While Puerto Rico had endured several natural disasters in the form of hurricanes and earthquakes in recent years, the island has remained resilient with the help of continuing recovery efforts. Resurgent tourism from U.S. mainland visitors has provided a much-needed boost to the local economy during the pandemic.
Since no passport is required to enter Puerto Rico for U.S. citizens — the island has been a popular hot spot for eager travelers looking for an outdoorsy tropical getaway. Hotels are holding steady with stable room occupancy rates, and restaurants continue to welcome tourists with delicious cuisine and open arms.
You’ll find flights to Puerto Rico from plenty of U.S. gateways, and today we’re going to take a look at the best ways to get there with points and miles. With no passport required for U.S. citizens, there may not be a better time to visit this beautiful island.
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In This Post
The majority of passengers traveling from the U.S. to Puerto Rico arrive at San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU), located just a few minutes from popular tourist areas like Isla Verde and Old San Juan. If you’re looking to visit Puerto Rico’s popular neighboring islands of Vieques or Culebra, you can book a low-cost connecting flight from SJU on Cape Air, Seaborne Airlines or Vieques Airlink.
Related: A beginner’s guide to visiting Puerto Rico
Direct, nonstop flights to Puerto Rico are primarily based out of the East Coast and hub cities. If you live in one of the following cities, you may enjoy nonstop routings. Otherwise, expect to connect through one of these airports:
- American: Charlotte (CLT), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Miami (MIA), Philadelphia (PHI)
- Delta: Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW), Minneapolis (MSP), New York (JFK)
- United: Chicago (ORD), Houston (IAH), Newark (EWR), Washington (IAD)
- JetBlue: Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), New York (JFK), Orlando (MCO), Washington (DCA), Tampa (TPA)
- Southwest: Baltimore (BWI), Chicago (MDW), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Houston (HOU), Orlando (MCO), Tampa (TPA)
- Frontier: Atlanta (ATL), Raleigh (RDU), New York (EWR), Orlando (MCO), Tampa (TPA)
- Spirit: Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), New York (EWR), Washington (BWI), Orlando (MCO), Tampa (TPA)
- Sun Country Airlines: Minneapolis (MSP)
Note: Some of these routes are seasonal.
Best redemption options
All the airlines listed above either use a zone-based award chart (meaning that a flight from anywhere in the U.S. to Puerto Rico costs the same) or a revenue-based or dynamic award chart, which means prices vary day-to-day and are not inherently based on the destination you choose.
Let’s take a look first at the three major U.S. legacy airline alliances (Oneworld, SkyTeam, Star Alliance) one at a time and determine the best ways to redeem miles for flights to Puerto Rico on each of them.
Related: Best Caribbean points hotels
Cheapest Oneworld awards to Puerto Rico
All Oneworld award flights to Puerto Rico will be operated by American Airlines. American still publishes a zone-based award chart and the airline (and Delta and United) has also implemented dynamic award pricing. The cost of a trip in miles is determined by off-peak and peak supply and demand along with the inventory. American calls these awards Web Specials and are available in economy and business and first class. These specials are arguably the cheapest way to get to Puerto Rico, regardless of what class you’re flying.
According to the American Airlines award chart, the cheapest economy awards between the U.S and Puerto Rico cost 12,500 AA miles during off-peak dates (April 21 – May 20, September 9 – November 18).
One-way flights in economy from the U.S. to Puerto Rico would cost the following amounts:
- Economy MileSAAver (off-peak): 12,500 miles
- Economy MileSAAver: 15,000 miles
Look for off-peak pricing in economy to San Juan (Caribbean) and you’ll only pay 12,500 miles and $5.60 in fees.
You won’t find off-peak pricing for business/first awards on American, so you’ll want to look for MileSAAver awards which offer the cheapest pricing using American Airlines miles. These business/first-class awards can be booked for 25,000 miles one-way from the U.S. to Puerto Rico.
For example, Chicagoans can escape the long winter and head down to Puerto Rico for only 12,500 AA miles, thanks to these dynamically priced awards.
