How to Travel to New York City Cheap With Points

The best bite of the Big Apple is the cheapest.
New York City skyline from the Rockerfeller center


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What are travel credit cards, and how do they work?

Travel credit cards are financial products that offer various rewards and benefits geared towards frequent travelers. They typically earn you points or miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases. These rewards can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and other travel-related expenses. Travel credit cards may also include perks like travel insurance, airport lounge access, and no foreign transaction fees.

How do I choose the best travel credit card for my needs?

Choosing the best travel credit card depends on your travel habits, spending patterns, and preferences. Consider factors like the type of rewards offered (points, miles, or cash back), the card’s annual fee, sign-up bonuses, earning rates, redemption options, and additional travel perks. Analyzing these features will help you find a card that aligns with your lifestyle and offers the most value.

What are the benefits of using a travel credit card over other types of credit cards?

Travel credit cards provide unique advantages for travelers, such as earning rewards specifically tailored to travel expenses. Additionally, many travel credit cards offer travel-related perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, and travel insurance. Some cards also waive foreign transaction fees, making them ideal for international travelers.

What is a sign-up bonus, and how can I qualify for it?

A sign-up bonus is a promotional offer provided by the credit card issuer to entice new cardholders. To qualify for a sign-up bonus, you usually need to meet specific spending requirements within a certain timeframe after opening the account. The bonus can be in the form of points, miles, or cash back, and it’s a great way to jump-start your rewards earning.

Do travel credit cards charge foreign transaction fees?

Not all travel credit cards charge foreign transaction fees. Many of the top-tier travel cards waive these fees, making them ideal for international travel. However, it’s essential to read the card’s terms and conditions to confirm this before using it abroad.

How can I maximize the rewards earned with my travel credit card?

To maximize rewards, use your travel credit card for everyday expenses and large purchases. Take advantage of bonus categories and special promotions to earn more points or miles. Consider combining your travel credit card with loyalty programs to stack rewards and get even more value out of your purchases.

I believe anyone who says they hate New York City is doing so to sound cool.

The Big Apple has everything. It’s home to some of the best museums, art galleries, and performing arts on the planet, its food scene is nothing short of spectacular; and anyone who’s seen the skyline from across the Hudson or atop one of its countless skyscrapers can speak for its urban wonder. It feels like the center of the world.

But as with the rest of the world’s great cities, it’s rarely a cheap trip.

Unless you’re working with points, that is.

In this article, I’ll be showing you how to travel to New York City cheap. Just how we like it.

Important things to understand

This is usually the point where I tell you to temper your expectations because it’s hard to find availability and deals are few and far between.

But this time, I’m giving you phenomenal news: most of the tips I give you for New York will be applicable all around the US. Obviously, it can and will vary depending on the airline or loyalty program we’re talking about, but the general trajectory of these redemptions, especially the economy flights, can be replicated all around the country. Chop and change each of the destinations with your own travel plans to see if it adds up.

Before you learn how to travel to New York City cheap

Before you launch into any plan, it’s important to check which airlines fly from your local airport. There’s no point launching into a credit card strategy if you can’t even use the points you’re earning.

Jump onto Google Flights or Skyscanner and do a quick search for your prospective dates. I’ll have it written on my gravestone: flexibility is key. If you’re able to work with a wide variation of dates and airports, you’ve got a better chance of scoring the best deal.

Sift through the options available, and take note of the airlines that fly the route, as well as the airports they fly into. This will help you start your search and give you an idea of the partners you can start honing in on. We’ll work through the big airlines, and the most effective way to book each of them.

How to travel to New York City cheap with Delta

Delta is a thorn in the side of many a points and miles aficionado. The airline itself is one of the best, if not the best, carriers in the US, but its loyalty program, SkyMiles, leaves a lot to be desired on the value front.

But, despite its brutally temperamental dynamic system, domestic redemptions are one frontier where your SkyMiles can actually grab some value and could get you to New York for pennies.

A screengrab of Delta's award availability

Using Delta SkyMiles to get to New York City cheap

When searching on Delta’s portal, use the flexible dates search tool. This will give you a calendar like the one shown. You can see how drastically the rates shift from day to do, but also how excellent some of the redemptions can be. There are late rates as low as 11,000 SkyMiles from LAX to NYC and peak season dates as low as 4,500 SkyMiles from Miami. The taxes and fees on those flights are almost always around $6.

