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Best ways to fly to Japan

Choose a card with high signup bonus.

You can get to Japan without paying much out of pocket for your flight. To do so, you likely need to pick a card with high signup bonus, which is usually enough to redeem for a one-way ticket.

Additional purchases with your card can secure you a ticket home.

Best ways to fly to Japan using credit card rewards

Your best choices include cobranded airline credit cards and general travel cards. If you’re looking for flight-specific perks like free checked bags and priority boarding, an airline card is usually the better choice.

But if you want to get a broader collection of perks like earning miles on flight purchases, getting an airline credit or TSA PreCheck and Global Entry fee credit, and you also want to get hotels benefits — consider a general travel credit card.

United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card logo
Finder Rating: 4.4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
See offer
on Creditcards.com's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$95 ongoing
Annual fee
Up to 2x
Miles
40,000
Miles welcome offer
How many United miles do I need to fly to Japan?
United Airlines offers direct flights to Japan, but you can also board a flight to one of the Star Alliance partner airlines - including Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Nippon Airways.

Whichever airline you choose, redeeming miles for a flight to Japan starts from 35,000 miles plus $5.60 for fees and taxes for an Economy flight.

How do I earn the miles?
You can earn 40,000 bonus miles if you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months of your account opening, which is more than enough for a one way flight.

  • Earn miles. Earn 2x miles on hotel rooms booked directly at the hotel, at restaurants and on all United Airlines purchases. Everything else you buy earns 1.5x miles.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit. Pay the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee with this card and get reimbursed up to $100 once every four years.
  • In-flight purchases discount. If you transfer points to airline miles you'll get the same number of points. But when you book flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards, your points are worth 50% more.
  • Complimentary lounge access. Buy food, beverages and Wi-Fi on United Airlines flight and get 25% back as a statement credit.
  • First checked bag free. Save up to $30 with the first checked bag on a one-way trip. This perk also applies to one companion traveling on the same reservation. If you both use this perk on a return trip, you can save $120.
Annual Fee $0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Purchase APR 16.49% to 23.49% variable
Balance transfer APR 16.49% to 23.49% variable
Welcome offer Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
Estimated welcome offer value $480 based on Finder's valuation
Rewards 2x miles at restaurants, hotels and United and 1.5x miles on all other purchases

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card logo
Finder Rating: 4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on American Express's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$99 ongoing
Annual fee
Up to 2x
Miles
70,000
Miles welcome offer
How many SkyMiles do I need to fly to Japan?
Delta is among the cheapest airlines where additional fees are concerned for a one-way trip. Be ready to spend at least 39,000 miles and $5.60 for fees and taxes from Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (TYO) on main cabin according to the Delta website as of March 2021.

If you opt-in for a round trip, you'll pay around $62 on additional fees plus 78,000 miles, meaning you'll pay $56.6 more on fees and taxes.

How do I earn the miles?
The card currently comes with an excellent limited-time welcome offer until November 10, 2021. You can earn 70,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months. By earning the welcome offer, you'll be just 8,000 miles short of covering a round trip flight, which you can easily make up for with some light spending.

  • Earn miles. Earn 2x miles for Delta purchases including flights booked at Delta.com, Sky Club membership or passes, Delta packages, seat upgrades and in-flight purchases. Also earn 2x miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. Everything else you buy earns 1x miles.
  • First checked bag free. Save up to $60 with this perk on a round trip with Delta. Two round trips are enough to offset the annual fee.
  • Priority boarding. Save $15 on this perk and board your plane sooner with a Main Cabin 1 priority boarding.
  • In-flight savings. Use your card to pay for food, beverages or headsets on Delta flights and get 20% back as a statement credit.
Annual Fee $0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
Purchase APR 15.74% to 24.74% variable
Balance transfer APR N/A
Welcome offer Limited Time Offer: 70,000 miles after spending $2,000 in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021
Estimated welcome offer value $980 based on Finder's valuation
Rewards 2x miles on Delta purchases, restaurants and at US supermarkets and 1x miles on other eligible purchases
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express logo
Finder Rating: 4.4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on American Express's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$695
Annual fee
Up to 10x
Points
100,000
Points welcome offer
How many Membership Rewards points do I need to fly to Japan? According to the American Express website, with The Platinum Card® from American Express you can transfer your points to Delta SkyMiles at a 3:2 ratio. This means, you need 52,500 membership reward points to convert to 35,000 SkyMiles — which is the minimum for a one-way Economy flight to Japan.

