How to Find the Best New Zealand Reward Flights
New Zealand, the land of Hobbits and national rugby team-themed black planes, may seem far from home, but it’s getting easier to get there with points and miles.
Air New Zealand’s loyalty program, called Airpoints, offers terrific value, assuming you can find award availability. Its revenue-based earning and redemption rates make the program unique.
Points & Miles
One of the hardest rewards to get in the United States is to fly to New Zealand, and even when you can find award availability it can still be a long flight. Fortunately, many of the major airline miles programs — like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards — have partners that can help you get to Auckland, whether it be through one-stop flights with Air New Zealand or Qantas or through two-stop flights with Alaska Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
With United MileagePlus, you can fly to Auckland in economy class for just 200,000 miles each way, or in business class for 425,000 miles each way. You can also use Alaska Airlines MileagePlan, which is a member of the Oneworld alliance and charges the same rate for flights to Auckland as AAdvantage, or you can use miles from another Oneworld airline program, such as Cathay Pacific Asia Miles or Qantas or Fiji Airways, though the latter two don’t offer online booking, so you will have to call in order to book those flights.
Purchasing points is a great option for getting to New Zealand, as you can often find big bonus sales. Right now you can purchase 90,000 Aeroplan Miles for $1399, which is enough for a round-trip flight from LAX to Auckland in business class with Air New Zealand. Then you can book a connecting flight from Auckland to the rest of your itinerary with Air New Zealand or a partner airline.
Many New Zealanders can reap rewards and cashback if they’re comfortable with putting general everyday spending on credit cards. However, if you’re prone to overspending and struggling to repay credit card debt, a low-interest rate credit card may be more suitable for your needs.
If you’re a member of Air New Zealand’s loyalty program, Airpoints, the following credit cards offer signup bonuses worth a substantial amount when converted into Airpoints Dollars. The rankings reflect the value of the bonus points offered by each card when redeemed for award flights on Air New Zealand or with Star newzealandrewards.com Alliance partners like United Airlines, Aeroplan, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
Note that not all credit cards are eligible to earn and redeem Airpoints, and some banks set minimum conversion amounts. For example, Westpac’s Altitude Rewards offers 180 Airpoints Dollars per 1,000 Altitude Points redeemed.
While nonstop business class flights to Auckland aren’t available with American Airlines miles, AAdvantage members can fly to AKL on oneworld partner Cathay Pacific, which offers business class redemptions for as little as 60,000 one-way. Additionally, if you’re willing to make a few stopovers, there are a number of economy-class options on the Oneworld alliance with Qantas, Alaska Airlines and Fiji Airways. Some of these flights are even available on American Airlines, although the airline has suspended its nonstop service to AKL through fall 2022.
New Zealand’s awe-inspiring mountains, lakes and rich culture are a must-see for any traveler. Using points to stay in New Zealand’s most spectacular hotels can be an excellent way to save money on your trip.
If you’re a Hilton Honors member, there are seven Hilton hotels located throughout New Zealand that accept award nights. The brand’s newest hotel, the Park Hyatt Auckland, is a Category 5 World of Hyatt property that offers an unforgettable experience. Located on the Princes Wharf waterfront, the hotel evokes the spirit of nautical New Zealand and boasts an outdoor lap pool with a unique underwater viewing window. The hotel is also within walking distance of downtown attractions like the New Zealand Maritime Museum and the Downtown Ferry Terminal.
A Category 4 hotel with a similar vibe, the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa, is perfect for ski vacationers. Located right at Lake Wakatipu in Kawarau Village, the hotel has a luxurious alpine feel and is close to the ski slopes. Hilton Honors members can redeem a free night at this hotel by exchanging 18,000 points on off-peak dates; 20,000 points on standard dates and 23,000 points during peak times. Alternatively, you can book a cash booking for $300 per night in the low season and $470 during the peak season.
If you want to get more value out of your Hilton hotel stays, consider a premium credit card that offers good redemption rates for hotels. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card, for example, lets you earn points that can be redeemed for hotel stays at up to 1.5 cents per point through the Chase portal. The card’s transfer partners include IHG and Hyatt, so you can easily combine the Chase portal with one of these programs to unlock a lot of value.
Air New Zealand is one of the most rewarding airlines to fly for business class. Its Premium Pacific seats are among the best in the world and the Skycouch innovation is a fun way to stretch out. You can earn a lot of miles flying this airline, especially with a fee-based Chase credit card that lets you redeem for travel through the program’s portal. For economy travelers, it’s possible to find rewards-based flights to New Zealand from United or American, though options will depend on your origin and destination.
When award flights to New Zealand are available, they tend to be expensive. But, with some patience and flexibility, you can snag seats for less than 100,000 miles. For instance, Alaska Airlines offers economy Fiji Airways awards for 40,000 miles each and Qantas economy tickets are just 42,500 miles each.
Renting a car can be an affordable option, particularly if you’re planning on exploring the country’s outlying regions. Just make sure your credit card offers rental car insurance because some New Zealand companies include coverage only in specific cities. Otherwise, you can save money by using ride-hailing services like Uber or Ola Cabs to get around. Auckland also has a well-established public transportation system that includes buses, trains and ferries. It may be worth purchasing and loading a AT HOP card for discounted rides.