It’s also a good idea to check Delta’s SkyDeals page. The page updates frequently, but you’ll often find some high-value roundtrip rates in there. Naturally, these will need to be pounced on at the right moment, but don’t forget to check it out.  

Annoyingly, if you want to book a Delta One seat, you can kiss that value goodbye. If you find a seat below 125,000 SkyMiles, you’ve hit the jackpot.

Using Virgin to book Delta flights to New York City cheap

I often tout Virgin Atlantic as an excellent option for booking Delta flights at far better rates than Delta offers. While that can sometimes be true with domestic flights, it’s not as much of a definite. Virgin uses a distance-based award chart for its Delta domestic flights, and while its rates may be better than Delta’s on its worst day, they’re usually higher than Delta’s on its best day.

On top of that, the Virgin portal is having some major glitching issues, so it’s hard to take everything that’s on there at face value right now.

How to earn enough points to travel to New York City cheap with Delta

Earning Delta SkyMiles is easy, and a single intro bonus could get you multiple flights to New York City for almost nothing.

You could opt for one of Delta’s co-branded cards, but a better bet is the airline’s only credit card transfer partner, American Express. If you opened the American Express® Gold Card and spent $6,000 within six months of opening the account, you’d be able to grab three roundtrips from LAX to NYC with just $6 in taxes and fees each time. Not too shabby at all.

American Express® Gold Card

60,000 Membership Rewards® Points

after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first 6 months of card membership

Annual Fee: $250  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

How to travel to New York City cheap with United

Next up is United Airlines. The airline adopted a similar dynamic system to Delta a while ago now, but thankfully, it’s a lot more stable across the board. Rates can still fluctuate aggressively, but the base low rates are pretty frequent the whole time.

You can see below, it’s easy to grab a direct flight from as far as LAX for just 15,000 miles and $5.60. You’ve got a wide variation of dates to choose from, too, which might give it the edge over Delta’s less frequent low rates.

a screengrab of united's flight deals page

Use Aeroplan and Turkish Airlines to travel to New York City cheap with United

United’s rates are solid, and they’re straightforward to boot. But if you’re trying to score an even better deal, you have options. But you may also need a little patience.

Air Canada’s Aeroplan is the easiest option for this. Do the same search as you did with United, and see what comes up, For some reason, the volume of flights shown has dropped dramatically, but as you can see, it’s still possible to grab a flight for just 12,500 points. You can even score a business class seat for 25,000 points if you’re cool with a layover.

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Turkish Airlines is your other big-hitting option. But, you might find your hair going a little gray by the end of the process. Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles program was once one of the best loyalty programs out there. Its rates were insane, but sadly the decision was made to devalue the program and it’s lost a lot of its gusto. But US domestic flights are set at a flat 10,000 miles with its partner United. That means wherever you’re flying from, it’ll be that same 10,000-mile rate.

The issue? Finding anything on Turkish Airlines’ portal is chaotic at best. Your best hope is to find a saver flight that shows on United’s portal and compare it to the same search on Turkish Airlines. If it’s there you hit the jackpot—book it. If it’s not, you’re going to have to call the airline and try and book the flight. It’s a headache, and when you see just a few thousand extra points on United and Air Canada’s portals, you might just throw in the towel.

How to earn enough points to travel to New York City cheap with United

If you’re opting for the straightforward United option, you’ve only got one card option outside of a United co-branded card: Chase. Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are offering intro bonuses of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months of opening the card.

Aeroplan can receive points from Chase, American Express, and Capital One, providing numerous options for point transfers. Additionally, you can transfer points from Citi and Bilt to Turkish Airlines if you prefer that option.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 60,000 bonus points

after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Annual Fee: $95  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

How to travel to New York City cheap with American

American Airlines is the last of the US’ “Big 3,”and the most awkward option in terms of flexibility. The main reason for this is the lack of ways to earn American Airlines AAdvantage Miles. It doesn’t have any major transfer partners, so the only way to gather large quantities of miles is by flying with the airline or opening a co-branded card.

Oddly, the best use of American Airlines AAdvantage Miles is redeeming flights with other airlines. This is because the airline went dynamic with its own flights while leaving an award chart for partners.

If you’re willing to add stops, you can find rates as low as 12,500 miles plus a few bucks in taxes. But, if you check out the handy calendar view, you can find the cheapest direct flights. As you can see from the example, rock bottom rates are few and far between. Fluctuations are common, with the average coming out to around 25,000 points.

