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If you’re looking for sky-high value when you redeem your points, there is a pretty clear standout airline loyalty program.
ANA Mileage Club is the loyalty program of Tokyo-based All Nippon Airways. Even if you don’t fly to Japan often, there’s still plenty of opportunities to earn and redeem its miles on Star Alliance partner flights. The airline is a member of the Star Alliance and is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.
According to NerdWallet’s valuations, ANA Mileage Club by and away had the most valuable airline miles. We estimate that they’re worth about 2 cents each, compared with the 1 to 1.5 cent valuations of most other airline miles.
So some award flights on ANA cost less miles than they would if you were booking with other airlines. That means there’s plenty of sweet spots, particularly in business class around “low season.”
Because ANA has generous routing rules that allow you to book open jaw and stopover awards, the potential for high redemption value is almost off the charts.
» Learn more: The guide to ANA Mileage Club
ANA zone award map
When you want to book award flights on ANA, you’ll need to know the season (low, regular or high; note it varies by route), the class of service and the departure/destination zones. These dictate the number of miles required for awards.
Although one-way awards are not allowed, ANA has incredibly generous routing rules, allowing stopovers on its round-trip or open jaw awards. Many of the awards discussed below allow a free stopover as long as it remains within the same destination zone.
ANA international flight award zones
Partner flight award zones
Valuable sweet spots for ANA award flights
1. U.S. (Zone 6) to Japan (Zone 1)
ANA flies nonstop from several U.S. airports to both of the major international airports in Tokyo: Narita International Airport (NRT) and Haneda International Airport (HND). Low season as designated by the airline in 2022 is Jan. 4 to Feb. 28 and April 1 to April 26. During the "low season," you can find business class round-trip flights between the U.S. and Tokyo for 75,000 miles.
Compare that with how many miles you would need to book this route through another Star Alliance airline like Air Canada, which charges 150,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles for a business class flight.
» Learn more: How to make the most of ANA’s first class
2. U.S. (Zone 6) to Australia (Zone 10)
No matter which frequent flyer program you use, flights from the U.S. to Australia cost a lot of miles. But flying ANA or a Star Alliance airline partner from the U.S. to Australia using ANA miles can be a good relative value. Round-trip business class flights on ANA that go through Japan require 105,000 miles during the low season.
Flights to Australia on a Star Alliance partner require 120,000 ANA miles. As a comparison, booking this flight with one of the next best Star Alliance programs for these regions, Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles, requires 150,000 miles for business class.
3. U.S. (Zone 6) to Europe (Zone 7)
Many Star Alliance airlines are based in Europe, so you have plenty of options to book round-trip Star Alliance flights from the U.S. to Europe for 88,000 ANA miles in business class or 55,000 ANA in economy.
As far as taxes go, LOT Polish Airlines, TAP Air Portugal and United Airlines are examples of airlines that have reasonable taxes and fees plus decent award availability when booking a flight to Europe with ANA miles. Other Star Alliance airlines like Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS and Swiss Air Lines have high fuel surcharges or low award availability.
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles is probably your next-best option for booking a Star Alliance award flight to Europe. But at 90,000 miles for business class, you’d spend 2,000 more miles than you would with ANA.
» Learn more: Travel loyalty program reviews
4. U.S. (Zone 6) to Africa or the Middle East (Zone 8)
Etihad and other Star Alliance flights from the U.S. to Africa and the Middle East generally require more miles than flights to Europe and South America. Since ANA doesn’t fly to the Middle East or Africa, you’d be looking at the partner award chart. It would cost 104,000 ANA miles for business class or 65,000 ANA miles for an economy class ticket from the U.S. to Africa and the Middle East with this airline program.
Again, a close competitor is Turkish Airlines. But at 70,0000 Turkish miles to book a business class Star Alliance flight from the U.S. to Africa or the Middle East, it’s clear ANA miles get you more value for the same route.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
5. U.S. (Zone 6) to South America (Zone 9)
Star Alliance members Avianca, Copa Airlines and United offer flights between the U.S. and Central and South America, which you can book through ANA using ANA miles. On its award charts, ANA treats all of South America as one region.
So the sweet spots for ANA redemptions to South America are when you’re heading to the southern half of the continent. For example, with 88,000 ANA miles, you can fly round trip business class to anywhere in South America. Compare that with Air Canada, which offers a better deal, 75,000 miles, for a business class flight to northern South America, but costs more, 110,000 Aeroplan miles, for a business class flight to the southern half of the continent.
If you want to leverage ANA’s award chart ...
The unfamiliarity with ANA and the inability to book one-way flights may discourage some travelers from considering ANA Mileage Club, but there are plenty of ANA sweet spots. ANA’s miles are exceptionally valuable, especially if you redeem them for business class, book with Star Alliance partners and incorporate the generous stopover and open jaw rules.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
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