How to travel to New York City on points and miles

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As the most populous city in the U.S., New York City offers something for every traveler.

The coronavirus pandemic made New York City tourism difficult in 2020, with a quarantine imposed for out-of-state travelers. Thankfully, this requirement will be removed on Apr. 1, 2021, so you can start planning your trips back to the Big Apple without worry. And you should. Whether you’re visiting for business, leisure, to see friends and family, or simply to explore, it’s a great first post-pandemic trip. Restaurants (indoor and outdoor), museums and other attractions are back open, so you can revisit favorites or find something new.

Interested in using your points and miles to plan an NYC trip? You’re in the right place — today, I’m going to take a look at your best options for getting to New York City on points and miles.

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In This Post

Which airport: JFK vs. LGA vs. EWR?

Depending on your hometown/preferred airline, this choice might be made for you. If you live in Kansas City (MCI) and are loyal to United, you’ll have to fly into Newark unless you’re willing to change carriers for this trip. Similarly, the purpose of your trip might make one airport more or less convenient, as many meetings have been ruined by traffic from JFK over the years. LaGuardia used to have a bit of an edge, as it’s geographically closer to Manhattan, but the current construction and long delays make it hit-or-miss.

Related: Choosing the best NYC airport for you

At the end of the day, you’ll have to balance a few factors, including the cost of the ticket, how loyal you are to a particular airline and how flexible your schedule is. If you’re only in New York for a short trip or have an important meeting to attend, you’ll want to coordinate your flight time and airport selection to minimize traffic jams as much as possible.

If you want to skip the traffic entirely, you could even consider taking a BLADE helicopter to Manhattan in only five minutes.

Related: The great race to JFK — what’s the fastest way to catch your flight?

How to fly to New York on points

NYC has no shortage of airports. There are three main airports located close to the city and smaller commercial airports throughout the suburbs.

The largest and one of the most well-known airports worldwide is John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), which acts as a hub for Delta, JetBlue and American Airlines. This is also where you’ll find most international flights arriving and departing, including ultra-long-haul flights like the 16-hour trip to Hong Kong (HKG) on Cathay Pacific and daily flights to the Middle East on Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. For North American travel, you’ll find short hops up and down the East Coast and transcontinental flights to California, including United’s recently restarted flights to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO)

Next up is LaGuardia (LGA), which is undergoing much-needed construction and expansion. Delta, Southwest or American Airlines operate most flights out of LaGuardia. United also has a decent presence. Generally speaking, flights from LaGuardia are shorter hops as the smaller airport is better suited to handle regional and narrow-body jets.

Last but not least is Newark airport (EWR), and while it’s technically in New Jersey and not New York, this United mega-hub handles hundreds of domestic and international flights a day. Many international Star Alliance airlines will fly to Newark to leverage the connecting traffic United brings in. Likewise, American, Delta and other domestic carriers have a presence at the airport.

In addition to the big four carriers, you’ll also find Alaska Airlines operating several transcontinental flights out of JFK and Newark, Spirit offering low fares from LaGuardia and Newark, JetBlue flying from all three major New York airports and Frontier flying out of LaGuardia.

Your best mileage options will depend primarily on where your trip is originating, as well as when you choose to travel, with both United and Delta now using dynamic award pricing and American Airlines inching closer to that mark every day.

Related: You’re not dreaming: What it really looks like inside LaGuardia Airport now

Avianca Lifemiles

Let’s start by looking at flights operated by United Airlines. Avianca LifeMiles will price out some shorter flights, like this Newark (EWR) to Washington DC (IAD) trip, at only 6,500 miles each way in economy.

United MileagePlus

United MileagePlus may charge the same amount or double that amount, depending on how the dynamic pricing algorithm feels that day.

Longer flights like Newark to Houston (IAH) cost a more standard 12,500 miles when booked through Avianca, with transcontinental flights costing an extra 1,000 miles on top of this. You should always price-compare between United and other Star Alliance programs before booking, as some days the dynamic pricing might work out in your favor.

Use United’s 30-day calendar view to spot the cheapest award flights, which can be cheap with flexibility.

American AAdvantage miles

American AAdvantage is still in the process of fully rolling out dynamic award pricing, so to some degree, you can still expect awards to follow a fixed award chart. That means that flights under 500 miles in distance will often cost 7,500 miles each way, and flights over that will often cost 12,500 miles. Still, you might get a nice surprise when you go to book, like this short shuttle flight from LaGuardia to DCA for only 5,000 miles instead of 7,500. Be sure to click on the web specials since some lower cost award options live in that tab.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles’ dynamic award pricing is quite variable, making it really hard to predict what a flight might cost. Here, you can see that flights from Atlanta to JFK vary from 7,000 SkyMiles on the low end to over 3x more on the high end.

