9 Free NYC Museums + Attractions to Visit with Your Bank of America Card

new york botanical garden for free - ochristine

Free things to do in NYC!? If you’re not from New York City you probably think finding things to do in NYC for free to be close to impossible. But that’s far from true! Especially if you maximize bank perks.

The first time I ever enjoyed admission perks with a bank card was in the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle in Manhattan, NY. There was a roped off Mastercard lounge set up with couches, drinks, and snacks available for anyone who showed their card and a photo ID. It was then that I wondered, "What perks do my other cards have?"

Consumers miss out on free perks every day -- especially the ones from their bank. One customer benefit often ignored is free admission to popular local attractions. If you have a Bank of America credit or debit card, for instance, you can visit more than 150 attractions for free (well, on the first full weekend of every month) by showing your card. 

Bank of America Free Museum Perks in NYC

There are 36 states that have museums and cultural institutions you can access for free, and New York State has the third highest number of participating sites -- after California and Florida. Since visiting (and living in) New York City can hurt your pockets, here are nine museums and attractions you can visit for free with your Bank of America card.

NYC Sites You Can Visit For Free With Your Bank of America Credit or Debit Card

1. New York Botanical Garden (Fordham)

The 250-acre garden grounds in The Bronx are whimsical and romantic, offering plenty of new activities, exhibits, and events for one to enjoy each time they return. On weekends, it would cost $28 per adult to visit with an all-access garden pass. It offers entry to current exhibits, the conservatory, art gallery, tram tour, and gardens. NYC residents can pay $15 for grounds-only admission.

With a Bank of America Card,  you can visit for free on the first full weekend of any month between June and October. If the weekend doesn't align with your visit, New York Botanical Garden does offer free grounds admission to the public every Wednesday (but beware the crowds).

the new york botanical garden - ochristine

2. American Museum of Natural History (Upper West Side)

The American Museum of Natural History is a New York City favorite and one of the world's most distinguished institutions. Science and culture enthusiasts will love their exhibit halls and the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and should take advantage of their guided museum tours: free to the public and available in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, or Hebrew.

Get a free general admission ticket to AMNH (worth $23) when you use your Bank of America card throughout the year, every first full weekend of the month. It could be a better alternative to their "pay-as-you-wish" model: a super awkward moment for me every time (much like those "suggested donation" museums, where I feel obligated to donate).

3. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (Hell's Kitchen)

This family-friendly museum complex in Manhattan sits atop the aircraft carrier, Intrepid, and is dedicated to science, history, and our country's servicemen and women.

Get free entry to Intrepid with your Bank of America card and enjoy the perks of a general admission ticket. This ticket covers admission to the "Space Shuttle Pavilion, submarine Growler and all temporary exhibitions," normally costing $33 per adult. Special NYC resident rates are $19 per adult throughout the week, but visiting the Intrepid museum on the first full weekend of the month with your Bank of America card doesn't cost a thing.

4. Museum of the City of New York (Spanish Harlem)

Celebrate urban culture and city life north of Central Park with a visit to the Museum of the City of New York. With over 400 years of New York City history, the "Museum’s collection contains approximately 750,000 objects, including prints, photographs, decorative arts, costumes, paintings, sculpture, toys, and theatrical memorabilia." 

Neighborhood locals and employees need not worry about ticket fees: if you live or work in the immediate area, you get free "I'm a Neighbor" admission. For tourists and everyone else, however, you can bypass the museum's $18 admission fee with your Bank of America card and get free admission during any first full weekend of the month. 

  • Insider tip: If you keep your museum admission sticker, you can show it at El Museo del Barrio nearby for free admission too (which normally has a $9 "suggested donation").

5. Queens Museum (Flushing Meadows)

Queens Museum features a great selection of visual arts and educational programs that speak to the diverse metropolis that is New York City. Fitting that it'd be located in this NYC borough; Queens is one of the most ethnically diverse urban areas in the world. 

Open Wednesdays thru Sunday, Queens Museum has much lower entry fees than its counterparts. With an $8 suggested donation for admission, or complimentary access for NYC college students and Department of Education employees, you definitely have some options for saving money. If none of those work for you, however, your Bank of America Card can get you in on the first full weekend of every month for free -- which is pretty clutch because they offer free guided tours on Sundays. #FreebieJackpot

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6. Staten Island Zoo (West Brighton)

Make it a day trip and take the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island's north shore, where you can hop on a bus to the Staten Island Zoological Society (the Zoo). This AZA-accredited, non-profit institution is the United States' biggest "little" zoo and has been dedicated to wildlife conservation since 1936. At the Staten Island Zoo you'll find threatened and endangered species being cared for, and a number of kid-friendly educational programs.

