After 12 years, why the Chase Sapphire Preferred should still be your first rewards card
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If you like to travel, earn points, and sign-up for rewards cards, there’s been lots of good news lately.
And if that good news has you dreaming of some future trips, now is a great time to consider getting a new rewards credit card with a big sign-up bonus — that may not last much longer. At the top of that list of options is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and its record-setting 100,000 point bonus.
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At this point, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is actually a classic travel rewards credit card. But in this case, it’s tough to top this classic when starting in the rewards credit card landscape.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has been around since 2009, but don’t be fooled — in this case, that doesn’t mean it is stale and outdated. It means this card has had 12 years to perfect itself. It is tried, tested, and still so valuable. Over a decade after its launch, this is still my most recommended first card for those newer to points and miles travel rewards.
If you are looking for where to start — or which card to get next — now is an especially great time to take the plunge and add the Chase Sapphire Preferred to your wallet.
The card first launched its all-time-best sign-up bonus back in June — 100,000 transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months of account opening. If you’ve been putting off applying, your timing couldn’t have been better, as we’ve never seen a bonus of this magnitude from this card. And you’ll want to apply before it’s gone forever.
That’s a total value of $2,000, according to TPG valuations, and makes it the best public bonus this iconic card has offered — ever.
So with now being a top-notch time to apply for the Sapphire Preferred to get in on that sign-up bonus, here are five reasons why after so many years, it is still my most recommended travel rewards credit card.
Application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred – Earn 100,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points after $4,000 in spending in the first three months.
Massive sign-up bonus
Let’s start with that increased bonus.
The public sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred has never been higher than it is right now. The usual bonus is “just” 50,000 to 60,000 points. Getting 80,000 points was a relatively recent record, but nabbing 100,000 points with just a $95 annual fee is incredibly outstanding.
TPG values the 100,000 point bonus at $2,000, based on maximizing the points with hotel and airline transfer partners. But, being frank, some newer credit card rewards may not always get much value from the points as that value requires you to leverage the previously mentioned transfer partners.
However, even if you use the points at a fixed value for travel booked through Chase, you’ll still get 1.25 cents in value per point. That’s the same as getting $1,250 in value from the bonus. Even at that fixed valuation that comes in lower than if you maximize your points with partners, that’s a better sign-up bonus than from many cards that have annual fees several times that of the Sapphire Preferred.
Related: Sign-up bonuses worth $1,000 or more
Outstanding transfer partners
The lineup of transfer partners available with the Chase Sapphire Preferred is stellar.
When you earn points within the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you have choices on how to redeem them, but you often can get the most value when maximizing your points via the lineup of 10 airlines and three hotel partners.
These transfer partners include: United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, World of Hyatt, British Airways Executive Club, Air Canada Aeroplan, JetBlue TrueBlue, Marriott Bonvoy, Aer Lingus AerClub, Iberia Plus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Emirates Skywards, IHG Rewards, Air France-KLM Flying Blue and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. All of the transfers from Chase to these programs are at a 1:1 ratio.
This means that if you have 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, that could be turned into the equivalent of 100,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points, or 100,000 United MileagePlus miles or 100,000 World of Hyatt points. The list goes on. This opens up many more uses for your points than if they were just locked into one loyalty program.
Several of these transfer partners — such as United, Hyatt, and Southwest — are unique to Chase, so the lineup can’t be easily replicated with other credit card programs.
The U.S.-based loyalty programs are often more comfortable places for those newer to travel rewards to start with point transfers than some international options where you often leverage partner bookings. There’s lots of value to grow into with those redemptions, but it is good to have an easy, comfortable place to start.
Low annual fee
Premium travel rewards cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Sapphire Preferred’s luxury sister, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, have replaced the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s slot in my own wallet, but I’ve been at the points and miles game for a long time.
Even if those cards are worth it (and they can be), rare is the points and miles newcomer that wants to start off with a card that comes with a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees for the Amex Platinum).
