This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy.

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The Land of Fire and Ice has long been a popular vacation destination, with impressive waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers and plenty of dramatic scenery at every turn. You may even recognize some of them from Game of Thrones, which used Iceland as a filming location, highlighting Svínafellsjökull glacier in Vatnajökull National Park and Lake Mývatn, among other scenic spots.

If you’re sticking to a budget, it’s easy to offset the costs of your flights and hotels by paying for them with points and miles, which can also be used to cover car rentals or tour-related costs if you’re planning an epic road trip around Iceland

Here’s everything you need to know about traveling to Iceland with points and miles, plus some of our favorite places to visit there.

How to get started with travel points and airline miles

An ice cave in Vatnajokull Glacier National Park, Iceland
An ice cave in Vatnajokull Glacier National Park, Iceland © Marco Bottigelli / Getty

The cheapest award flights to Iceland

U.S. citizens are allowed to visit for up to 90 days without a visa. If you’ve got the time, Icelandair allows its passengers to book a complimentary stopover in Iceland in either direction if your travels take you between the U.S. and Europe, which you could then use to turn this into a two-in-one trip.

In addition to the points-redemption flights mentioned below, keep in mind that PLAY, a budget-friendly Icelandic carrier, offers affordable flights to Reykjavík (KEF) from Baltimore (BWI), Boston (BOS), New York (SWF, about 90 minutes from Manhattan) and Washington, DC (IAD). 

While PLAY isn’t linked with any major loyalty programs or airline alliances, you can still earn points by paying for your airfare with certain travel credit cards. The Platinum Card® from American Express*, for instance, lets you earn 5X points for booking flights directly with the airline on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.

It’s also worth checking to see if there are any flight deals in your credit card’s travel portal, whether it’s Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One Travel or American Express Membership Rewards.

  • Cheapest economy class ticket to Iceland: 36,000 Flying Blue miles round-trip (to fly on Delta from the U.S.)
  • Cheapest business-class ticket to Iceland: 88,000 ANA Mileage Club miles round-trip
  • Cheapest first-class ticket to Iceland: 135,000 to 165,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles round-trip

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Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

One of the most valuable points-and-miles currencies out there, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles allow you to book flights to Iceland via its partners, including Icelandair, American Airlines and British Airways.

Icelandair offers year-round flights from the U.S. via Baltimore (BWI), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), Raleigh-Durham (RDU), Seattle (SEA) and Washington, DC (IAD), as well as seasonal service from Denver (DEN), Detroit (DTW), Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP), Orlando (MCO), Pittsburgh (PIT, starting May 2024) and Portland, Oregon (PDX). 

As of 2024, Alaska Airlines will be switching to a new award chart for its redemption flights, so go to Great Circle Mapper to calculate the distance between your desired airports first. 

Here’s how many Mileage Plan miles you’d need to fly there via Icelandair, ranging from the East Coast to West Coast of the U.S.:

  • Economy Class: 45,000 to 55,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 90,000 to 110,000 miles round-trip
  • First Class: 135,000 to 165,000 miles round-trip

Using Mileage Plan miles is the easiest way to book award flights on Icelandair, simply because the carrier has no credit card transfer partners so it’s only possible to accumulate Saga Points by making a ton of flights. 

That said, it’s not a bad idea to pay for an economy seat on Icelandair with cash (in other words, not with points or miles) and then use Saga Points to upgrade to a business- or first-class seat.

While JetBlue and Icelandair currently have a codeshare alliance, it’s not yet possible to book award flights on Icelandair with JetBlue TrueBlue points — though you can earn miles with each carrier by flying with the other.

To top up your miles balance, transfer points over from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio or consider signing up for one of Alaska Airlines’ two cobranded credit cards so you can take advantage of its lucrative welcome bonus.

