Your points and miles guide to Puerto Rico
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While Puerto Rico has recently endured several natural disasters in the form of hurricanes and earthquakes, the island has remained resilient with the help of continuing recovery efforts. Resurgent tourism has even resulted in a record number of cruise ships returning to the bustling San Juan port. 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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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.
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 mileage 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 legacy U.S. carriers (American, Delta and United) 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
Although American still publishes a zone-based award chart, the airline (as well as 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 inventory. American also calls these awards “web specials” and they are available in economy as well as business and first class.
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 27–May 20; Sept. 7–Nov. 14).
One-way flights from the U.S. to Puerto Rico would cost the following amounts:
- Economy MileSAAver (off-peak): 12,500 miles
- Economy MileSAAver: 15,000 miles
- Business MileSAAver: 25,000 miles
However, when American offers “web specials” to SJU, you can fly to San Juan for less than the fixed award cost of 12,500 miles. For example, Chicagoans can escape the long winter and head down to Puerto Rico for only 10,000 AA miles thanks to these dynamically priced award specials.
In most cases, if you live in a city that does not have nonstop service to Puerto Rico, 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 Los Angeles (LAX) with a short layover in Miami (MIA) 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 exact same American Airlines flight. It pays to compare and contrast what option charges the least amount of miles/points.
British Airways Avios are also some of the easiest points to accrue (they can be transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards and there are often bonus offers on transfers) so make sure to check BA’s website before using American Airlines miles.
Related: Complete guide to transfer bonuses
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 the summer months when children are out of school and most people take their vacations, the lowest round-trip cost from New York (JFK) to San Juan (SJU) is 21,500 Delta SkyMiles.
However, Delta has been running frequently advertised award flash sales this year, with mileage rates to Puerto Rico starting at as little as 10,000 SkyMiles round-trip per person. For example, you can fly to San Juan from NYC in late-February into March for only 10,000 SkyMiles round-trip plus $11.20 in taxes and fees.
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. Most of these deeply discounted fares are basic economy, but 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, there are tons of valuable American Express Delta cobranded Delta credit cards to 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 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 flights, you will end up spending more miles for your flight to Puerto Rico than redeeming SkyMiles directly via Delta — particularly during award sales.
United has one of the most limited route networks from the U.S. to Puerto Rico. However, the airline 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.
It’s possible to book these same United flights using partner programs like Avianca LifeMiles or Singapore KrisFlyer, which charge 17,500 miles each, 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 if you’re low on miles.
While Southwest Airlines is known for fairly-priced flights in the U.S., the airline also offers flights to Caribbean destinations, including to 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 3,120 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 a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Southwest is a very good option for redeeming points for flights to Puerto Rico.
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 6,800 TrueBlue points for travel in March 2020.
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 1,000 TrueBlue points one-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 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three 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® World Mastercard®, United Explorer Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card.
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. From Miami, you can fly one-way to San Juan for only $69 on American Airlines in early March.
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 $69 ticket would only cost 4,600 points.
Amex also offers a pay-with-points rebate on two of its business charge 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 a multitude of 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 to always check cash prices, as airlines tend to offer substantial flight deals to the island year-round.
Featured Image by Michael Runkel/Robert Harding/Getty Images.
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