5 reasons why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the perfect card for the average traveler
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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 plan to upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve in the near 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 did for so long.
Here’s why I consider the 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 of that 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. In order to fully offset the cost of the CSP’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 reading: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review
Manageable spending requirement
Spending $4,000 in just three months may sound like a hard task for some budgets, and it does mean charging $1,334 to your card each month from your approval date. However, Chase recently announced a three-month extension for those who applied for the Sapphire Preferred between Jan. 1 – Mar. 31, 2020, breaking the monthly spend down to a more manageable $667.
Valuable sign-up bonus
New cardholders earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. According to TPG valuations, that sign-up bonus is worth a whopping $1,200 dollars in travel rewards. That’s more valuable than the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s sign-up bonus.
With 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points at your disposal, this card opens up a ton of redemption options. Of course, most of us aren’t traveling right now due to the coronavirus pandemic. But these points are still valuable for future travel.
If you’re savvy with Chase’s transfer partners, you could score a one-way nonstop flight to London in United Polaris for 60,000 points. Or, you could book a two-night stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The point is, this bonus alone offers a ton of value for cardholders and can open the doorway for redemptions that average travelers otherwise may not have been able to afford.
Related reading: 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 2x points on all dining and travel purchases. Other purchases will earn 1 point per dollar. The thing about Chase’s 2x travel and dining categories is that they are incredibly broad. Where 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, due to the fact that Chase has a number of 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 particularly useful 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 aren’t going to want to spend hours and hours 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.
Chase’s travel portal is run by Expedia, 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 this past summer.
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 great 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. Which 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 reading: 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’s lacking in 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.
Chase recently added DoorDash food delivery benefits to the card as well. Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders get at least one free 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.
Related reading: 5 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 (No longer open to new applicants) 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 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. Neither card has an annual fee.
The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related reading: 5 Reasons Chase Sapphire Preferred should be your first card
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 learning how you can explore the world thanks to award travel.
Featured photo by Riley Arthur for The Points Guy
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