  • Alaska Airlines Visa® card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of account opening — and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) each year after you spend $6,000.
  • Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23), after spending $3,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Earn 60,000 Bonus Points plus 1 Free Night Award after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Free Night is valued at 50,000 points. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card*: Earn 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card*: Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

How to make a travel budget using points and miles 

All Nippon Airways B777-300ER Business Class
All Nippon Airways. You can fly to Japan in the airline’s esteemed “The Room” business class from just 88,000 miles round-trip © Eric Rosen / The Points Guy

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

Star Alliance fans can use ANA Mileage Club to book tickets to Iceland on United Airlines for less. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll only be able to book a round-trip redemption (no one-ways allowed), you can only book award flights for yourself or a family member (not friends) and you’ll need to check for availability through United’s website first, then confirm it with ANA.

  • Economy Class: 55,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 88,000 miles round-trip
  • First Class: 165,000 miles round-trip

If you’re in the market for a new travel credit card, the welcome bonus from The Platinum Card® from American Express would each be enough to cover a round-trip economy flight, while that of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express* would easily take care of a business-class flight.

ANA Mileage Club miles can also be transferred from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio or from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.

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Avianca LifeMiles

One of the best redemption sweet spots around is using Avianca LifeMiles to book flights with the carrier’s Star Alliance partners, like United Airlines. The only real factor is where you’re flying in from, as rates tend to be a bit lower from East Coast cities versus other parts of the U.S.

  • Economy Class: 40,000 miles round-trip from the East Coast; 60,000 miles round-trip from elsewhere in the U.S.
  • Business Class: 120,000 miles round-trip from the East Coast; 126,000 miles round-trip from elsewhere in the U.S.
  • First Class: 174,000 miles round-trip (from anywhere in the U.S.)

To bump up your balance, transfer points over from Bilt Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards or Citi ThankYou Rewards at a ratio of 1:1 or from Marriott Bonvoy at a ratio of 3:1.

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A United plane
A United plane © The Points Guy

United Airlines MileagePlus

United Airlines offers seasonal service to Reykjavík from Chicago (ORD) and Newark (EWR, restarting in May 2024). While it’s not the most lucrative redemption, especially after a recent devaluation, it’s easy to accrue United MileagePlus miles. And you could always use them to fly with one of United’s Star Alliance partners, like Air Canada or Scandinavian Airlines, instead.

United Airlines uses dynamic pricing, which varies by season and demand. Here’s how many MileagePlus miles you’d need to fly to Iceland on United metal, using a sample search for a nonstop flight in May 2024 from Newark:

  • Economy Class: 66,200 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 388,200 miles round-trip

The Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and several United MileagePlus cobranded credit cards each offer generous welcome bonuses to help you build up your points balance quickly. Points can also be transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Bilt Rewards at a 1:1 ratio or Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio if needed.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • United Gateway℠ Card: Limited-time offer: Earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • United℠ Explorer Card: Limited-time offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • United Quest℠ Card: Limited-time offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • United Club℠ Infinite CardLimited-time offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • United℠ Business CardEarn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in your first three months of account opening.
  • United Club℠ Business Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles plus 1,000 Premier qualifying points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

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Airplane-StockAir-France-787-CDG-1ERosen.jpeg
Air France Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner © Eric Rosen / The Points Guy

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

While Air France and KLM don’t fly directly to Iceland, you can still use Flying Blue miles to book nonstop trips from the U.S. aboard its SkyTeam alliance partner, Delta Air Lines, which offers seasonal flights to Reykjavík (KEF) from New York (JFK), Detroit (DTW) and Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP).

Because Delta Air Lines uses dynamic pricing, which changes based on the time of the year, your destination and other factors, tracking down award flights through Flying Blue is typically a more affordable option.

Here’s how many Flying Blue miles you’ll need to visit Iceland from the U.S., based on a sample search from New York (JFK) for dates in May 2024:

  • Economy Class: 36,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 100,000 miles round-trip

For comparison, here’s how many SkyMiles you’d need to book a similar flight on Delta in May 2024 from New York (JFK):

  • Economy Class: 58,000 miles round-trip
  • Business Class: 282,000 miles round-trip

To rack up Flying Blue miles quickly, transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One Rewards or Citi ThankYou Rewards at a 1:1 ratio or Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1 ratio.

Alternatively, Delta devotees can earn miles by signing up for one of its cobranded credit cards and maximizing the lucrative welcome bonus.

