Credit Cards Destinations Marathons

Destination – Boston Marathon! (Part 1)

Advertiser Disclosure

The Boston Marathon is opening registration tomorrow. As most of you know, they have really switched up the entry requirements over the last couple of years. No longer does the legendary “BQ” automatically guarantee you a place in the Boston Marathon. A few years ago, registration would still be open all the way up to a couple of months before the race. Recently, it would fill in the same day. Due to that quick filling, Boston has laid our new entry requirements. Briefly, here is what they are:

  • Registration Opens Monday, September 10 – 10AM – Open registration for runners who bested their required qualifying time by 20 minutes
  • Registration Opens Wednesday, September 12 – 10AM – Open registration for runners who bested their qualifying time by 10 minutes
  • Registration Opens Friday, September 14 – 10AM – Open registration for runners who bested their qualifying time by 5 minutes
  • Registration Opens Monday, September 17 – 10AM – Open registration for all runners who have a qualifying time (with faster runners bumping runners with slower times if the slots run out)

Boston Marathon!

This is with the times that had been amended last year for qualifying, so for someone my age to be able to enter tomorrow, I would have to have a 2:45 marathon! That means I am going to have to get a lot older, because I will never get that fast!

For those of you who are fast, hopefully the information in this post will help you get to and run the most storied marathon in the history of the sport. A non-scientific average cost for each out of town runner attending the Boston Marathon is in excess of $1,000 for a marathoner! That is a huge cost and one reason why many runners set the Boston Marathon as a goal like a family sets Disney World as a family vacation goal. So, let’s get to getting you to Boston for cheap or free!

Flights

Without a doubt, flights are one of the most expensive facets of going to Boston. If you are fortunate enough to be close to drive rather than fly, we will cover that in a little bit as well. But if you have to fly, here are some of the best ways to get the miles necessary.

US Airways, United, Delta, and American Airlines all require a minimum of 25,000 miles for a round-trip ticket to Boston from any city in the US. It could be more depending on availability and your departure city. The good part is that you can redeem for one-way tickets with United and American Airlines to take advantage of possible low availability between those two airlines. Let’s break down the various airlines.

American Airlines

Using Denver as a sample city, I found availability to Boston but not back from Boston. This is one of the ways it would be nice to use AAdvantage miles to book a ticket to Boston and then either purchase your return ticket or use another airline’s miles for the return (if your city is Denver or has similar availability).

Availability with American Airlines from Denver to Boston

To get and redeem American Airlines miles, here is what you need to do:

  • Go to AA.com to sign up for your AAdvantage frequent flyer account (if you do not already have one)
  • Citibank has joined American Airlines to offer co-branded credit cards. There are a few different options that you can apply for. The links here will be for cards with guaranteed mileage amounts for applications.
  • Apply for the Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage Visa Signature card (I do not receive a commission for this link). The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year and you will receive 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. You will also receive free bags for you and up to 4 companions and receive a rebate of 10% of the miles you redeem. With this card, you could actually get a reward ticket to Boston that would be low availability one way and medium availability on the return, or put you within 10,000 miles of two low availability coach tickets to Boston.
  • Apply for the Citi Business AAdvantage World Mastercard (I do not receive a commission for this link). The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year and you will receive 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. You will also get your first checked bag for free. You can get both this card and the card above as they are different products.
  • Apply for the Citi AAdvantage / American Express credit card (I do not receive a commission for this link). The annual fee of $50 is waived for the first year and you will receive 25,000 miles after spending $750 in the first 4 months of card membership. Technically, you would have to apply for this card and the first card with three months of separation between applications, but you can follow the instructions here to get both cards on the same day (called the two-browser trick).
  • Apply for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card (I receive a commission if you apply and are accepted for this card). The annual fee of $65 is waived for the first year. You will receive 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase and 15,000 additional points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months of card membership. This will give you 30,000 Starpoints (counting the required $5,000 spending) which can be transferred to US Airways at a rate of 1:1 (with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred).
  • Apply for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business card (I receive a commission if you apply and are accepted for this card). The annual fee of $65 is waived for the first year. You will receive 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase and 15,000 additional points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months of card membership. This will give you 30,000 Starpoints (counting the required $5,000 spending) which can be transferred to US Airways at a rate of 1:1 (with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred). You can apply for both of these cards on the same day since they are different products (one is a personal and the other is a business).
  • If you apply for all 5 of these cards, you will receive 175,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $6,750 in the first 4 months of having the cards (an additional $10,000 in the 6 months of the Starwood card memberships). That gives you your free bag(s) and enough tickets for up to 4 people – all for just three credit card applications!

