Credit Cards Destinations Marathons

Getting (Almost) Free Travel To The Boston Marathon

2016 Boston Marathon
Written by Charlie

The Boston Marathon is coming up quickly! All of you who are running it have either started your training program already or are itching to get started! With the training part of the marathon firmly in your grasp, many are starting to look to how you are going to get there.

It is said that the average cost of traveling to the Boston Marathon can be around $1,500. That is a lot of money and certainly much more than needs to be spent! In this post, we will look at how you can fly to Boston for the marathon for almost nothing!

Getting (almost) Free Travel To the Boston Marathon

First off – when I say almost, I really mean almost free. Depending on the credit card you choose, you will not even need to pay an annual fee for the first year so no cost there. But, you will need to pay the security tax/fee on tickets that all people pay. That amount will not be more than $11.20. That should be the most you will end up paying!

Flight Airline Options

There are a lot of options for domestic travel to Boston! Where you are coming from will determine which credit card and miles you go after to get you that free ticket to Boston.

Roundtrip Ticket For Only 9,000 Miles

If you are flying from the following cities to Boston, I have good news for you! Those cities are:

  • Buffalo, NY
  • Harrisburg, PA
  • New York, NY (LaGuardia Airport)
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Rochester, NY
  • Syracuse, NY
  • Washington, DC (Reagan National)

What those cities have in common is that they are all under 650 miles from Boston and US Airways flies non-stop flights to each of them. What makes this good news is that you can fly roundtrip from any of those cities to Boston on US Airways for only 9,000 miles! That’s right, 16,000 fewer miles than the “standard” domestic award ticket of 25,000 miles.


The reason that is possible is you can use British Airways’ award points (which are called “Avios”) for travel on American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines. British Airways uses a distance based award chart instead of a region based which accounts for the low number of miles needed for such a flight. To read more about these points, check out this post for all the booking details.

Roundtrip Ticket For Only 15,000 Miles

Continuing on with the British Airways’ points, you can also fly from the cities listed here for less than the standard 25,000 mile domestic ticket. But, since these cities fall outside of the 650 mile radius for the 9,000 mile option, we move up to 15,000 miles. That is the cost to fly from these cities to Boston:

  • Charlotte, NC
  • Chicago, IL (O’Hare Airport)

To fly from either of those cities to Boston non-stop on US Airways or American Airlines, it will only cost you 15,000 Avios (or miles). Still a great deal!

The Southwest Option

Miles Needed: Varies according to fare price

Southwest Airlines is another great option for award travel to the Boston Marathon. Their points are at a fixed redemption value (around 1.5 cents per point) so the amount of points required is tied to the price of the ticket. It is not required to fly non-stop, but they have a number of cities that do fly non-stop to Boston.

Boston Marathon

If the cost of flying directly to Boston is too high, Southwest also flies to Manchester, NH (which is about 1 hour from Boston’s Logan Airport) as well as Providence, RI (which is also about an hour away) to give even more options. One of the nice things about Southwest bookings is that they can be cancelled right up until 10 minutes before departure. So, this allows you to book one of these flights now and then change it or rebook it if the price drops! If you have the Southwest Companion Pass, you can also bring someone along with you for free (only the taxes)!

The JetBlue Option

Miles Needed: Varies according to fare price

JetBlue also has flights to Boston and their points are also tied to the price of the ticket. They have a great on-board product and their service is pretty good. If you were looking for a nice ride at less than the typical 25,000 miles, JetBlue could provide that for you. Their points are also around 1.5 cents per point, so if you were to book any flight under 25,000 points, that would be the equivalent of a $375 ticket! Chances are you can fly to the Boston Marathon for less than that!

Boston Marathon

Their network is pretty extensive now. There are a lot of non-stops available to Boston from all over the country, so JetBlue is definitely worth giving a look for your flights for the Boston Marathon!

Using American Airlines

Miles Needed: 25,000 Miles Roundtrip

Exception: 17,5000 Miles Roundtrip on some routes

Boston Marathon

American Airlines has a lot of options for the Boston-bound traveler as well. Their normal rate is 25,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket in the US. However, for AA credit card holders (certain credit cards), they have a variety of reduced mileage award cities. At present, the list is only good through March, but it may open up in the next couple of weeks. If you would be flying out of any city on the list to Boston or they include Boston on the next list, you can fly to Boston for only 17,500 miles roundtrip! Definitely an option to consider! Reduced mileage award list

Using Delta Airlines

Miles Needed: 25,000 Miles Roundtrip

Exception: Pay-with-Miles to use Skymiles at a value of 1 cent per mile as payment /  Miles + Cash payment option coming in 2015

Delta has a wonderful airline for flying on, but awards can be a bit harder to come by than the other airlines. But, at least their domestic award chart is staying the same with the standard 25,000 miles. Also, come 2015, you will be able to book one-way award tickets on Delta. This will help if you Delta serves your flight needs going but not returning (or vice versa).

Another good thing about Delta is that you can use your Delta Skymiles as a method of payment for a ticket without booking an award. This is only valid for Delta credit cardholders but would be the best option if an outright cash ticket price is under the $250 amount.

Using United Airlines

Miles Needed: 25,000 Miles Roundtrip

Exception: 20,000 Miles Roundtrip for trips under 700 miles in distance

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United Airlines probably has some of the best domestic award availability. Their award calendar is easy to use and it shows a lot of options. With (eastern/central) hubs in Washington, DC, Newark, Chicago, and Houston, there are a lot of possibilities to help get you to Boston.