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Iceland hotels you can book with points

You’ll find points hotels from Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, IHG One Rewards and World of Hyatt all over Iceland, so be sure to sign up for their free loyalty program — or better yet, a relevant hotel rewards credit card to maximize the welcome bonus and earn points toward free nights.

Certain cobranded cards, like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire, also come with $200 worth of statement credits meant to cover resort fees and other on-property charges made at Hilton properties twice per year.

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Canopy by Hilton Reykjavík City Centre
Canopy by Hilton Reykjavík City Centre © Ben Smithson / The Points Guy

Reykjavík

Most visitors start or end their Iceland trip in the capital, Reykjavík, located about 45 minutes from Keflavík International Airport (KEF) and home to four top-notch Hilton properties. The Hilton Reykjavík Nordica has nightly rates from 36,000 points, while the Canopy by Hilton Reykjavík City Centre offers rooms from 57,000 points per night. 

You’ll also find two Curio Collection properties, the Reykjavík Konsulat Hotel,  with rooms from 60,000 points per night, and the Iceland Parliament Hotel, which has nightly rates starting at 63,000 points.

To boost your balance, transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards to Hilton Honors at a ratio of 1:2 or consider signing up for a cobranded or flexible rewards credit card.

The welcome bonus from the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card provides enough points for two to four nights (depending on the hotel), while the welcome bonus from The Platinum Card could score you a complimentary night at any of those hotels.

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Nesjavellir

In the heart of Iceland’s scenic Golden Circle, a famous road lined with waterfalls, geysers and volcanoes, is the ION Adventure Hotel, Nesjavellir, part of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. Just an hour’s drive from Reykjavík and surrounded by nature, room rates at this unforgettable property start at 50,000 points per night.

To accumulate Marriott Bonvoy points quickly, transfer some over from American Express Membership Rewards at a ratio of 1:1 or consider signing up for one of Marriott’s cobranded credit cards. The welcome bonus from the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card would be enough to cover a three-night stay, the perfect jumping-off point for your Iceland adventure.

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Hella

Iceland’s only World of Hyatt property, Hotel Rangá is located about 90 minutes from Reykjavík and situated along the Ring Road, one of the country’s most popular road trips. It’s also part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, offering rooms from 30,000 points per night.

With the welcome bonus from either the World of Hyatt Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’d have enough points to cover a two-night stay. Otherwise, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to Word of Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio to increase your balance.

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View of the famous Rainbow Street in Reykjavík, Iceland
View of the famous Rainbow Street in Reykjavík, Iceland © Finn Hafemann / Getty

Activities and ground transportation

Cars are driven on the right side of the road in Iceland and renting cars or campervans for an epic multi-day road trip is a great way to see the country and its dramatic scenery up close. Always check the road conditions and download the Safetravel app before you head out, just in case.

You’ll also find several public buses running between major towns along the Ring Road, while companies like Iceland By Bus, Volcano Trails and Reykjavík Excursions offer tourist-friendly hop-on-hop-off service and regional day trip packages during the busier summer months.

Whichever way you choose to get around Iceland, keep in mind that certain travel credit cards, like the Capital One Venture and the Capital One Venture X, allow you to “erase” charges by redeeming points toward travel expenses at a value of one cent per point. 

Other cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, come with a $300 annual travel credit perk that provides statement credits to cover travel-related expenses. 

Cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred can also save on rental cars, guided tours and other travel elements by redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5 cents per point or 1.25 cents per point, respectively, through the Chase Travel℠.

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Svínafellsjökull glacier, the largest ice cap in Europe
Svínafellsjökull glacier, the largest ice cap in Europe © Rixipix / Getty

Bottom line

A trip to Iceland doesn’t have to break the bank if you plan ahead, pay attention to airline partners, take advantage of lucrative welcome bonuses from cobranded credit cards and maximize your points and miles whenever possible. Whether you’re visiting as part of a family vacation, a romantic getaway or an epic solo adventure, you’re bound to have a memorable trip.

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* Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

This article was first published Jan 4, 2024 and updated Mar 28, 2024.

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