How to travel to New Zealand with points and miles in 2024


This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy.

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New Zealand — or Aotearoa, as the Indigenous Māori people call it — is a land of stunning natural beauty, from the beaches and volcanoes of the North Island to the beautiful reflective lakes and glaciers of the South Island.

While it might seem like an expensive place to visit from the U.S., there are plenty of ways to visit New Zealand on a budget, especially if you can use points and miles to pay for your flights, hotels, car rentals and tours. 

Here’s everything you need to know about traveling to New Zealand with points and miles, plus some of our favorite things to do there.

How to use points and miles to save money on travel

Kayaking through the Pancake Rocks on the coastline of Raglan, New Zealand © Peter Unger / Getty

The cheapest award flights to New Zealand

For starters, you’ll need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) to enter the country, which takes about 72 hours to be approved and costs 17 NZD ($10 USD) to complete via mobile app. Depending on which country you’re from, you may also need to pay the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL), which costs 35 NZD ($20 USD).

As for booking flights with points and miles, you’ll find the best deals from hub cities with nonstop flights, namely New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas and Phoenix. Most flights arrive in Auckland, though there is a route to Christchurch from L.A.

Note that there aren’t any first-class redemption options unless you use Alaska Mileage Plan miles or American Airlines AAdvantage miles to book a first-class award with Qantas or Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong). 

Once in New Zealand, points and miles can be used to cover domestic flights. Air New Zealand is a partner of United Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Air China, while Jetstar is connected to Qantas.

Being aware of airline alliances and maximizing welcome bonuses from certain travel credit cards will go a long way toward cutting costs. Think of it this way: the more points and miles you acquire, the more you’ll save.

  • Cheapest economy class ticket to New Zealand: 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles round-trip
  • Cheapest business-class ticket to New Zealand: 110,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles round-trip (to fly with Qantas or Fiji Airways)
  • Cheapest first-class ticket to New Zealand: 140,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles (to fly with Qantas)

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Avianca LifeMiles

Booking award flights on Star Alliance partners like Air New Zealand and United Airlines with Avianca LifeMiles is a real points-and-miles sweet spot.

  • Economy Class: 80,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 160,000 miles round-trip

Accumulate Avianca LifeMiles quickly by switching points over from Capital One Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou Rewards at a 1:1 transfer ratio or from Marriott Bonvoy at 3:1.

  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 within the first six months of opening your account.
  • American Express® Gold Card*: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of account opening.
  • American Express® Business Gold Card*: Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $10,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express*: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 within the first six months of opening your account.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express*: Earn 120,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card*: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months from account opening. Plus, Earn up to 14X total points for every $1 spent at thousands of hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card*: Limited time offer: Earn 5 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $5,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy® American Express® Card*: Earn 155,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card*: Earn 185,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

As with Avianca LifeMiles, you can use ANA Mileage Club miles to book flights to New Zealand with United Airlines and Air New Zealand since they’re Star Alliance partners. The only catch is one-way redemptions aren’t allowed, so you’ll need to book round-trip award flights.

  • Economy Class: 75,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 120,000 miles round-trip

To quickly earn ANA Mileage Club miles, transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio or apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. Each card’s welcome bonus would provide enough points to cover a round-trip flight.

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United Airlines MileagePlus

While it’s not your cheapest option, especially after a devaluation earlier this year, United Airlines does offer a nifty nonstop route between San Francisco and Auckland.

  • Economy Class: 110,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 200,000 miles round-trip

United MileagePlus miles can also be used to book flights with Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand, though award availability can be hard to come by and will cost you more miles.

  • Economy Class: 120,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 220,000 miles round-trip

Several cobranded United credit cards offer lucrative welcome bonuses, as do the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve. United is also a partner of Bilt Rewards (1:1) and Marriott Bonvoy (3:1), so points could be transferred from those programs.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 60,000 bonus points once you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • The Bilt Mastercard®: No welcome bonus, but you can earn points on rent and transfer to a number of airline and hotel partners.
  • United Gateway℠ Card: Earn 20,000 miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • United℠ Explorer Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • United Quest℠ Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • United Club℠ Infinite Card: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • United℠ Business Card: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • United Club℠ Business Card: Earn 75,000 United MileagePlus Miles and 1,000 PQP after you spend $5,000 on qualifying purchases in the first three months of opening an account. Offer ends April 3, 2024.

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Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are an extremely valuable currency, as you can use them to book flights on Oneworld alliance partners like Qantas (nonstop or via Australia), Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong), Korean Air (via Seoul) or Fiji Airways (via Nadi).

Here’s how many Alaska Mileage Plan miles you’d need to fly with Qantas:

  • Economy Class: 85,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 110,000 miles round-trip
  • First Class: 140,000 miles round-trip

To use Alaska miles to fly to New Zealand with Cathay Pacific, you’d need:

  • Economy Class: 80,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 120,000 miles round-trip
  • First Class: 160,000 miles round-trip

Here’s how many Mileage Plan miles you’d need to fly with Korean Air:

  • Economy Class: 85,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 125,000 miles round-trip

To use Alaska miles to fly to New Zealand with Fiji Airways (which would let you fly from San Francisco, Los Angeles or Honolulu with a free stopover in Nadi) you’d need:

  • Economy Class: 80,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 110,000 miles round-trip

To quickly earn Mileage Plan miles, sign up for one of two cobranded credit cards to maximize the welcome bonus. Otherwise, Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred at a ratio of 3:1.

  • Alaska Airlines Visa® card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of account opening — and earn Alaska’s $99 Companion Fare each year after you spend $6,000.
  • Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus Alaska’s $99 Companion Fare (fare plus taxes and fees from $23), after spending $3,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months from account opening. Plus, Earn up to 14X total points for every $1 spent at thousands of hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Limited time offer: Earn 5 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $5,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy® American Express® Card: Earn 155,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Earn 185,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines offers nonstop routes from Dallas, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Chicago, Phoenix and Boston to Auckland and from L.A. to Christchurch.

  • Economy Class: 70,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 190,000 miles round-trip

Bilt Rewards can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio or you can sign up for a cobranded credit card to boost your AAdvantage miles stash.

  • The Bilt Mastercard®: No welcome bonus, but you can earn points on rent and transfer to a number of airline and hotel partners.
  • Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 within the first four months of account opening.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive Mastercard®: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first three months of opening your account.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club offers the flexibility to book award flights with Air New Zealand, whether you’re coming from California, Houston or New York.

  • Economy Class: 80,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 125,000 miles round-trip

To rack up Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles quickly, transfer points at a 1:1 ratio from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Bilt Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One Rewards (through Virgin Red). Marriott Bonvoy points can also be transferred at a 3:1 ratio. Otherwise, Virgin’s credit card offers a decent amount of starter points.

  • Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • The Bilt Mastercard®: No welcome bonus, but you can earn points on rent and transfer to a number of airline and hotel partners.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 60,000 bonus points once you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One Venture X Rewards: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 within the first six months of opening your account.
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of account opening.
  • American Express® Business Gold Card: Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $10,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 within the first six months of opening your account.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 120,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months from account opening. Plus, Earn up to 14X total points for every $1 spent at thousands of hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Limited time offer: Earn 5 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $5,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy® American Express® Card: Earn 155,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Earn 185,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

New Zealand hotels you can book with points

New Zealand is home to a ton of points hotels that are part of the IHG One Rewards, Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt, Wyndham Rewards, Choice Privileges and Accor Live Limitless loyalty programs. Sign up for your preferred brand’s loyalty program and its cobranded hotel rewards credit card to score a lucrative welcome bonus and earn free nights.

Some credit cards cover resort fees and other on-property costs. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire, for instance, provides $200 in statement credits to take care of those charges at Hilton properties twice per year.

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Auckland

Most nonstop flights from the U.S. arrive in Auckland, a terrific base for doing day trips around the North Island. Visit the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata, cultural and natural sights near Lake Taupo and the Whakarewarewa Māori village in Rotorua. If time allows, venture north to Cape Reinga or as far south as Wellington.