One of the nice things about United is the ability to book trips under 700 miles for only 10,000 miles one-way. That means that a lot of the north-eastern US is in range at the lower price. It also allows you to book flights that have a layover. This means that you do not have to have a non-stop flight to take advantage of the lower price.

Using US Airways

Miles Needed: 25,000 Miles Roundtrip

Exception: 5,000 Mile discount for US Airways credit cardholders

US Airways has access to American Airline flights as well since their merger. This allows you to book a multitude of flight options for your Boston Marathon trip. Another nice thing is that Boston is a US Airways city. This means that there are a number of non-stop flights directly to Boston from non-hub locations. However, just make sure you check the distance before booking! If it is under 650 miles, you are better off using the British Airways Avios method above.

A nice perk of the US Airways credit card is the fact that you get a discount of 5,000 miles on award trips – just for having the card! That means that US Airways cardholders will only be paying 20,000 miles for this domestic roundtrip to Boston!

Paying For The Ticket With Points/Miles

There are some options as well that give you the flexiblity to just book a ticket outright without worrying about award availability. That is made possible through cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus which gives you 40,000 miles (worth $400 towards travel) after meeting the required spending. That should easily allow you to book any ticket you want and earn more miles when you credit those flights to an airline program!

Another option is using the Ultimate Reward points for payment. When used for travel, these points give you 1.25 cents per point in value towards things like airline tickets. So, rather than transferring those points to United (which is a transfer partner at a 1:1 transfer ratio), you could use, say, 12,000 points to pay for a low-cost, $150 airline ticket.

Getting the Airline Miles and Points

There are a lot of credit cards available that will give you exactly what you need for whichever option you choose. If you are traveling by yourself, there is no need to get more than one credit card to take care of your flight. If you are traveling with another person, most of these cards will handle two tickets as well.

If you have a question about which card(s) you should apply for, feel free to e-mail me for help with that.

British Airways Avios

These points are needed for the first two options – the 9,000 mile and 15,000 mile option. British Airways Avios are among the easiest airline currency to get. They can be transferred from Membership Rewards (American Express), Ultimate Rewards (Chase), Starpoints (SPG Amex), and their very own British Airways Visa. If you have Membership Reward points (from American Express), the best thing to do is to transfer them now with the 40% transfer bonus (read about it here). Otherwise, here are the cards you can get that would feed into the Avios program (you would only need one credit card for this option):

Unless you want to get a Membership Rewards card from American Express for this, you may be better off with one of the cards below. There are many Amex Membership Reward cards but the bonuses are not at the highest levels at this time. With Amex’s policy of one bonus per lifetime, it would be better to wait on them. If you do want to know about this or would rather choose one, e-mail me for help.

  • British Airways Visa – 50,000 Avios after spending $3,000 in 3 months – until the end of the year, the annual fee is waived the first year – Application Link
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – 40,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $4,000 in 3 months – annual fee is waived the first year – Application Link
  • Chase Ink Plus – 50,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $5,000 in 3 months  – This is a small business card and the annual fee is waived for the first year – Application Link

Southwest Credit Cards

The Southwest cards have just dropped to the 25,000 point level for most cards. However, one card still exists with a 50,000 point offering but it is only by referral. I will include my referral link below which will give me 5,000 for each person who successfully applies. The other cards transfer points to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio (Ultimate Reward points to Southwest).

  • Southwest Airlines Premier Card – 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months – $99 annual fee not waived – Application Link 
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – 40,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $4,000 in 3 months – annual fee is waived the first year – Application Link
  • Chase Ink Plus – 50,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $5,000 in 3 months  – This is a small business card and the annual fee is waived for the first year – Application Link

JetBlue Points

The JetBlue card gives an easy 20,000 after meeting the minimum spending. That is worth around $350 in airfare on JetBlue. So, before you apply for this card, check out to make sure that your flight will be less than that. The chances are very good that it will be.

  • American Express JetBlue Card – 20,000 TrueBlue points after spending $1,000 in 3 months – annual fee is waived the first year – Application Link

American Airline Credit Cards

American Airline has credit cards from Citibank and they have some pretty good offers. The best, current offer is for 50,000 miles.

  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard – 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months – annual fee is waived the first year – Application Link
  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard – 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months – annual fee is waived the first year – Application Link

Delta Airlines Credit Cards

Delta is running a bonus offering on their credit cards right now and this increased bonus offer ends December 21! So, if you are interested in going with Delta, apply for one of these before it drops to the normal 30,000 miles.

  • Delta American Express Gold (Personal) – 50,000 miles after spending $500 in 3 months – annual fee is waived for the first year – Application Link
  • Delta American Express Gold (Business) – 50,000 miles after spending $500 in 3 months – annual fee is waived for the first year – Application Link

United Airlines Credit Cards

United is a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards so those cards can be applied for in lieu of the United credit card to gain maximum points. The current offer on the United credit card is only 30,000 miles, but there is a targeted 50,000 mile bonus that you can check out here.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – 40,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $4,000 in 3 months – annual fee is waived the first year – Application Link
  • Chase Ink Plus – 50,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $5,000 in 3 months  – This is a small business card and the annual fee is waived for the first year – Application Link
  • Chase United MileagePlus – 30,000 United miles after spending $1,000 in 3 months – annual fee is waived the first year – Application Link

US Airways Credit Card

There is an excellent offer out right now for 50,000 US Airway miles. If you apply through the other link below, you will actually get a 10,000 mile bonus on your first anniversary of holding the card as well! Plus, you only need to make one purchase and pay the annual fee to get the miles! These are certainly the easiest miles to get.

  • US Airways Premier World Mastercard – 50,000 miles after first purchase and payment of the annual fee (not waived) – $89 – Application Link

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About the author


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.