Broadway plays can be crazy expensive. You can always save money by buying discount tickets at one of the TKTS locations on the day of the show, but you can’t guarantee you’ll get the show you want. And, especially at the Times Square location, you’ll likely spend a good part of your day in line.
If you’d like to skip the lines, and ensure you get the tickets you really want, you’ll have to buy the tickets in advance. Sites like BroadwayBox.com can offer modest discounts, but overall you’re likely to pay a lot.
Redeeming Points for Broadway tickets
Audience Rewards describes itself as “The Official Rewards Program of Broadway & the Arts”. They have their own points program with which you can earn points for buying shows, or redeem points for free shows. Alternatively, you can earn and redeem points with Audience Rewards partners:
SPG, Delta, United, American Airlines, Amtrak, and Shop Your Way (Sears / Kmart) are all listed as partner sites. It appears, though, that only SPG, Delta, and United points and miles can be redeemed for shows. The other programs are available for earning points & miles when you buy show tickets. One slight exception is Amtrak. It is possible to convert Amtrak points to Audience Rewards points and then book shows with points from there.
Good deal with SPG points?
I wanted to see if you could get good value by redeeming points for a show, so I started with a made-up scenario: a couple is planning a weekend trip to NYC for December 5 and 6, 2015. And, this couple wants to see Wicked. I browsed to SPG on Broadway to look for the show. After selecting to “Redeem” (as opposed to “Buy/Earn”), I was able to input my desired dates and location (I picked New York, but Durham, Los Angeles, and San Diego were also available). And, from a lengthy list of show choices, I picked Wicked (which was easy to find at the end of the alphabetical list of shows). The resulting SPG point prices ranged from a high of 19,200 per ticket to as low as 5,400 points per ticket. There was also a points + cash price of 500 points + $49, or the option to “Set Cash/Starpoints”.
I liked the idea of spending only 500 points plus $49, so I started there. Unfortunately, no shows were available at this price over the weekend:
I then tried the 5,400 point per ticket price, but again tickets weren’t available for the weekend. The best weekend option I could find was for 13,200 points on Sunday December 6:
With the Fair Trading Price of SPG points at 2.26 cents each, this is like paying about $300 per ticket. Let’s see what BroadwayBox.com would charge for the same date:
Via BroadwayBox.com, Orchestra seats start at $167 each. With service charges added in, you would pay $206 per ticket. In this example, using SPG points would give you $206 / 13,200 points = 1.6 cents per point in value. That’s not a horrible value, but you can usually do better redeeming SPG points for hotel stays or transferring to airline programs.
What if we were more flexible and could choose an available points + cash show? I found the points + cash option available for orchestra seats on Thursday, December 3rd for 500 points + $49. How does that compare to BroadwayBox.com?
The cheapest BroadwayBox.com price for the same show was $168 per ticket. With service charges added in, you would pay $207 per ticket. Suddenly the points price offers fantastic value. The cash difference in price between paying outright or paying points + cash = $158. In this example, using 500 SPG points would give you $158 / 500 points = 31.6 cents per point in value!
Alternatively, you could pay 5,400 SPG points per ticket for the same show. In that case you would be save $207 per ticket. That would give you $207 / 5,400 points = 3.8 cents per point value. That’s really good, but the points + cash option is better.
What about Delta?
If you don’t have SPG points or you don’t want to waste them, another option may be to redeem Delta miles. However, only Delta elite (Delta Medallion) members can redeem miles for tickets. And, Delta charges more miles than SPG for the same show. In this example, the awards require 66% to 67% more Delta SkyMiles than SPG points:
Interestingly, the points + cash option (500 miles + $51) doesn’t require more Delta SkyMiles, but it does require $2 more in cash. The cash difference in price between paying outright ($207) or paying points + cash = $156. In this example, using 500 Delta miles would give you $156 / 500 points = 31.2 cents per point in value!
Is it worth paying $2 more in order to use less valuable Delta SkyMiles instead of SPG points? Yeah, probably, but the difference between the two is so small that it’s not worth worrying about at all. If you have the points in either program, and the points + cash option is available, it’s most likely a great deal. Go for it.
What about United?
Surprisingly, most United ticket awards require more miles than Delta, and much more than SPG (about 90% more). Plus, United doesn’t appear to offer a cash+points option. The only United option that is worth considering (in my opinion) is the “Select Performances” option. In this example, one could redeem 9,000 United miles for Wicked on Thursday December 3rd. That would give you $207 / 9000 points = 2.3 cents per point value. That’s really good, but not as good as redeeming points+cash with either SPG or Delta.
Assuming the one example that I drilled down on is typical across the board (which is, granted, a big assumption), we can draw a few conclusions:
- Redeeming points for Broadway tickets can offer excellent value.
- To get the best value for your points, look for “Select Performances” awards rather than “Anytime” awards.
- Book tickets well in advance in order to get in on those “Select Performances” tickets.
- If you have the option of paying Points + Cash, do it. Keep in mind that United doesn’t offer this option.
- Do not select the option to “Set Cash/Starpoints”. This lets you adjust the Points + Cash ratio so that you pay more points and less cash, but the savings equate to only 1 cent per point.
- If only “Anytime” awards are available, compare the point price to the ticket price to see if you’re getting good value for your points. My guess is that the answer will often be “no”.
As to the question of which types of miles to use, it really depends on how many points/miles you have and how much you value them. As a rough guide, I would recommend the following:
- If you have Delta elite status and a stash of Delta miles, then book with Delta SkyMiles; otherwise…
- If you have SPG points, book with SPG; otherwise…
- If you have Membership Rewards points, convert enough to SPG to be able to book Points + Cash; otherwise…
- Use United miles
Here are the relevant links: