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Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred should be your first card out of college

May 17, 2021
9 min read
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To the Class of 2021: Congratulations! Graduating from college — nevertheless, during a pandemic — is a huge milestone, and your hard work and efforts should be celebrated.

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Whether you’re jumping into your first job or are embarking on a post-grad trip, it can feel overwhelming to launch right into adulthood. As a class of 2020 graduate myself, I was in your shoes just a year ago.

Don’t fret — there are tools to make this transition easier. A significant step into adulthood is opening your first credit card. Perhaps you’re ahead of the game and have been a proud owner of a student card throughout your four years as an undergrad. Or, you may be shopping around for your first “adult” credit card.

Related: Not just for the established elite: TPG millennials and Gen Z staff weigh in on their experience with premier rewards credit cards

I’m here to tell you why the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card should be every graduate’s first credit card. I opened my Sapphire Preferred under a year ago when it had an all-time high sign-up bonus of 80,000 points — and this extraordinary offer’s back, just in time for graduation.

This current sign-up bonus is as good as it gets

What would you do with 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points? You can book a business class flight on Air France for about 53,000 points! (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

It’s the truth: The current sign-up bonus is stellar and as high as we've ever seen on the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

For a card with a (reasonable) $95 annual fee, you’re looking at 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening and up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within the first year of account opening. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, meaning that this sign-up bonus is worth a whopping $1,650.

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Historically, the sign-up bonus has been 60,000 points for the same amount of spend. Simply put, there’s never been a better time to apply.

This sign-up bonus breaks down to about $1,334 in spending for the first three months, so you’ll want to make sure this is an achievable goal. I easily locked down this sign-up bonus just from furniture and moving expenses alone.

A fantastic introduction into the world of points and miles

Book this amazing stay at Andaz West Hollywood when you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

If you want to learn about the world of points and miles, you’ve come to the right place. Here at TPG, we have a plethora of resources to get you started — whether it’s our beginner’s guide or our best first credit cards.

If you take anything away from these guides, you’ll find that Chase Sapphire Preferred is always at the top of the list. It’s a beginner-friendly card that will ease you into “travel hacking” or learning how to use your credit card rewards to unlock free flights or hotel stays. There are many redemption options with this card, but you’ll find the most value as a travel rewards card by using your points for travel.

Related: From no credit to free flights: An inside look at a 23-year-old’s credit journey

To break it down in simple terms, you have two options for booking travel with this card. First, you can book through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal at a 25% points bonus or a rate of 1.25 cents each. For example, 10,000 points translate to a $125 value in travel. You can book a variety of travel on this portal, whether it’s flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises — the options are endless.

Once you get comfortable with booking travel through the portal, you can then dip your toes into transferring your points to loyalty programs. Chase lets you move your points at a 1:1 rate to 10 airline and three hotel partners, so your 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points can equal 80,000 points in the loyalty program of your choice.

Related: How I used Chase Ultimate Rewards to book my trip to Croatia

Of course, some partners are better than others, but some of my high-value favorites include United MileagePlus and World of Hyatt. With these partners, it’s possible to get much more than 1.25 cents of value per point. I’ve even gotten up to 4.5 cents in value with a business class ticket on Air France before, so the sky is really the limit when it comes to Chase’s transfer partners.

Partner benefits that I’ll actually use

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a popular card, especially among Gen-Z’ers, since it comes with many useful partner benefits that can help you save money and reward you at the same time. I don’t know about you, but some of my top spend categories have to be DoorDash and Lyft.

Until Dec. 31, 2021, you can activate a one-year membership to DoorDash DashPass, getting you free delivery fees and reduced service fees on eligible orders of $12 or more. This subscription service usually costs $9.99 per month — yet another way to justify the $95 annual fee.

After moving away from the South, I sometimes get my Chick-fil-A fix through DoorDash. Thanks to DashPass, I get $0 delivery and reduced service fees. (Screenshot courtesy of Doordash)

You’ll also enjoy 5x points on Lyft rides until March 2022. Depending on how often you use Lyft, this is a fantastic way to earn bonus points on this rideshare service. Since I live in Manhattan and don’t have a car anymore, I use Lyft quite a bit (granted, probably more than I should) and rack up tons of valuable Ultimate Rewards points.

Since opening my card in September 2020, I’ve earned more than 4,000 additional points to the 5x Lyft bonus on the Preferred. (Screenshot courtesy of Chase)

Finally, it’s worth checking the Chase Offers on your card. They’ll update periodically or every seven to 14 business days.

At the time of writing, there are more than 40 offers that I can add to my card. (Screenshot courtesy of Chase)

All of these partner offers can help you save money on your everyday purchases. Other cards in my wallet from issuers such as Capital One or Wells Fargo simply can’t compete with the number of benefits that the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers.

Travel and shop confidently with Chase’s comprehensive protections

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card includes excellent travel protections in case of an emergency. (Photo by Musketeer/Getty Images)

Here’s my last argument for why you need the Sapphire Preferred: No other card with a $95 annual fee comes with as many travel and shopping protections. While I have yet to use any of these benefits, these coverages give me peace of mind in case an emergency arises:

  • Primary car rental coverage: Covers theft and damage up to the actual cash value of the rental car on bookings of less than 31 consecutive days. Note that most credit cards only offer secondary coverage.
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance: Reimburses you up to $10,000 per person (or $20,000 per trip) for your pre-paid, non-refundable trip expenses due to covered reasons, such as sickness, severe weather and more.
  • Baggage delay insurance: Reimburses you up to $100 per day (for up to five days) for baggage delays more than six hours to cover the purchase of essential items.
  • Trip delay reimbursement: Reimburses you up to $500 per ticket to purchase meals or lodging for trip delays of 12 hours or more (or requiring an overnight stay).
  • Lost luggage reimbursement: Covers loss or damage to your luggage by a common carrier (such as an airline) for up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • Travel and emergency assistance: Receive emergency assistance and referrals if you run into problems while traveling.
  • Extended warranty protection: Extends a U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on warranties of three years or less.
  • Purchase protection: Covers damage or theft on new purchases, up to $500 per claim and up to $50,000 per account.

For any of these to apply, you’ll need to pay for your purchase with your Chase Sapphire Preferred. You can file a claim with the Benefits Administrator online through Card Benefit Services.

Related: Chase paid for my $1,100-per-night hotel room thanks to built-in trip delay coverage

Bottom line

By now, I hope I’ve convinced you why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a must-have card as you enter the adult world. It can make your transition out of your college apartment into your first real lease much more manageable. This card provides value that’s way too good to pass up for both the short term (80K bonus points) and the long term (partner benefits to travel and shopping protections).

Application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred available for up to 80,000 bonus points.

Featured image by Riley Arthur
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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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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