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The SKYPASS Visa Signature from U.S. Bank is a travel benefits and travel rewards hybrid card, which aims to provide amenities and savings to consumers and passengers flying with Korean Air. In our review of the Korean Air SKYPASS credit card, however, we found that the card’s reward rate was only competitive when passengers use it to buy at least $1,000 worth of Korean air tickets per month, and aspire to Morning Calm Membership, and not much else. Based on its features and benefits, however, it isn't worthwhile to apply for the SKYPASS Visa Signature credit card when compared to the better credit card alternatives for travel rewards that exist. We think this card is a good option for frequent Korean Air flyers, but we recommend that casual and general consumers consider other travel rewards cards that offer users more ways to earn rewards on their overall spending.
The features we like best about the SKYPASS Visa Signature
- Decent bonus with first purchase
- Helps reach and maintain Morning Calm Membership
Where we think the SKYPASS Visa Signature falls short compared to other cards
- Poor overall travel rewards rate for general consumer and casual passengers of Korean Air
- Not enough benefits to justify high annual fee of $80
Review: Is the SKYPASS Credit Card Good for Korean Air Customers?
As a travel rewards credit card, the U.S. Bank SKYPASS Visa Signature is only beneficial in our opinion to customers spending on average $1,000 or more on Korean Air tickets who can appreciate perks such as VIP lounge access and accelerated attainment of Morning Calm Membership. The reward rates on credit card charges with the SKYPASS Signature version can climb up to 1.5%, which is the same as a decent flat-rate cash back card such as the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. However, if you find yourself spending that much on travel each month, we recommend that you also consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card because you'll get a higher rewards rate in our calculations.
In our opinion, the unique advantage of the SKYPASS Visa Signature credit card its ability to earn individuals miles more quickly towards Morning Calm membership, and the VIP lounge access. The major benefits are really tailored towards providing rewards for individuals who find themselves frequently sitting in an airport, waiting to board a Korean Air flight. With the spending bonus available in the first 3 months of the card, you can essentially get a 30% discount on the Morning Calm membership, for charging at least $0.01 to the SKYPASS Visa Signature. The SKYPASS Visa Signature signing bonus can only kick in once, however. After that, the SKYPASS benefits slow down, and the $80 annual fee becomes a little harder to swallow. One feature of the SKYPASS Signature is its 2 Korean Air VIP lounge tickets each year. If this is something that frequent flyers feel justifies the annual fee, then this card has good long-term perks.
If you are not a frequent Korean Air customer, we do not recommend this card for you. Moderate spenders and the casual consumer will have a hard time reaching the higher 2% rewards rate. As far as travel rewards earned from general spending, however, this card is unimpressive. As we'll cover below, there are other options that we think will give the general traveler better opportunity to maximize their overall travel rewards from credit card spending.
Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Benefits & Features
As we mentioned in our review, some of the main features of the Visa Signature version of the Korean Air SKYPASS are its Morning Calm Membership help, the VIP lounge tickets, and the bonus miles. In this section, we delve more into the card's properties and present analysis supporting some of our conclusions.
Rewards Rate and Value of the SKYPASS Visa Signature Card
Understanding the rewards structure of the SKYPASS credit card aids us in understanding the card’s shortcomings for the general consumer. The U.S. Bank's Visa Signature version of the Korean Air credit card earns users SKYPASS miles, which can be redeemed with Korean Airlines for flights to all of their destinations as well as with SkyTeam partner airlines. We researched the value of these miles by analyzing the ticket costs of various flights and weighing them against the cost of those same flights with SKYPASS miles. We found that, on average, SKYPASS miles are worth $0.01. Below is a sample of our data.
Korean Air Flight
|Depart||Return||Miles||USD||Cents / Mile|
Chicago to Seoul: ORD to ICN
Las Vegas to Seoul: LAS to ICN
New York to Busan: JFK to PUS
Houston to Beijing: IAH to PEK
San Francisco to Daegu: SFO to TAE
Los Angeles to Seoul: LAX to ICN
Seoul to Seattle: ICN to SEA
Kansai to Gimp: KIX to GMP
Average SKYPASS Mile Value
For each flight, we took the cost in dollars and divided it by the cost in SKYPASS miles, and repeated it across a number of sample itineraries to arrive at our figure of 1 cent per mile. For example, flying from Chicago to Seoul costs $1,129.50 to buy, or 70,000 SKYPASS miles to redeem.
