How to Book Flights to Korea for as Few as 45,000 Miles Round-trip

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With these tips, you can book free flights to Seoul while saving your cash.
Last updated June 8, 2023 | By Lee Huffman
A street in Seoul, South Korea

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Many people search for flights to Korea so they can explore the culture, tour historical sites, and enjoy delicious food. However, traveling to Asia from the United States can get expensive when you're not using miles. Here’s how to book flights to South Korea with points so you can save money when visiting this incredible country.

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If you're booking flights to Korea, you'll most likely be flying into Seoul's Incheon International Airport. This airport is widely regarded as one of the best in the world. The airport offers incredible duty-free shopping, which makes it a popular layover destination for travelers in Asia. Travelers can also choose from many free transit tours that visit temples, sports arenas, shopping, and cultural attractions.

Award tickets vs. cash: A full comparison

You have many options for flights to Korea, but the cost in miles to fly first class, business, and economy can vary wildly. Although most of these award prices will be the same when you depart anywhere within the contiguous United States, for illustrative purposes we'll assume a roundtrip flight from Los Angeles to Seoul in April 2020.

Airline Econ Saver Economy Biz Saver Business First Cash
American Airlines 65,000 125,000 120,000 240,000 310,000 $1,192
All Nippon Airways 45,000 60,000 81,000 95,000 180,000 $1,779
Cathay Pacific n/a 80,000 n/a 150,000 240,000 $969
Cathay Pacific (using Alaska miles) n/a 60,000 n/a 100,000 140,000 $969
Delta Airlines 75,000 variable 170,000 variable 170,000 $1,207
Korean Air 70,000 105,000 125,000 185,000 240,000 $1,086
United Airlines 70,000 160,000 140,000 350,000 240,000 $1,122

As you can see, award prices vary based on the ticket class you purchase and if you are able to take advantage of "saver" award space. Cash prices for tickets are around $1,000 — with the exception of All Nippon, which is decidedly more expensive.

1. American Airlines

American Airlines flies to over 350 destinations worldwide. By taking advantage of its AAdvantage frequent flier program, you can redeem miles to fly to Seoul for as little as 65,000 miles round trip.

Book Flights to Korea With Points
Source: American Airlines


Your total cost in miles will vary depending upon your dates of travel and which fare class you want to fly. In some cases, you can fly Business Class for fewer miles than it costs in Economy.

Whenever possible, try to fly during the off-season to find flights at dramatically reduced prices. American Airlines offers Off-Peak award flights from the US to South Korea during the following times of the year:

  • To Korea: January 1 - April 30, July 1 - November 30
  • From Korea: January 16 - May 31, September 1 - December 31

American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be earned from personal and business credit cards from both Citibank and Barclays. My personal favorite is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®  because it provides access to the Admirals Club lounge whenever you fly.

To book your flight on American Airlines to Seoul using miles, visit AA.com and log in to view how many miles you have available. When picking your departure and arrival cities and dates of travel, be sure to click “redeem miles” to view available flights and their required miles.

If your desired dates are not available, AA.com automatically shows a weekly calendar so you can easily move backward or forward a few days to find availability. You can also skip forward or backward one week at a time or click “show full calendar” to see the entire month at a glance.

2. All Nippon Airways (ANA)

ANA is an airline based in Japan that serves Asia and flies to the US. Although many American travelers have never flown ANA, experienced travelers know that there is tremendous value in its award chart. For example, round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Seoul can be purchased with as few as 45,000 miles.

American travelers can earn these miles through the ANA credit card offered by First Bankcard or by transferring Membership Rewards points from American Express to the airline at a 1:1 ratio.

To book flights on ANA, go to its website and log into your account. Click on “Mileage Club” then select the type of award flight you want to book. Choose “partner flights” so that both ANA and its partner airlines will appear in your search results. Then enter the details of your flight.

For extra savings, look for off-season pricing in the ANA award chart. ANA discounts its award tickets based on the time of year, regardless of which city travelers are departing from or traveling to. The low, regular, and high seasons vary each year.


2019 2020 2021
Low January 6-February 28
April 1-25
December 1-20
January 6-February 29
April 1-23
December 1-24
January 5-February 28
Regular March 1-14
May 7-July 31
August 26-November 30
March 1-12
May 11-August 6
August 24-November 30
March 1-11
High January 1-5
March 15-31
April 26-May 6
August 1-25

December 21-31

January 1-5
March 13-31
April 24-May 10
August 7-23

December 25-31

January 1-4
March 12-31

3. Cathay Pacific

When flying Cathay Pacific, consider booking with Alaska Airlines miles instead. Not only do the flights cost fewer miles, but Alaska Airlines also allows travelers to book a free stopover.

