Why the Sapphire Preferred should still be the first rewards card in your wallet

Apr 3, 2021

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There’s been lots of good news recently when it comes to the prospect of safely traveling. And if that good news has you plotting out some future trips, now is a great time to consider getting a reward credit card with a big welcome bonus. At the top of that list of options is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

At this point, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a classic travel rewards credit card. And it is very hard to top this classic when it comes to where to start in the rewards credit card landscape.

The Sapphire Preferred has been around since 2009, but don’t be fooled, in this case, that doesn’t mean it is stale and outdated.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. And it’s clearly hard to top something that is tried, tested and so valuable. Over a decade after its launch, this is still my number one most recommended first card for those newer to points, miles and 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 just launched its all-time best welcome bonus with an offer for 80,000 transferrable Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months of account opening. On top of that, the card is also offering up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery purchases within the first year of account opening.

That’s a total value of $1,650 (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 80,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points after $4,000 in spending in the first 3 months. Earn a $50 statement credit with $50 in grocery charges within the first year of account opening.

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Outstanding transfer partners

The line-up 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 line-up of 13 hotel and airline partners.

These transfer partners include: United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, World of Hyatt, British Airways Executive Club, JetBlue TrueBlue, Marriott Bonvoy, Aer Lingus Avios, Iberia Plus Avios, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Emirates Skywards, IHG Rewards, Air France/Flying Blue/KLM and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. All of the transfer ratios from Chase to these programs are at a 1:1 ratio.

This means that if you have 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, that could be turned into the equivalent of 80,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards, or 80,000 United MileagePlus miles, or 80,000 World of Hyatt points, etc. This opens up so many more uses for your points than if they were just locked into one program.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Several of these transfer partners — such as United, Hyatt and Southwest — are unique to Chase, so the line-up can’t be easily replicated with other credit card programs.

And those U.S.-based programs are often more comfortable places for those newer to travel rewards to start with point transfers than some international options where you are often leveraging partners. There’s lots of value to grow into with those redemptions, but it is good to have an easy, comfortable place to start.

Here’s how to transfer your Chase points to travel partners.

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Low annual fee

Premium travel rewards cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Sapphire Preferred’s sister, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, have replaced the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s slot in my own wallet, but I’ve been at this for a long time.

Even if those cards are worth it (and they can be), rare is the points and miles newcomer than wants to start off with a card that comes with a $550+ annual fee. (See rates and fees for the Amex Platinum.)

It can be much easier to test the waters with a card like the Sapphire Preferred that comes with just a $95 annual fee. That’s a very small investment when put up against a welcome bonus valued at $1,650 to try out a new-to-you card for a year.

Massive sign-up bonus

Speaking of sign-up bonuses, let’s dig into that a bit more.

The public sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred has never been higher, and on average, the usual bonus is “just” 50,000 – 60,000 points. Getting 80,000 points and a $50 statement credit towards grocery purchases is a truly stellar bonus, especially for a card with just a $95 annual fee.

Use Chase points at the Park Hyatt St. Kitts (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

TPG values the bonus at $1,650, based on being able to maximize the points with hotel and airline transfer partners. But, being frank, some newer to credit card rewards may not always get quite that much value from the points as that value requires you to leverage the previously mentioned transfer partners.

However, even if you just use the points at a fixed value for travel booked through Chase or via the “pay yourself back” option against charges made at grocery stores, home improvement stores and dining establishments, including take-out and delivery services (currently available until Sept. 30), you’ll still get 1.25 cents in value per point. That is the same as getting $1,000 in value from the bonus before you tack on the grocery credit.

Even at that lower valuation than if you really maximize your points, that’s a better welcome bonus than from many cards that have annual fees several times that of the Sapphire Preferred.

Related: Welcome bonuses worth $1,000 or more 

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. It earns 2x points per dollar on dining and travel and 1x point per dollar elsewhere.

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.

The card is also awarding 2x points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month until April 30, 2021. But for the most part, the card has had the same earning structure for a decade, making it easy to remember.

Since the points earned by this card are valued by TPG at 2 cents each, that means you are getting 2 – 4 cents in value per dollar charged to the card, which isn’t bad at all. However, once you are ready to “level-up”, the Sapphire Preferred and its points can grow with you.

There are several other credit cards within the Chase family that 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 (up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter), and when you have the Sapphire Preferred, you can move those points into your Ultimate Rewards account and use them exactly the same as points earned by the Sapphire Preferred.

If you have a small business, you can also pair the Sapphire Preferred with a no-annual-fee Ink Cash or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to pick up access to even more 3x – 5x bonus categories. The Ink Business Preferred is currently offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

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 ignore all of that if you want, and stick just with the very versatile Sapphire Preferred as the only rewards card in your wallet.

Related: All about the Chase credit card trifecta

Easy to use rewards

The most mathematically rewarding way to use your Ultimate Rewards points is by transferring to the previously mentioned hotel and airline partners and then maximizing the points via those programs and their award charts. 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 Chase Travel. With the Sapphire Preferred, your points are worth 1.25 cents each when used in that manner. (If you ever get the Sapphire Reserve, points used in that way are worth 1.5 cents each.)

This site operates basically the same as when booking travel via Expedia, making it a really simple and intuitive way to use your points even for those very new to this way of traveling for less.

(Screenshot courtesy of Chase Travel)

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 credit card journey.

There’s an (unwritten) rule that Chase won’t generally 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 5/24 rule. Because of that rule, it makes sense to start your rewards card journey by getting a Chase card (or two), like the Sapphire Preferred, as one of your first rewards credit cards before you could potentially run into a brick wall with opening new Chase accounts

Related: The best ways to fill your 5/24 slots 

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred walks a wonderful line between being rewarding and rich when it comes to perks and points, without being intimidating or too pricey to try. It can be your gateway to having a wallet full of Ultimate Rewards credit cards, 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 welcome bonus is at an all-time high of 80,000 points and a $50 grocery credit after hitting the spending requirements.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

Featured image by John Gribben for The Points Guy

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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