Korean Air Boeing 747 taking off

Korean Air SkyPass OUT as a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner — what next?

The largest story of the past few days in the travel community is not the coming merger of SPG and Marriott, which is what you’d expect, but rather the removal of Korean Air SkyPass as a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. In the event that anyone has not heard — multiple people have reported that as of August 25, 2018 Korean Air SkyPass will no longer be a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Which is absolutely huge news. Devastating news. From what I have read, there was a lot of disagreement between the two companies, and for whatever reason the partnership was no longer mutually beneficial. So while unfortunate, and relatively under the radar, I guess it may have been a long time coming.

I say on almost every other post how much of a fan I am of Chase Ultimate Rewards. Not only are they super easy to earn, but they are incredibly valuable as well. And one of the reasons why I valued the points so highly was because of the ability to transfer the points to any one of their 13* travel partners.

Which obviously makes this news that much more devastating.

Why this is such big news

From a low-level view this honestly may not seem like the biggest deal. Chase still has 12 other travel partners that you can transfer too, and there is definitely a lot of value still to be had. But when you get to a bit higher level, and look across the landscape, this plants Chase directly on the hot seat.

  • Chase has the lowest number of transfer partners of any of the “big 3” transferable points currencies (AMEX and Citi ThankYou points)
  • When you look at the partners of all 3, there are (currently) only 4 “unique” Chase partners, or 4 partners that the other currencies don’t offer transfers to — one of those being Korean Air SkyPass
  • Korean Air offers some of the most valuable redemption opportunities of all Chase partners

So while I have yet to utilize Korean Air as a transfer partner, I have definitely been eyeing it for sometime.

  • I wrote about the opportunity to fly first class to Hawaii for only 45,000 Korean Air miles, and
  • Flying to Asia is one of the best deals you can find in first class.

Which leads to the next question — which is what this means for Chase Ultimate Rewards moving forward?

What does this mean going forward?

I think the biggest question mark right now is what this means for the value of Ultimate Rewards post August 25th. For a long time, as long as I can remember, Chase has been the most valuable points currency (in my eyes at least), and I don’t really know why people are “freaking out” so quickly. Yes it is a blow, and yes this may create some negative publicity for Chase, but I have to assume Chase will make up for it.

There are a ton of reasons to still love Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • Out of the unique transfer partners, or partners you can’t transfer anywhere else, I still love United, Southwest and Hyatt, which can offer some incredible value!
  • On top of that, if Chase Ultimate Rewards are the only points currency you hold, there is value on top of the programs mentioned above — in Flying Blue, British Airways Avios and Singapore KrisFlyer
  • One of the reasons I still value Chase Ultimate Rewards so highly is the ability to earn them — with some very generous sign-up bonuses and a ton of great spending bonuses, across many different categories, I consider Chase Ultimate Rewards to be the most attainable 
  • The perks that Chase Ultimate Rewards cards offer on top of the points — including incredible cell phone protection and lounge access all over the world

So while I don’t have nearly enough experience to judge the affects that this may have on Chase long term, I can say that I am not overreacting. Yes, I really did plan on using SkyPass miles for some luxurious travel in the future, but no, I don’t think this totally ruins the entire program for me.

I have to believe Chase will “turn around”

Once again, I am far too new to this to expect, or accurately predict the future for Chase based off this unfolding. But I do believe it when I hear other people speculate towards the fact that Chase will likely add more transfer partners in the future.

Getting in with Chase Ultimate Rewards from the ground up, they have always tended to gravitate towards the more progressive, younger crowd. With AMEX remaining the “constant veteran” of the group, Chase has been more of the “up and comer.”

So I have to believe that Chase will make a move soon that will get them back on the right track. And instead of speculating which program I think, or hope, they will join forces with, I will just say that I hope it happens soon!

Should you transfer points proactively?

So the final question that I have tossed around over the last day is whether I should proactively transfer points to Korean Air SkyPass without any travel planned. I think the fact that this was announced with only a weeks notice speaks volumes to the problems that must have been going on between the two companies.

I have to imagine there are a few cases out there where people either signed up for, or are in the process of earning sign-up bonuses for a Chase card, with the sole intention of taking advantage of a Korean Air deal. Which really puts you in a bad spot — because at this point you are probably just SoL, or you need to go buy something big!

In my case, though, I am sitting on a decent stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Not anywhere close to an amount that would make me comfortable in buying multiple round-trip first class tickets, but enough. So my thoughts are around the plausibility of a trip actually happening, and then if that trip happens, what are the chances that the price doesn’t change by then.

And to that I have found two tidbits that I think are worth sharing:

  • Korean Air has long been known to provide updates about any awards changes well in advance. So if you do decide to transfer proactively, ensure you have an up to date email on your account and your notification emails are switched on.
  • Korean Air SkyPass miles last for 10 years, so it’s not like you have to use them in the next year or anything.

But to answer the original question — no. As much as I think this could potentially pay off for me, I just can’t risk putting all these points in and then not using them. Or needing more for the specific redemption that I end up taking.

Which isn’t to say I don’t think other people should consider it. The redemption values are outrageous, and you might as well take advantage of it while you still can.

Final Thoughts

So while this really stings, and I may have to post one or two passive aggressive tweets about it, I am not overly concerned about the future of Chase. If anything I think this offers some excitement about the potential of a new travel partner with Chase — and some different travel opportunities. I will still continue to spend heavily on my Chase cards, and I will probably still write a little bit too much about how much I love them.

Would love to hear other opinions and whether or not anyone plans to transfer some points proactively to SkyPass.


Tucker is an avid points and miles enthusiast. Being fully involved in the world of credit cards and frequent flying for only a few years now, he brings a very fresh and unique perspective to the world of travel.

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