There are few cities more iconic in the Southern U.S. than Atlanta. As it's been throughout its existence, the Georgia capital is frequently in a tug of war between preserving its history and reinventing itself — making it a fascinating place to visit. You can see Martin Luther King Jr.'s childhood home and the historic Fox Theatre, plus the recently opened National Center for Civil and Human Rights and one of the world's largest aquariums.
One tried-and-true way to save money while traveling is by using points and miles to book an affordable Atlanta trip. Without further ado, here's your points and miles guide to Atlanta.
Getting to Atlanta
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is one of the busiest and most-connected airports in the world. Delta alone serves over 300 destinations throughout the U.S. and around the world from ATL. You should have no trouble finding flight options to Atlanta.
Atlanta's airport moved its car rental operations off-site, so you'll need to take the SkyTrain from the domestic terminal to the rental car center to pick up your rental. If you're staying in town and want to avoid parking fees, skip the rental car center and take a MARTA train straight to downtown, trendy Buckhead or other popular destinations.
Major airlines flying to Atlanta
ATL serves as Delta's world headquarters and the world's largest airline hub. So, it's not surprising that more than 75% of passengers fly into/out of Atlanta on Delta or its affiliates.
Other airlines that service ATL include:
Air Choice One.
Flying to Atlanta on points and miles
Most U.S.-based airlines have ditched award charts and dynamically price awards, so the mileage cost to fly into Atlanta is going to vary. If you're flying in the day before an Atlanta Falcons game, you're probably going to have to shell out a bunch of miles. But if you can time your trip for a period of low demand, you can really save.
Delta award flights to Atlanta
As the dominant airline in Atlanta, Delta is the obvious choice for your arrival. But the number of Delta SkyMiles that you'll need will vary depending on where you're flying from, which class of service you're flying in and the demand for Atlanta flights that day.
For example, on some dates, one-way award flights from Miami to Atlanta cost:
4,500 SkyMiles for basic economy.
6,000 SkyMiles for main cabin.
9,000 SkyMiles for Comfort+.
17,500 SkyMiles for first class.
You can even find affordable cross-country flights for only 7,500 miles each way if you have flexible travel dates.
Southwest award flights to Atlanta
Southwest pegs the cost of its reward flights directly to the cash cost of a flight. That means when you find a cheap cash flight, you can book that same flight for cheap with Rapid Rewards points. For example, you can find a round trip from Los Angeles to Atlanta for only 5,048 Rapid Rewards points plus $11.20 in taxes/fees.
American Airlines award flights to Atlanta
If your home airport is served by American Airlines, you're in luck. Atlanta is often included on American's list of destinations for its Reduced Mileage Awards mileage discount program.
When ATL is included, eligible cardholders can apply a discount to save up to 7,500 miles round-trip on an AAdvantage award flight to (or from) Atlanta. That drops the round-trip price to 17,500 AAdvantage miles. You may be able to book awards for even cheaper through American Airlines Economy Web Specials.
Other tips for flying to Atlanta
For those unfamiliar with the Atlanta airport, it can be quite overwhelming. Here are some tips for a smoother trip through the airport:
Lounges at Atlanta airport: There are over a dozen lounges at ATL, and you can get access to 11 of these through just one card: The Platinum Card® from American Express. You can visit any of the nine Delta SkyClub lounges when flying on a Delta-operated flight. Plus, travelers can get a complimentary hour in a private suite in two other lounges through Priority Pass: The Club in Terminal F or Minute Suites in Concourse B. Terms apply.
Check-in at Atlanta airport: There are two different check-in terminals, located on opposite sides of the airport. Domestic check-in is located off of Interstate 85 on the west side of the airport, and international check-in is on the east side of the airport off of Interstate 75.
Navigating Atlanta airport: All terminals are connected by an underground tunnel. Travelers have a choice between taking "the plane train" or hoofing it through artfully created scenes on moving sidewalks.
Hotels on points in Atlanta
After you get there, you need somewhere to stay, too. There's no shortage of hotels — each of the major hotel brands has dozens of options to choose from. So, let's review some of the hotels to book with points in Atlanta where you can get great value or great amenities (or maybe both).
There are a jaw-dropping 70+ Marriott hotels within 15 miles of downtown Atlanta. These include everything from extended-stay hotels to some of the most luxurious hotels in the Marriott portfolio. Here are some to target for smart award stays.
Westin Peachtree Plaza
The Westin Peachtree Plaza is one of the most iconic buildings in the Atlanta skyline, as the glimmering, round, 73-floor building seems to mark the exact center of downtown Atlanta. Stay here to be just a few minutes away from popular locations like the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, Philips Arena and Centennial Olympic Park.
Cost to book in points: In this Category 5 hotel, rooms start at 35,000 points per night for standard rates, 30,000 during off-peak times and 40,000 during peak nights. You could also use your 35,000-point free night certificates here on the right dates.