This gets even more extreme if you look at business-class awards on the premium transcontinental route of LAX to JFK. This premium route sometimes costs as much as a business class award flight to Europe or the Middle East.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest Rapid Rewards uses a truly revenue-based award pricing system, meaning that your award ticket’s cost is directly tied to the cash price of the fare. This means it’s impossible to save up for aspirational high-value redemptions, but you can redeem your points as soon as you earn them without any FOMO. Southwest is also known for offering low fares, like this one-way award between Chicago-Midway (MDW) and LaGuardia for only 5,419 points (as opposed to $89 cash). Of course, you can turn that into a twofer if you have the Companion Pass.

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue TrueBlue uses a similar system as Southwest, with the biggest difference being that JetBlue offers a business-class product that might be worth saving your miles up for. You could fly one-way from JFK to LAX for only 15,600 TrueBlue points and taxes, or you could splurge and pay anywhere from about 50k – 100k points to fly JetBlue’s Mint class, easily the best premium product operating within the United States.

Flexible rewards

Gallery: COVID-Safe Travel Plans To Make Now To Save Money (GOBankingRates)

Further, a number of Chase and Amex credit cards offer bonuses when you redeem your points to book flights through the issuer’s travel portal. While this doesn’t always offer the highest redemption value, there are two huge advantages to booking this way.

First, you can book a seat on any flight that’s for sale without having to hunt for award space. Second, these awards show up as revenue bookings with the airline, meaning you’ll earn miles and elite qualifying miles on your flight, unlike a normal award.

As a Chase Sapphire Preferred® cardholder, I get a 25% bonus when paying with my Ultimate Rewards points for flights booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. This means I can book a $539.40 Mint ticket for 43,152 points (less than JetBlue typically charges using points) and still earn TrueBlue points on the flight.

Further, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express gives cardholders a 35% rebate on select flights booked through Amex Travel. Other Amex cardholders can redeem points at 1 cent each toward paid travel, so this 35% rebate is equal to 1.54 cents per point toward paid tickets.

You’ll get this rebate on the following flights:

  • A selected airline (the same airline you select for the up to $200 annual airline fee credit)
  • First- and business-class flights with any airline
  • If you select Spirit or Southwest as your airline, you need to call Amex at 800-553-9497 to book to receive your rebate

Related: The ultimate guide to Amex Pay With Points

Hotels

There’s no shortage of hotels in NYC. From the Financial District to Harlem to Long Island City, there are hundreds of hotel options in the Big Apple. These span all the major hotel groups, so you can earn and redeem points on your trip. Here’s a look at some of the best hotel options in NYC, broken down by hotel group.

Related: An introduction to New York City’s neighborhoods

Hilton

You can earn and redeem Hilton Honors points at 51 Hilton properties around NYC. You’ll find Hiltons in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and also near the three major NYC airports. Brands range from the budget-friendly Hampton Inn to a luxurious Conrad option. Here’s a look at some of the best options in Manhattan. Remember, Hilton doesn’t have standard award pricing for its award nights, but these hotels consistently price on or around the prices below on off-peak dates.

  • The Bernic Hotel New York City, Tapestry Collection: 36,000 points per night
  • Conrad New York Downtown: 72,000 points per night
  • Conrad New York Midtown: 95,000 points per night
  • Distrikt Hotel New York City, Tapestry Collection: 44,000 points per night
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel New York Times Square West: 39,000 points per night
  • Millennium Hilton New York Downtown: 31,000 points per night
  • Millennium Times Square New York: 28,000 points per night
  • The Quin Central Park by Hilton Club: 120,000 points per night
  • West 57th Street by Hilton Club: 100,000 points per night

Interested in seeing the outer boroughs? Check out these options in Brooklyn and Queens:

  • Hilton Brooklyn New York: 48,000 points per night
  • Hilton Garden Inn Long Island City New York (Queens): 45,000 points per night

How to earn Hilton points: Consider opening a Hilton cobranded credit card. Each comes with a welcome offer and has various benefits like elite status, an annual free night and more. Here’s a look at the current lineup of Hilton credit cards:

  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of account opening.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: How to redeem points with the Hilton Honors program

Hyatt

Hyatt has a handful of properties around NYC, most being mid-tier or high-end properties in Manhattan. You’ll find luxury in the Andaz 5th Avenue or can enjoy no-frills rooms at the growing number of Hyatt Place and Centric properties around the city. Here’s a look at some of our favorite Hyatt properties in New York. Unlike Hilton, World of Hyatt does stick to a standard award chart, so pricing is predictable:

  • Andaz 5th Avenue: 25,000 points per night
  • The Beekman, a Thompson Hotel: 25,000 points per night
  • Grand Hyatt New York: 20,000 points per night
  • Park South Hotel: 20,000 points per night
  • Park Hyatt New York: 30,000 points per night
  • Hyatt Place Long Island City / New York City: 12,000 points per night
  • Hyatt Union Square New York: 25,000 points per night

How to earn World of Hyatt points: You can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to World of Hyatt or earn with the Hyatt cobranded credit card.

  • World Of Hyatt Credit Card: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening.

