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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Not all the best travel credit cards come with high annual fees. There are plenty of good options if you’re looking to pay less than $100 a year. One example is the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card, with a $95 annual fee — not only does it award a 50% bonus on points earned when you make 30 transactions or more per billing cycle, but also it earns full Membership Rewards points, which means you can transfer them to the program’s dozens of travel partners.
In its corner, Chase fields the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, with an annual fee of $95. This card’s no longer the most premium Ultimate Rewards-earning option now that the Chase Sapphire Reserve is also available, but it still offers a strong 2x points on all travel and dining purchases.
With these two heavyweights in the ring, let’s look at their benefits and drawbacks, and which card is the right choice for whom.
Here’s a quick look at both cards’ current details, including earning rates and sign-up offers.
Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card
Current Sign-up Bonus: 15,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Category Spending Bonuses: Earn 3x Membership Rewards points at US supermarkets (not including warehouse stores like Costco) on up to $6,000 of purchases annually (then 1x); 2x on gasoline purchases at US gas stations; and 1x points on all other purchases.
Other Bonuses: Use the Card to make 30 or more purchases in a billing period and get 50% extra points on all those purchases (less returns and credits).
Other Benefits: 0% introductory rate on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months, then a variable APR of 14.74% to 24.74%.
Annual Fee: $95
Current Sign-up Bonus: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Category Spending Bonuses: Earn 2x points on all travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Other Benefits: No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $95; waived the first year
The table below shows the various factors that influence how each card stacks up:
|Sign-Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Other Bonuses||Foreign Transaction Fees||Travel Partners|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||60,000 points /$4,000 spend||$95||2x on dining and travel||None||13 total|
|Amex EveryDay Preferred||15,000 points /$1,000 spend||$95||3x on groceries (up to $6,000 each year), 2x on gas, 50% transaction bonus||2.7%||20 total|
Current Sign-Up Bonus
Sapphire Preferred: 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, and an additional 5,000 bonus points when you add an additional cardholder within the first three months.
EveryDay Preferred: 15,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
Winner: Sapphire Preferred. Though the spending requirement is four times as high as the Amex EveryDay Preferred’s, you can earn over three times as many points with the sign-up bonus, which is worth it in my book.
Sapphire Preferred: $95
EveryDay Preferred: $95
Winner: Though things even out after the first year, the Sapphire Preferred edges ahead here by waiving the first year’s annual fee. It would be great if Amex did this as well.
Category Spending Bonuses
- Auto/truck/RV rental
- Limos and taxis
- Travel agencies
- Tolls and bridges
- Parking (lots, meters, garages)
- Time shares
EveryDay Preferred: Earn 3x Membership Rewards points at US supermarkets (not including warehouse stores like Costco) on up to $6,000 of purchases annually (then 1x); 2x on gasoline purchases at US standalone gas stations.
Winner: Tie. This is one of the more complicated comparisons, and really the decision comes down to where you spend your money.
If you’re a mobile professional who spends a lot of time and money on travel and dining out, then Sapphire Preferred is the better card for you thanks to that 2x bonus and the fact that there’s no cap. However, if you tend to spend more on groceries than dining out, and have a commute or driving needs that mean you’re filling up your gas tank regularly, you’ll likely get more value from EveryDay Preferred. In this case, it really pays to parse out your expenses for a year and see what categories your spending falls into.
Sapphire Preferred: Unfortunately, this card no longer offers a 7% annual points dividend — this ended in 2016.
EveryDay Preferred: Make 30 or more purchases in a billing period and earn 50% extra points on all those purchases, including on bonus points earned in certain merchant categories.
Winner: EveryDay Preferred. This is where the Amex card really pulls ahead. A potential base earning rate of 1.5 points per dollar (if you make at least 30 purchases with the card per month) plus the ability to earn up to 3 points per dollar on gas and 4.5 points per dollar on groceries (up to the annual maximum) is the most valuable perk this card carries. Granted, you do have to make 30 transactions or more per billing cycle, but with today’s spending habits, that’s not a burdensome requirement.
Foreign Transaction Fees
Sapphire Preferred: None
EveryDay Preferred: 2.7%
Winner: Sapphire Preferred. No contest here. The Sapphire Preferred is squarely aimed at international travelers, and as such, it carries no forex fees. The EveryDay Preferred does, however, and its category spending bonuses are for US supermarkets and gas stations only, which positions it for domestic use primarily.
For more information, see this post on Top Travel Credit Cards that Waive Foreign Transaction Fees.
Sapphire Preferred: As a Visa Signature card, the Sapphire Preferred comes with a slew of value-added benefits like trip cancellation and interruption insurance, lost and delayed baggage insurance and primary rental car insurance.
EveryDay Preferred: This card carries Amex purchase protection, but its suite of travel benefits isn’t as solid as those on Sapphire Preferred. It does offer Amex’s premium primary car rental coverage for $24.95 ($17.95 for CA residents) per rental, though. This card also currently offers a 0% introductory rate on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months.
Winner: Sapphire Preferred. If you intend to use your card when traveling, the benefits package on Sapphire Preferred is the hands-down winner, and the purchase protections it offers is comparable to that on the Amex EveryDay Preferred. However, if you’re looking for a card to carry a balance on for a few months after applying, you might like the introductory rate on EveryDay Preferred.
One of the main selling points of each of these cards is that the points that you earn can be transferred to travel partners in their respective programs — Membership Rewards for Amex and Ultimate Rewards for Chase. Below is a brief rundown of each program and its travel partners.
