Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Program Review

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Program Review

Who Is JAL Mileage Bank Good For?

Asian award programs are largely underutilized by North American travelers, in no small part because of the difficulty of finding English-language (or even easily translatable) information on the program, and JAL is no exception. But with the changes in other oneworld partners, JAL has quickly become the best and in some cases the only place to turn for certain awards.

As part of its continuing transition to the New American, American Airlines abruptly discontinued its oneworld explorer awards, which allowed intrepid travelers to hop around pretty much anywhere they wanted to in the world, with an impressive number of stops for a minor amount of miles. Japan Airlines, coincidentally, started allowing one-way and open-jaw awards right around the same time (they already had the distance-based awards and high number of stopovers available), opening up the airline to be the new home for exceptional oneworld itineraries.

PROGRAM

MILEAGE BANKMILEAGE BANK

ALLIANCE

ONEWORLDONEWORLD

CURRENCY

MILESMILES

POINTS TRANSFER PARTNERS

AIRLINE PARTNERS

  • Bangkok AirwaysBangkok Airways
  • Air FranceAir France
  • China Eastern AirlinesChina Eastern Airlines
  • EmiratesEmirates

The one snafu is that Japan Airlines miles are difficult to accrue, and the airline only partners with one transfer program, Starwood Preferred Guest. But if you are or would like to be an SPG member, JAL Mileage Bank may be the perfect one-stop-shopping destination for your oneworld itineraries.

Hubs:

  • Haneda Airport in Tokyo
  • Kansai International Airport in Osaka
  • Narita International Airport in Tokyo
  • Itami Airport in Osaka

Narita International Airport in Tokyo
Narita International Airport in Tokyo

How Can You Use JAL Mileage Bank Miles?

Japan Airlines like many airlines in an alliance uses one award chart for its own flights and another chart for oneworld alliance partners.

The oneworld chart operates on a distance-based zone system, with slightly unusual divisions. You can typically have one less stopover than the zone number, i.e., two stopovers for zone three, seven stopovers for zone eight, etc.

If you need to go to Japan or elsewhere in Asia that JAL flies, you can get great deals using the JAL award chart, which offers round-trip award seats at redemptions more akin to one-way awards on many airlines. From the U.S. to Japan, award seats begin at 50,000 miles for round-trip in economy, 65,000 for premium economy, 100,000 for business class and 140,000 for first class.

Program Perks:

  • One-way awards available
  • Open-jaw awards
  • Family members can combine miles
  • Book 330 days in advance for many partners

Booking Quirks:

  • Awards must remain in the same class of service or they are charged for the highest class of service in the itinerary
  • Open jaws count as stopovers
  • Certain partners have different flight segment and stopover restrictions that apply to JAL award tickets
  • Award ticket changes must be completed three days prior to original or new departure date for e-tickets, seven days prior for paper tickets
  • One-way and open-jaw awards that begin and end in different countries must be booked by phone
  • Many cash tickets do not earn 100 percent mileage credit
  • There is a ticketing deadline on Finnair, LAN, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, TAM, Air France and China Eastern Airlines
  • No award ticket holds
  • Miles expire in 36 months from the date of the transaction when you earned them

Best Value Awards:

In addition to the massive, multistop oneworld award possibilities, Japan Airlines also offers a very solid first class and business class product of its own on flights from Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York and Paris to Tokyo. First class seats are fully private suites, while business class is semiprivate staggered seating.

Jal first class seats
Jal first class seats

The real highlight is that JAL is very good about releasing award seats in these cabins (unlike many airlines), when seats first open and also when it’s close to departure, even for multiple seats together. While these awards will carry some fees (typically a couple hundred dollars round-trip), the low number of miles needed round-trip 80,000 for business and 110,000 for first class makes JAL a great way to get to Asia.

JAL also used to be the best way to book premium cabin Emirates flights, but their fees now make Alaska Airlines a better option. If you don’t use Alaska, though, JAL is worth a look.

Worst Value Awards:

Ironically, some of Japan Airlines worst awards are in Japan, because an overly complex award chart, which breaks the country into three zones, pegs even brief domestic flights at nearly 10,000 each way.

The Good Stuff: Upgrades and Elite Status

Upgrade awards chart for travel via Japan
Upgrade awards chart for travel via Japan

Tickets booked in the J, C, D, X, W, Y, E, B, H and K fare categories are eligible for upgrades, which can be used for round-trip or one-way travel. Dates and number of seats available for upgrade awards are restricted.

The number of miles required for upgrades is consistent, regardless of what fare class you originally booked in, but it is not cheap. Upgrading to business from economy runs 50,000 miles to Japan and 55,000 or 60,000 to other areas of Asia, depending on the destination.

JAL Elite Levels and Perks

Japan Airlines actually offers two separate but parallel elite programs: JAL Global Club and JAL Mileage Bank status. In the Mileage Bank status levels, certain perks are available one week after status qualification, while others are not available until two months after qualification or April 1 the year after qualification.

Each subsequent level includes the perks of the previous level, unless otherwise stated.

JAL Mileage Bank

  • Crystal: 50 percent bonus miles, priority check-in, priority baggage service, additional checked bags
  • Sapphire: 100 percent bonus miles, access to JAL Global Club entrance, priority security screening, JAL and oneworld lounge access for traveler and one companion, ability to use miles for premium economy upgrades
  • Premier: Front-seat assignments, miles expiration suspended, special security gate for traveler and one companion, one additional benefit from special selections that include spouse status, additional points and premium economy coupons
  • Diamond: 125 percent bonus miles, ability to take third and fourth companion into JAL lounges using coupons

Status members can also exchange miles for lounge passes at a rate of 1,000 miles per domestic lounge pass for Crystal members. Members at Sapphire level and above had lounge access for themselves and a companion and can purchase access for a third and forth companion at 2,000 miles each.

JAL Global Club

JAL Mileage Bank members eligible for Sapphire or Diamond levels may be invited to the Global Club, which entitles members to gifts and use of additional exclusive lounges at airports and hotels.

Associated Credit Cards

There are several other Japan Airlines cobranded credit cards available in Japan, but in the U.S., options are restricted to the JAL USA card. As it’s intended for recent immigrants from Japan who have not established a credit history in America, the card is far more fee-heavy than bonus-friendly.

There are  two reward levels, basic rewards and premium rewards. The basic rewards program offers one mile per $2 spent on the card and comes with a $20 annual fee, while the premium rewards program has a $50 upgrade fee that allows you to earn one mile per dollar spent on the card.

There is no sign-on bonus, though there is an occasional 4,000-mile bonus available, but you earn a 5,000 miles bonus when the primary cardholder takes an international flight on JAL that credits to their Mileage Bank account. A 10 percent miles bonus is awarded while the card is held.

  • Gaby Logan

    no large sign-up or spending bonus and rewards a mere, if not redemption options, the Jal credit card wouldn’t even worth being noticed

    • Milton R.

      isn’t it for Japanese who are going to move to the states or have already dome it?

      • Jill

        That’s exactly what they say on their website..

  • Norma

    Japan airlines partners are those from oneworld alliance, why they don’t allow to transfer points then? No surprise JAL mileage is so hard to accrue.

  • Nelson

    Sounds to me like if some how you manage to earn rewards on JAL card, your redemption options are limitless

    • Zoey

      I wouldn’t say so, I always have hard times when redeem miles for economy class tickets… but when redeem for business class everything goes unexpectedly smoothly…

  • Nevaeh Beck

    I recently flew JAL in economy from JFK-NRT and NRT-JFK and found the service impressive. The flight attendants were really attentive. I know what airline I’m going to start looking at now.

  • Jared

    I’d love to say smth good about JAL CC but everything they offer doesn’t work for me who flies to Japan twice a year and a member of OneWorld…the ANA card is much better for me.

  • Armando

    I tried to redeem awards for a business class ticket, tried to do it one mo. in advance first – no seats, then tried 6 mo. in advanse, the same – no seats! Called their service and they suggested to redeem for something else. That’s ridiculous!

    • Priscilla

      Fortunately I was lucky with my first redemption and it was pretty easy, but it took me an eternity to earn miles

  • Corey Garrett

    I have the JAL US card, it is not super good, but well… this cards is better than nothing. I’ve seen worse.

    • Ritthy

      But compared to other airlines cards even to non-airlines cards… this is nothing.

      • Julie Julie

        The only thing I like in JAL USA card is 5k sign up bonus for the first flight with JAL airlines. Ah, and interest rate is rather low. My Citi AA card gives better rewards and I once used AA to travel with JAL.

        • Albert Bailey

          Does it work with Alaska Airlines card?

          • Jennifer Gordon

            I believe it does. They are in oneworld, so there should be a way to redeem your Alaska miles with JAL.

  • Dawn Willis

    Can I use my JAL miles to book award tickets on US air?

    • RewardExpert

      JAL is in oneworld, so yes, you sure can.

  • David Stevenson

    It seems that JMB only awards “Status” if you meet their minimum number of miles/flights on JAL metal.

    • Jean

      I believe it is the old rule for all membership levels…

  • Stanley

    I’m a member of the JAL Mileage Bank program and have no complains. The only disadvantage – miles expire! I realized only after a while that old miles are disappearing…

  • Jennifer Gordon

    It seems that JMB only awards “Status” if you meet their minimum number of miles/flights on JAL metal.

  • Dennis Kelley

    JMB is worthy when you are in Japan and take domestic flights only.. . and their sector mileage is confusing… .

  • Jessie Stewart

    Don’t use JMB, this is just one big joke!

  • Natalie

    JAL mileage is not for dummies, when you know the ins and outs and have good experience of using frequent flyer programs, you may reap good deals.

  • Darryl Gomez

    What is sector mileage? Where do I find it?

  • Leo Carter

    As it is said, they use sectors and this makes a domestic award travel really expensive, a regular seat for a 2-sector flight will cost you at lease 12k miles. International award flights start at 15k miles for a round-trip ticket in economy class.

  • Herbert

    Is there JAL award chart available online… cant seem to find it…

  • Liam

    this article is nice, wish there were more information bout jal global club though

  • Kristin Garcia

    too much fuss about nothing… why whould anyone care bout jal cc when there’re better ccs out there?

  • Martin

    Found out that you cannot apply for the JAL USA Card if you are not a JMB member and they do not create your account automatically when you apply. Should go an register fist… a bit of annoying when you do not have one

  • Mary

    Dug into JAL USA card description and found out that they charge a ‘reward program fee’. What does it mean? Do they charge a fee for the opportunity to earn rewards??

    • Yvonne Cunningham

      Yap! That’s for their Premium Rewards Program where you will earn 1 JMB mile per $1

      • Brad

        And what’s the fee?

        • Li

          That’s $50 annually but looks like it is waived for the first year

          • Ann W

            But I believe they do have option without a fee, don’t they?

          • Danny

            They do, but you will earn only 1 mile per $2 dollars spent. They call it ‘basic rewards’

  • Simon56

    Very informative article! Thanks.

  • Michell

    I’ve had the JAL USA card for a year to earn miles for a trip to Tokyo, hope I will be able to redeem…

  • Kevin Baez

    I believe JAL partners with Alaska airlines, won’t it be easier to use Alaska credit card to book flights with JAL?

  • Corey C. Grate

    Can I transfer jal miles to any ff program?

    • Rudy Kopecky

      Nope, the spg program is the only transfer program..

  • Oronzo

    I have the same question here. As far as I know they partner with AA? Can I transfer JAL miles to AA and what’s the value?

    • Jesse11

      Actually JAL does not partner with AA but both airlines are members of oneworld alliance and you can get an award ticket with AA using JAL miles.

  • Leandra

    I have the ANA card and get regular emails about the JAL card but I’ve never bothered to apply as bonuses are really low compared to other airline cards.

    • Sam

      ANA is no better than JAL card… probably even worse..

      • Amanda

        Agree, but if you find a good pair like SPG or Citi Thankyou, they can be worthy

        • AlbertJJensen

          Does it mean you can use Thank you points to fly JAL?

          • Roy

            Well… yes but not directly. You can transfer ThankYou points to Asia Miles and then redeem them with JAL. A bit tricky and you should be a member of Asia Miles program.

  • Chad

    Who’s the issuer of the JAL card?

    • Nicole May

      That’s FNBO, they also issue ANA card…

  • William Martel

    Naah… another oddball card from FNBO

  • Anthony Ruff

    I travel domestically and overseas to Japan, Korea and Philippines mostly and Japan Airlines is my only loyalty but I prefer not have airline exclusive cards as they have poor returns. I currently use Discover it, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Cap One Quicksilver 1

  • Sam

    ANA is no better than JAL card… probably even worse

  • Minerva Call

    JAL card was my first airline credit card and turned out to be my worst airline credit card so far. I got SPG card to somehow lessen my frustration andto be able to convert starpoints into JMB miles and to get a reward ticket faster.

  • Frances

    JAL is oneworld partner, so I can basically redeem with any airline partner, is that so?

    • Kathy

      Yep, you are right!

  • Brian L.

    JMB uses sector miles which is too complicated and from what I see and understand miles rewards are really low..

  • ZMcKeeL

    Nice article, helped to make a decision. Thanks!

  • Steven Moore

    Love flying with JAL, don’t do it often though. Personally I use my AA card to book a flight with JAL from time to time.

    • Max Irvin

      Also book flights with JAL from time to time but use my Alaska card. Always enjoy traveling with JAL.

  • Elser

    I occasionally book reward flights with jal when search different routes to asia and Europe.

  • Galina Kozlova

    I have Discover it miles card and redeemed my miles for a JAL ticket with no hassle

  • Judy

    If we war talking about non-airline credit cards Isn’t Arrival+ better for that?

    • JoeSEvans

      I’d prefer Venture from CO, the card is reeeeeealy good!

      • Ron Santangelo

        i wish i was approved for it…..

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