How do I earn the miles?
When you spend $6,000 within 6 months of account opening, you can earn 100,000 bonus points. That's more than enough to convert to Delta SkyMiles and book a flight to Japan.

To get the return ticket, you need to spend about $8,250 on prepaid hotels or flights booked through Amex's travel site.

  • Earn points. Earn 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel on up to $500,000 annually (then 1x points) and 5x points on prepaid hotels booked at American Express Travel. All other purchases earn 1x points.
  • Airline fee credit. Select the airline you use the most and get $200 annually as a statement credit to cover incidental fees like checked bags, in-flight purchases and more.
  • Global lounge collection. Get complimentary access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide, including the Centurion Lounge, International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Club and Priority Pass Select lounges.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit fee. Get up to $100 in statement credit for the application fee charged to your card once every four years. You can also use your card to get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR&reg
  • membership.
Annual Fee $695
Purchase APR See Pay Over Time APR
Balance transfer APR N/A
Welcome offer 100,000 points after spending $6,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the US on up to $25,000 in combined eligible purchases in the same timeframe
Estimated welcome offer value $7,000 based on Finder's valuation
Rewards 10x points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the US on up to $25,000 combined in the first 6 months, 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 5x points on directly-booked flights on up to $500,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on other eligible purchases
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® logo
Finder Rating: 4.1 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Read review
670
Min. credit score
$99 ongoing
Annual fee
Up to 2x
Miles
50,000
Miles welcome offer
How many American Airlines miles do I need to fly to Japan?
American Airlines flies between the US and Japan, and you can also catch a flight on one of its partner airlines through Oneworld Alliance. Airlines within the network include Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

One-way trips between the US and Japan start from 32,500 miles plus $5.60 for taxes and fees for Economy MileSAAver tickets according to the American Airlines website as of January 2019.

How do I earn the miles?
Spend $2,500 in your first 3 months of card membership and earn 50,000 bonus miles.

Now you need to spend another $7,500 at gas stations, restaurants or American Airlines purchases to get a total of 65,000 miles, which is enough for a round trip to Japan.

  • Earn miles. Earn 2x miles at restaurants, gas stations and American Airlines purchases. Everything else you buy earns 1x miles.
  • First checked bag free. Get this perk for yourself and four companions on your reservation for domestic flights.
  • Preferred boarding. If you don't like to wait, this perk could save your nerves.
  • In-flight savings.Pay for food and beverages with your card on American Airlines flights and get 25% back.
Annual Fee $0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
Purchase APR 15.99% to 24.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 15.99% to 24.99% variable
Welcome offer 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months
Estimated welcome offer value $750 based on Finder's valuation
Rewards 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, at gas stations and restaurants and 1x miles on all other purchases

Bottom line

To earn a reward flight to Japan, consider getting a general travel or airline credit card. With an airline card you earn miles on your flights and potentially purchases at restaurants or gas stations. Plus you get airline-specific perks like free checked bags or priority boarding.

With a general travel rewards card, you can convert your points to airline miles. And you may get additional perks at hotels and extra statement credits among other benefits.

However, if you’re not sure whether any of these cards will work for your spending habits, check out other travel credit cards to compare your options.

Frequently asked questions

  • What credit cards are accepted in Japan?
    Mastercard and Visa are universally accepted, but you should find it simple to use an American Express card — especially in the large cities. For more details, check out our guide to using a credit card in Japan.
  • What’s the difference between American Airlines MileSAAver and AAnytime tickets?
    MileSAAver flights are the cheaper version, where you’ll have to pay additional fees if you change your travel date. The AAnytime ticket is more flexible and it’s free of charge to switch your date.
  • Which of these cards offer TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit?
    • The Platinum Card® from American Express
    • United℠ Explorer Card

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