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What’s The 1 Points-Earning Credit Card I Should Start With?

by on October 13, 2013 · 17 comments

in Chase, Credit Cards, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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Update:  As of July 20, 2014, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card no longer offers the 7% annual points dividend. View the current sign up offer here.

TPG reader Jamie tweeted me this week @thepointsguy with a question I get all the time:

“We want to start with 1 card to start earning travel points while learning the ins & outs. Which credit card do you recommend?”

It really all depends on what you’re looking to get out of your points – whether it’s airline tickets, hotel stays, cash back and statement credits, or something else.

However, if you’re looking for a really solid travel rewards card with some flexibility in how you can put your points to use, the core card I recommend to family and friends is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

It offers really lucrative category spending bonuses including 2.14X points per $1 on travel (including the 7% annual points dividend) – which includes not only airline tickets, hotel rooms and things like that, but also parking garages and meters, taxis, metro transit like the Subway and a host of other transportation options – as well as on dining (and 3.21X points per $1 on dining the first Friday of each month through 2013).

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of my all-time top credit card recommendations.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of my all-time top credit card recommendations.

At the end of the year, the card also offers a 7% dividend on all the points you accrue during the year (not including the sign-up bonus) – so if you earned 10,000 points, you’d earn an additional 1,400 points at the end of the year – which helps boost your balance even further.

The sign-up bonus is currently 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in 3 months and the first year’s annual fee of $95 is waived. The card also has some other valuable benefits including Visa Signature perks and it waives foreign transaction fees, so it’s a great card to get if you travel internationally.

In terms of redemptions, Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which are what you earn on the card) transfer at a 1:1 ratio to 10 travel programs: British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, United, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, IHG Rewards, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Amtrak. So when you think about it, you’re earning 2.14X points per $1 on a lot of your spend – and even more if you maximize the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal where I personally earn an additional 2X points per $1 by booking airfare through Travelocity, so I’m earning a very healthy amount of points on all of my spending.

So all around, the one card I’d recommend is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. To learn more about the card and Ultimate Rewards points, check out these posts:

Details on the Sapphire Preferred 2X on Travel
The Sapphire Preferred 7% Annual Dividend
Ranking the Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Top 10 Ways To Maximize Each Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner
Why I Love Chase Ultimate Rewards
Ranking the Top Chase Travel Credit Card Offers

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Jon S

    I think the answer here is also primarily driven by spend. I agree 100% with TPG for people with a lot of spend. If you’re not spending that much though, CSP isn’t worth the $95 fee, and freedom or other cards look better.

  • George

    I have a quick question. I was on a flight today with United and they broke my luggage. What are my rights and what should I request from United (miles, a voucher, etc). I would highly appreciate a response.

  • Trajan81

    I think largely depends on what you want to fly/where you want to stay. If you like United/Hyatt, absolutely. If you like American/SPG, I’d say the SPG. Nice thing is there is such a broad amount of products out there that you really can pick and choose to suit your personal preferences.

  • Rob

    It’s slightly misleading to say the card earns 2.14x points per dollar on travel and then say you “also” get a 7% points dividend at the end of the year. Your 2.14x number includes the 7% dividend.

  • Fred

    I will be hiring a car transporter to relocate a car cross country…do u think that is considered travel?

  • Kacee

    The instant 1:1 transfer to BA is awesome. I was recently able to score a last second TXL-LHR ticket that would have cost over $1000 for only 9000 avios. Whole transaction took about five minutes.

  • Michael Rasmussen

    The points transfer for BA for Oneworld and United for Star Alliance is really killer great combination of alliances.

  • Rob
  • Christian

    7% on 10000 points is unfortunately only 700 points… At the TPG earning rates (2.14 points per 1$ plus 1400 per 10000$) you’d be get a whopping 2.44 points per 1$ spend ;-)

  • dovertime

    I can argue that 8,000 UR points generated in a year more than makes up for the annual fee. 8,000 points will get you one night in a Category 2 Hyatt property, which can cost well over $100/night depending upon the location. The CSP is easily my most recommended card for friends and family!

  • thepointsguy

    Good points- will clarify

  • thepointsguy

    Yea, but for the first year 40k on Sapphire way outweighs the 10k bonus on Freedom

  • thepointsguy

    Hmm I doubt it

  • thepointsguy

    There are no real legal rights- you should get sufficient compensation and if not you can sue them.

  • George

    Ok thank you very much! I really appreciate your response and I love your sight (no joke!).

  • Habs1

    What advice would you give for Canadians who are just starting re best credit card for getting travel points?

  • Daniel

    Just so I understand you correctly, if a United award travel tickets costs me 35,000 miles then I could use my Chase card to pay the 35,000 “miles” or points? Which would be different from a capital one card where I am going off the actual dollar figure of the ticket to see how many miles I need correct? Thanks for your clarification.

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