SKYPASS Visa Signature Review: A Korean Air Credit Card for Serious Flyers

SKYPASS Visa Signature Review: A Korean Air Credit Card for Serious Flyers

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

The Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card is a useful card for those that fly Korean Air at least once per year, but most travelers would be better served by a general travel rewards card.

Citi is an advertising partner

The Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card is Korean Air's low-annual-fee co-branded credit card. As such, it provides some Korean Air-specific perks that you won't find on any other card — such as a $50 discount on Korean Air flights and two KAL Lounge passes each year.

The card offers a decent set of bonus categories and a modest sign-up bonus — as such, travelers that aren't loyal to Korean Air will find that other travel rewards cards could beat Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card on both the earning on spending and the sign-up bonus.

However, the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card offers two features not available on other travel cards: Earning SKYPASS miles and credits toward Morning Calm elite status with SKYPASS, Korean Air’s reward program.

Whether you need to top off your SKYPASS account or want to take advantage of Korean Air's sweet spots, there aren't many sources of SKYPASS miles. Members can transfer hotel points from Marriott Bonvoy or World of Hyatt, but both transfer rates are rather poor. That makes the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card a key tool for earning SKYPASS miles.

Pros

  • Annual $50 Korean Air coupon
  • 2 KAL Lounge passes each year
  • Ability to earn toward Morning Calm Club elite status
  • Modest $80 annual fee

Cons

  • Redemption options limited to Korean Air and its 18 SkyTeam partners
  • Limitations on the $50 discount and the KAL Lounge passes
  • Earning categories fall short of general travel rewards cards
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Sign-up bonus

The Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card is currently offering a modest sign-up bonus:

30,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days holding the card. That's effectively 10X bonus miles on your first $3,000 of purchases.

That's not a bad bonus. Based on the current value of SKYPASS miles, you can expect to get over $450 in value toward Korean Air award flights. However, other travel credit cards offer a higher sign-up bonus for the same spending amount and earn points or miles that are often more flexible and more valuable.

What it's worth: $456 in Korean Air award flights

Who's eligible to earn this bonus? If you've closed a Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card in the past 12 months, your account will be reopened and you won't earn the sign-up bonus.

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Earning miles

The Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card provides a decent return on spending.

You'll earn 2 miles per $1 spent on Korean Air ticket purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent at gas stations and hotels and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible net purchases.

That's better than some other airline co-branded cards, some of which only offer bonus miles for making airfare purchases with the airline. Comparatively, cardholders also earn 2X miles at gas stations and hotels using the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card.

However, some general travel cards with a similar annual fee to the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card earn at the same rate (or higher) for many of the same purchases. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns bonus points on all travel — not just hotels and Korean Air flights.

Whenever you're comparing cards, it's important to consider the value of the miles that you're earning and the ease of redeeming them. At the moment, Korean Air miles are worth more than the typical airline mile (around 1.5 cents per mile, by our estimates). When we factor in our estimated value, as well as what the average consumer is likely to spend in card's spending categories, the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card ranks higher on rewards earned per $1 spent than many other airline cards.

money icon

If you're strictly interested in earning miles for travel, you should consider a flexible points card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Citi Premier® Card — their points are more valuable than airline miles, since they can be transferred to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs.

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comparing credit card point values

What are Korean miles worth?

Based on our analysis, SKYPASS miles are currently worth around 1.5 cents per point toward Korean Air economy award flights. You may be able to get even higher value than that through partner and premium class award flights.

Value: Average

Ease of redeeming: Fairly easy online booking for Korean Air awards. However, you will probably need to call Korean Air to redeem SKYPASS miles for partner awards.

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Redeeming miles

Korean Air's SKYPASS program uses a fixed region-based award chart, which means the price of an award depends on which region you depart from and which one you travel to. The only wrinkle is that awards are assigned to either peak or off-peak depending on published dates.

