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10 Years Later, Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred Is Still My Top Rec for Family Travel

March 21, 2019
8 min read
Happy family traveling by plane and taking a selfie
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Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with a 60,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months.

Just as a family beach vacation is a timeless treat, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has been one of my top rewards credit-card recommendations for years for families who want to travel more for less.

Since it was first introduced, almost a decade ago, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been my most frequent card recommendation. It doesn't have the highest potential for earning points or the most built-in perks or even the highest sign-up bonus, but it offers the most well-rounded opportunity to build miles and points.

Now that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 to 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after $4,000 in spending in the first three months, it's even easier to recommend. (Sadly, the increased points bonus is accompanied by the elimination of a waived annual fee the first year. Now you pay the $95 per year fee from the beginning. However, the 10k additional bonus points are worth more than the $95 -- even if you just redeem them at a fixed 1.25 cents each.)

You Can't Go Wrong Using the Points

I recommend Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) to other families because you can't go wrong when redeeming the points. Chase Ultimate Rewards has multiple US-based, easy-to-use transfer partners that make it simple to squeeze real value out of the points earned. Transfer partners include:

Many of those programs have simple-to-use websites, making it a cinch to successfully redeem awards if you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to those programs. It helps that the transfer ratios are all a flat 1:1 and most of them process instantaneously. Families need to book award space when it appears, so speed matters.

Having multiple transfer options is key for families who are often relegated to traveling during school breaks and peak travel times when award availability can be tough. For example, if a family wanted to go to Costa Rica for spring break, they could transfer Chase points to Hyatt to book the Andaz Costa Rica for 20k points per night. If that hotel was booked, they could transfer Chase points to Marriott and snag the JW Marriott Guanacaste or the El Mangroove, Autograph Collection properties for 35k points per night.

Andaz Costa Rica (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

For flights, you could top up your JetBlue TrueBlue account with a Chase transfer to book flights to Costa Rica. Or if JetBlue doesn't have the right flights available for your schedule, the points could be transferred to Southwest or United. You have options, which is key during peak travel dates.

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However, you do not ever have to use the transfer partners to make use of your Ultimate Rewards points. I know plenty of families who have been very happy using their Ultimate Rewards points to book travel via the Chase Travel site (powered by Expedia) at a fixed value of 1.25 cents per point. I'd argue there are better cards out there if that is the only way you ever want to use your points, but there is nothing wrong with redeeming a 60k sign-up bonus to enjoy $750 in travel without messing with transfer partners.

Chase Travel site as viewable with the Sapphire Reserve, but looks the same with Sapphire Preferred.

Chase's travel portal also allows you to redeem points for activities. And while the ratio isn't always the best use of your points, it can be a terrific way to pepper your vacation with fun activities like catamaran snorkel trips, guided city tours or theatrical presentations.

Grow Into Sweet Spot Redemptions (If You Want To)

Another key feature of the CSP that makes it a top recommendation is that it is still a good card for more long-range travel.

You can transfer the points to Iberia and fly in a lie-flat seat to Europe for as little as 25,500 points (for a limited time). Transferring your Chase points to book awards via Singapore Airlines means you can fly to Hawaii and back in United's business class from 65,000 miles (United would want 80,000 miles) or in economy for 35,000 miles (United would want 45,000). Transfers to British Airways hold the key to booking American Airlines flights from 7,500 points each way and transfer partner Virgin Atlantic has all sorts of award redemptions.

Iberia business class (Photo by Lori Zaino / The Points Guy)

There are lots of medium- and advanced-level redemptions waiting for you in the Ultimate Rewards line-up should you choose to use them.

2x Points Isn't Bad

Earning 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar elsewhere isn't the best earning structure out there. However, it isn't bad either -- especially for the broad worldwide categories of travel and dining. If you value your Ultimate Rewards points per dollar at 2 cents each (as TPG does), that is a 4% return per dollar spent in those categories. That's not best in class, but it is still solid and simple to remember.

Great Companion to Other Cards

Just as your family can grow into more advanced redemptions with your Ultimate Rewards points, you can also grow into a full line-up of Chase Ultimate Rewards cards. While you can only have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or its pricier and flashier sister, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, there are other good companion cards in the Ultimate Rewards family. I've personally had the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) for years because it has no annual fee and earns 5 points per dollar in rotating bonus categories each quarter, up to $1,500 (activation required).

Those points are only worth 1 cent each on their own, but when moved to the account of a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, they become fully transferable points you can move to the hotel and airline partners, increasing their value significantly.

If rotating categories aren't your thing, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is another great companion card to the CSP. The Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back (1.5 points per dollar) on purchases. And again, when moved to the Chase Sapphire Preferred the points become fully transferable. Think of it this way -- if you also have the CSP, that's like earning 1.5 United, Southwest or Hyatt points per dollar across all categories -- or 3 points per dollar on the first $20,000 you spend your first year -- which is a better everyday earning rate than on any of those respective cobranded cards.

Combine Your Points

Families will love that you can also combine Chase points with one member of your household (even from different card types) so you can have the Sapphire Preferred, your partner can have the Chase Freedom Unlimited and their points become transferrable to hotel and airline partners after they are moved to your CSP account.

60,000 Bonus Points Are Worth $750+

What fun is a first rewards credit card if it doesn't get you to your first award redemption quickly? Sign-up bonuses matter, because you need an easy payoff after getting your first card. The 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points get you $750 in travel booked via the Chase Travel site, a one-way ticket to Europe in business class booked via United, four nights near the mountains at the Hyatt Place Keystone or eight one-way flights on American Airlines (booked via British Airways). Spend $4,000 in the first three months and redeem those points when they hit your account.

Image credit: Getty Images

Bottom Line

There's no single best first rewards credit card for every single family that is looking to book their next vacation with points, but the best overall recommendation is often the Chase Sapphire Preferred. That was true at 50,000 points but is even more true with the new bonus of 60,000 points.

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.