$1,129.50 / 70,000 Miles = $0.016 / 1 Mile = 1.6 cents / mile
By knowing the average cost of a SKYPASS mile, we can begin to understand what kind of rewards values to expect by using the SKYPASS credit card. Spending $1 on Korean Air tickets gets us the most value. We receive for those transactions 2 miles for each $1. We know from our above analysis that those 2 miles are worth 2 cents when redeemed for Korean Air flights. Therefore, when spending in this way we receive 2 cents per $1, which translates into a rewards rate of 2%.
However, this is also dependent on how much you use the SKYPASS credit card for all other categories of spending. Consumers earn 1% back with the Korean Air Visa Signature card when spending in other categories, so someone who uses the credit card to charge both Korean Air tickets and general household expenditures will get a weighted average of the two rewards rate. Things are further complicated, when we scale this spending over a year and consider other properties such as annual fees and bonuses.
Bonus Miles & Morning Calm Membership
SKYPASS credit card users earn bonus miles in two instances. When you make your first purchase using this card you automatically receive 15,000 bonus miles, on average worth $150. Also, every year in which you pay an annual fee, you receive an additional 2,000 SKYPASS miles – the value of which is approximately $20. If redeemed properly, this bonus should on average effectively cut down your annual fee to $60.
Individuals interested in Morning Calm Club membership may know that in order to qualify, Korean Air flyers need to meet certain qualifications. One of those requirement is accumulating 50,000 miles on Korean Air flights. SKYPASS credit card holders can use the miles they earned through purchases and bonuses towards this requirement. However, the card only helps users get there a certain portion of the way – only 20,000 SKYPASS miles can come from non-flight sources. The second you use your SKYPASS credit card, your signing bonus will kick in and you receive 15,000 points – as mentioned in the review, that’s 30% of the way towards Morning Calm Club membership, for spending as little as $0.01! The rest of the miles requirement, unfortunately, will have to come through hard-earned travel on Korean Air.
The EMV smart chip, which comes on the SKYPASS credit card, serves a twofold purpose. First, it offers users added protection from being victims of credit card fraud over old magnetic strip cards. Secondly, consumers who plan on using credit cards abroad will find that non-EMV cards are not widely accepted. Smart chips on credit cards are a global standard which is used throughout Europe and Asia. By supporting this technology, the SKYPASS credit card is friendlier for those who find themselves frequently abroad.
Another interesting feature on the SKYPASS Visa Signature is that it comes with no preset spending limit. This means that there is no hard credit limit placed on your account – it does not mean your spending is unlimited. Instead, each month, the credit issuer will decide what your limit is based on your payment history, credit score, and a range of other factors. Generally, individuals with a reported income and good credit score are the ones likely to take advantage of this feature as it allows them to make large purchases. Be aware that having no preset spending limit makes improving your credit score using the SKYPASS Visa Signature somewhat more complicated. One of the ways in which your credit score is determined is by analyzing how much of your credit limit you use. However, this metric is ignored by credit reporting agencies such as TransUnion when a card has no preset spending limit. While this doesn't have an adverse impact on your credit score, it can be one less way in which you can help build it.
Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card Comparisons
How does the SKYPASS Visa Signature compare to other travel cards? One of the best ways to understand the value of an item is to see how it compares to others of its kind. To that end, we took the SKYPASS credit card and matched it up against other cards which offer travel rewards, including some of our top picks for the best travel rewards cards. Take a look as well at our visualization tool below, which compares and contrasts at a glance the Korean Air credit card and other alternatives we discuss. The tool allows consumers to input their monthly credit card expenditures along different categories to better tailor results to their spending patterns.
SKYPASS Visa Signature vs Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is another amazing travel rewards card. While it costs $15 more per year than the SKYPASS card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card makes up for the difference in cost with better bonuses, rewards rates and flexibility. In order to have somewhat competitive rates, SKYPASS cardholders must spend exclusively on Korean Air tickets, and must maintain fairly high spending. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, on the other hand, you receive rewards rates higher than the SKYPASS, when spending on all travel expenses and dining. This provides more rounded rewards, which don’t limit users to one niche case scenario in which they can extract value from the card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also comes with a much more valuable signing bonus, worth up to $750 when redeemed for travel through CUR. To earn it, cardholders need to spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of receiving their card.
