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Sweet Spot Sunday: Booking intra-Japan airfare for just 5,500 United miles

Aug. 22, 2021
6 min read
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United Airlines has historically had a large presence in Japan, with nonstop flights from a handful of Japanese cities to the U.S. It also has a close partnership with All Nippon Airways — ANA, for short — that operates flights both inside of Japan and to dozens of international destinations.

One of the ways United and ANA's partnership can be useful is booking domestic flights within Japan using United MileagePlus miles. This is particularly useful when considering how expensive these tickets get at the last minute or during peak travel dates. With MileagePlus, you can book many routes for just 5,500 miles.

This article will show you how you can redeem United miles to book cheap intra-Japan tickets. I'll start with an overview of the sweet spot and dive into a step-by-step guide to booking the award. Finally, I'll give you a look at how to earn United miles to book this award.

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Why it’s special

(Photo by JIMMOYHT / Shutterstock.com)

You can use United miles to book intra-Japan flights for as little as 5,500 miles one-way. This is an extremely low number of miles to pay for flights that are often expensive. For example, booking Tokyo-Haneda (HND) to Hiroshima (HIJ) two weeks from travel costs $185 one-way on ANA.

(Screenshot courtesy of google.com/flights)

The same goes for other routes. For example, a one-way ANA ticket from Sapporo (CTS) to Osaka (KIX) costs almost $200 on some dates. Using miles to cover these expensive short flights gives you more flexibility in when and how you travel around Japan.

(Screenshot courtesy of google.com/flights)

Both of these routes — and nearly every other short-haul ANA domestic route in Japan — can be booked for just 5,500 miles one-way in economy. Better yet, award space is plentiful, so it's possible to book these award flights on most dates.

(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

That said, not all United awards price this low. You'll pay more miles when booking within 21 days of departure. For example, booking the same Tokyo to Osaka award a week from departure costs 6,000 United miles. This isn't a huge increase, but worth noting.

(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

Further, some longer domestic Japanese routes cost moderately more miles. This flight from Tokyo to Okinawa (OKA) costs 8,800 miles one-way. It's still a good deal, but the added mileage cost is unfortunate.

(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

Related: Cleared for Takeoff: Using points and miles for a birthday trip to Japan

How to book this award

You can book intra-Japan flights right on the United website. Just navigate to United.com, sign in and enter your search criteria on the homepage. Make sure to select the "Book with miles" checkbox to view award prices. You can also use the "Flexible dates" function to see a month's worth of award space at once.

(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

You'll see all available flight options at the center of the screen. Plus, you can see a week's worth of award pricing at the top of the screen. If you see a flight you like, click the "Select" button underneath the flight's price and follow the on-screen prompts to finish booking your flight.

(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

Related: How I helped a points and miles beginner book a trip to Japan

How to earn points for this award

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Thankfully, it's relatively easy to earn United miles. One of my favorite ways to earn is by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to United. You can earn Chase points with select Chase credit cards and instantly transfer them to United at a 1:1 ratio. Here's a look at some of the best Chase cards and their respective welcome bonuses:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card – Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Related: How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value

Bottom line

And that's all there is to it. This is a straightforward United sweet spot to book that can come in handy on your next trip to Japan. It gives you more flexibility in traveling around the country while letting you save money and see more of the country. Keep this sweet spot on your radar during your next trip to Japan.

Featured image by (Photo by ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
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  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

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  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
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  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
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  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees