Regardless of the country you live in, chances are high that there is some sort of credit card that allows collecting airline miles or points that can be converted to miles. There are also plenty of credit cards that offer free access to airport lounges – whether directly or through a complimentary Priority Pass membership.
Similarly, there are several airlines – such as Delta Air Lines, Qantas, and Air Italy – that sell lounge memberships or even statuses which offer a selection of perks on that airline to their customers.
However, there are very few credit cards that not only earn you miles for “free” travel but also offer an airline status with an airline belonging to one of the three major alliances as a perk. And, I am pretty sure Japan is the only country where you can get a status with each of the three alliances by simply having a certain credit card.
The Japanese Cards That Come with an Airline Status
Namely, I am talking about the ANA Super Flyers card, JAL Global Club card, and Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold card. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get any of these cards unless you reside in Japan, but I thought you might still be interested in learning about these if you like miles and points.
SkyTeam: Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Card
I will start with the last of the three – and the only one that I have firsthand experience with – the Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Card.
When I had it a couple of years ago, it was most likely the easiest way to have a status with one of the three major alliances, specifically SkyTeam, in the world. It was as simple as signing up for the card, getting approved, and paying the annual fee of about 300 dollars to get an automatic Delta Gold Medallion status.
Considering that to earn a similar status by flying, one would have to spend thousands on airfare, it was an incredible deal that not only allowed me to access some of Delta (and its SkyTeam partners) lounges, but also to get upgraded into first class on a couple of Delta domestic flights.
The status still comes with the card for the first year without any conditions. However, now, to keep it for the following years, one has to spend at least a million yen (about 10,0000 dollars) for Silver Medallion or one-and-a-half million yen (about 15,000 dollars) for Gold Medallion on the card every year.
Even with that, it still remains the easiest way to have a status with SkyTeam in Japan, especially so if you use the card as your main card in which case meeting the spending requirement should not be too difficult.
Oneworld: JAL Global Club Card
Having the JAL Global Club card means automatically having oneworld Sapphire status – and so being able to enjoy priority lanes and lounge access among other perks whenever flying with Japan Airlines, British Airways, and other oneworld members.
The catch with this card, though, is that only people with JMB (JAL Mileage Bank) Sapphire status can apply. To get the status, one has to either collect 50,000 FLY ON points (JAL’s status miles) with at least half of those being earned on JAL flights or fly on 50 qualifying segments with at least half of those being JAL flights and collect 15,000 FLY ON points in addition to that.
As such, unless you travel often on oneworld carriers – and especially JAL – already, the “startup costs” can be quite high.
Once you qualify for JMB Sapphire status and get approved for one of the JAL Global Club credit cards, though, the cost to keep your status from there on can be as low as about a hundred dollars a year and will depend on which JGC credit card you choose.
Star Alliance: ANA Super Flyers Card
The ANA Super Flyers card is ANA’s equivalent of JAL Global Club card. Its holders are automatically Star Alliance Gold members, and so they can enjoy access to lounges when flying with ANA, Lufthansa, and other Star Alliance carriers, as well as other perks like priority boarding and increased luggage allowance.
Similarly to the JGC card, to apply for the Super Flyers card, one needs to hold an ANA Mileage Bank status. More precisely, ANA Diamond or Platinum status is necessary meaning one has to collect at least 50,000 Premium Points (ANA’s status miles) in a year with at least half of those being earned on ANA flights.
Because of that, getting to the point where you can apply for the ANA Super Flyers credit card can cost several thousand dollars – depending on what flights you take and so on.
However, just like with the JGC card, you don’t have to requalify for the status every year – instead you can simply pay the annual credit card fee which can be as low as a hundred dollars.
Will I Get One of These Cards (Again)?
As mentioned earlier, I used to have the Delta Amex Gold card for a year which allowed me to enjoy the Gold Medallion status for almost two years (my status was renewed for a year before it was time to renew the credit card).
Since during those two years, I flew on both Delta Air Lines as well as other SkyTeam airlines quite a few times, I was able to get great value out of the 300 or so dollars that I spent on the card.
However, I cancelled the card as recently I don’t fly with SkyTeam nearly as much – and because I can access lounges with my Rakuten Premium card which gives me free Priority Pass membership.
As such, I don’t think I will be re-signing up for that card anytime soon.
On the other hand, I’ve been considering getting the ANA Super Flyers card for quite a while now. However, the high initial investment required (especially so since I am generally not loyal to a single alliance as – among other reasons – I enjoy flying on and reviewing all sorts of airlines) always ends up convincing me not to do it.
Another thing that I am a bit concerned about is the sustainability of the program – while I wouldn’t mind spending a couple of thousands of dollars if I could have the status for a hundred dollars a year for the next two or three decades, if ANA decides to cancel the Super Flyers card in a couple of years or even a decade, the calculation would not be as favorable.
Most of you will not be able to take opportunity of the credit cards above, but I still thought it was worthwhile writing about them considering that they are fairly unique and (as far as I understand) there is nothing similar elsewhere in the world.
While I don’t have any of them at this point, having the ability to have a “lifetime” status for just a hundred dollars a year is tempting. And so, I will keep looking for cheap fares with which I could earn the status necessary for applying for either the ANA Super Flyers card or the JAL Global Club card at a low cost.
How about you? If you lived in Japan, would you consider getting one of these cards?
Do you know about any other similar cards in other countries that allow you to essentially “buy” an airline status?