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Tips for Getting the Miles & Points You Need for a Trip to Japan!

Tips for Getting the Miles & Points You Need for a Trip to Japan!

Million Mile SecretsTips for Getting the Miles & Points You Need for a Trip to Japan!Million Mile Secrets Team

Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

Emily and I started this blog to share with you the secrets of Big Travel with Small Money.  Because with miles & points, you can achieve your travel dreams and save $1,000s (or even more!) at the same time!

How To Book Awards To Japan
You Can Save Big Money When You Book Award Travel to Japan!

Million Mile Secret Agent Maikul asked:

I’m looking to get started in the miles & points hobby.  I took my wife to Japan last year, and she has been dreaming of going back ever since.  The tickets we booked were a steal and we can’t afford to splurge on ~$1,500 round-trip tickets a piece.  So I was wondering, if we both signed up for the right cards, would we be able to be authorized users on each others’ accounts and pool our points together?

Yes, Maikul, you can absolutely do this!  Some reward cards even award bonus points for adding authorized users!  And those miles or points will automatically be added to the cardholder’s account.

You could earn frequent flyer miles with a single airline.  But I suggest giving yourself more flexibility by earning transferable points.  My favorite transferrable points are Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which will give you plenty of options for getting to Japan!

Earning the Miles & Points You Need for Awards to Japan

Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to several airlines that can get you to Japan, including United Airlines, Korean Air, and Singapore Airlines.

Here are the miles you’ll need for each round-trip coach award flight:

  • United Airlines – 70,000 United Airlines miles
  • Singapore Airlines – 70,000 Singapore Airlines miles from the West Coast or 116,000 Singapore Airlines miles from Houston or the East Coast
  • Korean Airlines – 70,000 Korean Air miles (off-peak), 105,000 Korean Air miles (peak season)

These aren’t the cheapest awards you can find (as I’ll show you).  But they could be the best to use because of how easy it is to earn the miles & points you’ll need.  I suggest earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points and United Airlines miles.  Because you won’t have to worry about off-peak awards or where in the US you’re flying from.

How To Book Awards To Japan
If You Want to Catch the Stunning Cherry Blossoms, Head to Japan in Late March or Early April

Plus, United Airlines usually has lots of open award seats.  And if you get the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card, you’ll have access to even more award tickets!

You can earn the miles you need with cards like these:

You could earn the 140,000 miles & points you need with just 3 bonuses!

In Maikul’s case, he and his wife could each get a Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  And one of them could get the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card.  With those 3 cards, they’d have 165,000 miles & points:

Credit CardSign-Up BonusAuthorized User BonusPoints or Miles from Minimum SpendingTotal Points or Miles Earned
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points5,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points4,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points59,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points5,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points4,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points59,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card40,000 United Airlines miles5,000 United Airlines miles2,000 United Airlines miles47,000 United Airlines miles
Total =165,000 combined miles & points

Just remember, when you’re applying for multiple credit cards in a short period of time, you’ll want to make sure you can meet the minimum spending requirement and earn the bonuses.

If Maikul and his wife get these 3 cards at the same time, they’ll need to spend $10,000 within 3 months ($4,000 minimum spending X 2 Chase Sapphire Preferred cards + $2,000 minimum spending for the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card) to earn the bonuses!

That can be a lot for some folks.  So depending on your situation, you might want to spread your applications out over several months.

Beware the Chase “5/24” Rule!

Chase has strict credit card application rules.  If you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards from any bank within the past 24 months, you are NOT likely to be approved for a new Chase card.  And being an authorized user will count toward your “5/24” limit.

There are some exceptions to the rule.  But those cards aren’t as useful in Maikul’s situation.

How To Book Awards To Japan
Applying for AMEX Business Cards Is One Way to Avoid the Chase “5/24” Rule!

That said, if you qualify for business credit cards, some banks will not report business accounts to your personal credit report.  So business cards from those banks (including Chase!) will NOT count towards your “5/24” limit.

If you’re not sure how many cards you’ve opened in the past 2 years, you can check your 5/24 status with Credit Karma.

How to Fly to Japan for Fewer Miles (And Avoid the “5/24” Rule)

Alaska Airlines isn’t part of a major airline alliance.  But they still have a bunch of great partner airlines.  So you could use Alaska Airlines miles to book awards on their partner airlines to Japan.

Here’s what it would cost round-trip per person in coach from the US to Japan on an Alaska Airlines partner flight:

  • American Airlines – 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles (off-peak), 65,000 Alaska Airlines miles (peak-season)
  • Cathay Pacific – 60,000 Alaska Airlines miles
  • Hainan Airlines – 60,000 Alaska Airlines miles

Alaska Airlines miles are usually harder to earn than United Airlines miles.  Plus, in order to book an award on a partner airline, you’ll need to find low-level award seats.  And American Airlines can be stingy with their low-level awards.

How To Book Awards To Japan
Alaska Airlines Miles Are a Great Way to Book Award Flights With Cathay Pacific!

To fly 2 people from the US to Japan in coach, you’ll need at least 100,000 Alaska Airlines miles.  But I would recommend collecting at least 120,000 Alaska Airlines miles so that you won’t be limited to booking American Airlines off-peak partner awards.

You can earn Alaska Airlines miles directly, with these cards:

Or consider these cards, because Starwood points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Alaska Airlines miles:

For every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer to an airline with a 1:1 transfer ratioin, you get 5,000 bonus miles.  So the bonus on the AMEX Starwood card is worth 30,000 Alaska Airlines miles.  Neither of these cards has bonuses for adding authorized users.

To earn 120,000 Alaska Airlines miles Maikul and his wife will need to earn the bonuses from 2 credit cards each:

Credit CardSign-Up BonusMinimum Spending Miles & PointsTransfer Bonus MilesTotal Miles & Points
AMEX Starwood Card25,000 Starwood points3,000 Starwood points5,000 Alaska Airlines miles33,000 Alaska Airlines miles
AMEX Starwood Card25,000 Starwood points3,000 Starwood points5,000 Alaska Airlines miles33,000 Alaska Airlines miles
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Card30,000 Alaska Airlines miles1,000 Alaska Airlines miles031,000 Alaska Airlines miles
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Card30,000 Alaska Airlines miles1,000 Alaska Airlines miles031,000 Alaska Airlines miles
Total =128,000 Alaska Airline miles

Even though Maikul and his wife would be signing up for more credit cards using this method (4 in total), the minimum spending requirements will only be $8,000 ($3,000 minimum spending X 2 AMEX Starwood cards + $1,000 minimum spending X 2 Bank of America Alaska Airlines cards)!

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to book award flights to Japan, you have options!

For example, you can book 2 round-trip coach tickets for 140,000 United Airlines miles OR 100,000 to 130,000 Alaska Airlines miles (depending on the season).

In Maikul’s case, he and his wife could earn all the United Airlines miles they need from only 3 Chase card bonuses.  They could get the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase United MileagePlus Explorer cards.  But they’ll have to take Chase’s stricter application rules into consideration.

Or, they could consider earning and using Alaska Airlines miles for their tickets.  In which case they’d each need to apply for an AMEX Starwood personal or business card, and a Bank of America Alaska Airlines personal or business card.

Thanks again for the great question, Maikul!

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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How does this article make no mention of ANA? Also consider Virgin Atlantic partner awards on ANA which is 90k points from the West coast, but it's a transfer partner of both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.

Million Mile Secrets

Good point! Their low-season awards would be cheaper. Thanks for sharing!

80k MR to ANA gets you there roundtrip in business. (can even be less - or a bit more - depending on the time of year). Did this last year and had an amazing time!

Were you able to book it without being waitlisted? I'm searching for dates for April, and even though it's off-peak season, all the dates I want are waitlisted...

Million Mile Secrets

That's a great deal!