After 13 years, why the Chase Sapphire Preferred should still be your first rewards card
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information.
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 solid sign-up bonus. And at the top of that list of options may be the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and its current 80,000-point bonus.
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The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is 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. It’s been around since 2009, but don’t be fooled — in this case, that doesn’t mean it is stale and outdated.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 13 years to perfect itself. It is tried, tested and still so valuable. Over a decade after its launch, this is still my the card I most frequently recommended first for those newer to points and miles and travel rewards.
If you are looking for where to start — or which card to get next — now could be a great time to take the plunge and add the Chase Sapphire Preferred to your wallet. Here are five reasons why after so many years, it is still my most recommended travel rewards credit card.
Solid sign-up bonus
Past public sign-up bonuses for the Chase Sapphire Preferred were as high as 100,000 points for a card with a reasonable $95 annual fee. The current bonus is 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
TPG values the 80,000 point bonus at $1,600, based on maximizing the points with hotel and airline transfer partners. But, being frank, that does take some time to learn the ins and outs of the best uses of Ultimate Rewards points. Some of those newer to the world of credit card rewards may not always get much value from the points.
However, even if you use the points directly for travel booked through Chase, you’ll still get 1.25 cents in value per point. That’s the same as getting $1,000 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 solid sign-up bonus that requires little effort to utilize.
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 11 airline 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 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, that could be turned into the equivalent of 80,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points — or 80,000 United MileagePlus miles, or 80,000 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 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 with added perks
Premium travel rewards cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Sapphire Preferred’s luxury counterpart (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) or $550 (for the Sapphire Reserve).
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 $1,600 by TPG), that’s a minimal investment to try out a new-to-you card for at least a year.
Note that last year’s refresh of the card added even more perks that can partially offset the annual fee. For example, you can enjoy a $50 annual hotel credit for stays booked through Ultimate Rewards travel, and you’ll also receive 10% of your points back each year (based on your card spending).
Good earning rates that can improve with time
The Sapphire Preferred doesn’t have the highest earning rates out there, but it still offers a solid return on many purchases — including new categories that launched last year:
- 5 points per dollar on travel booked through the Chase travel portal.
- 3 points per dollar on dining.
- 3 points per dollar on select streaming services.
- 3 points per dollar on online grocery store purchases (excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).
- 2 points per dollar on all travel not booked through the Chase travel portal.
- 1 point per dollar on everything else.
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 anywhere from 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.
That’s because 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). While this is technically billed as a cash-back card, when you pair it with 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 bonus categories (some with 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 again, if you have the Sapphire Preferred, that bonus can become 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of $750 cash, if you wish.
In short, having the Sapphire Preferred card unlocks the transferability for points earned from a variety of Chase cards. However, 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 yet well-documented) 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 solid 80,000-point bonus and travel on the upswing, now could be a great time to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
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-earning 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 rewards all on its own.
There’s no wrong way to use a Sapphire Preferred. And there’s no better card with which to get started.
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with a 80,000-point bonus.
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson and Stella Shon.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
Featured photo by Wyatt Smith for The Points Guy.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, 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.
- 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®.
- Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- 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
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.