Atlanta Marriott Marquis
It may seem that Marriott has a monopoly on iconic hotels in downtown Atlanta — especially when you factor in the mesmerizing atrium of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Located just a few blocks from the Westin, the Marriott Marquis is also in the middle of it all in the city's downtown.
Cost to book in points: Also a Category 5. Rooms start at 35,000 points per night for standard rates, 30,000 during off-peak and 40,000 during peak times. You could also use your 35,000-point free night certificates here on the right dates.
Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center
If you're looking to stretch your Bonvoy points further, the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center is a great budget points option at an excellent brand. Although located north of downtown, the hotel is right next to the Dunwoody MARTA station. So, you can easily access Buckhead and downtown, as well as travel to and from the airport without needing a car.
Cost to book in points: In this Category 3 hotel, rooms start at 17,500 points per night for standard rates, 15,000 during off-peak nights and 20,000 during peak nights. NerdWallet values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cent per point.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points: Atlanta is a haven for Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card customers. This $95-annual-fee card offers an anniversary free night award for a reward night costing up to 35,000 points. That's enough to book Category 1-4 hotels on any night and Category 5 hotels on off-peak and standard nights. And 77 Marriott hotels located within 15 miles of downtown are Category 1-5.
If you want to upgrade your stay but don’t want to commit to a Marriott Bonvoy-branded credit card, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express. It comes with automatic Marriott Gold elite status. Plus, Membership Rewards points can be transferred to the Bonvoy program at a 1:1 ratio. Terms apply.
» Learn more: Marriott Bonvoy Program: The complete guide
Likewise, there are dozens of Hilton hotels located throughout Atlanta. Let's take a look at two of the top Hilton options to book with points and miles.
For a stay in downtown Atlanta, it's hard to beat the Hilton Atlanta for convenience, amenities and a reasonable price. You'll be located just blocks from Centennial Olympic Park and the rest of the downtown destinations. Plus, the hotel is located right next to a MARTA station for easy access to/from the airport and other Atlanta attractions.
Cost to book in points: Hilton doesn’t have a set award chart, but rooms tend to cost between 27,000 and 50,000 points per night. NerdWallet values Hilton points at 0.5 cent per point.
Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead
If you're looking for pure luxury, check out the Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead. Located in the heart of Atlanta's upscale Buckhead district, the hotel is within striking distance of some of Atlanta's best malls, the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Chastain Park Amphitheatre. Then, return from your day of exploring to relax in the hotel's spa, sauna or steam room.
Cost to book in points: Hilton doesn’t have a set award chart, but rooms tend to cost between 60,000 and 80,000 points per night.
How to earn Hilton Honors points: To rack up complimentary nights at Hilton, you'll want to get a Hilton credit card. Both the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card are currently offering high-value welcome bonuses that will get you several nights at these Atlanta-area hotels.
You'll get Hilton Honors elite status with both the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (Gold) and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Diamond). Alternatively, you can get Hilton Gold elite status through The Platinum Card® from American Express. AmEx points can typically be transferred to the Hilton Honors program at a 1:2 ratio, which means 1 American Express point can be turned into 2 Hilton points. Terms apply.
» Learn more: Hilton Honors: The complete guide
The Hyatt hotel brand also offers solutions for visiting Atlanta with points and miles in 2021.
Hyatt Regency Atlanta
The Hyatt Regency is unmistakable in the Atlanta skyline thanks to the UFO-shaped, revolving rooftop restaurant. But what lies beneath is 1,260 rooms centrally located in the middle of downtown Atlanta. You'll be just minutes from all the attractions that downtown has to offer, and — since the hotel is a Category 2 hotel — you'll pay almost nothing in points to stay there.
Cost to book in points: Category 2 rooms start at 8,000 points per night. NerdWallet values Hyatt points at 1.9 cents per point.
Grand Hyatt Atlanta
For Hyatt's most luxurious Atlanta hotel, you'll want to stay at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead. Along with being in the heart of this upscale neighborhood, this spectacular luxury property even has a Japanese Zen garden and 30-foot waterfall to relax at after a day exploring Atlanta.
Cost to book in points: Hyatt Category 3 hotel rooms start at 12,000 points per night.
How to earn Hyatt points: As you can see, you can really stretch your Hyatt points far in Atlanta. That makes the World of Hyatt Credit Card a clear winner. New cardholders can earn a welcome bonus too: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent. This one sign-up bonus is enough for several nights at the best Hyatt hotels in Atlanta.
You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards® to World of Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, which means this reward program can be key to planning your Atlanta trip with points and miles.
» Learn more: World of Hyatt: The complete guide
The bottom line
There's much more to planning an Atlanta trip than just flights and lodging, but we hope these cheap and simple ways to get to Atlanta using points and miles will help you get started.
All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card