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

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

Published: April 25, 2017
Ratings Policy
Airline Rating:
2.5 rating
2.5 rating
2.5 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.6
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.7
Rewards Flexibility: 4.1
Flight Options: 4.3
Features: 4.0

In a nutshell:

With a mediocre rewards rate and stingy bonuses, the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature card ranks low on our list of airline cards.

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 on Korean Air ticket purchases
  • 1:1 on general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
15,000 bonus miles with first purchase

Annual Bonus
2,000 bonus miles each year

Annual Fee
$80

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$250

APR
13.74-20.74%

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

Flight Options

  • Airline partners: 19
  • Daily flights: 14,500
  • Destinations: 800
  • Countries served: 170

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 rating
3 rating
3 / 5
Rewards Value: 1.9
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.4
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Features: 4.0

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
  • 1:1 on general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
15,000 bonus miles with first purchase

Annual Fee
$80

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$250

APR
13.74-20.74%

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

Travel Rating:
3 rating
3 rating
3 / 5
Rewards Value: 1.8
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.4
Rewards Flexibility: 4.1
Features: 4.0

In a nutshell:

With a low rewards rate, a mediocre bonus, and a rewards program targeted to South Korea, this card may be of little value to most travelers, though loyal customers of Korean airlines can find good value in it.

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 on Korean Air ticket purchases
  • 1:1 on general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
15,000 bonus miles with first purchase

Annual Fee
$80

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$250

APR
13.74-20.74%

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

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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 $80 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.

Few opportunities to earn rewards
The biggest downside to the SKYPASS Visa Signature card is its narrow rewards program, which only offers bonus points on Korean Air flights. Cardholders earn just two points for every dollar spent on Korean airfare and one point per dollar spent on everything else.

The limited rewards aren’t unusual for an airline card. Many airline cards only offer bonus points on airfare. But it sharply narrows the card’s appeal.  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.

Stingy bonuses
The SKYPASS card’s limited bonuses won’t get you much further. New cardholders earn just 15,000 bonus miles – roughly worth about $210 – after their first purchase. Meanwhile, regular cardholders earn a yearly 2,000-mile bonus that’s only 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 $80 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.

Reasons to get it:

  • 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 it:

  • 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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