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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 2X points per $1 on travel – 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 sign-up bonus is currently 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 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

The best beginner points and miles card out there.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Points Guy Assessment:

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.

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More Things to Know
  • 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®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • 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 on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.