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Chase recently announced upcoming changes to benefits for the Sapphire Preferred card, including the demise of the 7% annual points dividend and the addition of primary auto rental insurance. Chase has now released a complete list of the upcoming changes, and while they aren’t as newsworthy as last week’s changes, they aren’t great.
Changes to Ultimate Rewards Portal Earning
Chase will also discontinue the extra 1x bonus point offered for travel charges when using the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, but once again gives a long grace period with that not going into effect until January 1, 2016. This is a disappointment, but doesn’t specifically diminish the Sapphire Preferred card, as it applies to travel purchases made with any card. However, since the Ultimate Rewards portal itself is sticking around (unlike American Express who axed their portal), this change underscores the value of using the portal to book travel through online travel agencies like Expedia, Priceline, etc., which have their own loyalty programs, and which commonly offer hefty bonuses of their own. For example, the Ultimate Rewards portal currently offers 5x bonus points for bookings at Hotels.com.
Pay Yourself Back
Chase is doing away with the Pay Yourself Back feature, which enabled cardholders to convert Ultimate Rewards points into cash in the form of either a check or a statement credit against purchases made on the card. This doesn’t bother me, partly because I always caution readers against redeeming points for cash, but also because Chase will apparently still allow you to transfer points (at one cent apiece) to a Chase checking or savings account. So, if cash back is your thing, you’ll still be able to get it so long as you have an eligible banking relationship with Chase.
No More Buying Points
Chase actually got rid of the ability to purchase points last fall, but I guess they just finalized that in today’s communication. I liked the ability to buy up to 5,000 points a month for 2.5 cents a piece- it was an easy way to top up if you were close to an award. While 2.5 cents isn’t a screaming deal, it’s also not terrible- especially if you know how to leverage the Ultimate Rewards transfer partners for valuable redemptions.
Overall, the Sapphire Preferred is still a top card for travelers, with tons of perks and valuable points, but with all changes there will be winners and losers. For those who rent cards a lot and pay for collision coverage, this could save hundreds a year. For those who don’t and who rack up a lot of points with the 7% annual dividend, at least existing card members (pre July 23) have that benefit for the remainder of this year and all of 2015. I would potentially consider the value proposition then, but I’m hopeful that Chase will continue to strengthen the value proposition of the card and Ultimate Rewards program as a whole- adding more partners (I’d LOVE to see Alaska Airlines), Chip + PIN capability, or even transfer bonuses (unlikely, but a boy can dream).
What are your thoughts on all of the changes?
Know before you go.
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