The North American headquarters for Korean Air is in the same city I live… so I’m very familiar with this airline. US Bank offers the Korean Air SkyPass credit cards in a few different flavors.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages for each promotion:
Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature card ($80 annual fee)
This is their most popular offer and here’s an overview:
- Rewards: Normally you will be earning 1 mile per $1 spent. The one exception is purchases of Korean Air tickets which earn 2 miles per $1.
- Airline Benefits: There are a couple benefits for the airline. First of all, there are two VIP lounge coupons given per year. Secondly, a bonus of 2k miles is given for renewing the credit card each year.
- Other Benefits: Since this is a Visa Signature it comes with some additional benefits such as a phone concierge hotline, travel accident insurance (Common Carrier travel only), and other way to save money. If you aren’t familiar with these benefits, you can read about the Visa Signature benefits here.
The advantages of this card are the 2k miles renewal bonus and the 2 lounge coupons.
The disadvantages are the low signup promotion (only 15k miles) and the foreign transaction fee:
So for example, if you visit Seoul and use your card there, you are going to be slapped with a 2% to 3% surcharge for what you buy. Fortunately this is no longer the case for new applicants (they do not have a foreign transaction fee) but it’s unclear whether older accounts have also been granted that benefit.
A better alternative you should consider would be the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Why? Because it allows you to convert points to miles on Korean Air. Plus you earn 2x points on travel and dining purchases and there are no foreign transaction fees.
Go here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It is also a Visa Signature and as an advertiser of Chase, right now I have a much better signup promotion than what the Korean Air credit card offers.
Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Classic Card ($50 annual fee)
This is a lower tier Visa card. It has a lower annual fee, but with that comes lower rewards and fewer benefits.
- Rewards: 1 mile per $1. The difference with this one is you do not get 2x miles on Korean Air ticket purchases.
- Airline Benefits: There is a renewal bonus each year of 1k miles (instead of the 2k miles you get with the Korean Air Visa Signature).
- Other Benefits: Since this is not a Visa Signature you only get average cardholder benefits.
The advantages of the Classic is that it is $30 less.
The disadvantages would be the lower rewards, average benefits, foreign transaction fees, no VIP lounge tickets, and the new account bonus is only 5k miles.
Korean Air SkyBlue SKYPASS Visa Card (no annual fee)
This is a newer version from Korean Air that doesn’t charge an annual fee.
- Rewards: 1 mile per $2 spent (so you are earning half the amount of miles)
- Airline Benefits: No special benefits.
- Other Benefits: Like the card above, the perks you get with the SkyBlue SKYPASS are just average.
The advantage obviously is that it’s a free credit card.
The disadvantages are that you are earn earning 50% less miles than the other cards and the benefits are inferior. The promotion on this one is the same as above (only 5k bonus miles).
There are also 2 less common offers
- For those with bad credit scores there is a Korean Air secured credit card. It has a $50 annual fee and offers the same rewards as the SKYPASS Classic Visa. Your must put up a security deposit between $300 and $5,000 for your application to be approved.
- For those who want a card for their company, then the Korean Air business credit card is an option. It has a $75 annual fee and gives the same rewards and benefits as the first card with the exception of the Visa Signature perks.
Should you get one or not?
The rewards on the first two cards are respectable, but the low signup promotions are not a good deal.
The only reason I would recommend applying for a Korean Air credit card is if you do not know English very well. Why? Because all of their cards offer bilingual customer support and account access. So if you are only proficient in the Korean language, then it would be a wise choice to get one of their cards.
However if you are comfortable with English then the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers much better value. Remember it allows you to convert points directly to Korean Air’s SKYPASS mileage program on a 1 for 1 conversion.
Review written or last updated for Jan 2013