Related: Earning two years of rewarding top-tier Hyatt elite status after just 11 nights

IHG

IHG has several properties in NYC. You can use your IHG Rewards points to book rooms at any of its NYC hotels. The program moved to dynamic pricing but kept relatively consistent rates on off-peak and standard dates. Here’s a look at some of the best IHG properties in NYC alongside pricing:

  • Crowne Plaza HY36 Midtown Manhattan: 37,000 points per night
  • Holiday Inn Express New York City Wall Street: 21,000 points per night
  • Hotel Indigo Brooklyn: 25,000 points per night
  • Hotel Indigo Lower East Side New York: 25,000 points per night
  • InterContinental Hotels New York Times Square: 45,000 points per night 
  • Kimpton Hotel Eventi: 40,000 points per night
  • Kimpton Muse Hotel: 40,000 points per night

How to earn IHG points: You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG or earn with one of IHG’s cobranded credit cards:

  • IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Earn 140,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $2,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with the IHG Rewards Club program

Marriott

Marriott has many hotels in NYC, so you have plenty of options when using your Marriott Bonvoy points. Like Hyatt, you can expect standard pricing when booking Marriott award nights. IHG also uses peak, standard and off-peak pricing that can change rates on set dates. Here’s a look at the best Marriott hotels in NYC alongside their standard pricing:

  • Aloft Long Island City-Manhattan View: 20,000 points per night
  • The Algonquin Hotel Times Square, Autograph Collection: 50,000 points per night
  • The Lexington Hotel, Autograph Collection: 50,000 points per night
  • JW Marriott Essex House: 50,000 points per night
  • New York Marriott Marquis: 60,000 points per night
  • New York Marriott Downtown: 35,000 points per night
  • The St. Regis New York: 70,000 points per night
  • Times Square EDITION: 50,000 points per night
  • W New York Times Square: 70,000 points per night
  • The Westin New York at Times Square: 50,000 points per night

Each of these hotels has the potential to be great. The Aloft Long Island City is a great budget option in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. It’s a relatively new hotel that’s just 10 minutes outside of Manhattan by train. On the other hand, the St. Regis, EDITION and W brands offer a luxurious experience in the Big Apple. Read through our guide to Marriott brands and decide which best fits your travel style.

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points: You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards to Marriott, but we don’t recommend it. Instead, it’s usually a better deal to spend on a Marriott cobranded credit card. These are your options:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card: Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Terms apply.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 125,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after using your new card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership. Offer ends 5/12/2021.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after using your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made on your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 5/12/21. Terms apply.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card: Earn 30,000 Marriott points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.

Related: Battle of the hotels: Why I think Marriott is the best

Radisson

There are two Radisson properties in NYC, both of which are higher-end properties in Midtown Manhattan. Here’s a look at Radisson Rewards award pricing:

  • Radisson Hotel New York Times Square: 70,000 points per night
  • Radisson Hotel New York Midtown-Fifth Avenue: 70,000 points per night

How to earn Radisson Rewards points: You can earn Radisson Rewards points with a cobranded credit card — here’s a look at the current offers:

  • Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card: Earn 50,000 points after your first purchase plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days
  • Radisson Rewards Visa® Card: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on your card within the first 90 day

Related: 9 mistakes to avoid when redeeming hotel points

Activities

From Broadway shows (when they restart) to food tours to museums, there’s no shortage of things to do in New York. You can use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cover tours and other activities. You can use your points to cover these at the same rate you would when booking flights through the travel portal — 1.25 cents per point with the Sapphire Preferred and 1.5 cents per point with the Sapphire Reserve.

For example, you can book a boat tour of NYC for $41. If you have a Sapphire Preferred, you can use just 3,280 points to cover the tour. This is a great way to see the city at night.

Or, Sapphire Preferred cardholders can use 3,309 points for a ticket to the Top of The Rock. This is one of the best views of Manhattan on top of the Rockefeller Center.

Related: The 12 best things to do in New York City for free

Ground transportation

There are a ton of transportation options in NYC. The Subway costs $2.75 per ride and Metrocard tickets can be purchased at any Subway station. Further, you can also tap-to-pay with a contactless credit card or Apple Pay at any Subway station or on any MTA bus. There are also AirTrain links from JFK and Newark to public transportation, giving you easy access to the city. You can take a bus connection from LaGuardia to the Subway too.

Uber, Lyft and Via offer ride-share service in and around NYC. You can also hail a yellow taxi from the street or use the Curb app to hail one from your phone. I’ve found that Curb’s flat-rate pricing is either comparable to Uber and Lyft and sometimes cheaper, especially if rideshare apps have surge pricing.

In my opinion, the Subway is your best bet for Manhattan. On the other hand, Uber and Lyft can be good options for going between boroughs and the airport.

Related: TPG’s guide to New York City’s Grand Central Terminal

Bottom line

New York City is one of the world’s most exciting and international cities. There’s no shortage of things to see, eat, drink and do in the Big Apple,  and with so many flight options and hotels, it’s easy to maximize your points too. Bookmark this article and refer to it the next time you’re planning a trip to New York. It could help you save points and money.

Featured image by TomasSereda / Getty Images.

Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.

SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.

And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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