Round-trip award flights originating from one of Korean Air's 11 North American gateways cost:

Destination
Economy Class
Prestige Class
First Class
Korea, Japan, China, Northeast Asia70,000 to 105,000125,000 to 185,000160,000 to 240,000
Southeast Asia, Guam85,000 to 125,000150,000 to 225,000190,000 to 285,000
Southwest Asia95,000 to 140,000170,000 to 255,000210,000 to 315,000
Oceania110,000 to 165,000195,000 to 290,000240,000 to 360,000
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One-way flights are available for half the number of miles as the round-trip award prices. That means you could fly from Atlanta (ATL) to Seoul (ICN) for just 35,000 miles in economy or 62,500 miles in business (referred to as Prestige class):

Korean Air

For reference, Delta SkyMiles charges almost double (120,000 SkyMiles one-way) for the same Korean Air business class flight:

Trip Summary

Each leg prices independently — so if you book the outbound during off-peak and the return during peak dates, you'll get charged half at each rate:

Mileage Redemption

You can also use SKYPASS miles to book awards on any of Korean Air's 18 SkyTeam partners — and that's where you can really find value. For example, awards from North America to Europe cost just 80,000 SKYPASS miles roundtrip in business class.

Or, fly Delta from anywhere in North America to anywhere else in North America for 25,000 miles round-trip in economy class or 45,000 miles round-trip in business class. This includes flights to Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, and other destinations that are typically part of a different award chart region.

SkyTeam

With that said, if you're considering the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card, you're probably a fan of flying on Korean Air. So, let's compare cash and award prices to show you how much value you could get from SKYPASS miles on Korean Air economy flights.

For this analysis, we compared the round-trip economy pricing found on Korean Air's website with the award pricing for the same date. To get a true apples-to-apples comparison, we subtracted the taxes and fees on the awards from the cash price and then divided by the mileage price to calculate the cents-per-mile value:

Korean Air Flight
Miles
Cash Price
Taxes/Fees
Cents / Mile*
Chicago to Seoul: ORD to ICN
Depart: 1/8/2022
Return: 1/16/2022
70,000$2,140$1982.78
Los Angeles to Seoul: LAX to ICN
Depart: 11/6/2021
Return: 11/14/2021
70,000$1,005$1981.15
New York to Bangkok: JFK to BKK
Depart: 12/1/2021
Return: 12/12/2021
85,000$1,045$3070.87
Washington DC to Hong Kong: IAD to HKG
Depart: 11/10/2021
Return: 11/21/2021
70,000$1,475$1951.83
San Francisco to Hanoi: SFO to HAN
Depart: 1/6/2022
Return: 1/24/2022
85,000$882$2890.70
Dallas/Fort Worth to Seoul: DFW to ICN
Depart: 11/6/2021
Return: 11/15/2021
70,000$2,040$1982.63
Seoul to Seattle: ICN to SEA
Depart: 12/1/2021
Return: 12/13/2021
87,500$1,366$1981.33
Seoul to Tokyo: ICN to HND
Depart: 1/8/2022
Return: 1/15/2022
37,500$401$590.9
Average SKYPASS Mile Value1.52

*Cents/mile = (Airfare - taxes and fees) ÷ points

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money icon

Korean Air's cash prices are higher than usual at the moment. We previously valued SKYPASS miles at only 1 cent per mile — so keep that in mind when considering the value you can get from the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card.

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By knowing the average value of a SKYPASS mile, we can factor in the value of the rewards earned by using the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card. Spending on Korean Air tickets, gas stations and hotels earns 2 miles per $1 spent. At an average of 1.52 cents per mile, you will earn around 3 cents worth of miles per $1 spent in these categories. That translates into a rewards rate of 3% for these purchases.

Other Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card benefits

Earning miles is a key aspect of the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card. In addition, the card also offers some benefits that could seal the deal for some — but could be frustrating for other cardholders.

Cardholders receive a $50 discount coupon upon signing up for the card and again on each card anniversary. Taken on its face, this should cut the card's annual fee by more than half. However, there are numerous limitations that may keep this coupon from being worth its face value:

  • This coupon is only valid on Korean Air flights from Korean's North American airports. That includes around a dozen airports, from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York Kennedy (JFK). If you don't live near one of these airports, you'd need to book a separate flight to one of these gateway airports to be able to use this coupon.
  • Additionally, your itinerary must solely be on Korean Air-operated flights and the route must be the same in both directions — you can't book a stopover or multi-leg journey.
  • Finally, you'll need to purchase a Korean air ticket within 90 days from the date that the coupon is issued. That's a pretty tight timeframe, especially if travel is uncertain.

