Last week The Points Guy broke the news that Chase and Korean Air would be cutting their partnership. The partnership is set to end on August 25. This is a big blow to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program as Korean Air has been one of the most valuable transfer partners. Currently Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be earned through a variety of credit cards and their points can be transferred to 9 different airlines and 3 different hotel chains. Chase gave just 10 days notice of the change. It wasn’t the most customer friendly thing to do, as I would have preferred 30 days notice, but at least they gave some notice. The last day to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Korean Air will be on August 24. 

Should you speculatively transfer points for a future redemption?

Probably, but only if you have a trip in mind. The best part about having Ultimate Rewards points is their flexibility. When you transfer your points to a partner, you lose the ability to fly on any other airline they partner with or redeem for an aspiration hotel.

Reasons to transfer your miles to Korean Air include:

  • SKYPASS miles are good for 10 years
  • Great premium cabin award availability
  • Hold rewards for up to 6 months
  • Very reasonable cancellation/redeposit fees.

Check out Sam’s review of the new 747-8 first class product. 

Whats the downside to transferring points to Korean Air?

Keeping a balance in any frequent flyer program for a long time is a bad idea. Points can get devalued over night, like we have seen Qatar Airways, or your points could expire. I always suggest keeping your points in a flexible currency like American Express Membership Rewards Points, Marriott Rewards Points or Chase Ultimate Rewards as these programs points do not have the same volatility as airline miles do.

The other downside is that Korean Air only allows you to book flights for family members and spouses, so that trip with your boyfriend/girlfriend would have to be booked via separate accounts with their own respective miles. Korean Air does not allow you to transfer miles freely between accounts and you will be required to submit documentation proving your relationship to your immediate family, which could take some time for them to verify. Korean Air defines immediate family as “spouses, children, parents, siblings, parents-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandparents and grandchildren”

The Korean Air Reward Chart Sweet Spots

One Way Flights from the USA to Korean, Japan, China and North Asia

Cabin Off-Peak Peak
First 80,000 miles 120,000 miles
Business 62,500 miles 92,500 miles
Economy 35,000 miles 52,500 miles

One Way flights from the USA to South East Asia and Guam

Cabin Off-Peak Peak
First 95,000 miles 142,500 miles
Business 75,000 miles 112,500 miles
Economy 42,500 miles 62,500 miles

Round Trip flights from USA on Korean Air partners

Cabin Delta Air Lines (domestic flights & Hawaii flights) Hawaiian Airlines Alaska Air (domestic flights) Alaska Air ( Hawaii flights)
Economy 25,000 miles 30,000 miles 20,000 miles 30,000 miles
Business/First 45,000 miles 60,000 miles 40,000 miles 60,000 miles

Spencer over at One Mile at A Time has identified some other great routing possibilities.

How else can I earn Korean Air SKYPASS miles?

Korean Air doesn’t have many transfer partners. The easiest way to earn points has been through Chase as Ultimate Reward points transferred to SKYPASS miles at a 1:1 ratio. Korean Air also partners with Marriott/SPG. Marriott points transfer at a 3:1 ratio but under the new merger you can still transfer 60,000 Marriott Rewards points to earn 25,000 SKYPASS miles leaving you with a 2.4:1 ratio. This is because for every 60,000 transferred Marriott contributes an additional 15,000 points similar to how the system worked for with Starwood before the merger.

Will Chase be adding a new partner?

Nothing official has been announced but I would imagine that they will add additional partners and hopefully soon. With the loss of Korean Air, Chase Ultimate Reward Points become one of the least valuable flexible currencies behind Marriott/SPG, Citi, and American Express. I have no idea who that new partner will be or when it will happen, your guess is as good as mine. While I would love to see them add Alaska or Aeroplan, I could actually see them adding an international partner like Etihad or Emirates.

Do you plan on transferring miles before Friday’s deadline?