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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Chase Sapphire Reserve
TPG reader Rodrigo sent me a message on Facebook to ask about maximizing points on spending:
“Should the Sapphire Reserve be my new go-to card for everything, or should I still try to make the $30,000 spending goal for my Aviator Silver companion tickets?”
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card has been a hit since it was first released in August. Some of the card’s widespread popularity is due to its large sign-up bonus and premium perks (like lounge access and travel credits). However, one of the benefits I’ve been most excited about is the 3x spending bonus, which offers huge value to cardholders, and might cause you to rethink your credit card strategy for everyday spending.
Sapphire Reserve earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases, with no foreign transaction fees. Because I value Ultimate Rewards points highly, I think those earning rates make Sapphire Reserve the best option for spending in those categories, at least in most cases. The exceptions would be certain airfare purchases — where The Platinum Card from American Express now has the edge — and cards with rotating bonuses that occasionally offer even more rewards.
That said, I don’t think it’s the best choice for non-bonus spending. There are other cards that offer a greater return on purchases like groceries, gas and office supplies. Even if you don’t have a card that offers a bonus for spending in those categories, you could use the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card to earn a consistent 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. That’s better than the 1 point per dollar that Sapphire Reserve earns on non-bonus purchases, so the two cards make a pretty good combination.
In comparison, I don’t think the AAdvantage Aviator Silver card is a good option for spending. The bonus categories aren’t particularly rewarding, and AAdvantage miles are worth less than Ultimate Rewards points, so there’s an opportunity cost to using it for everyday purchases. Spending $30,000 on the Aviator card in non-bonus categories will get you 30,000 AAdvantage miles (worth $450 based on my my most recent valuations). Alternatively, you could earn 45,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $945) by using the Freedom Unlimited card — that’s a pretty substantial difference.
I keep the Aviator card mostly to earn bonus Elite Qualifying Miles and maintain my Executive Platinum status. The companion certificate is a nice perk, but it’s limited to domestic economy travel, and you have to cover certain taxes and fees, so the final cost ends up being higher than $99 per person. If the EQMs don’t mean much to you, then you’ll really have to maximize the companion fares in order to get the same return from your spending.
For more on earning Ultimate Rewards and maximizing purchases in general, check out these posts:
- How to Pick a Credit Card for Everyday Non-Bonus Purchases
- The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for Each Bonus Category
- Is Chase Freedom Unlimited Good for Non-Bonus Spending?
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.