|by Jason Steele|
I have never been to Korea. I don’t plan on visiting Korea anytime soon. It is nothing against the Koreans and their fine country, it just isn’t high on my list of places I need to visit with my limited vacation time.
That said, I am interested in the American Express card offered through the Korean airline Asiana (not to be confused with their rival, Korean Airlines).
Why Would This Card Interest Me?
Unlike many reward cards affiliated with foreign airlines, this card is available to us here in the States. The points they offer in their Asiana Club can be redeemed for tickets on any Star Alliance airline, including American carriers such as US Airways, Continental Airlines and the infamous United. More importantly, the good folks at Asiana haven’t yet received the memo that reward programs should have been devalued.
For each dollar you spend, you get two miles in the Asiana Club. You also get three miles per dollar spent at a grocery store. This later feature can be leveraged if you purchase gift cards at a grocery store. For example, I can a $1,000 worth of Home Depot gift cards at my local grocer, and use those cards to a new refrigerator there. Actually, many airlines sell gift cards at grocery stores as well, so you could realistically earn three Asiana Club miles for every dollar spent on another airline. You could even by American Express gift cards, and get three miles per dollar spent everywhere. The only downside is a relatively meager 5,000 mile sign up bonus to get you started.
When it comes time to redeem your miles, Asiana has an eminently logical reward chart that charges based on mileage, not arbitrary zones. I always had a problem with reward charts that charge more miles for the 100 mile flight from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas then they do for the 3,000 mile flight to Seattle. With Asiana’s chart, like several other foreign airlines, awards are grouped by round trip mileage flown. Let’s say you are flying from New York to Frankfurt, Germany. The round trip is 7,700 miles, so you would only need 75,000 miles to fly in Business Class. Of course, those miles were accumulated through a mere 37,500 in spending; less if you make purchases from grocery stores.
There is a $99 annual fee, and it does not appear to be waived the first year. It does offer a competitive 1.99% introductory APR for the first six months, going to 13.24% after that. There is actually no balance transfer fee during the introductory period.
Who Would This Card Be Good For?
This would be an excellent replacement for any US Airways, Continental, or United cardholder. All you would want to do is make sure that future flights were credited to your Asiana Club account in order to make the most of the miles earned with your credit card. Earning Asiana miles is a no-brainer for anyone still involved with United’s MileagePlus program and it’s reward blocking policies.
Since there is minimal sign-up bonus, and a significant annual fee to justify, this card lends itself more towards people with more annual spend than others. Like most reward cards, I would not recommend it for people carrying a balance, although it’s low introductory rate and lack of a balance transfer fee might work for people who are confident that they can pay off their balance within six months of receiving the card. Don’t even think twice about getting this card if you regularly fly Asiana Airlines.
I would like to visit Korea some day, but in the mean time, I will have to make due with an Asiana American Express and perhaps a visit to my local Korean Barbecue.