San Francisco has no shortage of things to see and do, including Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf, to name a few. It’s also a gateway city to the Napa Valley and Sonoma County wine regions, plus it's near Muir Woods National Monument, a legendary redwood forest.
If you’re thinking of heading to this popular West Coast destination, you can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket travel expenses by planning your San Francisco trip with points and miles.
With two major airports and hundreds of hotels to choose from, there are lots of options for getting to San Francisco with points and miles.
Your points and miles guide to San Francisco
Booking an affordable San Francisco trip starts with flights. The airports serving the San Francisco area include:
San Francisco International Airport (about 12 miles away from the city center).
Oakland International Airport (about 20 miles from the city center).
You can book a rental car, take a rideshare or ride public transportation from either airport. Travelers who like smaller airports may prefer flying into Oakland, which has 24 gates. San Francisco airport has more than quadruple that number.
If you’re planning to wait for your flight in an airport lounge, you’ll have more options at San Francisco airport.
Major airlines flying to the San Francisco Bay Area
Choosing Oakland or San Francisco as your destination airport may depend on your airline preference, although some airlines fly to both.
Major U.S. airlines servicing Oakland airport:
Delta Air Lines.
Major U.S. airlines servicing San Francisco airport:
Delta Air Lines.
» Learn more: The beginner's guide to points and miles
Best points and miles for cheap flights to San Francisco
JetBlue or Southwest
Travelers who earn points with JetBlue and Southwest have the most straightforward redemption options for flying to the San Francisco area. That’s because the number of points required to book an award flight on either airline is directly tied to the cash cost of a flight. This is great when the cost of airfare is inexpensive, as it's more likely that JetBlue and Southwest's airfares will reflect the discount and be available to book with fewer points and miles.
If you’re planning a trip when cash fares are high, consider redeeming miles for an award flight on a different airline. One sweet spot is booking United Airlines using Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. Both airlines are part of the Star Alliance, which means you could convert points from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards® and Marriott Bonvoy into KrisFlyer miles, then redeem them through Singapore Airlines’ website for a flight on United.
This can get you a great deal because Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer has a fixed region-based award chart for Star Alliance awards, meaning it’s possible to book a United Airlines award flight for fewer miles than if you booked directly through United Airlines.
Deals could include a round-trip United Airlines award flight within the U.S. for:
25,000 Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles in economy.
46,000 Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles in business class.
Before you try to book a United flight through Singapore, search United’s website to see award availability.
» Learn more: 5 award sweet spots using Singapore KrisFlyer miles
If you’re booking a short-haul flight (Los Angeles to San Francisco, for example), Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is another compelling option because it’s possible to book award flights for 5,000 miles each way.
Hotels on points in San Francisco
From big chain hotels to boutique properties, there are several lodging options to book with points in San Francisco. The best option will be dependent on your travel preferences and which part of the city you’d like to stay in.
San Francisco Hyatt hotels
Booking a Hyatt hotel with points is a popular choice among award travelers because the chain has no blackout dates and waives resort fees on award bookings. There’s a good selection of Hyatt hotels in different parts of San Francisco, including near the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Union Square and the Financial District.
The Laurel Inn
If you like boutique style properties, redeem your World of Hyatt points for a stay at the Laurel Inn, which is located within San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood, a short walk from Golden Gate Park.
Cost to book in points: Rooms start at 20,000 points per night at this Category 5 World of Hyatt hotel. NerdWallet values Hyatt points at 1.9 cents per point. Starting later this year, Hyatt will introduce peak/off-peak pricing for points redemptions.
San Francisco Marriott hotels
There are more than 100 Marriott hotels within the Greater San Francisco area, so using Marriott points will give you the most options for booking an award stay.
Palace Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Francisco
The Palace Hotel, a property that originally opened in 1875 as the largest luxury hotel in the world, is a landmark historic hotel in downtown San Francisco. It’s walking distance to Union Square and the Ferry Building Farmers Market on the Embarcadero.
Head to the Garden Court on Saturday for a traditional high tea or on Sunday for an elegant brunch.
Cost to book in points: Rooms start at 60,000 points per night for standard rates at this Category 7 Marriott Bonvoy property. It’s 45,000 for off-peak nights and 70,000 on peak nights. NerdWallet values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cent per point.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card comes with an attractive welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in Statement Credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
If you want Gold elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program but don’t want to commit to a Marriott Bonvoy-branded credit card, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express, which comes with automatic Marriott Gold Status (enrollment required). Plus, the card is currently offering the following welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. These points can transfer to the Marriott Bonvoy program at a 1:1 ratio.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
If you redeem rewards for your Bay Area trip
Learning how to travel to San Francisco on points and miles can result in huge savings. With two airports in the area, there are many options for using points and miles to save on airfare to San Francisco. If you prefer United Airlines, look for ways to save miles flying to San Francisco by booking through Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines.
The major hotel chains, including Hyatt and Marriott, offer lots of choices for travelers looking to use points to save on hotel stays. Hyatt is always a popular choice with award travelers because it has no blackout dates and doesn't charge resort fees when you book with points.
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