It usually costs $10 for admission (plus Wednesdays free), but with your Bank of America card you can get free admission year round every first full weekend of the month. 

7. The Jewish Museum (Upper East Side)

Along Museum Mile's row of museums and art institutions is The Jewish Museum, celebrating art and Jewish culture. One of the oldest Jewish museums in the world, it is actually the first of its kind in the US -- opened in 1904.

Admission is $18 on most days, though Saturdays are free to the public and Thursdays accept "pay-what-you-want" admission from 5-8pm. If you want to visit on a Sunday, show your Bank of America card for free entry -- just be sure it is the first full weekend of the month (you know the drill). 

  • Insider tip: Even though Saturdays offer complimentary entry for all, Saturday is also the Sabbath (a day of rest), so interactive exhibition elements, audio guides, the gift shop, and children’s exhibitions are unavailable.

8. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Upper Manhattan locations)

There are actually a few of The Met locations you can enjoy for free using your Bank of America card. Once you get your general admission ticket, it is valid for three consecutive days at The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters. Without your Bank of America card, general admission tickets at this iconic museum are normally $25 per adult. Residents may pay as they please with NY State ID.

  • The Met Fifth Avenue (Upper East Side)
    Over 5,000 years of art from around the world and various eras is housed at The Met. Open since 1880, The Met is a renowned destination for art and art history.

  • The Met Breuer (Upper East Side)
    Eight blocks away from The Met Fifth Avenue you'll find modern and contemporary art, as well as artist residencies, at this newer Madison Avenue location (est. 2016).

  • The Met Cloisters (Inwood)
    You'll be enthralled by the four-acres of land in Fort Tyron park when you visit the Cloisters. Overlooking the Hudson River, this branch of The Met honors medieval Europe through art, architecture, and gardens.

Crowd in The Met’s court interior | Free admission to The Met in NYC
The Metropolitan Museum of Art interior court | Free admission to The Met in NYC with Bank of America Card

9. Whitney Museum of American Art (Chelsea)

If you want to explore the work of living artists, Whitney Museum of American Art is the place to be. Enjoy art from the 20th and 21st centuries at the Whitney in Chelsea, Manhattan, with free access using your Bank of America credit or debit card. Remember -- the usual rules follow: free admission with your card is only valid on the first full weekend of the month.

You should also note that this bank freebie only applies through August, according to Bank of America's museum listing. Otherwise, tickets are $25 per adult. After your visit, take a stroll along the High Line nearby -- always free! 

*Bonus: Hudson River Museum (Westchester)

If you have time and want to venture out of New York City to Yonkers (just north of The Bronx) hop on the Metro North Hudson line from Grand Central Station to Glenwood Station and walk to the Hudson River Museum.

You'll get to discover artists from the Hudson Valley, enjoy the only public planetarium between NYC and Albany, and more. Standard entry fee is $7, though Friday and Saturdays in the summer are free. Otherwise, use your Bank of America card every first full weekend of the month to get free admission. 

Important Things To Know About Bank Of America's "Museums on Us" Program

Before you set off to explore some of New York City's best museums and cultural institutions, you should remember a few things when using Bank of America's "Museums On Us" perk:

  1. Free admission only applies to one person -- you.
    There are no "plus ones" allowed, and you can't hand off your bank card to people accompanying you. Be prepared to show your photo ID and double check that your full name matches your Bank of America card. 

  2. Your free Bank of America museum access covers regular admission only.
    If there are many ticket types, with some offering extra activities or special exhibits, you can expect to only receive the standard/base ticket for free. This may vary by location, at the attraction's discretion.

  3. Free admission is available during the first full weekend of every month.
    In case I didn't repeat it enough -- the "full weekend" part of this fine print is very important. That means if August starts on a Sunday, the next weekend would be the first full weekend.

  4. Merrill Lynch and US Trust cardholders receive these Bank of America perks too!
    According to Bank of America, "this distinctive program offers Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust credit and debit card holders the opportunity". I don't have a either of those cards so I haven't tried it, but as of 2018 BofA confirms those cards are also eligible.

Which museums & attractions will you visit in NYC?

I hope you found this list helpful! Let me know if you have used this perk, plan on using it, or have a similar freebie with your own bank card. Happy exploring!

xx, O.


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Bank of America Free Museum Program NYC - Museums on Us