In most cases, if you live in a city that does not have nonstop service to Puerto Rico or don’t mind a layover in exchange for saving some miles, you can connect to any of the originating cities that fly nonstop to SJU at no extra mileage cost. For example, you can fly to San Juan (SJU) from Chicago (ORD) with a layover in Philadelphia (PHL) for only 10,000 AA miles.
You can even use British Airways Avios points to book American Airlines flights to Puerto Rico for less. British Airways uses a distance-based award chart, which means they charge you a set amount of miles based on the distance flown.
If you live in the Southeastern part of the United States, you may end up paying less by booking through the British Airways Executive Club versus using American Airlines miles for the same American Airlines flight. Although American’s Web Specials are sometimes the cheapest way (depending on where you live) to get to Puerto Rico, you can get to San Juan for only 9,000 Avios, less than American.
It pays to compare and contrast what option charges the least amount of miles/points. For example, American charges 25,000 miles for a MileSAAver award in business class to Puerto Rico. But the same flight with British Airways Avios comes out 8,500 miles cheaper.
There are a several ways to earn AAdvantage miles, including spending on American Airlines cobranded credit cards. One of my favorites is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® — this card offers 50,000 American AAdvantage miles after you spend $2,500 in the first three months of account opening. This is more than enough points for two round-trip economy tickets or two business class tickets one-way. The information for the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select 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.
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British Airways Avios are also some of the easiest points to accrue (they can be transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and now, Capital One Rewards), so make sure to check BA’s website before using American Airlines miles.
Related: The ultimate guide to British Airways Avios
Cheapest SkyTeam awards to Puerto Rico
Delta, like American, also has a dynamic award chart that makes it difficult to predict the exact number of SkyMiles required for an award flight. Prices fluctuate day to day to match demand. Running a quick search for mid-July this year when kids are out of school and most people take their vacations, the lowest round-trip cost from New York (JFK) to San Juan (SJU) is 9,500 Delta SkyMiles.
Because of Delta’s dynamic award pricing model, prices will change day-to-day. However, with SkyMiles, you can score a deal to Puerto Rico in first class for only 20,000 SkyMiles one-way this summer.
At rates this low, you would probably pay less in miles when booking these highly discounted award fares versus low-cost carrier prices from JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit. Keep in mind, many of these deeply discounted fares are in basic economy. Still, for what is sometimes a very minimal amount of extra miles, you can book a Main Cabin ticket instead that includes your choice of seat assignment at booking, one checked bag and an earlier boarding group.
Thankfully, several American Express Delta cobranded Delta credit cards combat the limitations of flying on a basic economy ticket. If you don’t need the extras, Delta’s basic economy limitations are more generous than other airlines and allow you to choose your own seats at check-in and bring a carry-on bag at no cost. And if you need to top off your Delta SkyMiles account with a few thousand miles to redeem for an award flight to Puerto Rico, it could make sense to transfer Amex Membership Reward points to Delta, as they transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio.
Although you can also redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to book a Delta-operated flight, you will end up spending more miles for your flight to Puerto Rico than redeeming SkyMiles directly via Delta — particularly during award sales.
Delta SkyMiles has one credit card transfer partner: American Express Membership Rewards. You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio.
Here’s a look at the full suite of Delta SkyMiles credit cards from American Express (terms apply):
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card: Earn 10,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 80,000 bonus miles, plus 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Related: The best websites for searching SkyTeam award availability
Cheapest Star Alliance awards to Puerto Rico
Star Alliance has one of the most limited route networks from the U.S. to Puerto Rico. However, United does fly year-round flights to San Juan from Chicago (ORD), Washington D.C. (IAD), Houston (IAH) and Newark (EWR). In November 2019, United pulled its award chart and switched to dynamic award pricing, joining the other two legacy carriers. You will commonly find award space from the U.S. to San Juan starting at 17,500 miles each way.
United’s dynamic award structure will alter pricing in business and first-class to Puerto Rico. For the remainder of 2021, you can get to Puerto Rico for as little as 30,000 United miles one-way in United first class. Just make sure to look for saver awards as these are the lowest mileage redemption rates.
