Is the Korean Air 45K Credit Card Offer Worth It?

Korean Air has a co-branded credit card issued by US Bank called the SKYPASS Visa Signature Card. There are several different versions of this credit card but the SKYPASS Visa Signature Card is the most sought after because it comes with the best sign-up bonus.

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The sign-up bonus

The standard public offer for this card is 15,000 Korean Air miles but targeted offers go out with sign-up bonuses of 45,000 and even 50,000. The spend requirements vary but some offer a tiered structure where you earn 15,000 miles for every $1,000 you spend up to $3,000. Both the 45,000 and 50,000 offer are great offers and should be heavily considered.

Additional perks

The card also comes with a few other perks like:

  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 you spend in eligible net purchases (purchases minus credits and returns)
  • 2,000 Bonus Miles at renewal
  • Double Miles on Korean Air ticket purchases
  • 2 KAL Lounge coupons each year
  • No foreign transaction fee (based on your creditworthiness)
  • $80 annual fee

The lounge passes are nice but they are only valid “with Korean Air tickets on Korean Air operated flights and cannot be used with tickets issued by other airlines” and are only available for “Korean Air Airport Lounges in Korean Air gateway cities within North America and Seoul (Incheon), Korea.” Everything else on the card is pretty standard so the perks don’t really make this card stand out.

The real value

The real value of this card is with the sign-up bonus for two reasons.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Korean Air is also a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, making it very easy to earn points to hep supplement your Korean Air account. There’s rumors about Korean Air being added to American Express Membership Rewards, too, but for now it’s great just to see them partnering with Chase.

Great sweet spots 

The second reason is that Korean Air has some amazing sweet spots in their award chart so a 45,000 miles bonus can put you in position to take advantage of some great redemptions.

If you can book during off-peak dates you would be looking at the following first class redemption rates from North America:

  • Japan: 80,000
  • Korea: 80,000
  • China/Northeast Asia: 80,000
  • Southeast Asia: 95,000

Flying off-peak on Korean Air’s own metal to Asia is a great way to get to various places in Asia. The redemption rates aren’t the absolute cheapest that you can find out there but they are still very competitive and among the best.

Here are just a couple of examples of roundtrips:

North America to Korea

  • 70,000 miles in economy
  • 125,000 miles in business class

North America to Japan

  • 70,000 miles in economy
  • 125,000 miles in business class

You can also take advantage of some great rates by using Korean Air SKYPASS miles to book awards on SkyTeam Alliance partners to some hot-spot destinations like Hawaii.

North America to Hawaii

  • 25,000 miles in economy
  • 45,000 miles in business class

Korean Air offers possibly the best way to get to Hawaii with miles and points. With SKYPASS miles, you can depart from anywhere in the United States and always break up your flight with a stopover. With the 45,000 sign-up bonus alone, you’d be able to book a round trip business class ticket to Hawaii and if you’re okay with economy, you almost have enough for two roundtrips.

North America to South America 

  • 50,000 miles in economy
  • 110,000 miles in business class

110,000 miles for a business class round trip is not a bad deal at all if you’re heading to lower South American countries like Chile. (If you’re trying to get to upper South America, there are more worthwhile choices.) One of the advantages of using Korean Air miles to get down to South America is that you can avoid high fees by flying Delta. I’ve seen business class roundtrips with Delta with total fees under $100.

North America to Europe

  • 50,000 miles in economy
  • 80,000 miles in business class

80,000 miles for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe is among the best but it also comes with some pretty high fees on partners (even Delta).

Final word

As these sweet spots show, 45,000 Korean miles can put you in great position to take advantage of some of the best redemptions out there. And now that Korean Air has a more robust online search and booking function, it’s a lot easier to take advantage of these redemptions. Because of the redemption possibilities, I think the 45,000+ offer for the Korean Air card is one of the best co-branded targeted offers available and highly worth considering.