Delta Airlines

Using our sample city of Denver again, we find 40,000 to be the cheapest available for our sample dates (leaving for Boston on the Saturday and returning after the race on Monday). The good news is that there are 19 flight options! 🙂 Unfortunately with Delta, you cannot book one-way award tickets at half the price of a regular round-trip. The good part is that Delta lets you use a program called Pay-With-Miles that allows you to use your miles to pay down the actual cost of the ticket (or pay for it completely). So, if your desired departure airport is turning up a mileage requirement higher than 25,000 miles but the ticket itself only costs $300, you can use miles in 10,000 mile increments (per $100) to reduce that cost rather than getting an outright award ticket. Now, instead of the ticket costing you 40,000 miles, it will only cost you 30,000 miles.

Award availability with Delta Airlines for Denver to Boston

To get and redeem Delta Airline miles, here is what you need to do:

  • Go to delta.com to sign-up for a Delta Airlines frequent flyer account if you do not already have one.
  • Apply for the Delta American Express Gold Skymilescard (I get a commission if you apply and are accepted). The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. You get 30,000 Skymiles after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership. You also get your first checked bag for free (up to 9 people)
  • Apply for the Delta American Express Business Gold card (I do not get a commission for this card). The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. You get 30,000 Skymiles after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership. You also get your first checked bag for free (up to 9 people). You can apply for this card and the card above on the same day (or at anytime) as they are different products (one a personal card, the other business). That would give you 60,000 miles after spending $1,000 in 3 months!
  • Apply for the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card (I get a commission if you apply and are accepted). The annual fee of $175 is waived for the first year. You get 25,000 Membership Reward points (which transfer to Delta at a minimum of 1:1 – depending on any transfer bonuses that may be running) after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months.
  • Apply for the American Express Business Rewards Gold card (I get a commission if you apply and are accepted). The annual fee of $175 is waived for the first year. You get 50,000 Membership Reward points (which transfer to Delta at a minimum of 1:1 – depending on transfer bonuses in play) after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. You can apply for this card and the one above on the same day since one is a personal and one is a business. That would give you 75,000 Membership Reward points after spending $7,000 in 3 months.
  • Apply for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card (I receive a commission if you apply and are accepted for this card). The annual fee of $65 is waived for the first year. You will receive 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase and 15,000 additional points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months of card membership. This will give you 30,000 Starpoints (counting the required $5,000 spending) which can be transferred to US Airways at a rate of 1:1 (with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred).
  • Apply for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business card (I receive a commission if you apply and are accepted for this card). The annual fee of $65 is waived for the first year. You will receive 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase and 15,000 additional points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months of card membership. This will give you 30,000 Starpoints (counting the required $5,000 spending) which can be transferred to US Airways at a rate of 1:1 (with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred). You can apply for both of these cards on the same day since they are different products (one is a personal and the other is a business).
  • You can actually apply for each of the above cards (applying for one business and one personal on one day and then applying for the other business and personal on the same day three months later and then do the same with Starwood cards at least 1 month later) and receive a minimum of 205,000 Skymiles! That equates to 5 low availability award tickets to Boston or $1,350 of ticket prices on Delta (using Pay-With-Miles).

United Airlines

Again returning to our sample city of Denver, we find medium availability on the way to Boston and low on the return which totals 40,000 miles.