Keep in mind that Alaska Airlines requires that the international carrier must be the same when booking a round-trip flight. One-way flights are half the price of round-trip flights, so you may be better off booking two one-ways. This way, you can find award space easier by departing on one airline and returning on another.

You can earn Cathay Pacific miles through either of its credit cards from Synchrony Bank. Or you can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Venture Miles, or Citi ThankYou Points.

To book an award flight using Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, log in to your account. Click “redeem awards” then select “flight awards” from the drop-down menu. Enter your flight details and pick the best flight from the search results.

Booking a Cathay Pacific flight with Alaska Airlines requires a bit more effort since you’re unable to do so online, but the savings are worth it. To search for available award space that’s bookable with Alaska miles, you’ll first need to search on partner airline British Airways’s website. Once you’ve found available flights, write down the date, time, and flight number. Call Alaska’s customer service at 800-252-7522 and provide them with your flight details and personal information.

4. Delta Airlines

Delta no longer publishes an award chart, so finding the best-priced award flights is more challenging. However, the Delta award search tool shows up to five weeks of award availability at a time, so it is easy to search dates for low-price awards.

Most Delta flights to Korea start around 75,000 miles roundtrip, though you may be able to find deals with some research. For example, we found a few flights in April 2020 for just 44,000 miles, plus taxes and fees.

Book Flights to Korea With Points
Source: Delta Air Lines


You can earn Delta SkyMiles with multiple American Express credit cards. I like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card because it earns valuable MQMs towards elite status and provides a companion certificate each year you renew it.

To book your flight to Seoul using miles, log into your account at Delta.com. Enter your travel details and check the box for “shop with miles”. Find the dates that work best for you and complete your mileage redemption.

5. Korean Air

Korean Air is the major airline for South Korea. With Seoul as their home base, there should be many flights for you to choose from when redeeming your miles for a ticket.

Booking a Korean Air award flight is pretty straightforward. Go to KoreanAir.com and click on “award booking”. This will prompt you to log in so you can see award availability. Click “redeem” and “award booking” to enter your flight details and passenger information to search for available flights. Then book your flight from the search results.

The Korean Air SkyPass credit card is offered by U.S. Bank. However, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Korean Air at a ratio of 3:1.

Korean Air SkyPass awards are priced at normal and peak prices. The peak season prices are centered around summer and Christmas travel dates.


2019 2020
Off-Peak January 1 - May 15
July 13 - December 9
January 1 - May 13
July 11 - December 9
Peak May 16 - July 12
December 10 - 23
May 14- July 10
December 10 - 23

6. United Airlines

On United Airlines, you can book roundtrip flights for as few as 70,000 miles with an Economy Saver ticket.

Book Flights to Korea With Points
Source: United Airlines


Building up your mileage balance is easy with the multiple United credit cards from Chase. One of the best airline credit cards from United is the United℠ Explorer Card because it gives cardholders extra award availability that isn’t available to people without the card. United is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards on a 1:1 basis, making transfers an excellent option when redeeming points.

When searching for lower-priced award flights, know that United's Saver award space is capacity controlled. This means that there are a limited number of discounted awards available on each flight. As the airline sells more tickets, Saver availability is reduced.

MileagePlus Premier members and certain Chase United MileagePlus cardholders can book award flights without capacity controls. If there is at least one seat available, elite members and cardholders can book the flight.

Our recommended credit cards to get you to Korea

There are over 50 credit cards that can earn miles and points to get you a free flight to South Korea. We’ve analyzed these card options, and these are the best travel credit cards for each airline.

American Airlines: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is one of my favorites. Not only does it earn up to 2X miles per dollar spent, this premium credit card includes lounge access at all Admirals Clubs. Although the annual fee is $450, it is cheaper than paying up to $650 for an Admirals Club lounge membership.

Cardholders receive their first checked bag free for them and up to eight travel companions on the same itinerary. They also get priority check-in, security screening, and boarding where available. Plus, you can add up to 10 authorized users to share in the benefits for no additional charge. The primary cardholder also gets reimbursement for TSA Precheck or Global Entry every five years.

All Nippon Airways: American Express® Gold Card

Although ANA offers its own credit card, the flexibility of Membership Rewards and bonus categories make the American Express® Gold Card a better option.

The Gold Card offers up to 4X points per dollar. There is also a $10 monthly dining credit that helps to offset the $250 annual fee (terms apply). Select benefits, such as the dining credit, require enrollment.

Cathay Pacific: Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card

As we discussed above, booking Cathay Pacific flights can often be cheaper when redeeming Alaska Airlines miles. And one of the best ways to earn Alaska Airlines miles is with the Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card from Bank of America.

This credit card currently offers a signup bonus of 50,000 and earns up to 3X miles per dollar spent. The best value from the card is the annual companion pass that you receive when renewing each year. Although the certificate can only be used when flying with Alaska, the money and miles you save can get you closer to booking your Cathay Pacific flight to Korea.

