When I first became interested in points and miles, the Chase Sapphire Preferred was the one card that I really wanted to get. As a recent college grad, I wanted to travel for as little as possible. The Sapphire Preferred was the only way to get discounted flights and hotel rooms with travel partners that I was already familiar with. The sleek metal card was also very appealing.
Since then, the card has been eclipsed by the Sapphire Reserve in one of the biggest points and miles frenzies in recent times. Despite the popularity of its bigger sibling, the Sapphire Preferred remains a great alternative for all travelers.
The Sapphire Preferred has a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. It also has an annual fee of $95 (NOT waived the first year).
It earns 2x UR points per $1 spent on travel and dining. It also earns 1x UR point per $1 on all other purchases.
Chase has a broad list of what includes travel and dining. Some travel purchases that I have made that earned 2x points include airfare, hotel stays, a car rental, and toll road fees. Dining purchases include restaurants, coffee shops, and bars.
By itself, the Sapphire Preferred is nice, but its potential can be maximized if you have multiple Chase UR-earning cards. If you have either Freedom card and/or an Ink Business card, you can earn points with those cards and transfer them to your Sapphire Preferred account. This feature is arguably the most powerful that Chase has to offer as it’s the lifeblood of many people’s earning strategies.
Earning points is fantastic, but points earned are useless if you cannot redeem them for anything of value. Chase has multiple options for redemption:
Transfer partners are by far Chase’s most valuable option. They are the reason why so many points and miles enthusiasts love the Ultimate Rewards family of credit cards so much. With Chase, the name of the game is quality over quantity. Chase has 13 travel partners (compared to American Express’ 21):
- World of Hyatt
- Aer Lingus
- Air France / KLM Flying Blue
- British Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
Your mileage may vary for each partner. But for most partners, you should be able to easily redeem your points for at least 1.5 cents per point (CPP). For example, I used my Sapphire Preferred to send my mom to Arizona on Southwest. I redeemed 17,000 points for a $300 round-trip economy flight on Southwest, a 1.75 CPP redemption. Thanks to Chase and Southwest, my mom had a great time visiting our extended family and celebrating a family friend’s birthday party. She made many great memories in the process.
Chase also provides cardholders the option of booking travel through its own travel portal at a fixed rate of 1.25 CPP. You should use the portal if you cannot redeem your points for more than the fixed rate.
Chase also lets cardholders redeem their points for cash back and gift cards at 1 CPP. Sometimes, Chase discounts some of their gift card options, enabling cardholders to redeem for more than 1 CPP. Neither cash back or gift cards are recommended.
If cash back is more attractive than points, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred is probably not for you.
As a mid-tier travel card, Chase includes many great benefits to make life easier when away from home. Some of them can even pay for the annual fee with enough use.
Primary Car Rental Insurance
This benefit covers the entire loss, damage, or theft of your car rental. Because Chase offers Primary coverage with this card, you don’t have to accept the car rental company’s insurance policy if you use your Sapphire Preferred.
No Foreign Exchange Fees:
While these fees are becoming less common every year, the Sapphire Preferred was one of the first cards to do without them. You will save 3% on all purchases made outside the United States with the card.
Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance
If you need to cancel your trip because of an unexpected event, this benefit gives you up to $10,000 per trip for non-refundable expenses. Plane tickets, hotel rooms, and tours are included.
Trip Delay Insurance
This benefit covers you up to $500 per ticket if your plane, train, or other common carrier is delayed at least 12 hours. It also kicks in if you require an overnight stay as a result of a delay. The $500 helps cover un-reimbursed expenses such as meals and lodging.
Baggage Delay Insurance
This benefit gives you $100 per day up to 5 days if your luggage is lost or delayed. If your luggage is delayed for more than 6 hours, you can redeem for toiletries, clothing, and other essentials.
Rules & Regulations
Chase has two major rules in place to prevent “churners” from scoring their sign-up bonuses too many times. These rules are the 5/24 Rule and the One Sapphire Rule.
The 5/24 rule states that you will not be approved for any UR-earning card if you were approved for five or more new accounts in the last 24-months. Some Chase co-branded cards also fall under this rule as well.
The One Sapphire Rule states that your will not be approved for the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve if you received a sign-up bonus within the last 48 months. It also applies to the discontinued no annual fee Sapphire card.
What if the Chase Sapphire Preferred is not for you? Here are some alternatives to this card that might suit your needs:
This card is the Sapphire Preferred’s “big sibling”. It earns UR points in the same bonus categories, but at a higher 3x rate. The Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee (NOT waived the first year). But the fee is offset by a $300 annual general travel credit. Therefore, you’re really paying a “net annual fee” of $150.
For $150 per year, you’re also getting slightly better versions of the benefits detailed in the previous section. You also have access to the same travel partners and other redemption options as the Sapphire Preferred.
Like the Sapphire Preferred, this card has a 50,000 UR point sign-up bonus. It can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
The American Express Everyday Preferred card earns Membership Rewards (MR) points. You earn 3x MR points at Grocery Stores and 2x MR points at Gas Stations within the United States. It also earns one point per dollar spent on everything else.
You will receive a 50% points bonus on all purchases if you use the card 30 times a month. With the bonus, you can earn 4.5x on Grocery Stores, 3x on Gas Stations, and 1.5x on everything else. But for many people (especially those with multiple cards), the 30-transaction threshold is tough to hit.
This card has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). It also has a sign-up bonus of 15,000 MR points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
This mid-tier card from Citi is a great travel card that earns Citi Thank You (TY) points. You earn 3x TY points on General Travel and at Gas Stations. You also earn 2x TY points on Dining and Entertainment.
This card has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). It also has a sign-up bonus of 50,000 TY points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has been on the market since 2009. Since its introduction, this card remains a balanced and well thought out stalwart, especially for those with low travel and dining spend, as well as those who are new to points and miles.