Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Loyalty Program Review

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Loyalty Program Review

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Branded and Partnered Credit Cards

Earning Japan Airlines miles continues to be a difficult task, primarily as a result of a lack of transferable point partners and co-branded credit cards.

With that said, if you can find a way to earn Japan Airlines miles, you’ll be in for a treat in terms of the opportunities for redemptions.

Japan Airlines Credit Cards

First National Bank of Omaha is the Japan Airlines co-branded partner, and neither the bank nor the airline makes this credit card product interesting.

The card lacks a material sign-up bonus, and the earning rates are abysmal. What this means is that you should look elsewhere to earn Japan Airlines miles.

Marriott Credit Cards

An efficient way to earn Japan Airlines miles is to sign up for a Marriott.

Earning Marriott points is ideal because you’ll receive a 5,000-point bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points that you transfer directly to an airline partner, such as Japan Airlines.

The transfer ratio of Marriott points to most airlines is 3:1, so 60,000 Marriott points become 25,000 Japan Airlines miles with the 5,000-point bonus (60,000 / 3 = 20,000 + 5,000 = 25,000)

Recommended Marriott Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card - For a limited time only, earn 125,000 Bonus Points and 1 Free Night Award (value up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary. Plus, earn up to 17x total Bovoy points per $1 when using your Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card at at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and 2x Bonvoy points per $1 on all other purchases. Annual Fee is $95.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card - For a limited time only, earn 60,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Earn up to 14x total Bonvoy points per $1 when using your Marriott Bonvoy Bold card at over 7,000 participating in Marriott Bonvoy hotels, earn 2X on other travel purchases, then 1x on all other purchases. A solid card for Marriott loyalists looking for a no-annual-fee card offering Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card - For a limited time, earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021.

Earn 6x per $1 at hotels participants in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 3x at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x on all other eligible purchases. Annual Fee is $450. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - For a limited time, earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points & 2 bonus Free Night Awards after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months. Each bonus Free Night Award has a redemption level up to 50K points. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer ends 11/3/2021.

This is a solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card, click here.

Other Hotel Partner Credit Cards

Hotels like Hilton and Hyatt typically have horrendous transfer ratios, and thus yield bad value. As you might have concluded, transferring hotel points in this way is not a route we recommend.

The only reason to transfer points from a hotel program to Japan Airlines is if you’re either in a bind or are looking to top off an account for a specific redemption.

Japan Airlines Overview

Similar to South Korean-based Korean Air, Japan Airlines operates out of two major airports.

In Japan, Japan Airlines and ANA are the two major airlines that operate out of the Narita and Haneda airports.

While ANA is a member of the Star Alliance, joining the likes of United Airlines, Japan Airlines is a member of the Oneworld Alliance joining U.S. partner American Airlines.

As you’ll find out, Japan Airlines is continuously at the top of the heap when it comes to both its customer service and airline experience. It’s just hard to beat flying a long haul Japan Airlines flight in business or first class!

Elite status in the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program can be useful if you find yourself flying the airline regularly.

With that said, elite status is driven by the number of FLY ON points you earn from:

  • Japan Airlines group airlines flights
  • Oneworld Alliance member partner flights

In addition to earning FLY ON points for your elite status, flyers also earn Japan Airlines miles on each flight. Those miles can then be redeemed for both Japan Airlines and partner airline flights.

If you’re not into redeeming miles for free flights, you also have the option to redeem your miles for things like coupons or tours.

Bottom Line: To sum up, the Mileage Bank program is perfect for those who would receive value by flying Japan Airlines or the Oneworld Alliance network

Joining Mileage Bank

What’s great about nearly all frequent flyer program is the fact that program membership is free.

Mileage Bank membership is great because it not only offers you the ability to earn miles but also to redeem them for a free flight.

How to Sign in to Your Mileage Bank Account

Head to the Japan Airlines Americas region page where all you’ll need is your membership number and 6-digit pin to log in to your account.

Japan Airlines login
Japan Airlines login screen. Image courtesy of jal.co.jp.

Hot Tip: Japan Airlines requires you to log in to search for award flights, unlike the United Airlines website that requires no log in. 

Viewing Your Account Activity

If you want to check out your account activity, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your account
  2. Click More Information under Miles / Points

Points Expiration

Japan Airlines miles are valid until the last day of the 36th month after the completion of your flight.

For example, if you fly on February 15, 2019, your Japan Airlines miles will be valid until January 31, 2022.

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Program

Mileage Bank Elite Status

Japan Airlines Elite Status
Japan Airlines Elite Status. Image courtesy of jal.co.jp..

Japan Airlines is unique relative to comparable airlines in that it offers two elite programs: JAL Mileage Bank and JAL Global Club.

A member is only eligible for Global Club after the member reaches the Sapphire or Diamond Mileage Bank level.

With that said, here are the benefits of Mileage Bank, with higher levels including all of the benefits of the preceding level:

Mileage Bank

Crystal: The lowest elite tier available in the Japan Airlines program that comes with the following perks:

  • 50% bonus miles
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority baggage
  • Extra baggage allowance
  • Priority boarding

Sapphire: One of the middle elite tiers where members receive these benefits:

  • 100% bonus miles
  • JAL Global Club entrance
  • Fast security lane
  • JAL and Oneworld lounge access for you and one traveling companion

Premier: The second highest elite tier in the program provides its members with the following perks:

  • Advance front seat assignment service
  • Japan domestic route advance booking services
  • Miles don’t expire during Premier membership
  • Free international Wi-Fi on flights
  • FLY ON upgrade package

Diamond: Japan Airlines’s highest elite tier offers these benefits:

  • 130% bonus miles
  • Dedicated reservation desk
  • When no award seats are available, JMB Diamond members can redeem their miles for any available seat by deducting double the miles required for a standard JAL Group Airlines domestic award ticket.

Global Club

Members in the Mileage Bank program who earn Sapphire or Diamond status may be invited to what’s called Global Club. This club rewards elite members with gifts and the use of exclusive lounges at airports and hotels.

Bottom Line: The elite benefits in the Mileage Bank program can be useful if you regularly fly Japan Airlines and/or Oneworld Alliance flights. 

Value of Mileage Bank Elite Status

Japan Airlines awards its most frequent travelers with bonus miles and no blackout dates for award tickets.

When you’re determining if elite status makes sense for you, simply ask yourself if the benefits that you’ll earn are of value.

If Japan Airlines status is right for you, I’d focus on earning the Premier and possibly the Diamond tier to open up the benefits at those levels.

Bottom Line: To sum up, you won’t find systemwide upgrades at the top tier, but you will find the ability to have no blackout dates on award tickets and earn bonus miles. 

Earning Mileage Bank Elite Status

Japan Airlines Elite Status Qualification
Japan Airlines Elite Status Qualification. Image courtesy of jal.co.jp.

Japan Airlines uses a point or segment qualification to determine how to earn one of its elite tiers.

Unlike some frequent flyer programs, Japan Airlines doesn’t offer an avenue to earn elite status through credit card spend.

Bottom Line: The only way to earn elite status with Japan Airlines is to fly a certain number of miles or flight segments.

How to Earn Japan Airlines Miles

What’s challenging about earning Japan Airlines miles, relative to other award programs, is the lack of transferable point partners.

The one partner Japan Airlines does have is Marriott Bonvoy, and it’s the primary way to earn Japan Airlines miles without flying.

Earn Miles Through Flying

The miles that you earn are based on the mileage of each sector(s) that you travel and on the booking class of the fare of the purchased ticket.

Japan Mileage Bank uses IATA (International Air Transport Association) to calculate the mileage of your segment.

For the booking class, simply refer to the Accumulation Rates page of the corresponding flight to the one that you booked.

If you book a partner flight, check out the rates on the Partner Airline page to see what you’ll earn for your flight.

Oneworld member airlines
Oneworld Alliance member airlines. Image courtesy of oneworld.com.

Japan Airlines also has partnerships with airlines outside of the Oneworld Alliance like Alaska Airlines.

Head to the Partner Airline page to see the earning rates for airlines that fit within this bucket.

Earn Miles With Credit Cards

The Japan Airlines credit card doesn’t offer top tier earning rates or a compelling sign-up bonus so focus your efforts on other credit cards.

Marriott credit cards are the best way to earn miles quickly and on an ongoing basis due to the sign-up bonus and earning rates for its products.

With Marriott credit card transfers to Japan Airlines, you’ll receive a 5,000-point bonus for every 60,000 points that you transfer, so keep that in mind.

Earning Bonus Miles in Other Ways

As noted above, First National Bank of Omaha offers the co-branded Japan Airlines credit card that you can augment with other credit cards to earn miles.

A great way stay on the beat of miles earning opportunities is to follow the Japan Airlines Facebook and Twitter accounts, and also check out the Offers & Promotions Page for potential deals.

Another way to earn miles is through the Japan Airlines car rental, hotel partners, or through online or in-store shopping partners.

Hot Tip: If you add your airline loyalty program to other services, you typically won’t earn status points with these franchises. For example, this partnership acts as a sort of alliance between the airline and car rental agency.

How to Redeem Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Miles

While you can technically redeem Japan Airlines miles for an array of items, it’s best to stick to award flights.

The Mileage Bank program uses a number of award charts, but for simplicity, let’s focus on a few.

The first chart is the JAL International Award Chart that you’ll use when flying on a Japan Airlines international flight.

Japan Airlines International Award Chart
Japan Airlines International Award Chart with round-trip pricing shown. Image courtesy of jal.co.jp.

Another chart that you may use is the Japan Airlines Partner Award Chart. This covers flights like American Airlines from the U.S. to Japan.

Japan Airlines Partner Award Chart
Japan Airlines Partner Award Chart. Image courtesy of jal.co.jp.

If your flight doesn’t fit into either of those buckets, you can find the full list of award charts here.

After you’ve located the appropriate award chart to use, it’s helpful to know a few of the important components of the charts.

The main item to understand is that award pricing is based on total trip distance. While Japan Airlines has a mileage calculator, Great Circle Mapper is the most intuitive tool to use.

Prior to the Japan Airlines award devaluation in 2018, you could find incredible value on certain routes.

While that may no longer be the case across the board, sweet spots can always be found if you look closely enough.

Two of the best values in the award charts can be found in the Japan Airlines limited days of the week award chart and are as follows:

  • 80,000 miles round-trip business class to Japan on limited days of the week
  • 110,000 miles round-trip first class to Japan on limited days of the week

Hot Tip: If you’re craving more of these high-value opportunities, check out our post covering the best ways to use Japan Airlines miles

Oneworld Alliance and Other Partner Awards

As mentioned earlier, Japan Airlines uses a number of award charts: one for Japan Airlines flights, another when flying on a Oneworld partner, and yet another when flying on a non-Oneworld partner.

For partner airline flights, use these as your reference guide to make sure the flight is priced correctly:

Booking Online

For Oneworld award flights, the Japan Airlines website isn’t the one I’d recommend that you use.

Instead, the British Airways or Qantas websites are much more efficient and effective, especially when it comes to showing Oneworld award availability.

While it’s true that the Japan Airlines website is difficult, if you can find the flight that you need, you avoid the dreaded phone call booking process.

When searching for award flights, it’s important to keep in mind these general rules:

  • Search the British Airways or Qantas websites for Oneworld flights
  • Use the Delta or Flying Blue websites for SkyTeam flights
  • Search the Alaska website for Emirates and Alaska flights

Hot Tip: If you’re looking for an airline partner that’s not listed above or you can’t find award space on the respective website, consider using Expert Flyer. 

Featured Image: Courtesy of Shutterstock

Frequently asked questions

What is the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program? Is it worth it? What are the benefits?

The frequent flyer program of Japan Airlines is called Mileage Bank. It’s a free program that allows its members to earn miles and elite status, as well as use miles toward an award flight.

Elite status is earned by flying a certain number of segments or earning a certain number of points.

Japan Airlines elite benefits are comparable to what you’d find with many of the major airlines across the world.

Joining the likes of American Airlines, Japan Airlines is a Oneworld Alliance member. What this means is that you can use your miles to not only fly on Japan Airlines flights but also other Oneworld Alliance airline’s flights.

In Mileage Bank, who are the partners? Can I transfer miles to them?

What’s great about the Mileage Bank program is the fact that there are several travel partners that provide members with the opportunity to either earn or use miles for things other than flying.

With respect to earning Japan Airlines miles, you can earn them from flying, credit card spending, car rentals, or hotels.

Award flights, lounge access, and upgrades are additional options that members can use their miles for if they choose.

While you can’t transfer Japan Airlines miles to an airline partner, you can use Japan Airlines miles to fly on the airline itself or a partner airline.

What is the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank login?

Access your Japan Airlines account by logging in here.

Where can I sign up for Mileage Bank?

Membership in the Mileage Bank program is free by completing this application.

What is my Mileage Bank number?

You can find your Mileage Bank number by signing in to your account, on your membership card, or through a variety of marketing emails they send to you.

If you can’t find it there, try using the “forgot my password” tool to reset your account so you can get in. Alternatively, try calling the customer service desk to find your number.

When do miles post in Mileage Bank?

Japan Airline miles will typically post within 7 days after the date of your travel.

When do Mileage Bank miles expire?

Japan Airlines miles are valid until the last day of the 36th month after the completion of your flight.

For example, if you fly on February 15, 2019, your Japan Airlines miles will be valid until January 31, 2022.

When does Mileage Bank status expire?

All elite benefits are available until March 31 of the second year following status qualification.

Is there a Japan Airlines credit card?

Yes! First Bank of Omaha offers the co-branded Japan Airlines credit card.

You can earn miles on this credit card, but there is no sign-up bonus offered.

Can you hold an award flight with Japan Airlines?

Japan Airlines doesn’t allow you to hold an award flight.

Michael McHugh

About Michael McHugh

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Michael took his first international trip in 2013 with friends to the Bahamas. Although he didn't travel much in his younger years, on that trip, he caught the travel bug and has been hooked ever since. Michael first caught wind of the points and miles game in 2014 while at a bar in Washington, DC where the conversation amongst friends was quickly derailed because of an alert on a friend's phone about a mistake fare.  That's where the love affair with points and miles began.

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  1. Does JAL have different (more expansive and dynamic) award availability for their own members than the inventory that it makes available to OneWorld partners?


    • Tim,

      Yes they do. Japan Airlines will release more award seats to members of their own program than partners like American Airlines AAdvantage.


Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

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