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Why I Use Chase Sapphire Preferred for Most of My Purchases

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The sign-up offer for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has been increased from 40,000 to 50,000 points after $4,000 spent within the first three months. You can earn an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first 3 months as well.

I frequently get asked how I’m able to earn so many points and miles to open up valuable award redemptions like Singapore First Class, Korean First Class and JAL First Class, to name a few. One important part of the answer is my rewards credit card strategy, as I often take advantage of lucrative sign-up bonuses (like the current 75,000-mile bonus on the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard), and I routinely try to maximize every dollar I spend.

While I have a variety of credit cards in my wallet at any given time, there’s one in particular that stands out for its lucrative bonus categories and valuable points: the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Today, I want to explain exactly why I swiped this card more than any other last year, and why I’ll continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

Card Overview

For new cardholders, the Sapphire Preferred currently offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. You’ll earn another 5,000 bonus points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months. I peg Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cents apiece in my most recent valuations, so these bonuses combined are worth $1,155.

Aside from the sign-up bonus, the card has many lucrative benefits after the first year. Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, charges no foreign transaction fees, offers primary auto rental insurance, and enables you to transfer points to 11 airline and hotel partners, including British Airways, Southwest, United, Hyatt and Marriott. The $95 annual fee is also waived for the first year. All of these benefits make it a great starter card if you’re just looking to get into the hobby, but also a valuable product for experienced award travelers.

On the surface, these benefits may not seem that lucrative. Many cards offer triple points on certain categories (like the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card for airfare and the Citi ThankYou Premier Card for travel), and a 40,000-point sign-up bonus isn’t as high as other limited-time offers. However, when you dig deeper, this card really does shine.

If you have SPG status and use Uber on a hotel stay, points can add up quickly.
Uber counts as a travel expense on the Sapphire Preferred, and you can earn bonus SPG points at the same time!

Earning 2x points for travel

Almost daily I get a question about how credit cards classify purchases. While merchant category codes are a good point of reference, you may find some variation when you use different credit cards at the same business. In reference to earning bonus points, Chase defines travel as follows:

“Airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, operators of passengers trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries, tolls, bridges, highways, and parking lots and garages.”

Since I’m on the road so frequently, many of my favorite businesses fall into this category:

  • Uber — I have been a long-time fan of Uber, and can’t even remember the last time I rented a car. I have my Chase Sapphire Preferred card loaded into my profile, so every time I take an Uber, the charge posts as a travel expense and earns me 2x Ultimate Rewards points. This is in addition to any bonus Starpoints I might earn thanks to the partnership between SPG and Uber announced earlier this year. The new partnership between Uber and Capital One offers a much greater discount, but that promotion is for a limited time and the Quicksilver cards are otherwise uninspiring, so I haven’t made the switch.
  • Hotels — The Sapphire Preferred has also been my go-to card when it comes to hotel stays (unless it’s an SPG property, in which case I’ll use my Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express). This is particularly valuable abroad since I can avoid foreign transaction fees, and when booking with Airbnb, which is classified as a travel merchant by Chase.
  • Tolls — Whether I’m driving around Miami or cruising around New York, paying for tolls automatically is a lifesaver. Both SunPass (Florida) and E-ZPass (tri-state area) can be set up to automatically charge your credit card, and the Sapphire Preferred counts both as a travel expense.
Whether you’re dining at a casual cafe or fancy restaurant, you should be able to earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Earning 2x points for dining

The other key bonus category on the Sapphire Preferred is dining, as you can earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar (or 3 points per dollar on the first Friday of the month, though that promotion will sadly be ending at the end of 2015). Chase is pretty generous about which merchants qualify for bonus points. The obvious spots include sit-down restaurants and fast-casual eateries, but even establishments like Starbucks fall into this category. You can also earn bonus points at many locations we’ve highlighted in our “First Friday” series, including chocolate shops, juice bars and pie bakeries.

Beyond that, I have found many examples of merchants that don’t fit anyone’s definition of a restaurant, but are still classified as dining purchases:

  • Bars that don’t serve food — Many of my favorite bars in Miami that don’t serve food still fall into the dining category and earn me double points. Other members of the TPG team have reported similar findings at their local watering holes.
  • Postmates — I frequently use this errand service, which can deliver local goods (including meals) from various merchants in many major cities. While most featured businesses are restaurants, any purchase from the site will count as dining and earn 2x points.
  • Seamless — This is another great website specifically geared toward food delivery; I use the service regularly, and have found that purchases fall into the dining category.
  • Club memberships — I have at least one business associate who belongs to a yacht club down in Florida, and when he first joined, he registered his Chase Sapphire Preferred to automatically pay his bill each month. He was delighted to find that charges from the club are classified as dining purchases (even when paying his yearly membership dues).

What if you don’t earn the correct bonus?

I love transparency in the points and miles universe, and Chase deserves a lot of credit for how clearly it displays your account activity online. When a charge posts to your account, you can immediately see whether it earned a bonus:

Sapphire Preferred Postmates
I can easily see that my recent charge with Postmates was classified as a dining expense.

In addition to this full disclosure, I have also found Chase to be very good about issuing missing points when a purchase is miscategorized. This is one example of when it makes sense to call customer service.

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a mainstay on my list of top travel rewards cards, and for good reason. Not only are Ultimate Rewards points extremely valuable, but the travel and dining category bonuses are wide-ranging and lucrative as well. Even though new bonus categories on the Amex Premier Rewards Gold and Citi ThankYou Premier have improved the value proposition of those cards, for now I’m sticking with the Sapphire Preferred in spite of last year’s changes.

For more information, check out these posts:

How many of you use Sapphire Preferred as your primary credit card?

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit