Who Is the JAL USA Card Good For?
The Japan Airlines USA card is good for people who want to collect JAL Mileage Bank miles, but may not fly the airline that often. With only one transfer partner, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), it can be difficult to accrue miles with the airline. This card allows members to earn on every purchase, plus it gives them the ability to collect extra miles while flying on JAL.
The card is unusual in that it offers two options for earning. Basic Rewards, which comes with the standard $20 annual fee, gets one mile for every $2 spent. For an additional $50 annually, the Premium Rewards option earns one mile for each dollar. There is only one card, but the fee you pay will determine how many miles you earn.
Another interesting aspect of the JAL USA card is that it’s available to people who lack credit history in the United States. This seems aimed at Japanese expats who have recently relocated, but it’s possible that this card would be a good opportunity for anyone to start building their credit history.
The current sign-up bonus is 5,000 miles after the cardholder’s first international flight on JAL.
The miles earned on purchases are determined by the reward level chosen.
- Basic Rewards earn 1 mile per $2 spent
- Premium Rewards earn 1 mile per $1 spent
What Do Your Miles Get You?
JAL Mileage Bank offers standard and discounted awards. You’ll get a 10,000-mile discount on economy seats if you fly during certain times which vary by region. For North America, those dates are most of April and January.
You can save even more if you fly in a premium cabin during certain days of the week. For example, if you fly from the U.S. to Japan on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, you’ll pay only 80,000 miles in business and 110,000 for first. That’s a discount of 20,000 and 30,000 miles, respectively.
The airline’s policy of allowing free stopovers in Japan can increase the value of your ticket since you can visit Japan and another destination in Asia on the same award flight.
- One-way redemptions are available
- Miles don’t expire for three years
- Stopovers and open jaws are allowed
- Good award availability, including premium class awards
- Low sign-up bonus
- Mediocre earning scheme
- Fuel surcharges on award flights
- Only one mile transfer partner
How Far Do Your Miles Go?
Mileage Bank has some excellent redemptions on JAL operated flights. You’ll pay only 50,000 miles for an economy round-trip flight between the U.S. and Japan. That’s cheaper than United, Delta or American.
JAL’s award chart for one world members is based on distance, not region. Those redemptions aren’t typically the best. For example, it costs 50,000 miles roundtrip in coach to get from New York to Los Angeles and 96,000 miles in business.
Watch out for taxes and fees, particularly when booking partner airlines. They can be over $900 for long-haul flights on some carriers, such as British Airways and Qantas.
JAL recently reduced its fuel surcharges. You’ll pay a maximum of $88.96 for a round-trip ticket between the U.S. and Japan on a JAL operated flight.
Additional Cardholder Benefits:
- Free FICO score check
- Discounts on purchases made in-flight and at the Narita Airport duty-free
- A five percent discount on JAL’s online shopping portal
- Extended warranty
- Purchase assurance
- Automatic enrollment in car rental insurance
- Travel accident insurance