Iceland is open to Americans: Here’s how to get there on points and miles
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Starting March 18, 2021, Iceland is finally welcoming American tourists who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Iceland became a popular destination over the last few years, thanks to a big tourism push, incredible scenery and cheap fares. All of that came to a screeching halt last year when the pandemic forced Iceland to close its borders and then reopen them to tourists from the Schengen Area only.
While Americans will be able to travel to Iceland, they need to furnish proof of vaccination. TPG’s Zach Honig was able to confirm that a vaccine certificate from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will suffice. You may still be waiting to get vaccinated, but in the meantime, we can help you plan your trip to Iceland using points and miles.
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Airfare booked with flexible rewards
There are many options for redeeming miles for a flight to Iceland. While using points and miles can sometimes be the best option to get to your destination at the lowest cost, Iceland is one of those destinations where fare sales pop up quite often, so you might actually find that this particular journey is more cost-effective by paying cash rather than booking a traditional award ticket.
Be sure to consult TPG’s valuations when comparing paid fares against mileage redemptions.
American Express Membership Rewards
The value of American Express Membership Rewards points redeemed for flights is 1 cent apiece if you have a card like the Platinum Card® from American Express. However, if you have the Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you get a 35% rebate on Pay With Points redemptions for eligible first or business-class fares booked through Amex Travel (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year), as well as on all flights booked on the same airline that you have designated for your $200 annual airline fee rebate.
Barclaycard Arrival Miles
Arrival miles you earn with a card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard are worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for travel, including airfare. Redemptions start at 10,000 miles and can only be used for travel purchases within the last 120 days.
The information for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Capital One Venture miles
Capital One miles like those earned with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card can be redeemed at a rate of 1 cent apiece for statement credits, including airfare purchases. Depending on how cheap fares to Iceland price out, Venture miles could be better than airline miles.
For example, Icelandair is offering round-trip economy fares between New York (JFK) and Reykjavík (FEK) as low as $598 in late April. Meanwhile, American Airlines requires 60,000 miles round-trip. Since TPG values American miles at 1.4 cents each, you’re giving up $840 worth of value. In this case, you’re better off saving your AAdvantage miles and redeeming 59,800 Capital One Venture miles instead.
Related: Capital One Venture Card review
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards points’ value ranges from 1–1.5 cents apiece depending on the card you have. For instance, those earned from the Chase Freedom Flex only merit 1 cent apiece, while those earned on the Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth 1.5 cents apiece.
Citi ThankYou Rewards
The information for the Citi Prestige 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.
If you have the Discover it Miles, you can redeem your points for statement credits at a rate of 1 cent apiece for travel and any other purchases, so this is something to consider if you want to use your points to save some cash on a simple basis.
Now let’s get to mileage redemptions on specific airlines.
The information for the Discover it Miles has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Airfare booked with airline miles
Redeeming miles for a flight to Iceland makes sense if paid fares are high or you don’t have access to the redemption options outlined above.
You can redeem AAdvantage miles at 30,000 each way in economy or 57,500 in business. Most of these flights have a British Airways segment transiting through London. This won’t impact taxes too much if you also have an AA segment, but pure BA itineraries can carry taxes as high as $760 in business class.
Cheap Star Alliance awards
The easiest option for booking Star Alliance awards to Iceland is United MileagePlus. Economy awards start at just 30,000 miles each way, while business class starts at 77,000 miles.
But there’s a cheaper option and one that’s too often overlooked: ANA Mileage Plan. While United requires 60,000 miles round-trip for an economy class award to Iceland, ANA requires just 55,000 miles. Business-class awards are also a bargain at just 88,000 miles round-trip.
You can transfer ANA miles from Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. If you don’t have any Amex points, The Platinum Card is a great card worth look into. The card currently offers 75,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first six months of account opening. That’s enough for a round-trip flight, with points to spare for a hotel booking.
Cheap SkyTeam award
When you think SkyTeam, you typically think of Delta. While Delta SkyMiles could be a good option for flights to Reykjavík, they’re not the cheapest. Right now, award space isn’t even open until the end of April. You can book flights from both the East Coast, starting at 38,000 SkyMiles each way.
Flights out of San Francisco (SFO) price out at a staggering 66,000 SkyMiles each way. You’ll see these fares drop to 44,000 SkyMiles in October.
SkyMiles are also fairly easy to earn, thanks to welcome bonuses from cards like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. You can also transfer points from Amex Membership Rewards.
For a cheaper SkyTeam award, you’ll want to look at Flying Blue redemptions. These will set you back as little as 22,500 miles each way in economy from the East Coast and 27,500 from the West.
FlyingBlue miles happen to be some of the easiest miles to earn, thanks to transfer partnerships with American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.
Alaska Mileage Plan
Alaska Airlines is set to join Oneworld by the end of March 2021. There’s no telling how (or if) the Mileage Plan award chart will change. But until it does, you can redeem 30,000 Alaska miles each way for a flight to Reykjavik. Alaska partners with Finnair and Icelandair, so you have plenty of options for getting to Reykjavik on points.
The only downside is that the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is your only option for earning Alaska miles with a credit card. The card currently offers 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 within 90 days. That’s almost enough for a round-trip award ticket.
The information for the Alaska Airlines Visa and Alaska Airlines Visa Business 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.
Hotels you can book with points
Iceland isn’t a huge hotel market, but all the major hotel chains have established properties there because of its increased popularity. Most of these hotels are found in Reykjavik which will be your base for a Iceland trip anyway. Here are some hotel options using points and miles:
Hilton has three hotels in Reykjavik: The Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, Canopy Reykjavik City Centre and Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel, a Curio Collection hotel. The Hilton Reykjavik Nordica has the cheapest paid and point rates. In April, you can find paid rates of around $140 per night or 29,000 Hilton points.
