Confirmed: Korean Air Won’t Become a US Membership Rewards Transfer Partner

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Chase will be losing Korean Air SkyPass as a points transfer partner after August 24. That’s unfortunate because Korean Air’s loyalty program is excellent, with many sweet spots such as first class awards on Korean, China Eastern, and Saudia; Europe business class roundtrips for 80,000 miles; and cheap Hawaii awards to name just a few.

Korean Air First Class

There’s been discussion on reddit and blogs about whether Korean Air could become an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner. The thinking seems to be,

  • It could explain why Chase was losing Korean Air as a partner
  • There are apparently online ads about an American Express and Korean partnership (not specific to Membership Rewards)
  • There was an unconfirmed screen shot floating around purporting to show Korean Air as a transfer partner on the American Express website, though I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone claim they could replicate

I reached out to American Express to see whether there was any truth to this hope. While noting that Korean Air is a Membership Rewards transfer partner for cardmembers in South Korea, an American Express spokesperson tells me unequivocably, “there are no plans or agreements for Korean Air to become a transfer partner for U.S. [Membership Rewards]-enrolled Card Members.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Since Barclays issues their US credit card, it would make the most sense that they become a transfer partner of Barclays.

  2. This statement simply means that nothing can be publicly announced. It does not mean that Korean Air will not become a transfer partner to the same degree that the speculation cited indicated that they would become a transfer partner.

    Announcements of new business relationships are very well orchestrated and carefully timed. The statement from American Express’s spokesperson is undoubtedly true for the immediate future, but does not preclude such a relationship being developed/announced at some (possibly distant) point in the future.

  3. The rumor was that something was imminent, that there was a deal in place, that it was going to happen — that it was even briefly on the website.

    The statement is about as solid a denial as I usually see. Frequently we get non-denial denials.

    No one is saying “it could never happen.”

  4. @Gary

    Do you expect Korean Airlines to be a US Bank transfer partner?

    Lucky wrote an article about who he thinks could/could not be added to Ultimate Rewards. I was hoping you could enlighten us on who you think we could see.

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