted rate: 

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: You'll earn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $1,000 towards travel) 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 all else. Annual fee: $95.
  • The Platinum Card from American Express: You’ll earn 75,000 Membership Rewards 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. The card awards 10 points per dollar spent at gas stations and supermarkets within the first six months of membership. You’ll earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with the airline, and on flights and hotels booked with amextravel.com; and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Annual fee: $550. 

You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to JetBlue, American United, and Southwest at a 1-to-1 ratio. The American Express Membership Rewards program allows you to transfer your points to Delta at a 1-to-1 ratio. In both cases, if you transfer 1,000 points to an airline, you’ll receive 1,000 miles.

How to Pay for a Hotel in Puerto Rico With Points

There is a wide range of options for hotels in Puerto Rico. There are plenty of luxury beach resorts, but you'll also find budget-friendly options. Marriot, Hilton, IHG, and Hyatt all have properties on the island. You can stay in historic San Juan or other cities, or even enjoy hanging out in the jungle by staying in a parador (a small hotel). 

To give you an idea of how many points or dollars it would take to book a room, we collected rates in points and dollars for five-night stays in July booked eight weeks out for two people. Remember that your cost may vary depending on when you book, how far in advance you book, where you book, and what type of room you choose. 

Hotel 5-Night Stay Cost in Points 5-Night Stay Cost in Dollars Tips
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico 400,000 $4,656 Your fifth night is free when you book five consecutive nights
Caribe Hilton 200,000 $2,692 Your fifth night is free when you book five consecutive nights
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Golf and Beach Resort 150,000 $2,315 Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cardholders can book Wyndham hotels through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal and receive a 25%-50% points bonus
Comfort Inn San Juan 100,000  $1,052 Choice Privileges loyalty members earn a $3 Uber credit, $5 Starbucks gift card, or other perks for each weeknight stay
Holiday Inn Ponce & Tropical Casino 95,000 $1,104 You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to IHG at a 1-to-1 rate
Hyatt Place San Juan/Bayamón 40,000 $1,014 You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Hyatt at a 1-to-1 rate

The Hyatt Place San Juan/Bayamón offers the best value among the rates we gathered because the points you’d use to book it are worth around 2.54 cents, which is well above the 1-cent-per-point benchmark for a travel booking. The Comfort Inn San Juan offers the least value, at 1.05 cents per point, but it still beats the 1-cent-per-point benchmark.

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

As with airline credit cards, co-branded hotel credit cards are generally your most valuable option for booking a place to stay. Many credit cards also offer free night awards and welcome bonuses that allow you to collect enough points quickly for an upcoming Puerto Rico vacation.

Here are a few examples of credit cards that you can use to cover the accommodations portion of your vacation:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex: This card gives you one free night award every year, and you'll earn 6 points per dollar on Marriott purchases, 3 points per dollar with restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 points per dollar on everything else. Finally, you'll earn a 75,000-point welcome offer (worth $787.50 when used for a low- or mid-tier room, on average) for spending $3,000 or more within the first three months. Annual fee: $450.
  • IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: You'll earn one award night plus 150,000 bonus points (worth $1,110 when used for a low- or mid-tier room, on average) if you spend at least $3,000 within the first three months with this card. You'll also earn 10 points per dollar spent at IHG properties, 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Annual fee: $0 for first year of card membership, then $89. 
  • Hilton Honors Amex Surpass Card: You'll earn 12 points per dollar spent with Hilton; 6 points per dollar spent at gas stations, supermarkets, and restaurants; and 3 points per dollar spent on everything else. Plus, you'll earn a welcome bonus of 130,000 points (worth $624 when used for a low- or mid-tier room, on average) if you spend at least $2,000 within the first three months. Annual fee: $95.
  • Wyndham Rewards Earner Plus Card: You can earn 60,000 bonus points if you spend at least $1,000 within the first 90 days of getting this card, and another 30,000 points for spending $2,000 in the first six months (worth $784 when used for a low- or mid-tier room, on average). You'll also earn 6 points per dollar spent at Wyndham and on gas, 4 points per dollar spent on groceries and dining, and 1 point per dollar spent on all else. Annual fee: $75. 

Keep in mind that you can also use flexible rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred mentioned above to book hotels that are not part of a chain. With the Sapphire Preferred, you'd use the Ultimate Rewards travel booking site. Other flex cards such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Card allow you to book any hotel you want and then "erase" the purchase by using rewards points for a statement credit. These cards also allow you to pay for other purchases, such as flights and rental cars, with points, though you may need more than one card (and its welcome bonus) to rack up enough points for a trip quickly.

What About Rental Cars?

There aren't as many choices for co-branded rental car credit cards as there are for airlines and hotels, but that doesn't mean you're out of options. You can use co-branded airline or hotel credit cards to book rental cars, and the details vary with each credit card. A better option, in this case, may be to use a flexible travel rewards card, since you'll typically have many more options available for you to book. Again, you'd use the card's travel portal to book, or request a statement credit against the rental car charge on your credit card bill.

Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is home to many popular car rental agencies, including Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and Thrifty. Here's a sample of costs for our same trip, booked eight weeks in advance, using a range of different vehicle types, credit card rewards, and rental car agencies:

Method of Booking Car type Cost in Points Cash Cost
Chase (Using the Chase Sapphire Reserve card) Midsize SUV 69,906 $1,049
Chase (Using the Chase Sapphire Reserve card) Compact SUV 52,828 $792
Chase (Using points the Sapphire Preferred card) Compact 53,397 $667
Capital One (Using points to pay for Thrifty booking) Economy 64,816 $648

If you can’t find a good option for booking a rental car with credit card points, try to use a card that offers extra rewards for booking rental cars through its website. You can also consider paying for the rental with a credit card that offers a higher rewards rate for travel purchases, as the “travel” spending category typically includes rental cars.

Check your credit card's terms carefully before you book. Some cards, like those from American Express, offer secondary car rental collision insurance when you pay for a rental using the card. These policies don’t kick in until you’ve exhausted other options (like your own policy). Cards that offer the best car rental insurance provide primary car rental insurance. That means in the event of an accident, you may not need to involve your own insurer at all. 

While You’re in Puerto Rico

Finding ways to pay for your activities and food with credit card points is an even tougher challenge yet, but you may still be able to find many uses for your credit card points. Here again, a flexible travel rewards card offers more options. The Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, for example, offers many different trips and tours you can book with your points, such as:

  • Zipline tours
  • Salsa dance classes
  • Bioluminescent bay kayak tours
  • Old San Juan food & history tour
  • El Yunque rainforest hike and waterfall tour

The Bottom Line

There are a lot of ways to maximize your savings on a Puerto Rico vacation using credit card points. Opening three types of cards will provide you the most savings: a co-branded airline rewards card for your flight, a co-branded hotel rewards card for your accommodations, and a flexible travel rewards card for everything else, such as car rentals and activities. Don’t forget to calculate annual fees into the cost of your trip. If that's too much for you, going with even one flexible rewards card can still save you a lot of money.

As always, don't go into debt to earn enough points for your Puerto Rico trip. If you have to carry a balance to earn sign-up bonuses, it's not worth it. Instead, only sign up for cards that you can afford to pay off in full each month, even when you're considering the spending requirement for the sign-up bonus. That way, you can enjoy your piña colada on the beach without any regrets later.