The Canopy Reykjavik goes for around $225 per night or 48,000 Hilton points. The Curio property has paid rates just under $200 per night in April, while point rates are 44,000 per night. These three hotels are located within three blocks of each other, so the best option really comes down to your personal tastes.
I’ve now stayed at two Curio Collection hotels and really like the brand so far. If you’re looking for a boutique hotel experience that’s also affordable, I’d go with the Curio Collection hotel.
That being said, TPG values Hilton points at 0.6 cents each. So you’re better off saving your points, unless you’re taking advantage of the fifth-night free benefit, which would bring the point-per-night cost down 20%. Instead, consider using a currency like Capital One Venture miles or the Citi Prestige Fourth Night Free benefit on longer stays.
IHG Rewards Club
IHG Rewards Club has just two hotels in all of Iceland, both of them from the Mr & Mrs portfolio. In Reykjavik, there’s The Mr & Mrs SmithKvosin Hotel offers paid rates of around $270 per night in April. You can also redeem 50,000 IHG points per night. You can knock an extra 25% off with the fourth-night award benefit from the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
Mr & Mrs SmithThe Retreat at Blue Lagoon also looks intriguing. The hotel is built over an 800-year-old lava field and surrounded by geothermal lagoons. It’s adjacent to the famed Blue Lagoon, but the lagoon surrounding the hotel are for guest use only. As you can imagine, this comes with a hefty price tag. Paid rates are around $1400 per night and as of now, there is no award availability year-round.
Marriott has four hotels in Iceland and unfortunately, the only viable redemption for a 35,000-point certificate is the Courtyard Reykjavik Keflavik Airport. That shouldn’t be a major deterrent because if your flight arrives late, there’s no point in wasting a night at a high-end hotel. Spend that first night at a lower-end property near the airport and you’ll not only save points (and cash), but you won’t have to deal with a long ride to the city late at night.
In the city, Marriott has two Category 7 properties: The ION City Hotel and the 101 Hotel, Reykjavik. You’ll get the most value out of your points at the 101 Hotel, where paid rates in March are around $470 and award nights cost 60,000 points. Considering TPG values Marriott points at 0.8 cents each, that’s not a terrible redemption. The ION hotel, on the other hand, offers rates around $245 per night or 60,000 points.
Lastly, there’s the ION Adventure Hotel in Nesjavellir, which is about an hour drive from Reykjavik. The hotel is located near Mount Hengill and offers the perfect escape for outdoorsy types looking to escape the city. Paid rates are just under $400 per night while the award rate is 60,000.
Radisson Rewards often gets overlooked, but they have a pretty expansive portfolio, especially in Europe. In Iceand, they have three hotels, all located in Reykjavik. Their paid rates tend to be lower than most hotel chains and at 20 base points per $1 spent, you can earn a ton of points for future redemptions.
Their Reykjavik hotels range from 38,000 – 50,000 points per night:
- Park Inn By Radisson Reykjavik Keflavik Airport – 44,000 points
- Radisson Blu Saga Hotel, Reykjavik – 44,000 points
- Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel, Reykjavik – 70,000 points
The Radisson Blu Saga is not currently accepting reservations. However, the Park Inn and Radisson Blu are great options for value travelers. The paid rates for both hotels are around $140 per night in March and April.
Despite just a $3-5 difference in the paid rate, the redemption rates are vastly different for these two properties. TPG values Radisson points at 0.4 cents each, so neither of these properties are ideal for redeeming points. Instead, save them up for a premium redemption and enjoy the fairly low paid rates while they last.
If you’re looking to stock up on Radisson points for an award night in Reykjavik, consider the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card. The card offers 100,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days. You’ll also get 40,000 bonus points every year you renew your card. In addition, you ca n earn a free night certificate valid at U.S. hotels when you spend $10,000 on the card, up to three times.
The information for the Radisson Rewards Premier 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.
World of Hyatt
Hyatt has two hotels in Iceland: The Tower Suites Reykjavík and Hotel Ranga. The redemption rates are a bit on the higher side, with the Tower Suites requiring 40,000 points per night and the Hotel Ranga going for 30,000.
In April, standard rates at the Tower Suites are around $1600 per night, so you are getting 4 cents per point on an award redemption. Meanwhile, the Ronga Hotel goes for $380 per night in April. Since TPG values Hyatt points at 1.7 cents each, you won’t get the most value out of your points on this redemption.
If you’re looking to save up points for the Reykjavík, the World of Hyatt Credit Card is a solid option. You’ll not only earn a welcome bonus, but the card also includes Discoverist status and the ability to spend your way to a higher elite level.
Once you’ve made it to Iceland, you’ll probably want to go sightseeing, visit a sauna or venture out to see the Northern Lights. One of the best ways to cover these expenses is through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel site. Not only do they offer competitive rates on tours and museum tickets (they are powered by Expedia, after all), but you can redeem your Ultimate Rewards at 1.5 cents each if you’re a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder and 1.25 if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Another option is to charge your activities to your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Assuming your purchases get coded as travel, you can redeem miles at a rate of 1 cent each to offset these purchases. I like the second option better because you’ll also earn 2 miles per $1 during the process, but be sure to compare prices and go with the option that works out most economically.
Due to year-round low fares, Iceland might be a destination where it’s better just to purchase your ticket outright and save your points for on-the-ground redemptions or premium awards elsewhere, especially given the lackluster business-class seats several airlines offer on their routes to Reykjavik. If you decide to make the trip, here are some mistakes to avoid and where to stay and what to do.
Additional reporting by Eric Rosen
Featured image by Peerasit Chockmaneenuch/Getty Images
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