Visiting San Francisco on Points


Many people have left their hearts in San Francisco, myself included. Having lived in Humbolt County, California for years, San Francisco, the city on the bay, was a frequent destination for me. However, I wasn’t a travel hacker when I visited it before. Let’s see how you can enjoy visiting San Francisco on points.


Getting There

San Francisco Airport is an international airport so it will be really easy for you to use airline miles to get there for free (minus taxes). One of our favorite beginning travel hacking credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, is offering a limited-time (till Nov. 8th) high bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards after a $4,000 minimum spend (normally 60,000 Ultimate Rewards). You have three months to complete this minimum spend so that is completely doable. You can then transfer points to United Airlines or Southwest Airlines and easily have two roundtrip tickets from most cities in the United States and have points to spare.

Look into what airline cards are offering the best bonus at the moment. Check out our best cards page and filter to airlines to see what the best current offers are.

Reward flights from Denver can be super cheap to San Francisco!

Let’s check Delta airlines from Alex’s airport in Salt Lake City.


Screenshot award flights to San Francisco

This would cost you 13,000 Delta miles – such a good deal! American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Delta so you could open that card and you would have plenty of points to spare! The Delta SkyMiles credit cards and the American Express Credit Cards will help you get there.

Where to Stay

Because San Francisco is a large city, there are many different options using points for a free stay. Let’s look at a few.


The Hyatt Centric Hotel located near Fisherman’s Wharf is a great location because the wharf is fun and an iconic part of San Francisco. You can stay here for 20,000 Hyatt points a night. You can get these points by transferring Ultimate Rewards from a Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card or by applying for one of the Chase World of Hyatt Credit Cards. You will receive a category 1-4 certificate every year on your application anniversary if you renew.


Hyatt Hotel Room at Fisherman's Wharf

You could stay here at the Hyatt Centric Fisherman’s Wharf for 20,000 Hyatt points a night!


Another great location to stay in San Francisco is near Union Square. From here you have access to all the best in shopping this city offers as well as many theatre options. Can I say how much I love to see musicals? One of my best trips to San Francisco involved an afternoon matinee of Les Miserables with incredible seats! My favorite hotel to stay at is the Marriott Westin St. Francis. We used to stay there when my husband went to a lumber convention and it was paid for so it was free for us. You, too, can stay for free here if you use Marriott Bonvoy points from one of these Marriott credit cards.


Marriott Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco

Stay at this iconic landmark hotel, The Westin Union Square,  in San Francisco for free with Marriott Bonvoy points!


Another iconic hotel in San Francisco is the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel. For about 50,000 IHG points, you can stay on Nob Hill. If you do, be sure and go to the Top of the Mark Lounge and enjoy the unbelievable views of this city! I love my IHG credit card. Actually, I love all my hotel credit cards and renew them year after year.


Room at the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco

You can stay at the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental for free with IHG points!


The Hilton Hotel chain also has good options for you to stay in San Francisco. Here is an option that is a little cheaper than the rest but you can certainly find fancier hotels also. One of the Hilton Credit Cards will get you free nights in San Francisco. Here is what I found for the Hilton San Francisco Union Square:


Screenshot Hilton hotel prices for San Francisco


Within each of these brands, you can find multiple options to use your points for free nights in San Francisco on points. Whether luxury or economy is your preference, you can find it for a stay in San Francisco.


What to Do in San Francisco

Visit Alcatraz

One of my very favorite excursions in San Francisco has been visiting Alcatraz Island. They used to put some of the most hardened criminals there thinking that they couldn’t escape. But then some did. One of the most famous prisoners was the Bird Man of Alcatraz of whom a movie was made. (Watch it, it’s good). Al Capone was another famous prisoner.

The most important thing to know is that it is a very popular place to visit. If you just show up and think you can get tickets to go over there, you will probably be disappointed. Be sure and go here and book ahead of time.



Ride the Cable Cars

You can’t go to San Francisco and not ride cable cars. My favorite place to catch them is near Union Square and then ride them to the Wharf. I then hang out and visit the wharf and ride them back. There are many areas you can catch them though. Here you can find more information on the iconic experience of riding a cable car.



Visit Fisherman’s Wharf

Even if you don’t stay down by Fisherman’s Wharf, you have to visit it. It is one of the busiest tourist areas of San Francisco. You can pick up some clam chowder in a bread bowl from a side shop, watch the sea lions, visit Ghiradelli Square, catch a view of Alcatraz Island, and just enjoy the magic that is the Wharf. Be sure and walk down to Pier 39 and enjoy the street performers, shops, and eateries that make up the area.


Fisherman's Wharf sign, San Francisco



Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge

You can drive across the Golden Gate Bridge but I prefer to park my car in one of the areas nearby and walk across the bridge. Enjoy the views of the bay and marvel at the city that is San Francisco. There are a lot of foggy, cloudy days in San Francisco. I hope you get lucky and get one of the magical, sunny days to show you the true beauty of this area. San Francisco on a clear, crisp day is a sight to behold!


Golden Gate Bridge


Enjoy the Arts

There are numerous plays, operas, and music venues available to enjoy in San Francisco. I have seen many fabulous plays and musicals there. The San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet often have performances. Unfortunately, during COVID, these may not be available now. We look forward to them all opening up soon. There are numerous venues to hear excellent jazz and other music. I have enjoyed laying in a hotel room in San Francisco and hearing street performers play the most excellent jazz on the street on many occasions.



Take in a Ball Game

San Francisco and Oakland are accessible to many athletic teams. There are many choices if you want to watch baseball, football, or basketball when you go to San Francisco.


Baseball Park in San Francisco


Visit Chinatown

I remember visiting Chinatown on my first visit to San Francisco when I was about 12. It was magical to me then and is still fascinating. The colors, the smells, the signs written in Chinese, and listening to spoken Chinese all make you feel like you have traveled to a faraway land. Don’t miss it!



Golden Gate Park

Enjoy some downtime by visiting Golden Gate Park. Rent a bike or walk the lush grounds and enjoy people-watching. Grab a picnic lunch and a blanket and enjoy a leisurely afternoon. If you are there on a Sunday you can take in a free concert. Otherwise, enjoy the Japanese Tea Garden, the many lakes, the de Young Museum, or even try casting at Angler’s Lodge. I was there one day when a group was doing 50s dancing and had the most fun watching!


Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park


Bottom Line

San Francisco is an amazing place to visit! There are so many things to do in the area and so many fabulous restaurants to eat at. What makes our visit even better is that we can visit San Francisco on points! Being able to experience this fabulous city and save SO much money makes it even better!


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