Therefore, it can be much easier to test the waters with a card like the Sapphire Preferred that comes with just a $95 annual fee. When put up against a sign-up bonus (valued at $2,000 by TPG), that’s a minimal investment to try out a new-to-you card for at least a year.
Good earning rates that can improve with time
The Sapphire Preferred doesn’t have the highest earning rates out there, but it still has solid earning rates that have held their own over time:
- 5x on Lyft (through March 2022) travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- 3x on dining, online grocery store purchases, and select streaming services.
- 2x on other travel purchases.
- 1x on all other eligible purchases.
These categories are quite broad and travel includes everything from plane tickets and hotels to subway passes and parking garages. Dining includes everything from a five-star restaurant to fast food and DoorDash delivery services. For the most part, the card has had the same earning structure for a decade, making it easy to remember.
Since TPG values the points earned by this card at 2 cents each, that means you are getting 2 to 10 cents in value per dollar charged to the card. However, once you are ready to “level up,” the Sapphire Preferred and its points can grow with you.
Several other credit cards within the Chase family can be paired with the Sapphire Preferred when the time is right for you.
For example, the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex earns up to 5% cash back (5 points per dollar) in rotating quarterly bonus categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter). When you have the Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer those points into your Ultimate Rewards account and use them the same as points earned by the Sapphire Preferred.
If you have a small business, you can also pair the Sapphire Preferred with the no-annual-fee Ink Business Cash Credit Card or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to pick up access to even more 3 to 5 point bonus categories (up to yearly spend maximums). The Ink Business Preferred is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Meanwhile, the no-annual-fee Ink Business Cash Credit Card for small-business owners is offering $750 cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases within three months of account opening. But if you have the Sapphire Preferred, that can be 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of $750 cash, if you wish.
Having the Sapphire Preferred card unlocks the transferability for points earned from a variety of Chase cards.
But you can also ignore all of that and stick just with the very versatile Sapphire Preferred as the only rewards card in your wallet.
The most mathematically rewarding way to maximize your Ultimate Rewards points is by transferring to the previously mentioned hotel and airline partners. However, I like this card for beginners because … you don’t actually have to do that. In fact, I have many friends and family members who never redeem their Chase points via transfer partners.
If you want, you can use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a fixed rate to book flights, hotels, and other travel via the Chase travel portal. With the Sapphire Preferred, your points are worth 1.25 cents each when used in that manner. If you or someone else in your household ever get the Sapphire Reserve, points used that way are worth 1.5 cents each with that card.
This site operates the same as when booking travel via Expedia, making it a straightforward and intuitive way to use your points even for those very new to this way of traveling for less.
Chase makes it easier to get cards sooner rather than later
Last but not least, there’s the reality that Chase makes it easier to get Chase-issued credit cards before you get too far into your rewards credit card journey.
There’s an (unwritten) rule that Chase generally won’t issue a new credit card account once you have opened five or more card accounts across all banks in the last 24 months. Informally, this is known as the Chase 5/24 rule.
Because of this restriction, it makes sense to start by getting a Chase card, like the Sapphire Preferred, as one of your first cards before you could potentially run into a brick wall with opening new Chase accounts.
With its massive 100,000-point bonus and travel on the upswing, there’s never been a better time to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
It walks a wonderful line between being rewarding and rich when it comes to perks and points without being intimidating or too pricey to try out. It can be your gateway to having a wallet full of Ultimate Rewards credit cards and maximizing transfer partners, award chart sweet spots, built-in stopovers, and more.
Or, if you prefer, it can remain a classic low-annual-fee travel credit card that unlocks simple travel rewards all on its own.
There’s no wrong way to use a Sapphire Preferred. And there’s no better time to take the plunge into applying than while the sign-up bonus is still at an all-time high of 100,000 points.
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with a 100,000-point bonus.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
Featured photo by Wyatt Smith for The Points Guy.
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