Delta Airlines: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

American Express offers multiple flavors of the Delta SkyMiles credit card for consumers and small businesses. I like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card because it offers great benefits at a reasonable price.

Big spenders and travelers seeking elite status can earn MQMs and bonus miles based on their spending, while the average flier will enjoy free checked bags, priority boarding, and the annual companion pass certificate. With those benefits, it should be relatively easy to offset the $250 annual fee (terms apply).

Korean Air: SKYPASS Select Visa Signature® Card

U.S. Bank offers multiple versions of the Korean Air cards for consumers and businesses, but the SKYPASS Select Visa Signature® Card is a top choice for frequent travelers on this airline. Your everyday purchases can help you reach and maintain SKYPASS Morning Calm Club elite status.

Each year, this premium credit card offers a travel credit of up to $200, discounts on Korean Air flights, and KAL airport lounge coupons. It earns 2X miles on eligible airline ticket, rental car, and hotel purchases; and 1X miles on all other eligible purchases. Big spenders will enjoy the 10,000 bonus miles after spending $35,000 on the card each year.

United Airlines: United℠ Explorer Card

The United℠ Explorer Card is a favorite among United travelers. You earn up to 2X miles per dollar spent. You’ll also receive two United Club passes each year, the first checked bag free for you and a companion, and priority boarding. TSA PreCheck or Global Entry enrollment fees are also reimbursed every four years.

With this credit card, there are no blackout dates on award flights. Plus, you will enjoy expanded availability when searching for flight redemptions that is not available to others, all for an annual fee of $95 (waived first year).

Convert hotel points into airline miles for flights to South Korea

Don’t have enough airline miles or credit card points to book your flight? Several popular hotel loyalty programs allow you to transfer points to airlines as well. If you have a surplus of points at these hotel chains, consider transferring them to your preferred airline before booking a flight to Korea.

IHG Rewards

IHG Rewards points can be converted into airline miles. For every 10,000 IHG points you convert, you'll receive 2,000 airline miles from the following airlines, among others:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways
  • American Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Delta Airlines
  • United Airlines

Chase’s IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card earns up to 26x points per dollar spent, provides automatic Platinum status and earns a free night worth up to 40,000 points each year.

Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors points transfer to a number of airlines at various exchange rates. Transfers must be in increments of 10,000 points and may take up to 30 days to complete.

For every 10,000 Hilton Honors points, you can receive the following airline miles:

  • 1,000 Alaska Airlines
  • 1,000 All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • 1,500 American Airlines
  • 1,000 Cathay Pacific
  • 1,000 Delta Airlines
  • 1,000 United Airlines

Hilton partners with American Express to offer several personal and business credit cards. You can earn Hilton Honors points from these cards:

All information about Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by FinanceBuzz.

All information about Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has been collected independently by FinanceBuzz.

Marriott Bonvoy

Members have two options when converting Marriott Bonvoy points into airline miles. Bonvoy points transfer to these airlines on a 3:1 basis, plus a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 Bonvoy points you transfer.

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Delta Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • United Airlines

Additionally, the hotel and flight packages start at 255,000 points. When you redeem points for these packages, you'll receive a certificate for a one-week hotel stay and airline miles ranging from 50,000 to 110,000.

Marriott partners with Chase and American Express to offer these credit cards:

World of Hyatt

Hyatt hotel points can be converted into airline miles at a ratio of 2.5:1. You must convert a minimum of 5,000 points and additional increments of 1,250. When you convert 50,000 points or more at a time, you'll receive an extra 5,000 bonus miles.

Members can transfer to the following airlines for flights to South Korea:

  • All Nippon Airways
  • American Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Delta Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • United Airlines

Hyatt currently has one personal credit card from Chase. The World of Hyatt Credit Card earns up to 9X points per dollar spent, gives automatic Discoverist status and offers one free night each year. Cardholders can earn one additional free night each year when they spend $15,000 by their anniversary date.

Bottom line

If you've been dreaming of booking a flight to Korea, you have many options to get there. With airline tickets averaging a little over $1,000, redeeming airline miles for a free flight is a great option to save money. There are over 50 credit cards available that earn miles and points to get you there for free. With so many options, you no longer have to wonder if you can visit South Korea — the question now is “when?”

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Benefits

Card Details

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  • 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 17.99% - 27.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.
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Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

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Author Details

Lee Huffman Lee Huffman is a former financial planner and corporate finance manager who now writes about early retirement, credit cards, travel, insurance, and other personal finance topics. He enjoys showing people how to travel more, spend less, and live better. When Lee is not getting his passport stamped around the world, he's researching methods to earn more miles and points toward his next vacation.