Cardholders also receive two KAL Lounge coupons each cardholder year around eight to 10 weeks after you pay your annual fee. This perk is also limited to Korean Air flights.

In addition to needing to fly on a Korean Air-operated flight, these vouchers are only valid at KAL Lounges either in North American gateway cities or at Incheon airport (ICN) in Seoul. That limits the places you can use the vouchers to just four airports:

  • Incheon Seoul (ICN)
  • New York (JFK)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Honolulu (HNL)

Two of these KAL Lounges (New York and Los Angeles) are part of the Priority Pass lounge network. As such, you can get access to these lounges through a credit card that offers Priority Pass membership — even when you aren't flying Korean Air. This potentially lessens the value of the two restricted coupons available through the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card.

Korean Air’s elite status tiers are called Morning Calm Club, Morning Calm Premium Club and Million Miler Club. The first level of elite status, Morning Calm Club, requires 50,000 qualifying miles or 40 qualifying segments. Of that requirement, 30,000 qualifying miles need to be earned through Korean Air flights, which leaves 20,000 qualifying miles that can be earned through SKYPASS partners — including credit cards.

By earning the sign-up bonus on the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card, you'll max out that partner-earning potential and be just 30,000 qualifying miles away from earning Morning Calm Club elite status. Plus, the $50 Korean Air discount and the 2 KAL Lounge passes that come with the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card will make it a lot more pleasant to earn the remaining miles.

The Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, so you don't have to worry about extra fees when you travel — whether that's to Korea or beyond.

How does the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card compare to other cards?

Whenever you consider getting a credit card, it's important to compare that card to other similar cards to make sure you're getting the right match. So, let's compare the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card with similar cards.

Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of our favorite travel credit cards. So, let's start by comparing these two cards — which both have a $95 annual fee.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you'll earn 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. These are much broader earning categories than the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card — which only earns bonus miles on Korean Air flights, hotels and gas.

Furthermore, the Ultimate Rewards points earned through the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be transferred to 13 airline and hotel partners. Or, you can redeem points at a rate of 1.25 cents per point for travel or select categories through Pay Yourself Back. That provides a base value of 1.25 cents per point, but you may be able to get a much higher value by booking travel through Ultimate Rewards transfer partners.

Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card vs. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • On Capital One's Secure Website

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is another card that gives cardholders a variety of options for redeeming miles. You can redeem Capital One Miles for 1 cent per mile to purchase travel or use the Purchase Eraser tool, and you can also transfer Capital One Miles to 15+ airline and hotel transfer partners.

Perhaps the best part of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is its simplicity. Cardholders 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. At the base redemption rate of 1 cent per mile, you'll get at least 2 cents in value per $1 spent. You can utilize Capital One's transfer partners when you can get even more value through that redemption route.

Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card vs. Citi Premier® Card

  • On Citibank's Secure Website

The Citi Premier® Card is another $95 annual fee mid-tier travel card. But despite charging the same annual fee, it beats the earning rate on the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card: Earn 3X points per $1 spent on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels and 1X per $1 spent on all other purchases . Plus, you can get a $100 hotel savings benefit each year when booking a hotel stay of $500 or more through thankyou.com.

You can get more value out of ThankYou Points by transferring them to one of 16 airline transfer partners — including several Korean Air partners.

Is the Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card worth it?

The Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card is a niche card. Travelers that fly Korean Air at least once a year may benefit from the $50 Korean Air coupon and lounge passes. In addition, frequent Korean Air flyers could use the credit card to earn toward Morning Calm Club elite status.

Hardcore miles collectors could appreciate the ability to earn Korean Air miles for incredible sweet spots, like 80,000-mile round-trip partner awards between the U.S. and Europe. However, most travelers would be better served by a general travel credit card — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Citi Premier® Card.

The information related to Korean Air SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.

JT Genter

JT is a freelance writer who has written about credit cards and points & miles since 2015. He published over 2,000 articles on The Points Guy and can now be found writing for ValuePenguin, NerdWallet, Forbes Advisor, and AwardWallet. Since June 2017, JT and his wife have traveled full-time as digital nomads - using points, miles, and credit card benefits to drastically reduce the cost of living on the road.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).