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If you regularly travel to Japan, the ANA Card U.S.A might become a mainstay, especially if you’re an expatriate living in the U.S. and need to establish U.S. credit.
Founded in 1952 with just two helicopters, All Nippon Airways, or ANA, is now the largest airline in Japan and often wins worldwide accolades for its service. Its co-branded airline credit card in the U.S., offered through the First National Bank of Omaha, has several surprisingly useful features, even if the card is less than stellar at accumulating airline miles.
Here are five things to know about the ANA Card U.S.A.
» SEE: Best airline credit cards
1. It’s easy to use
The card is a Visa, so it’s accepted almost everywhere credit cards are. And all transactions are in U.S. dollars.
Its annual fee is a palatable $70, especially compared with most comparable U.S. airline cards that cost about $100 a year. Adding authorized users is free.
Rewards are straightforward: Earn an unlimited one ANA Mileage Club Mile for every dollar you spend on the card.
The card also can help you earn extra miles for ANA flights you book, as well as progress toward elite status and several discounts, like 10% off in-flight purchases. Miles expire in three years, but unlike other airline programs, the expiration cannot be extended by account activity. In other words, there's a firm three-year deadline on your ANA miles — if you don't use them in that time frame, you'll lose them.
2. Ex-pats living in the U.S. can establish credit
One perk rightly touted by the card’s marketing department is expatriates, perhaps Japanese employees working in the U.S., can use this card as a tool to establish credit here.
You can be approved for the ANA Card U.S.A without a U.S. credit history, although you may be asked to submit additional documents, include those detailing income and employment.
However, you must be a U.S. resident to apply.
And while you can apply without a Social Security number, you won’t start building credit in the U.S. until you submit a number. Your card account lets you check your FICO credit score online for free.
3. Miles are scarce but valuable
The card offers no bonus accelerators to earn extra miles by spending in certain categories, such as travel or dining. You don’t even get extra miles for buying ANA fares.
So, it’s a good thing its miles are quite valuable. NerdWallet values ANA miles at 2 cents each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 2 cents or more in value from your ANA miles. That's far more valuable than the vast majority of travel loyalty points, sometimes as the No. 1 loyalty currency.
As a result, the card's rewards and sign-up bonus aren’t quite as stingy as they first appear.
Currently, the sign-up bonus is: Receive 5,000 bonus miles for your first qualifying purchase using ANA CARD U.S.A.
And you earn the bonus with your first purchase. Most similar cards require you to spend $1,000 or more to earn a sign-up bonus.
Still, it’s not a sumo-size bonus. And if you’re mostly interested in ANA miles, you might consider using a different card. For example, United’s MileagePlus miles can be used to book flights on ANA and American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to ANA to book flights.
4. Airline miles program has useful partners
ANA’s partnerships with other travel programs are notable and make the card’s ANA miles flexible.
For example, even if you don’t fly to Japan often, you can earn and redeem ANA miles on Star Alliance partner flights. (United Airlines is the major U.S. carrier in that alliance.)
The ANA loyalty program offers plenty of sweet spots, particularly in business class around “low season.” And sophisticated travel bookers can gain flexibility by taking advantage of open jaw and stopover awards.
5. Some fees are high
The card charges a 3% fee on foreign transactions. That’s out of step with most airline credit cards, which charge nothing. Frankly, that’s unacceptable for an airline credit card that charges an annual fee. Don’t use this card outside the U.S.
Of lesser concern is its whopping 5% fee, or at least $10, on balance transfers. But the card offers no intro 0% APR, so there’s no point in transferring a balance anyway.
If you just want to scoop up ANA miles, this card might not be the right tool for the job. But if you often travel to the homeland of karaoke or are an ex-pat who needs to establish credit in the U.S., the ANA Card U.S.A is a fine airline card to consider.