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U.S. Bank Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature card review

U.S. Bank Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature card review

Published: November 9, 2018
Published: November 9, 2018
Ratings Policy
Low Interest Rating:
1 rating
1 rating
1 / 5
Rates, Fees, Penalties: 0.7
Rewards: 4.2
Features: 4.0

In a Nutshell:

Loyal customers of Korean Air should appreciate the SKYPASS card’s reasonable APR, though regular cardholders looking for a modestly priced credit card may find the fees on the card a bit hefty.

Regular APR
14.99-21.99% (variable)

Introductory Purchase APR
None

Introductory Balance Transfer APR
None

Fees

  • $95 annual fee
  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • 4% cash advance fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Penalties

  • $38 late payment fee
  • No penalty APR
  • $38 returned payment fee

Other Notable Features: Two Korean Air VIP lounge coupons per year, no foreign-transaction fee, no preset spending limit, concierge service, bilingual customer service (English and Korean), travel and emergency assistance, car rental insurance

Rewards Rating:
3.7 rating
3.7 rating
3.7 / 5
Rewards Value: 3.5
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.6
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Features: 3.0

In a Nutshell:

With an average sign-up bonus and a low rewards rate, the SKYPASS Visa Signature card is not a great choice for many cardholders; but frequent travelers to South Korea can eke some good values out of it.

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 on Korean Air ticket purchases
  • 2:1 on hotels and gas
  • 1:1 on general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
30,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first 90 days

Annual Bonus
2,000 bonus miles each year

Annual Fee
$95

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$356

APR
14.99-21.99% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • No limit on the number of miles you can earn
  • No blackout dates
  • Transfer miles to 19 partner airlines in the SkyTeam network
  • Miles don’t expire for 10 years
  • Use miles for Korean Air airfare or partner airlines, some hotels or car rentals
  • One-way tickets allowed
  • Open-jaw bookings are allowed
  • Two stopovers are permitted
  • Can share miles with immediate family members
  • First-class awards are permitted

Cons

  • Rewards-funded flights may be subject to seat restrictions
  • Flights may be subject to fuel surcharges
  • Can’t redeem flight with partial miles

Other Notable Features: Two Korean Air VIP lounge coupons per year, no foreign-transaction fee, no preset spending limit, concierge service, bilingual customer service (English and Korean), travel and emergency assistance, car rental insurance

There’s not much to recommend this mediocre airline card. Semi-frequent Korean Air passengers may be able to build up miles and eke out savings by using the card to pay for long-haul flights abroad. But with a lousy rewards rate and forgettable bonuses, you may still have a hard time earning enough miles to pay for a free flight.

For $95 a year, the SKYPASS card delivers fewer miles than many travel credit cards. It also offers stingier benefits and smaller bonuses. If you can afford to pay nearly $100 a month for a travel card, you’re almost certainly better off looking for card that offers a more substantial rewards program. Depending on the card, you may even be able to get more mileage out a travel card that doesn’t charge an annual fee.

Decent opportunities to earn rewards

The SKYPASS Visa Signature rewards program is pretty standard, offering one point per dollar on base purchases. Cardholders can earn a bonus of two points per dollar on Korean Air ticket purchases, hotels and gas.

While hotel and gas purchases can help you increase your reward potential, your flight rewards are probably limited. Because Korean Air only operates flights to a limited number of destinations, there aren’t many opportunities for you to earn bonus points – unless you travel to South Korea multiple times a year.

Limited destinations

You may also have a hard time booking a flight, since Korean Air operates just a small number of flights outside the United States. For example, the only U.S. cities served by Korean Air are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the only Korean Airlines destinations reached directly from the U.S. are the South Korean cities Seoul and Busan.

On the plus side, Korean Airlines is a member of the SkyTeam Network, so you don’t have to spend rewards on another Korean Airlines flight. You can transfer miles to 19 other airlines, including Delta Air Lines, Air France, China Airlines, China Eastern, Alitalia, Vietnam Airlines, Aeroflot, AeroMexico, Air Europa, Czech Airlines, Kenya Airways and XiamenAir.

Above-average value for SKYPASS miles

SKYPASS miles are also worth more than the typical credit card mile, so you’ll need fewer miles to redeem points for a free flight. For example, the average credit card mile is only worth about a penny each. By contrast, SKYPASS miles are worth nearly a penny and a half. That extra fraction of a penny may not seem like much, but it can make a big difference in how many miles you need to pay for a flight.

The higher rewards value still won’t get you far, though, if you aren’t a heavy spender. We estimate that the typical SKYPASS cardholder who spends roughly $1,325 a month will still only collect around $250 worth of miles in a year – a fraction of the cost of a typical international ticket.

Good sign-up bonus

The SKYPASS card currently offers a better-than-average bonus for new cardholders. You can earn 30,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days. Meanwhile, regular cardholders earn a yearly 2,000-mile bonus that’s worth about $28. If you spend relatively heavily and use your card for all purchases, you may be able to purchase a free flight after your first year. But unless you travel to South Korea regularly, you may still have a hard time earning enough miles after that to justify the card’s $95 annual fee.

Few perks

For a card with such a high fee, the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature card also offers relatively few perks. Cardholders are awarded two VIP Korean Air Lounge coupons every year, which you can use while waiting for your flight in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York or Honolulu. The card also offers standard credit card perks, such as travel accident insurance and car rental insurance. But it doesn’t offer any other benefits that might set the SKYPASS card apart from other cards.

Why get the SKYPASS Visa Signature card?

  • You travel frequently to South Korea and want to get rewarded for those flights.
  • You live near one of the airline’s North American destinations and so can get direct flights outside the United States.
  • You only plan to use the card temporarily to help shave down the cost of an international ticket.

How to use the SKYPASS Visa Signature card:

  • To get the most out of this airline card, fly Korean Airlines any time you travel to South Korea and use your card to pay for airfare.
  • Use your card as much as possible if you’re trying to build up miles for an international flight. Korean Air lets you redeem points for a one-way ticket. But it doesn’t let you use partial miles, so you have to wait until you have enough miles to redeem a full flight.
  • Take advantage of the card’s SkyTeam partnership. You may be able to use miles for less expensive domestic flights or for an international vacation.

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