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5 reasons why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the perfect card for the average traveler

May 26, 2021
10 min read
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I love the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It was my first travel rewards credit card and it's remained one of my most-used credit cards over the past two years. As someone who has in the past been what many consider an "average traveler" (historically, I've only taken one or two large trips per year and a few smaller ones scattered throughout), the Chase Sapphire Preferred has been the perfect mid-tier card to help me meet my travel goals. It introduced me to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, helped me score my first sign-up bonus and allowed me to book my first points-funded international trip.

While I might upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve in the future as my travel habits evolve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred will continue to be one of the top cards I recommend to travelers who fit into the same bucket I have for so long.

Here's why I consider the Sapphire Preferred the best card for the average traveler.

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Manageable annual fee

The Chase Sapphire Preferred charges a reasonable $95 annual fee. While the trade-off is fewer perks, most average travelers won't use perks like lounge access or airline fee credits enough to warrant the higher fees that accompany them. To fully offset the cost of the card's yearly cost, you'll need to earn at least $95 in rewards every year. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at two cents each. With the card's 2x bonus categories, that rounds out to just $2,375 in spending per year on travel and/or dining — or about $200 a month.

Some people have an aversion to annual fees. But when you have strong cards with manageable fees such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, it's easy to make up the difference so that you aren't actually paying anything out of pocket for the card each year.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review

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Valuable sign-up bonus

New cardholders earn an all-time high 100,000-points bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. While spending $4,000 in just three months may sound like a hard task for some budgets, there are plenty of ways you can meet the minimum spend requirement to unlock the sign-up bonus. According to TPG valuations, that sign-up bonus is worth a whopping $2,000 in travel rewards. That's more valuable than the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve's sign-up bonus.

With 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points at your disposal, this card opens up a ton of redemption options — especially as so many of us start planning to travel once vaccinated. But these points are still valuable for future travel.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen / The Points Guy)
You could score this amazing view when you take advantage of Chase's transfer partners. (Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

Related: Best ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Solid earning opportunities

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns Chase Ultimate Rewards, which are some of the most versatile points available.

The sign-up bonus gives you a great start toward earning the points necessary for your next vacation, but it isn't the only way to earn points. You'll earn 3x points on all dining and 2x points travel purchases. The thing about Chase's 2x travel and 3x points on dining categories is that they are incredibly broad. Many issuers restrict dining purchases to just standard restaurants and maybe fast food. Chase also includes bars, breweries, university dining halls, vending machines, and even some restaurant delivery services such as DoorDash and Seamless.

The travel category is also quite broad, including typical travel purchases like hotels and airfare alongside timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.

Solid Redemption opportunities

In addition to flexibility in what earns bonus rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers flexibility in terms of how you can redeem your points. TPG values Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each because Chase has many valuable travel partners that give you access to all three major airline alliances and three different hotel brands (IGH, Marriott and Hyatt). Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to each of its partners at a 1:1 ratio, and many of these transfers process almost instantly. The ability to transfer your points to airline partners is instrumental if you want to fly business or first class internationally.

In my mind, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program offers real value to average travelers through its travel portal. Most people who only travel once or twice a year will not want to spend hours on end combing through potential redemptions with transfer partners. And while sites like TPG can help make that process easier by walking you through potential redemption options and publishing deal alerts when our team comes across them, most average travelers will be most comfortable booking through a portal that aggregates redemption offers across airlines and hotels.

Expedia runs chase's travel portal, and I can tell you from experience that it's easy to use. In fact, I used it to book my flights to and from Croatia back in 2019.

I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus and the Chase travel portal to book my first points-funded trip to Croatia in 2019. (Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can redeem points for 1.25 cents each when booking through the portal for travel. If you're booking economy awards or standard room rates, this redemption rate is generally a good deal. Another bonus to booking airfare, especially through the portal, is that airlines consider your redemption cash, meaning your points will also cover any taxes and fees associated with your flight and you'll earn any frequent flyer miles that you would on a standard paid flight.

While you most likely won't earn elite night credits when booking hotels through the portal, average travelers generally aren't staying with the same hotel chain often enough to hit valuable elite status tiers. This means you're not really losing out on anything by choosing to book through the portal with points rather than directly through the hotel if you happen to find a better deal through Chase.

Related: Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards for maximum value

Solid benefits for average travelers

The Chase Sapphire Preferred may not come with lounge access or hundreds of dollars in travel credits, but that doesn't mean it lacks valuable benefits.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has some of the best travel protections of any mid-tier credit card on the market. You'll get $500 per ticket in trip delay insurance, $10,000 in trip cancellation insurance, baggage delay insurance and up to $3,000 per person in lost luggage reimbursement. The card also comes with primary rental car insurance — a rarity for any card — let alone a mid-tier card.

Chase has also added DoorDash food delivery benefits to the card as well. Sapphire Preferred cardholders get at least one complimentary year of DashPass, which waives delivery fees at eligible restaurants and discounts service fees on orders over $12. This benefit alone knocks out the cost of the annual fee. You can now also earn 5x points for Lyft rides and get a discount on a Peloton membership.

Finally, the card offers Visa Signature benefits (including access to the Visa Signature Concierge Service) and no foreign transaction fees.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits you might not know about

Perfect for Pairing With other Chase cards

Most average travelers probably don't have 19 credit cards in their wallet, which means the cards you do have, need to make an impact. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is easily paired with Chase cash back cards to help you maximize your earning potential across spending categories — without adding hundreds of dollars in annual fees to your plate.

The Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited cash back cards technically earn points but don't allow you to transfer your points or receive 1.25 cents per point in the travel portal. However, you can move the points you earn from either of these cards to the Chase Sapphire Preferred so that you can take advantage of transfer partners or the increased portal redemption rate.

The Chase Freedom Flex has rotating quarterly bonus categories that earn 5% cash back (5x points) on the first eligible $1,500 you spend each quarter you activate, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back on purchases. Both cards also earn 5x on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3x on dining at restaurants and drugstores. Neither card has an annual fee.

While earning 2x points on travel and 3x points on dining purchases with the Sapphire Preferred is great, it's even better when you can pair it with a card that earns bonus rewards on other spending categories.

Related: 5 Reasons Chase Sapphire Preferred should be your first card

Bottom Line

The points and miles world isn't just for those who travel for work or spend all of their free time on the road. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the less frequent traveler can still earn valuable points that can turn into flights and/or hotel stays for a much-deserved vacation. Having the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great first step to exploring the world, thanks to award travel.

Application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card available with an 100,000-point bonus.

Featured image by (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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