Sapphire Preferred: Ultimate Rewards program
- Airlines: Aer Lingus, British Airways, Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), Iberia, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, United, Virgin Atlantic
- Hotels: Hyatt, IHG Rewards, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton
EveryDay Preferred: Membership Rewards program
- Airlines: Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France/KLM, Alitalia, ANA, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, El Al, Emirates, Etihad, Hawaiian, Iberia, JetBlue, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic
- Hotels: Choice, Hilton, Starwood
Winner: Sapphire Preferred. This is bound to be a controversial call, and like much else here, it depends on how you want to use your points.
While Ultimate Rewards has just 9 airline transfer partners compared to 16 for Membership Rewards, I’d argue that those 9 airline partners are superior based on the ease of accrual for US-based customers, fast transfers (which is not the case for many Amex partners), and coverage in the three major alliances as well as some outside partners like Virgin Atlantic and Southwest.
On the other hand, the number of partners Amex has — including several choices in each alliance — is a big strength, because it helps insulate cardholders from devaluations by individual airline. Also, Amex periodically offers transfer bonuses to numerous partners. For example, a 30% transfer bonus to ANA in late 2017 provided a great way to book great redemptions to Asia on the cheap.
On the hotel side of things, Ultimate Rewards offers superior partners, especially Hyatt. By including World of Hyatt as well as Marriott/Ritz-Carlton and IHG, the program gives cardholders access to an enormous group of hotels in a number of categories all over the globe. While Amex offers Hilton and Starwood, the transfer rates (1:2 for Hilton and 1,000:333 for Starwood) are not exceptional. Especially considering that you can also get that Starwood rate in a roundabout way by transferring Ultimate Rewards points first to Marriott on a 1:1 basis, and then to Starwood at a 1:3 ratio.
Other Redemption Methods
Sapphire Preferred: Book travel at a rate of 1.25 cents per point through the Ultimate Rewards travel center.
EveryDay Preferred: Book airfare at a rate of 1 cent per point through Amex using Pay With Points.
Winner: Sapphire Preferred — you’re getting 25% more value per point. Plus, if you also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can combine points across cards to redeem points through Chase at an even better rate of 1.5 cents apiece.
For a final comparison, let’s put the spending/earning potential of each card to the test. For some realistic numbers, I looked up the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer expenditure survey. This dates to August 29, 2017 and contains figures for 2016 spending. I rounded the numbers slightly to make calculations easier, and included the purchases and categories that people are likely to make with these credit cards — so not rent or mortgages, for instance.
Here’s how the average American’s spending breaks down:
- Groceries: $4,000
- Dining out: $3,200
- Gas: $1,900
- Travel: $2,200
- Entertainment: $2,900
- Apparel/Services: $1,800
- Healthcare: $4,600
Below is the number of points you would earn using each card and the approximate value of those points based on TPG’s latest monthly valuations (which list Ultimate Rewards at 2.1 cents apiece and,Membership Rewards at 1.9 cents apiece). In this first scenario, I include the 50% points bonus for making 30-plus transactions per billing period on the EveryDay Preferred.
- Sapphire Preferred: 26,000 points = $546
- EveryDay Preferred: 45,750 points = $869.25
- Winner: EveryDay Preferred
Now consider another scenario that excludes the 50% bonus for the EveryDay Preferred.
- Sapphire Preferred: 26,000 points = $546
- EveryDay Preferred: 30,500 points = $579.50
- Winner: EveryDay Preferred
From a points-earning perspective, as well as with TPG’s valuations, the EveryDay Preferred beats Sapphire Preferred in both scenarios. However, if you spend even slightly more than the average US consumer on travel purchases, the Sapphire Preferred starts coming out ahead very quickly.
Naturally, the results depend on a number of factors, including where you tend to focus your spending, how you value Membership Rewards points versus Ultimate Rewards points and whether you’re eligible for the points bonuses. Aside from points, you should consider whether you can take advantage of other benefits, like no foreign transaction fees on Sapphire Preferred, and how its much higher sign-up bonus might impact your bottom line as well.
As with any credit card comparison, which card wins out all depends on your spending patterns and how you want to redeem the points you earn.
For consumers who can max out the grocery and gas bonus categories, and who hit that 30-transaction magic number each billing cycle, the earning potential on the EveryDay Preferred is hard to be beat. However, its value is limited to use in the US thanks to considerable foreign transaction fees and less-comprehensive travel protections.
For its part, the sign-up bonus on the Sapphire Preferred is nearly four times that of the EveryDay Preferred. Its other spending bonuses are in solid and useful categories and have no cap, and the annual fee of $95 (the same as the EveryDay Preferred) is waived the first year, meaning you can try it out for a year without worrying about whether you’re getting that value back in terms of benefits. Furthermore, its comprehensive portfolio of travel protections (like primary rental car insurance and no foreign transaction fees) make it a no-brainer for those whose travel abroad frequently.
One option would be to get both cards. Between them, you could earn the two sign-up bonuses, maximize the fact that there is no overlap in bonus spending categories, and benefit from a total of 20 airline partners, and seven hotel partners covering most of your bases and giving you flexibility when deciding where to redeem your points. You would only be paying the annual fee on EveryDay Preferred in the first year, so you’d get two cards for the cost of one, at least to start. Then you could take a year to ponder which card works best for you if you only plan to keep one in the long run.
Know before you go.
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