File under: lucrative…

All Nippon Airways is a fantastic airline offering some of the best experiences in the sky across all cabins. Their loyalty program is no exception. Though it’s far less talked about than many of the most obvious choices, perhaps because the instant thought is “how would a Japanese loyalty program benefit someone elsewhere in the world” the ANA Mileage Club may just be one of the best solutions for Star Alliance flyers, especially if they are also “Amex” people…

Double Approach

Flying is far from the most lucrative way to earn miles these days. The beauty of the ANA Mileage Club program, like many of the best programs is that you can instantly turn every buck you spend into miles with the program. When you couple that angle with actually flying, accumulating a legit stack of miles becomes much more approachable. There’s one caveat though: it’s very hard for US frequent flyers to earn ANA elite status, because ANA requires a portion of flights to actually be flown on their planes. If you would only earn a minimal status in the US, it still may be worth it to forgo status by using your ANA frequent flyer number on United and other domestic US Star Alliance flights (hello, Priority Pass), but it’s not worth missing out on top Star Alliance Gold benefitsΒ  just to chase points.

Flight Earnings

ANA rewards miles for flights fairly generously on both their own flights and almost all Star Alliance airline flights. Miles are awarded based on the type of ticket, not money paid and even the lowest economy fares earn roughly 30% of the distance, while cheap economy tickets earn 50%. Premium, business and first tickets tend to earn between 100-150% of the flight distance. There may be other programs which throw more miles back, but the rate of return on these points is an important consideration and may potentially beat earning rates through United’s domestic frequent flyer program. Basically, if I’m a non elite frequent flyer who flies United domestically, this is a brilliant choice. Asiana? That’s another great choice.

Amex Earning

Harder to reach programs traditionally offer the best value. Amex cardholders in the US earn between 1-5 points per purchase and Amex is the only of the three major banks to allow transfers to ANA Mileage Club. It’s hard to argue with the value of 5x points on airfare purchases made directly with the airline for Amex Platinum cardholders. If you’re spending significantly on your Amex, ANA offers some of the best return on your investment. Don’t forget, for a limited time you can earn 2 extra points per dollar for online shopping.

Redemption Potential

ANA Mileage Club offers some of the finest rates for cashing in points for first and business class flights. Flights between the US and Europe in business class are just 88,000 points round trip, and surcharges can be avoided. Round trip between the US and Australia in business is just 120,000 points – and first class is 220,000. US to South Korea is a mere 88,000 round trip in business class, which is a total steal, especially given how nice ANA and their Star Alliance partners offerings are in business.

Stopover Permitted

ANA Mileage Club allows one stopover on either the outbound or return journey. This isn’t the most generous offering in the world, but since you’re charged by region and not per segment, this can be a valuable way to side trip without spending any additional points. For example, on a trip to Oceania, which costs 120,000 miles round trip in business class you could score a massive side trip in Australia or New Zealand. Flights from Western Australia to New Zealand can last over 8 hours, so getting one of these included for no additional points, while allowing you to spend more than 24 hours is very favorable.

Phenomenal Connectivity

Connectivity is crucial in determining a great loyalty program choice. Star Alliance is extremely well served going East, West and South from the US.Β United and Avianca offer direct connectivity to South America. Lufthansa, United, Swiss, Air Canada, Austrian, LOT, Turkish and Brussels offer excellent connectivity to Europe. EVA, ANA, Thai, Air China, Air New Zealand and Air India offer brilliant options to the Far East. Ethiopian and South African provide excellent cover for flights to and from Africa as well. United’s model for multiple “hubs” in Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and beyond create excellent regional coverage. And let’s not forget Air New Zealand launching Chicago service! The point? You can find flights using points on a variety of great carriers without too much hassle of connecting to just New York or California.

Have you redeemed miles with ANA?