Marriott Bonvoy fans can choose from the Four Points by Sheraton Auckland, which has rooms from 30,000 points per night or the JW Marriott Hotel Auckland, where rates start at 33,000 points per night. Each puts you downtown, close to some of the city’s best dining, nightlife and attractions.

The welcome bonus from the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card would be enough to cover five nights. Since cardholders earn up to 17X points per dollar spent at Marriott properties, you’ll rack them up in no time.

Marriott Bonvoy is a partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, so you can transfer points from either program to increase your balance.

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The Wellington harbor
The Wellington harbor © Jacques van Dinteren / Getty

Wellington

For any respectable Tolkien fan, Wellington is a must. Visit Peter Jackson’s Wētā Workshop to see how the studio has created props, costumes and visual effects over the years and take a tour of the area’s filming locations.

The InterContinental Wellington offers five-star accommodations and nightly rates from 30,000 points. You’ll be within walking distance of most of the city’s best attractions, as well as tons of great restaurants and bars on Cuba Street and Courtenay Place. Don’t leave without learning about Māori history and culture at the Te Papa Museum or strolling the waterfront.

The welcome bonus from the IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card would cover two nights, while that of the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card would provide enough points to pay for a four-night stay. Alternatively, sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve — each of their welcome bonuses would cover two nights.

Top up your IHG Rewards One points balance by transferring points from Bilt Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.

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New Regent Street in the center of Christchurch
New Regent Street in the center of Christchurch © travellight / Shutterstock

Christchurch

Whether you fly nonstop from L.A. or via a domestic flight from Auckland, Christchurch is your gateway to the South Island. While in town, visit Quake City to learn about the region’s most devastating earthquakes (Cathedral Square is still visibly recovering). It’s also an excellent base for day trips to Lake Tekapo, Kaikoura and Hamner Springs.

The George, a Category 4 World of Hyatt property, has nightly rates from 15,000 points. Christchurch Botanic Gardens, several notable museums and several restaurants on Victoria St. are all within walking distance.

Each of the World of Hyatt Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve’s welcome bonuses provide enough points to cover a four-night stay.

To top up your World of Hyatt points balance, Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred from Chase at a ratio of 1:1.

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Queenstown Skyline Gondola, the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere
Queenstown Skyline Gondola, the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere © ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

Queenstown

Queenstown is popular with skiers in winter and adrenaline junkies all year long — it is the birthplace of bungee jumping, after all. Ride the Skyline Gondola or make a day trip to the Milford Sound to experience some of the South Island’s legendary natural scenery.

Two Hilton properties are located outside downtown Queenstown — it’s just a 10-minute scenic boat ride into town, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of The Remarkables mountain range from Lake Wakatipu. Nightly rates at the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa start at 47,000 points, while those at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Queenstown go from 26,000 points.

You’ll earn two Hilton Honors points for every American Express Membership Rewards point you transfer since they’re loyalty program partners.

The Platinum Card from American Express card’s welcome bonus offers enough points to cover one night at the Hilton and three nights at the DoubleTree, while the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card* would take care of three nights at the Hilton and six nights at the DoubleTree.

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The Milford Sound in New Zealand's South Island
The Milford Sound in New Zealand’s South Island © wootthisak nirongboot / Getty

Activities and ground transportation

Planning a road trip around New Zealand? You’ll need to drive on the left side of the road and from the right side of the car. You can also get around by InterCity bus, tourist train or ferry. Certain credit cards will help you “erase” travel-related charges made for any of those transportation methods or even Uber rides within the larger cities. 

The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit perk means you’ll receive statement credits to take care of relevant travel charges. The Capital One Venture and the Capital One Venture X Rewards also let you redeem points for travel expenses, typically at a value of one cent per point.

Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for 1.25 cents per point or 1.5 cents per point, respectively, through the Chase travel portal to save on rental cars, guided tours and other activities.

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Bottom line

A trip to New Zealand doesn’t have to break the bank. Whether you’re planning an epic solo adventure, a dream honeymoon or the ultimate family vacation, you’ll save more money by paying attention to points hotels, taking advantage of airline mile sweet spots and booking tours, activities and rental cars with points and miles whenever possible.

* Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

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



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