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11 Strategies to Travel to Japan using Points & Miles

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How to Get to Japan Using Points and Miles

Japan is by far one of my favorite countries that I’ve had the opportunity to visit. Bullet trains, Fresh Sushi, Hedgehog Cafes, and Robot Restaurants! What’s not to LOVE?! Without Points and Miles, visiting Japan would without a doubt still be just an item on an ever-growing basic bucket list. If you’ve dreamed about visiting the famed giant orange Torri Gates or imagined the taste of authentic Ramen, the following guide will show you how to travel to the land of the rising sun by using points and miles to subsidize airfare. 

Below is a Basic list of 16 Different Major Airlines and Credit Card Programs that can get YOU to Japan for only a fraction of the True Cost! 

Please note that Credit Card offers are not represented below due to signup bonuses changing frequently. Please check out the Top Credit Cards page or send us an Email if you’re looking for the best option to get to Japan using Points & Miles! 

The BIG Three – American, United, & Delta 

American Airlines 

I’m starting with American Airlines because I think they are one of the simplest points and miles currencies out there. The Economy MileSAAver Level Seats (Cheapest Seats you can book with miles on AA) will be either 32,500 (Off-Peak) or 35,000 (Peak) miles from the Continental United States to Japan and back. As long as there is a SAAver seat available, you won’t spend more than 35,000 AA Miles each way traveling to and from Japan! 

Finding Space via the American Airlines Award Search is easy to do. A simple search right now shows a ton of availability. Here is a roundtrip flight for 20 days in July that would run me 67,500 AA Miles + $61.65 in taxes and fees. 

Example of American Airlines Award Search “Buffalo New York to Tokyo Japan”
Example of American Airlines Award Search “Tokyo Japan to Buffalo New York”

Earning American Airlines Miles

There are currently 6 different co-branded AA Credit Cards that offer a varying amount of AA miles for opening a new account. There are a few cards below that will provide enough points from the signup bonus to cover a roundtrip flight to Japan! Since the offers change frequently, please check out the Top Credit Cards page for the most up-to-date information!  

  • CitiBank
    • 3 Personal American Airlines Co-Branded Cards
    • 1 Business American Airlines Co-Branded Card
  • Barclays
    • 1 Personal American Airlines Co-Branded Card
    • 1 Business American Airlines Co-Branded Card

United Airlines 

The United Airlines MileagePlus program no longer provides its customers with a set award chart. Basically, this means that the number of miles needed can increase depending on supply and demand throughout the year. Despite that, by doing a few award searches you can easily see what the Saver Economy level price is. Similar to the American Airlines program, the Saver Economy mileage needed for a one-way flight from the United States to Tokyo Japan is 35,000 United Miles. It is the same 35,000 United Miles required coming back from Japan to the United States. 

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

60,000
bonus miles
after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Finding Award Space 

I find it easiest to run an award search using the United Airlines website going one way at a time. You can use the 30-day calendar mode to see where the Saver Economy flights are available. 70,000 United Miles plus $61.15 in taxes and fees is pretty awesome! 

Earning United Miles

There are a number of ways to earn United Airlines miles between the United Co-Branded Credit Card and the Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards that transfer 1:1 to United. There are a few cards below that will provide enough points from the signup bonus to cover a roundtrip flight to Japan! Since the offers change frequently, please check out the Top Credit Cards page for the most up-to-date information!  

  • Chase Bank United Cards
    • 3 Personal United Airlines Co-Branded Cards
    • 1 Business United Airlines Co-Branded Card 

Delta Airlines

Delta is one of the most difficult airlines to utilize its miles efficiently! Despite the bad reputation, there are still plenty of strategies out there that will heavily subsidize airfare from the United States to Japan. Similar to United Airlines, there is no set award chart that exists and the miles required for a flight drastically change based on availability. It’s important to point out there Delta does offer weekly SkyMiles Deals that can often provide great deals to get around the world for a small number of miles. Running the same award search as American and United, the lowest amount of Delta SkyMiles from Buffalo NY to Tokyo JP is 52,000 with limited availability. For the fight back home, the cost is 74,000 SkyMiles. The exact same dates from the two airlines above would cost me 118,000 SkyMiles plus $61.15 in taxes and fees. As you can see that is a huge jump from American and United! 

Earning Delta SkyMiles 

Even though there are more required miles, there a handful of Delta Credit Card signup bonuses which can help you earn enough miles to cover a round-trip flight to Japan. Since the offers change frequently, please check out the top credit cards page for the most up-to-date information!  

50,000
Bonus Miles and 5,000 MQMs
after you spend $3,000 of eligible purchases on the card within your first 6 months.
  • American Express
    • 3 Personal Delta Co-Branded Cards
    • 2 Business Delta Co-Branded Cards

Other Airlines that can get you to Japan!

