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Even though it’s only eight years old, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is practically the granddaddy of travel rewards credit cards. Yet throughout all the changes in the credit card market over those eight years, the CSP still stands as one of the best all-around points and miles cards, especially for those who might be just starting out in the world of travel loyalty programs.
But what is it about the Chase Sapphire Preferred that makes it such a great travel card? In one word — flexibility. Practically every aspect of the CSP gives you options, from the way you earn points to how you redeem them to even the card’s lesser-known perks. And since the card comes with a low annual fee, it won’t break the bank either.
Who Is This Card For?
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is designed to work for travelers both frequent and infrequent, to benefit both the advanced points and miles collector and the one just starting out. With a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year, it’s not an expensive card, which makes it a good choice for a beginner, especially since you can effectively try it out for a year without paying anything at all. But since the card earns Ultimate Rewards points — one of the top flexible points currencies — you’ll also find this card goes a long way if you’re an experienced loyalty program whiz looking to get maximum value.
Sign-Up Bonus: Over $1,000 in Value
You’ll earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can also earn another 5,000 bonus points by adding an authorized user and making a purchase within the first three months.
But depending on how you use your points, you can get even more than $625 in travel. Based on TPG’s point valuations as of January 2018, Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2.1 cents apiece, which means those 50,000 bonus points can get you more than $1,000 in travel if your travel plans are flexible and you can maximize the points.
The CSP’s big brother — the Chase Sapphire Reserve — also offers 50,000 bonus points for signing up and spending $4,000 in the first three months, and in the past you were able to get sign-up bonuses for both the Preferred and the Reserve in relatively quick succession. However, that’s no longer possible, so there’s no real reason to get both cards. And since the two cards have identical sign-up bonuses, you can focus entirely on whether you’re likely to use all the advanced travel benefits that come along with the much higher $450 annual fee of the Reserve. If that’s not for you (or if you’re just starting out and aren’t sure), get the Preferred, and then you can always convert your Preferred to a Reserve down the line if you choose.
The Sapphire Preferred comes with two basic but popular bonus categories. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on both travel and dining, and the way those categories are defined is one area where the card offers a lot of flexibility. The travel category on the CSP is broad, encompassing a great number of purchases that you might not think of as “travel” expenses.
For instance, in addition to the charges you might expect to count as travel — such as airlines, hotels, motels, car rentals, cruise lines and travel agencies — you’ll also get 2x points when paying for passenger trains (including most commuter trains), buses, taxis, limos, ferries, toll bridges and highways, parking lots and garages and even Uber and Lyft. That’s a lot of different purchases you can earn 2x for even when you’re in your home city.
When it comes to the dining side, you earn 2 points per dollar on essentially all restaurants — regardless of whether they’re fancy sit down places or fast food joints. But you can also get the bonus multiplier at many bars and even some delivery services such as Seamless. So while it may not seem at first glance like the CSP has a plethora of bonus categories, there are actually tons of opportunities to rack up points with the card.
When you’re ready to redeem the points you’ve earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, that’s when the card’s flexibility (there’s that word again) really shines. First, you can use your points to purchase airfare, reserve hotel rooms and even rent a car at a fixed rate of 1.25 cents per point through the Chase travel portal. That means if you don’t want to worry about blackout dates or finding award space, you’ll always have the option to book travel using your points this way. As long as there’s a seat for sale on the flight you want or a hotel room available to reserve with cash, you’ll be able to pay for it with your points.
However, while it’s easiest to use your Ultimate Rewards points in this manner, it’s not the most lucrative choice. The way to get top value from your CSP is to take advantage of the card’s ability to transfer points to any of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners. If you take this route, you’ll need to be prepared to do a little homework by learning which partners are best utilized for specific trips and searching for award availability. But if you’re willing to put in the extra time, you can get much more than 1.25 cents per point in value from your Sapphire Preferred points.
To be fair, the American Express Membership Rewards program has a greater number of transfer partners, but the quality of those partners varies greatly. And while not every Ultimate Rewards transfer partner is terrific, Chase’s program is highly competitive since you can take advantage of key partners like United, British Airways and Singapore for airline redemptions, or burn points at high-end hotel properties like the Park Hyatt Sydney.
The highlight of the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s insurance coverage and purchase protections is undoubtedly its primary rental car coverage, a relatively unusual credit card perk. Most cards offer secondary car insurance, which means you have to first look to your personal auto policy or other primary coverages, if any, before the card’s coverage will step in and cover any losses. But with primary coverage, you can submit the claim directly to your card right off the bat and avoid involving your own insurance policy entirely.
When traveling, the CSP offers $500 per ticket in trip delay insurance and $10,000 in trip cancellation insurance. It also features $100 per day in coverage for up to 5 days in baggage delay insurance and up to $3,000 per person in lost luggage reimbursement. That’s a strong lineup, though you’ll find even better protections on premium cards.
Finally, the Sapphire Preferred comes with purchase protection up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account, and price protection of $500 per item up to $2,500 per account year on most claims. It’s one of only a handful of Chase cards with price protection coverage.
Which Cards Compete With the Sapphire Preferred?
The CSP is a mid-tier personal credit card, so cards with similar annual fees and transferable point programs include the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express, the Citi ThankYou Premier Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. The EveryDay Preferred card has access to the aforementioned roster of Membership Rewards transfer partners and earns a 50% points bonus each month you make 30 or more purchases. But its sign-up bonus is only 15,000 points (after spending $1,000 in the first three months) and its top bonus category — 3x on supermarket purchases — is capped at $6,000 per year.
The ThankYou Premier card from Citi has a terrific set of bonus categories, including 3x on travel (which includes gas stations) and 2x on dining and entertainment. But Citi’s transfer partners don’t match up well with Chase’s, with fewer airline options and no great hotel choice.
SPG’s co-branded Amex card has what most people would consider to be the best list of transfer partners of all comparable cards, and Starpoints are on par with Ultimate Rewards as far as being a highly valued point currency. The one major downside of the Starwood card is extremely limited bonus categories — you’ll earn only 1 point per dollar on everything except for charges at an SPG or Marriott hotel. So while the points are fantastic, they’re difficult to earn in volume.
If you’re ready to move beyond cash back or completely fixed-value travel rewards credit cards, there really is no better place to start than with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. There’s a reason it’s stuck around for so long while other cards have come and gone or languished in the shadows. It doesn’t have fancy travel benefits or lounge access, but it has a great sign-up bonus and some of the most valuable points around. It’s flexible enough to meet the travel rewards needs of practically every points and miles skill level, and it comes with a cheap price tag. So don’t dismiss it just because it’s not flashy — sometimes a solid and adaptable performer is exactly what you need.
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards