Skip to content

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

Aug. 22, 2021
6 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

Get points and miles coverage like this delivered to your inbox by signing up for the TPG daily newsletter.

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.

Sign up for our daily newsletter
(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.

TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
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.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • 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

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees