It seems like a lot has happened in the credit card universe in 2018, both good and bad, so I’ll forgive you if you forgot that US Bank pulled a “hold my beer” on the Barclay Arrival Premier and farted out the worst credit card this side of First PREMIER Bank. To be more specific, earlier this year US Bank unveiled a revamp of the Korean Air Skypass credit card range (some of which I wrote about already), which included the launch of what I’m to understand is a super-premium card called the Skypass Select Visa Signature. Here’s what it looks like.
The $450 fee is certainly in line with other super-premium cards, although the benefits don’t even come close. (The card isn’t even a Visa Infinite, which would give it a leg up on the $95 Skypass Visa Signature in the benefits department… which is odd given that US Bank does have a Visa Infinite option in the Altitude Reserve, and it even has a lower annual fee than this turd.) Plenty of blogs have written about what a turd this card is, so I’m not going to go into its turdy benefits or lack thereof. And while I do plan to float the idea of why it could possibly make sense to get this card in an extremely narrow set of circumstances, it’s not like I found some hidden secret benefit that no one else has written about or anything. The card fully deserves Doctor of Credit naming it “Worst Premium Credit Card” in their annual Creddie Awards.
So what reason could I possibly have to put it on my radar for 2019? Besides, of course, the sweet sweet clicks I’ll get from being the only blogger to post an unboxing video. Here I go, trying to defend the indefensible…
In 2017, I took advantage of a targeted offer on the normal Skypass Visa Signature card for 45,000 Skypass miles after $3000 in spend, even though I didn’t have much of a use for them. I figured that if I ever got around to needing Korean Air miles, I’d transfer the rest from Chase, meaning that my existing Skypass balance would reduce the impact that this hypothetical Korean Air redemption would have on my Ultimate Rewards balance. Thus, in a roundabout way, I rationalized the bonus as an Ultimate Rewards play rather than what it was: a bunch of miles in a semi-obscure program I’d probably never use.
Except that rationalization fell apart when Chase cut ties with Korean Air, meaning that the only remaining transfer partner was SPG/Marriott. Luckily the miles have a HUGE expiration timeline (10 years), so I could wait around for additional transfer partners to emerge (or for US Bank to get off their ass and add transfer partners for the Altitude Reserve card). However, no matter what happens, the ~50,000 miles I currently have aren’t going to do me much good. On the other hand, 80,000 miles seems to be somewhat of a magic number for Korean Air, since that’s the amount required either for a first class ticket to Korea or a round-trip transatlantic Sky Team award in business class.
Where, then, could I easily get 30,000 Korean Air miles without blowing a huge hole in my Marriott account?
Let’s game out the value proposition here. The card has a $450 annual fee and includes a $200 travel credit. The travel credit applies to all travel and appears as a statement credit, so I’m gonna go ahead and value that the same as cash. FUIUD. Since I don’t regularly pay for tickets on Korean Air, stuff like a $100 discount on a Korean Air ticket or a $25 in-flight duty free credit can’t realistically be used to mitigate the annual fee. So, the cost to get this card is $250 plus the opportunity cost of spending $3000 to hit the minimum spend. Assuming I’d average two points per dollar in a more valuable currency, and that those points would be worth two cents each, that’s $120, bringing us to a grand total of $370.
Would I pay $370 for 33,000 Korean Air miles if you offered it to me? It’s around 1.1 cents per mile, which is a pretty good deal, but not a world beater or anything. However, given that I’m stuck at 50,000 miles now and that the extra 30k means the difference between a great redemption and no redemption, I might. As long as we’re talking hypothetically, I might also try canceling my current card and reapplying after a few months to see if US Bank lets me earn the bonus again (which happens to be 30,000 miles, just like the more expensive card for some reason). If that failed, though, it would be turd city for me.
I figured I’m not the only one in the world who was stuck with a non-ideal Skypass balance, especially after Chase ceased to be a transfer partner, so I at least figured it would be worth it to remind people of what is essentially a cheap way to buy Skypass miles. Don’t worry, though, I still think that the Skypass Select Visa is terrible.
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