Now it’s important to recognize that the three airlines above show you the VERY easiest strategies to fly to Japan using Points & Miles. The following airlines may involve a little bit more creativity and possibly positioning in order to take advantage of a FREE flight. Is it difficult? Nope. It just takes a little bit more research. Follow along and ask questions!

Alaska Airlines 

Asaka Airlines is a great option to use for heavily discounted flights to and from Japan from the United States. The only issue for me is, I LIVE IN BUFFALO! Now if you happen to live in or near a city that Alaska flys to then you’re ready to rock and roll. If you’re like me, in order to take advantage of using Alaska Airlines miles to travel to Japan, I’ll need to position to another city. A simple google search shows me all of the cities that Alaska Airlines flys to. Both Boston and NYC are two cities that I can get to fairly easily and for little points & cash out of pocket. 

Using the Alaska Airlines award search function on their website from Boston to Tokyo I was able to find one-way options for 35,000 Alaska Airlines miles each way! Using almost the same dates as the other airlines above, I could fly roundtrip from Boston to Tokyo for 70,000 Alaska Miles + $86.65 in taxes and fees. Getting to Boston from Buffalo is VERY easy. JetBlue often runs promotions for $40 tickets each way and I can find one-way flights regularly for 5,000 Jetblue points. 

Earning Alaska Airline Miles

There are only two credit cards that offer Alaska Airlines Miles signup bonuses. These offers do change quite a bit so it’s important to check our Top Credit Cards Page on whether the current one is lower than usual and whether to wait until it is increased again. Feel free to send us an email if you have any questions about booking with Alaska Airlines!

  • Bank of America
    • 1 Personal Alaska Airlines Co-Branded Card
    • 1 Business Alaska Airlines Co-Branded Card

All Nippon Airways (ANA) 

ANA is a great option when flying from the USA to Japan! They fly direct from multiple cities on the East and West Coast. A simple google search will show you that these cities include NYC, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and more! I searched the same dates as above and found a roundtrip flight from NYC to Tokyo for 50,000 ANA Miles + $266.75 in Taxes and Fees. I’d say that’s a pretty great deal! 

Earning ANA Mileage Miles

It is possible to fund an ANA Mileage account via transferring from either the American Express Membership Rewards Program or Marriott Bonvoy Program. 

  • American Express transfer 1:1 from any of the Membership Rewards Earning Cards
  • Marriott Bonvoy transfer 3:1.25
    • Meaning you’d need to transfer 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points in order to earn 50,000 ANA Miles for the example above!

Flying ANA using Virgin Atlantic Miles

This is a strategy that is a little complicated and requires more additional steps than the other examples in this guide. It is possible to book a round-trip ANA flight to Tokyo Japan from the USA in economy for 60,000 miles from the west coast and 65,000 miles from the east coast. It’s important to note that this method requires searching for award space via the United Airlines portal and calling Virgin Atlantic to book a reservation. Taxes and fees are usually around $250 for a round-trip flight. We actually used this strategy to fly First Class to Japan and Business Class back for only $267.13 each! It should have cost us over $20,000 each. For a detailed review of the booking ANA flights through Virgin Atlantic be sure to check out Our Guide

How to earn Virgin Atlantic Points

The reason why people love booking ANA flights to Japan through Virgin Atlantic is because of the many transfer partners available and of course incredible value! It’s important to mention that many of the Rewards Programs that transfer to Virgin Atlantic often run promotions where you can earn a bonus of 25%. Meaning that if you transfer during a promotion, it will only cost 48,000 points to earn 60,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles! In addition to transferring points to Virgin Atlantic; there is also a Co-Branded credit card that offers a signup bonus and another opportunity to earn points through spending. 

Virgin Atlantic Transfer Partners

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Points
  • Capital One Venture Miles
  • Marriott Bonvoy Points 

Credit Card 

  • Bank Of America
    • Virgin Atlantic Co-Branded Credit Card 

You can even mix and match programs in order to have the minimum amount needed for the flights you’re trying to book. For example, transferring 20,000 Ultimate Rewards, 20,000 Membership Rewards, and 20,000 Citi TY Points to Virgin Atlantic which equals 60,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles. Enough for a roundtrip flight from the West Coast USA to Tokyo!

Using Air France to fly Japan Airlines via Flying Blue Points

I’m sure that this heading may sound confusing but trust me it’s really not that bad! Flying Blue is a rewards program just like any of the other ones above. You can earn Flying Blue points by flying on KLM Royal Dutch or Air France Airlines. Now the easiest way to load a Flying Blue account with points is by transferring them from FIVE different Credit Card Rewards Programs! The best part is that often you’ll find promotions run throughout the year where you’ll earn an added bonus (usually 25%) for transferring points into the Flying Blue Program. 

