5 of the best ways to fly to Japan on points and miles, so you can save your money for sushi and souvenirs

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  • Japanese is a bucket-list travel destination, and with good reason. But it’s not cheap.
  • If you want to visit, one way to cut down on expenses is to book your flights with points and miles.
  • Luckily, it isn’t hard to earn enough points from top rewards credit cards to book a flight to Japan, especially if you’re open to flying in economy class.
  • For example, if you have Ultimate Rewards points from a Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you could book a round-trip flight on ANA by transferring just 60,000 points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

Japan is an incredible travel destination, perfect for luxury and adventure travellers alike. It’s also quite expensive, so you’ll want to plan out your trip carefully to avoid sticker shock. Flights are one of the biggest expenses and, luckily, you can cover them with points and miles.

Below are five of the cheapest ways to get to Japan in economy class on points and miles, along with the rewards credit cards that can help you earn the points you need to get there.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

All Nippon Airways (40,000 to 55,000 miles round-trip)

Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways has many “sweet spot” awards in its loyalty program, and the US to Japan is one of them.

It takes just 50,000 miles round-trip to fly ANA to Japan in economy class. During low season (most of January to February, and April), redemption rates drop to 40,000 miles round-trip. Even high-season awards are reasonable, at 55,000 miles.

If you’re wondering how on earth you can get your hands on some ANA miles, it’s actually easier than you might think. ANA is a transfer partner of two major bank rewards programs: American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Points from both programs transfer to ANA at a 1:1 ratio.

Earning 40,000 to 55,000 miles for a round-trip ticket to Japan is as easy as one credit card sign-up bonus. Below is a list of cards that earn points in these respective programs:

American Express Membership Rewards

The Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Business Platinum® Card from American ExpressAmerican Express® Gold CardAmerican Express® Business Gold Card

Citi ThankYou Rewards

• Citi Premier℠ Card • Citi Prestige® Card

Alaska Airlines MileagePlan (65,000 to 70,000 miles round-trip)

Alaska Airlines’ MileagePlan program partners with both American and Japan Airlines, giving you two solid options for flying to Japan on points. A one-way award ticket in economy class will cost you 32,500 Alaska miles on American Airlines.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card and the Alaska Airlines Visa Business credit card sign-up bonuses will cover the miles needed for a round-trip flight.

Japan Airlines (50,000 miles round-trip)

It’s no surprise that Japan Airlines (also known as JAL) is a great option for getting to Japan on points and miles. The airlines flies to Japan from several US cities, including San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, and Seattle, to name a few. And at just 50,000 miles round-trip, flying to Japan is a bargain.

Thanks to partnerships with American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou, earning enough JAL miles for this award is feasible. Both the Amex Platinum and Citi Premier Card offer welcome bonuses high enough to cover a round-trip economy-class award ticket to Japan on Japan Airlines.

Additionally, Japan Airlines has a co-branded credit card, though the sign-up bonus is on the low end at 10,000 miles after $US5,000 spent within 3 months.

Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (60,000 miles round-trip)

Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program partners with several airlines that fly from the US to Japan. The best value is through ANA, which requires just 60,000 miles round-trip in economy class between the Western US and Japan. For 65,000 miles you can depart from the central or eastern US.

The Virgin Atlantic credit card currently offers 30,000 miles after you spend $US1,000 within 90 days. The card also earns 1.5 miles per dollar on everything, which can help you meet your travel goals faster.

In addition to offering a co-branded credit card, Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of the big three bank rewards programs: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and American Express Membership Rewards. This makes acquiring miles even easier, especially if you’re making use of credit card category bonuses.

Your best option for scoring those 60,000 to 65,000 miles needed for a round-trip ticket to Japan? The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It currently offers 60,000 bonus points after $US4,000 spent within the first three months of account opening. Transfer those points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club when they post and you could be on your way to Japan!

American Express Membership Rewards

The Platinum Card from American ExpressAmerican Express Business Platinum CardAmerican Express Gold CardAmerican Express Gold Business Card

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Sapphire PreferredChase Sapphire ReserveChase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Citi ThankYou Rewards

• Citi Premier Card • Citi Prestige Card

American Airlines (65,000 to 70,000 miles round-trip)

American Airlines requires 65,000 to 70,000 miles for a round-trip flight between the US and Japan. The redemption rates depend on when you’re travelling.

American AAdvantage has off-peak pricing, meaning you’ll pay just 32,500 miles each way by travelling during the following dates:

To Japan: January 1 – April 30, July 1 – November 30From Japan: January 16 – April 19, May 2 – 31, September 1 – December 31

If you’re saving up points for a trip to Japan, AAdvantage miles are a great option because they’re so easy to come by. American Airlines has co-branded credit cards with both Citi And Barclays, and sign-up bonuses often range between 50,000 to 75,000 miles after you complete spending requirements.

At the moment, your best option is the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, which offers 60,000 bonus miles after your first purchase in the first 90 days. That’s right: You get 60,000 miles for any purchase. No big spending requirements to worry about. The only other expense is the $US99 annual fee, which is small considering you’re earning almost enough miles for a round-trip ticket to Japan.

American Airlines credit cards

• Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard • Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard • Citi®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® • Citi® AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® • CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® • American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ card

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

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