While the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card holds no airline specific benefits, such as VIP lounge access, we find that a majority of consumers will find the other rewards make up for this fact. There is simply more opportunity for rewards on general household spending made with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card over the SKYPASS Visa Signature for the typical consumer.
SKYPASS Visa Signature vs Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Costing just $15 more per year than the SKYPASS Visa Signature, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the most rewarding travel credit cards around. It has a far simpler rewards structure than the SKYPASS card, rewarding 2 points per $1 on all purchases. The value of a point with the Venture varies from $0.005 to $0.01, depending on the way in which they are redeemed. This leads to rewards rates between 1% and 2%. While this range may not seem too different compared to the SKYPASS credit card, we think it is far easier for the everyday consumer to reach the higher end of the rewards rate spectrum with the Venture – this gives the Venture considerably more value.
When it comes to bonuses, the Venture is also more generous. If you spend $3,000 in 3 months (which is a sum anyone considering the SKYPASS credit card should already be comfortable with spending) you receive 50,000 points, which have a value of up to $500 – over twice the dollar value of SKYPASS’ signup bonus.
SKYPASS Visa Signature vs SKYPASS Visa Classic Card
The SKYPASS Visa Classic is yet another Korean Air affiliated credit card from US Bank – choosing between the two cards may be tricky. Both cards have the ability to help a consumer gather SKYPASS miles for Morning Calm membership. For both cards, this is the only benefit worth mentioning, and even then only so if someone values this membership highly. Neither card offers fantastic rewards rates, but the ones on the Visa Classic Card are slightly worse, assuming any amount of spending is going towards Korean Air tickets. If all spending is concentrated to other categories, the SKYPASS Classic comes out ahead, due to a lower annual fee.
The SKYPASS Signature provides higher short-term rewards as well, through the 15,000 mile signing bonus, which is 3x the amount you can receive with the SKYPASS Classic. With a longer time horizon, the SKYPASS Signature also comes out ahead, due to the renewal bonus being twice the value of the SKYPASS Classic’s.
SKYPASS Visa Signature vs Citi® Double Cash Card
The Citi® Double Cash Card gives individuals 1% cash back on every dollar spent using the card, regardless of where you do your shopping. As those purchases are paid, users get another 1% back on top of that. Consumers who value rewards rate above all else, should always prefer the Citi® Double Cash Card to the SKYPASS Visa Signature card. To use an extreme example, on average, the only way you can match the Citi® Double Cash Card on rewards earned on credit card spending is by spending $100,000 per month on Korean Air tickets – we think it’s safe to say very few people fall in that category. The reason behind this disparity in rewards rates arises from the annual fees. While the Citi® Double Cash Card has none, the SKYPASS Visa Signature costs $80 per year ($60 if you subtract the value you get out of the 2,000 mile renewal bonus). Of course, this simplified view ignores the utility and value that Korean Air passengers may place on the VIP lounge access, but consumers should also consider the value of other non-Korean Air spending that they're missing out on that they would have otherwise been able to earn with the Citi® Double Cash Card.
Bottom Line: Is the SKYPASS Credit Card Worth It?
With so many better options available, we think only a select group of consumers will find the features of the SKYPASS Visa Signature to be worth its price tag of $80 per year. Sub-par rewards rates and limited general use potential make this a hard sell to anyone who is not a loyal Korean Air customer, or frequent business traveler to Korean cities who flies with them multiple times per month. For a better travel rewards card, we recommend either the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Resources for SKYPASS Visa Signature Cardholders
How do I apply for the card?
To apply for the card online visit the US Bank website here https://www.usbank.com/credit-cards/skypass-visa-signature-credit-card.html. To apply by phone call 1 866 759 7277 ext. 55442.
Do I need to have a frequent flyer account prior to signing up for the card?
You can link an existing SKYPASS account if you have one by calling the Bank. If you do not have a frequent flyer account number, one will be assigned to you upon approval of the card application.