Credit Cards

Why I Got a Korean SkyPass Credit Card

Foreign frequent flyer programs often get a bad rep – after all, who wants to put up with high redemption rates and fuel surcharges? That’s a totally unfair assessment because plenty of foreign airlines have programs that sometimes provide better value than programs affiliated with domestic carriers. There’s tons of value in foreign frequent flyer programs. Whether it’s savings on short-haul flights through British Airways Avios or booking JAL Sky Suites for less, investing in foreign rewards currencies can pay off. The Korean Air SkyPass program is one  example of a really great foreign rewards program, which is why I picked up one of their credit cards last year.

Airplane Flying Over Eiffel Tower Paris

Korean SkyPass Credit Cards: MS-friendly?

There are four Korean SkyPass credit cards, all of which are issued by U.S. Bank (I know, public enemy #1). Before you start deriding U.S. Bank for not being MS friendly, take my experience into account. I’ve put tens of thousands of dollars worth of manufactured spending on the Club Carlson Visa (soon to be rebranded as Radisson Rewards) and my account remains in good standing. My general rule of thumb is never to charge more than my stated annual income on one credit card. That’s a completely arbitrary rule I came up with years ago, but it’s helped me fly under the radar since.

Korean SkyPass Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses

Back to the Korean SkyPass Credit Cards: The sign-up bonuses on these cards are almost insultingly low. Seriously, there are airline debit cards that pay out higher sign-up bonuses than some of these Korean SkyPass cards from U.S. Bank. That being said, you’ll redeem fewer miles on some routes than you would with U.S.-based frequent flyer programs. So the lower sign-up bonus really shouldn’t be a deterrent.

SkyPass Visa Signature Card – 15,000 miles after first purchase

SkyPass Visa Business Card – 10,000 miles after first purchase

SkyBlue SkyPass Visa Card – 5,000 miles after first purchase

SkyPass Visa Classic Card – 5,000 miles after first purchase

SkyPass Visa Secured Card – 5,000 miles after first purchase

Korean SkyPass Sweet Spot Redemptions

The main reason I picked up a Korean SkyPass credit card was to earn miles for one of they sweet spot award redemptions. For example, a roundtrip business class award ticket to Europe will set you back 100,000 – 140,000 miles with most U.S.-based frequent flyer programs. With Korean SkyPass, you’ll need just 80,000 miles. Yes, taxes and fees are higher, but it’s nowhere near British Airways levels. Nor is it anything you can’t easily off-set with some Barclay Arrival Miles.

This isn’t the only value redemption in the Korean SkyPass program. Caroline wrote a post outlining the 5 best SkyPass redemptions, including 25,000 mile roundtrip economy class tickets to Hawaii. Gary Leff has this great post outlining tips  and tricks to know about the Korean SkyPass reward program. This program offers terrific value for your miles and if you’re earning them via credit card spending, you’ll essentially earn rewards faster.

Why Get a Korean SkyPass Credit Card?

By now you’re probably wondering, “Why bother with a Korean SkyPass credit card if you can transfer Ultimate Rewards and SPG points instead?” It’s always best to diversify – relying solely on flexible rewards currency transfers isn’t the best strategy. Sometimes those points are better redeemed for hotels, Nights & Flights awards or Marriott transfers.

In my case, I’ll need hundreds of thousands of SkyPass miles. I don’t want to put hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of manufactured spending on my Chase and Amex cards and risk getting shut down. I’d rather put $80,000 worth of spending on three credit cards than one. The Korean SkyPass card helps me spread large amounts of manufactured spending across multiple cards, keeping all three banks happy.

Final Thoughts on the Korean SkyPass Credit Cards

The sign-up bonuses may be lacking, but Korean SkyPass is a solid program that lets you redeem fewer miles. So whether you’re traveling to Hawaii or saving up for aspirational awards in premium cabins, SkyPass can help you do it for less. Work in the Korean SkyPass credit card and earning them via gift card churning becomes way less stressful. Especially, if you have currencies like SPG and Ultimate Rewards points you can transfer to SkyPass at a favorable ratio.

Do you have a Korean SkyPass credit card? Which awards are you saving up for?

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  1. Tim Pressman

    Debbi and I both registered for the Korean FF program 6/16 just in case we wanted to transfer to the program. About 3 months later I received a mail offer for 45k for $3k personal. Timing wasn’t right, with 3 open spends to make after a 4 card app approval between us, so ignored it.
    Last April we both received new mail offers. Debbi 40k $2.5K, me 45k $3k. Total no brainers.
    I honestly am clueless if it was because of the ”sitting” accounts but it just may be well worth while signing up for the programme cuz you never know.

    • Nice! I wish I’d gotten that offer. But in general, registering for FF accounts gets you targeted offers so that is a great strategy.

      • I concur. I saw the same a year or 2 back but was not approved. I wonder if they’ve decreased their targeted sign up bonuses this year. Would be interesting if someone has a dp for this year.

  2. I got the card a couple years ago and I think the bonus was 30k, but I closed it, obviously not going the MS route that you are. I’ve never used any of the miles – awardwallet seems to think they don’t expire for a really long time; hopefully that’s true. Do you think that fuel surcharges are reasonable for Europe? I feel like there’s a lot in between good and not as bad as British Airways. I assume flying on Delta would be the most reasonable for Europe.

    • Sometimes, yes. What I like to do is calculate the fuel surcharges, determine how much I’d have to put on a 2% back card to cover it, combine it with what I’d have to spend on the Korean Skypass credit card for the mileage portion, and compare those costs to what it would cost me to redeem a different airline rewards currency for the same flight.

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