Use British Airways Avios to travel to New York City cheap with American

British Airways Avios are your go-to points for trying to find a solid deal to NYC. I’ve used LAX as a base for most of these examples, as it’s a major city far away—every other airport generally falls at or less than the points required for that redemption. But this time, slightly closer cities can really reap the benefits.

Using British Airways Avios to book short-haul flights is a widely hailed sweet spot in the points and miles world. The UK-based carrier uses a distance-based chart for American Airlines. For example, any flight under 500 miles is priced at 8,250 Avios, like the one below from Boston to NYC.

This expands outwards, but generally, if you fall below the 1,500-mile mark, you’re usually getting the best value for the flight.

How to earn enough points to travel to New York City cheap with American Airlines

While earning American miles is a tad more complicated, British Airways Avios is arguably the easiest airline points system to accumulate. It’s a transfer partner of all the major credit cards besides Citi, so you could open a number of cards to earn the required points.

The card_name is a solid option. Its 75,000-mile intro bonus, earned after spending $4,000 within three months of opening an account is more than enough to get you to the Big Apple.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

75,000 Bonus Miles

after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee: $395  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

How to travel to New York City cheap with JetBlue

JetBlue is often left out of the equation when it comes to points and miles. This shouldn’t be the case—it’s actually a pretty damn reliable place to ensure at least decent value. Unlike other airlines, it ties the rates of its award flights to the cash price. This is good for a few reasons: it stops you from getting bad value, and it means every seat is points-bookable.

The downside is that it’s hard to get outweighed value on any given flight. But if you’re in a situation where you’re tied to a specific date and the other airlines mentioned haven’t delivered on a strong deal, it’s worth checking out JetBlue TruBlue.

You can see from the photo above that the lowest rate varies heavily. But with the lowest at just 12,600 points, you’re in pretty good shape if that’s your only option. Taxes and fees are almost negligible, too.

How to earn enough points to travel to New York City cheap with JetBlue TrueBlue

You can earn TruBlue points the old-fashioned way by flying with the airline or opening a co-branded card, but it’s far easier and more sensible to transfer points from its credit card partners. The airline allows transfers from Citi, American Express, and Chase, so you’ve got a wealth of cards to choose from.

We’d recommend The Platinum Card® from American Express. Amex’s huge list of transfer partners means you have the flexibility to move points to the best option for you, whether that’s JetBlue or British Airways. 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

80,000 Membership Rewards® Points

after you spend $8,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of card membership

Annual Fee: $695  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

How to travel to New York City cheap with Southwest

Southwest is similar to JetBlue in the way it operates its points system. It also ties the award rate to the cash price of a given flight and allows any seat on the plane to be booked. This gives it the same bonus of flexibility and consistent value per point.

A quick calendar search of a longer-distance flight to New York from California shows expected wide-ranging results with some as low as 10,221 points for a one-way flight. As that flight would likely be priced at around $122, you then need to make a decision as to whether you’d prefer to pay cash for a cheap flight and save the points for a bigger redemption down the line, or avoid paying for this trip.

How to earn enough points to travel to New York City cheap with Southwest

Southwest has a couple of good co-branded cards you can open. I’d recommend waiting until there’s a strong intro bonus on one of the cards before doing so and then holding onto the points until a moment when there are no other high-value options. That’s where these points become the most valuable.

If you’re in a pinch, you can also transfer points from a Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card

Earn 85,000 bonus points

after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Annual Fee: $149  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

Positioning flights

Something important to consider is your own airport’s access to others. Most of the advice given in this piece works from any good-sized airport that’s serviced by the airlines mentioned. However, some airports are small regional hubs and may lack direct flights to New York.

If you complete the same searches, you might wind up with crazy rates that make no sense when considering how far you’ve flown.

In these situations, grabbing a positioning flight is the best bet. In short, this means buying or redeeming a separate shorter flight to a major hub where rock-bottom rates are readily available. This is especially helpful for international redemptions, but domestic flights work great, too. This is another good use for JetBlue and Southwest points.

The point

Learning how to travel to New York City cheap isn’t tough. What’s hard is deciding which of the many ways to do it you want to use. By opening any of the cards mentioned in this article, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to fly to New York City for almost nothing.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This post contains references to products from one or more of our partners and we may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.

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