Award Availability on United Airlines for Denver to Boston

To get and redeem United Airline miles, here is what you need to do:

  • Go to united.com to enroll in the United Airlines frequent flyer program (if you have not already)
  • Apply for the United Airlines MileagePlus Explorer card (I do not receive any commission for this card). Note: the standard offer is 30,000 miles after your first purchase and adding an authorized user. You can take advantage of earning 50,000 miles by having some miles already in your account before applying. To put miles in the account easily, you transfer Ultimate Reward points (must be in increments of 1,000). After your miles are in your United account, check again on the home page (when logged in) and you will see an offer for up to 60,000 miles. This card will give you a free checked bag for you and a companion.
  • Apply for the United Airlines MileagePlus Business card (I do not receive any commission for this card). The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. You will receive 25,000 miles after your first purchase. You can apply for this card and the above card on the same day since they are different products – one personal and one business.
  • Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (I do not receive a commission for this card). The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. You will receive 40,000 Ultimate Reward points (which transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio) after spending $3,000 in three months. These points can also be used to pay for a ticket – 40,000 points can be used for $500 towards travel (on any airline).
  • Apply for the Chase INK Bold Business card (I do not receive a commission for this card). The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. You will receive 50,000 Ultimate Reward points – 25,000 after first purchase and an additional 25,000 after spending $10,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. You can apply for this card and the Sapphire Preferred on the same day since they are different products.
  • Apply for the Chase INK Plus Business card (I do not receive a commission for this card). The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. You will receive 50,000 Ultimate Reward points – 25,000 after first purchase and an additional 25,000 after spending $10,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. You can apply for this card even if you have applied for the Bold, even though they are both business cards. The reason is that the Bold is a CHARGE card while the Plus is a CREDIT card
  • If you apply for all of the above cards, you will receive a total of 215,000 United miles after spending $23,002 in the first 3 months of having the cards.

US Airways

Using our sample city of Denver, we find medium availability going and high availability on the return for a total of 50,000 miles. That is high, but remember, we are searching for fixed dates and a specific city.

Award Availability on US Airways for Denver to Boston

To get and redeem US Airways Dividend miles, here is what you need to do:

  • Go to usairways.com to enroll in the Dividend Miles frequent flyer program (if you have not already).
  • Apply for the US Airways Premier World Mastercard (I do not receive a commission for this card). The annual fee of $89 is waived for the first year. You will get 40,000 US Airways miles after your first purchase. If you have this card, it will cost you 5,000 fewer miles on award redemptions.
  • Apply for the US Airways Business card (I do not receive a commission for this card). The annual fee of $79 is NOT waived for the first year. You will receive 25,000 US Airways miles after your first purchase. You can apply for this card and the above since they are different products (one is personal the other is business).
  • Apply for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card (I receive a commission if you apply and are accepted for this card). The annual fee of $65 is waived for the first year. You will receive 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase and 15,000 additional points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months of card membership. This will give you 30,000 Starpoints (counting the required $5,000 spending) which can be transferred to US Airways at a rate of 1:1 (with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred).
  • Apply for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business card (I receive a commission if you apply and are accepted for this card). The annual fee of $65 is waived for the first year. You will receive 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase and 15,000 additional points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months of card membership. This will give you 30,000 Starpoints (counting the required $5,000 spending) which can be transferred to US Airways at a rate of 1:1 (with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred). You can apply for both of these cards on the same day since they are different products (one is a personal and the other is a business).
  • If you apply for all 4 cards, this will give you a total of 140,000 US Airways miles after spending $10,002 in the first 6 months of card memberships.

Summary of Flights

That is a lot of info and I do no want to complicate this with hotel and car information, so I will do those within the next couple of days. For now, there is enough information for you to start lining up your airline miles to get your free flight to Boston. Remember the following important points:

  • If you cannot find low availability on the dates with the cities you are looking at, look at different dates and different departure airports.
  • You can use Delta miles to chop off $100 on Delta flights per 10,000 miles redeemed.
  • You can use Ultimate Reward points to redeem for flights on any airline as you use the points as cash with a value of 1.25 cents per point  (this is helpful if you find a better deal on AirTran, Southwest, Jetblue or some other airline)
  • Don’t feel bad if the redemption cost is not optimal – for many, Boston is the pinnacle of a marathon destination. Do what it takes and enjoy it!
  • Finally, I would love to help you achieve this trip. Contact me @ charlie at runningwithmiles dot com if you need any help.

Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links that will support this site. Thank you for your support.

About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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