You can earn United miles with United cobranded credit cards or transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards. Here’s a look at the current welcome offers for United’s suite of credit cards:
- United Club Infinite Card: 75,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months of account opening
- United Explorer Card: 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after spending $10,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening
- United Gateway Card: Earn 20,000 miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
It’s also possible to book these same United flights using partner programs like Avianca LifeMiles or Singapore KrisFlyer, which charges 17,500 miles in economy as well, or Aeroplan, which charges 20,000 miles. While these partner programs won’t offer lower mileage rates, they do offer more transfer options, including American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One miles, making it easier to top up your account.
Related: What United eliminating Its award chart means for your credit card strategy
Cheapest non-alliance program awards Puerto Rico
While Southwest Airlines is known for fairly-priced flights in the U.S., the airline also offers flights to Caribbean destinations, including San Juan, Puerto Rico, from several U.S. airports. Southwest uses a revenue-based award chart, so the number of points you’ll need depends on the cash price of the ticket, and your points will always be worth between 1.4 to 1.6 cents each.
Most Southwest flights to Puerto Rico have you connecting in Fort Lauderdale (FLL) unless you’re flying directly from Baltimore (BWI), Chicago (MDW), Houston (HOU), Orlando (MCO) or Tampa (TPA).
Thanks to Southwest’s low-cost fares, you could redeem 4,565 Southwest Rapid Rewards points (potentially less depending on the cash fare) to fly one-way from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to San Juan (SJU).
These cheap flights would also be a great time to use the Southwest Companion Pass.
And, while you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest at a rate of 1:1, in some cases, you are better off booking a cheap Southwest flight directly on Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal. With ultra-low fares, free checked baggage, open seating, and Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, Southwest is an excellent option for redeeming points for flights to Puerto Rico.
Related: How to quickly earn the Southwest Companion Pass
JetBlue follows the same approach as Southwest, tying its award rates directly to the cash cost of the ticket. If you’re flexible with your dates and/or willing to stop on the way, you can find one-way awards starting as low as 6,700 TrueBlue points for travel in May 2021.
JetBlue often likes to advertise flash sales, including flights to the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. It’s not uncommon to find flights available for under 3,000 TrueBlue points each way from the U.S. to Puerto Rico. If you’re not a frequent JetBlue flyer, you can transfer points from Chase, Amex or Capital One.
If you’re looking to generate airline miles and points for award flights to Puerto Rico, start earning points from transferable points programs as this is your most sound strategy. For example, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways (for American Airlines flights), JetBlue, Southwest and United when you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
You can also consider a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express, which has a public offer of 75,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first six months of account opening. There’s also a targeted welcome bonus of up to 100,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months (via the CardMatch Tool; offer subject to change at any time). You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways (for short- to medium-haul American Airlines flights), Delta and JetBlue.
Alternately, you could open a card that earns the airline’s points or miles directly, like the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®, United Explorer Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card.
The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum 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.
Paying with cash or points
While you’ll generally get a better value transferring your points to airline partners, it’s also worth pricing out the cash cost of a ticket, as fares to Puerto Rico during low season can be ridiculously cheap. For example, this June, you can fly one-way from Miami to San Juan for only $85 on American Airlines.
American Airlines would still charge you 12,500 miles for this off-peak award or as low as 10,000 miles as a web special, but you could do much better paying with points through the Amex Travel or Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which comes with a 50% bonus when redeeming your points for travel through the Chase portal, this $85 ticket would only cost 5,666 points.
Amex also offers a pay-with-points rebate on two of its business cards, with American Express® Business Gold Card getting a 25% rebate on economy flights with its selected airlines and all business- and first-class flights (up to 250,000 points per calendar year), and with The Business Platinum Card® from American Express cardholders getting a 35% rebate (up to 500,000 points per calendar year).
Puerto Rico is a beautiful island worth the time to explore. Getting there is a short flight from the East Coast and there are multiple ways to fly there on points and miles. Best of all, you won’t need a passport. No matter which airline miles you decide to accrue, remember always to check cash prices, as airlines tend to offer substantial flight deals to the island year-round.
Featured image of Old San Juan City Walls by Maremagnum/Getty Images
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.
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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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