I am considering an airline credit card. I currently live in the U.S. and frequently fly domestic, say once a month. I also annually fly to South Korea.

  1. If I use the Korean Air's mileage program and its credit card, what are pros and cons?

  2. Can I use the Korean Air's mileage for free Delta domestic flights? Both are SkyTeam.

2 Answers 2


As a general rule, you should join the mileage program for the airline that you want to fly when you redeem your miles. While it is possible to redeem miles on partner airlines, there are several disadvantages:

  1. Availability is typically much more limited when trying redeem miles on partner flights. Also, it's often impossible to check availability on partner airlines using the online site and you will have to have an agent assist you.
  2. Mileage "prices" are not always symmetrical. It is sometimes more expensive to reserve a reward flight on a partner airline than it would be to use miles on the same airline. For example, reserving a Delta flight using Korean miles might be more expensive than booking the same flight using Delta miles.
  3. Frequent flyer programs are usually targeted to the airlines home-market. Mileage credit card offers and other partner promotions are typically targeted to those customers. For example, credit cards that are only issued in Korea, hotel partners only in Korea, etc.
  4. Finally, it may be more complicated to book reward tickets outside of the home-market (no local phone number, website that takes foreign credit cards etc.)

That being said, in some cases when it is possible to earn miles faster on the "other" airline, you could consider using their program. For example, if you have an elite status, use a mileage credit card or the airline is offering other promotions. In this case, you should consider the trade-off of earning miles faster versus the problems mentioned above.

EDIT Just noticed, for example, the Delta offers a special "Low" economy class reward for only 12,500 miles whereas the cheapest reward using Korea miles for a USA domestic flight is 25,000.

  • 1
    With regards to the edit: The issue is that you're seeing that Delta says they have 12,500 low tickets, but they only allow you to purchase roundtrip reward tickets. Therefore, the fares are the same, 25,000 for a round trip domestic US ticket. This is because the different legs of a ticket may be priced differently and are either 12,500, 20,000, or 30,000 miles.
    – Pridkett
    Apr 18, 2012 at 1:21
  • 2
    For what it's worth, while #2 is true, it's actually sometimes asymmetrical the other way. Sometimes it's actually cheaper to book a flight via a partner airline than from the actual operating airline, due to differences in their award structures. For example, KAL considers Hawaii to be part of "North America" for the purposes of their award program, so you can book a reward round-trip on Delta from the continental U.S. to Hawaii for the same number of points as if you were flying from Chicago to New York, whereas it would cost far more points booking through Delta.
    – reirab
    Apr 12, 2016 at 14:00
  • As far as #3, KAL has U.S.-targeted credit cards, though they are, as one would expect, target to people who at least somewhat frequently travel to Korea (it includes a few annual lounge passes for their Incheon lounges, for example.)
    – reirab
    Apr 12, 2016 at 14:02

From the SkyTeam site:

Redeem miles

As a member of a SkyTeam Member airline’s frequent flyer program you can easily redeem your Miles for an award ticket on any SkyTeam-operated flight worldwide.

The miles required will be set by Korean Airlines, along with any fees/taxes, but I think you'll only be able to book onto Delta flights with spare reward space. You should be able to get more details from the Korean Airlines SkyPass site. They provide general guidance but it looks like you'll need to actually speak to them to get the full details and availability.

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