The Five Transferrable Points Programs

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Citibank Thank You Program
  • Marriott Bonvoy Points
  • Capital One Venture Miles 

There are multiple credit cards that earn Points & Miles for each one of these programs. Please check out Top Credit Cards Page for the latest offers or email us with any questions! 

Booking a flight to Japan using Flying Blue

In order to book a flight using your Flying Blue points, you’ll need to search via the AirFrance Airlines award portal. The Flying Blue Partner that you’ll find is Japan Airlines for 92,000 Miles + $238.45 in Taxes and Fees from the United States to Tokyo. Using similar dates as the examples above I was able to find round trip availability! 

Booking a Flight to Japan Using Asia Miles

Asia Miles are a COMPLICATED Points & Miles Program! With that said it is another opportunity to subsidize airfare in order to get to Japan for cheap. Asia Miles can be transferred from either American Express Membership Rewards or the Citi ThankYou Points Portal. In addition, there is a Cathay Pacific Co-Branded Credit Card that can help you build a stash of Asia Miles. 

Booking using Asia Miles requires creating an Asia Miles Account. From there you can search from different cities in the United States to Tokyo. A simple search I just ran found this one-way option from Boston to Tokyo for 47,000 Asia Miles + HKD 857 ($110) in taxes and fees. 

Redeeming Through Portals

Chase Ultimate Rewards

I’ve already gone over a handful of Chase Ultimate Rewards options above that allow you to transfer points over in order to book a flight to Japan. The Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal is another option when it comes to booking airfare with points. Some people like it because it’s simple and doesn’t require any additional steps as transferring does. It’s important to be aware that you can usually get more value by transferring but that isn’t always the case and might even depend on which Ultimate Rewards Credit Card you have opened. I recommend running a quick search via the portal before you transfer out to always cross off all of your bases. 

Using the Chase Travel Portal to book roundtrip flights to Japan

  1. Log into your Chase Account and click ultimate rewards
  2. Click Travel from the options listed at the top of your screen
  3. Use the search box widget to type in your city of origin and destination
  4. Click search and filter by price 

As you can see from the photo below, using points on the same dates listed above via the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal would run me 108,423 points for a roundtrip flight from Buffalo New York to Tokyo Japan. We’ve certainly seen many better options above! 

American Express Membership Rewards 

Similar to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you can also search for travel via the American Express Membership Rewards Portal. Like Chase, I suggest running a quick search through here to see what it’s showing before continuing on to the transfer partners. 

$695 annual fee (Rates & Fees

80,000
Membership Reward Points
After spending $6,000 on your card in the first 6 months

Using the Amex Travel Portal to book roundtrip flights to Japan

  1. Log in to your American Express Membership Rewards Account
  2. Click Book or Upgrade Travel
  3. Fill in the widget with your origin, destination, and dates
  4. Click Search!

As you can see from the photo below, using points on the same dates listed above via the American Express Membership Rewards Portal would run me 167,584 points for a roundtrip flight from Buffalo New York to Tokyo Japan. We’ve certainly seen MANY better options above! 

Citi ThankYou Portal

The Citi ThankYou Portal is similar to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and the American Express Membership Rewards Portal. Like the others, I suggest running a quick search through here to see what it’s showing before continuing on to the transfer partners. It’s important to point out that Citi ThankYou points are worth an additional 25% when used through the Travel Portal. 

Using the Citi ThankYou Travel Portal to book roundtrip flights to Japan

  1. Log in to your Citi ThankYou Account
  2. Click Travel Rewards
  3. Fill in the widget with your origin, destination, and dates
  4. Click Search!

As you can see from the photo below, using points on the same dates listed above via the Citi ThankYou Travel Portal would run me 124,860 points for a roundtrip flight from Buffalo, New York to Tokyo, Japan. This is number was calculated by subtracting the 25% point reduction from the grand total below. Despite the large reduction, we have seen a ton of better options above!

Wow! There sure are a ton of ways to get to Japan for cheap from the United States. I hope that this guide sheds some light on the various options and perhaps inspires some readers to dip their toes in the Points & Miles world. For reference, I’ve created a Basic Breakdown of all of the offers above in the spreadsheet below. Be sure to check out our Top Credit Cards Offer Page for updated rankings and offers.

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Happy Traveling!

Planning your own Japan trip? Check out some of our other Japan Blog Articles!

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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An easy-going, fun-loving couple who have a passion for adventure and exploring the world! Our strategies have saved us over $100,000 in travel over the last four years, and our goal is to help you do the same.

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