Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Nov. 18, 2019.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Overview
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best-known travel rewards credit cards. Featuring 2 points per dollar on all travel and dining purchases, it earns valuable points that can be transferred to 12 airline partners and hotel partners or redeemed directly for travel at a rate of 1.25 cents per point through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
One of the most common questions we’re asked is “which travel credit card should I start with?” and I almost universally recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It earns arguably the most valuable loyalty points in existence. It carries a reasonable annual fee. It has travel and dining bonus spend categories. And it carries valuable travel protections any time I use it to pay for travel.
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I started my journey into points and miles in 2012 when I applied for the Sapphire Preferred, and I continue to hold it to this day. Let’s review this card and identify why it’s a solid start for anyone entering the points and miles world, or how it can contribute to the advanced points and miles collector’s loyalty portfolio.
Who is this card for?
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is designed to work for travelers both frequent and infrequent. It can benefit both the points and miles expert and the one just starting out. With a $95 annual fee, it’s not an expensive card, which makes it a good choice for a beginner. 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. I also recommend starting your journey into the world of loyalty points with Chase cards, because you need to strategically plan around Chase’s 5/24 rule. The Sapphire Preferred is definitely worthy of one of your coveted five slots for opening new cards.
While many resources may tell you to consider the CSP’s big brother — the Chase Sapphire Reserve — you need to first consider whether you’re likely to use all the advanced travel benefits that come along with the much higher $550 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. In the past, people 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.
Related reading: Who Should (and Who Shouldn’t) Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred?
Sign-up bonus: As much as $1,200 in value
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s $750 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards to cover the cost of a plane ticket, hotel, rental car or travel experience. This is a 10,000-point increase over the card’s previous long-time offer of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, but with the old offer, the $95 fee was waived the first year. With the new 60,000-point offer, which is now the new standard offer, you’ll pay the annual fee for the first year and subsequent years, but the 10,000 extra points can more than make up for it.
Depending on how you use your points, you can get even more than $750 in value for them. Based on TPG’s most recent point valuations, Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2 cents apiece, which means those 60,000 bonus points can get you $1,200 in travel if your plans are flexible and you can maximize the points by transferring them to travel partners.
Main benefits and perks
In short, I have used this card to pay for car rentals, cruises, plane tickets and hotels, because travel can often become a challenge and I need peace of mind I’ll be financially covered if and when things go awry. In my opinion, besides the points the card earns you, the highlight of the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s benefits is the primary rental car coverage — a relatively unusual credit card perk. Most cards offer secondary car insurance, which means if your rental car gets damaged, 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 the card issuer right off the bat and avoid involving your own insurance policy entirely.
Chase has recently ramped up its partnerships with other brands, including on-demand food service DoorDash. Cardholders now get at least one year of complimentary DashPass membership with DoorDash, which gives you free delivery and reduced service fees on eligible purchases. However, keep in mind there is a cost associated with using food delivery services such as DoorDash. If you already use the service, this can be a valuable benefit, but it’s not necessarily a valuable addition to the card if you’d rather forgo delivery in favor of take out or table service.
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 five 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 — along with higher annual fees. Keep in mind when you’re traveling internationally, the Sapphire Preferred has no foreign transaction fees, and any time you find yourself in a tough spot needing help, the Visa Signature Concierge Service is available.
Finally, the Sapphire Preferred comes with purchase protection up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account, and extended warranty protection that provides an additional year of coverage on eligible purchases with a manufacturer’s warranty of three years of less. You can read more about the CSP’s shopping and travel benefits in the card’s guide to benefits.
Related reading: 5 Chase Sapphire Preferred Benefits You Might Not Know About
How to earn points
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. Speaking of Lyft, you now earn 5x points per dollar spent through March 2022.
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. However, you can also get the bonus multiplier at many bars that don’t serve food 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 this card.
Related reading: Which Purchases Count as Travel With Chase Sapphire Preferred?
How to redeem points
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. And if you book a flight this way, it should be treated as a normal, revenue ticket — meaning you’re eligible to earn miles and credit toward airline elite status.
However, while it’s easiest to use your Ultimate Rewards points that way, 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 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 Ultimate Rewards points — especially with programs like United MileagePlus or the World of Hyatt.
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.
Related reading: Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards for Maximum Value
Little-known facts about cSP
There are a ton of features, facts and quirks of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, including a few you might not be aware of.
1. The Sapphire Preferred is the middle child of the Sapphire family.
While most people are familiar with the Sapphire Preferred’s “bigger brother,” the Chase Sapphire Reserve, there’s actually also a baby in the family. The no-annual-fee Chase Sapphire can’t be applied for directly, but you can downgrade your Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve to a Chase Sapphire after the account’s first anniversary.
2. You’ll gain access to exclusive Sapphire lifestyle events.
In addition to high value rewards points, Sapphire Preferred card holders gain exclusive access to events like the Sundance Film Festival, Radio City Music Hall and private events with celebrity chefs.
3. It pairs well with other Chase cards.
While the Sapphire Preferred is a standout card by itself, it works even better if you pair it with a duo of other Chase cards and combine all your points. The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back (1.5 points), and the Chase Freedom’s rotating 5% cash back (5x point) quarterly bonus categories (up to $1,500 per quarter; activation required) can help maximize your earnings.
4. Authorized users are free if you want to add one.
If you want to add a family or friend as an authorized user, you can do so free of charge. This is a leg up over premium credit cards, which often charge a $75+ annual fee for authorized users. Just remember you’ll be responsible for any charges made on your account.
5. It’s a metal card.
The bright metallic blue card is sure to turn heads when you whip it out to pay for dinner, and the loud “thump” it makes when you put it on the table never gets old.
Related reading: 5 Reasons Chase Sapphire Preferred Should Be Your First Card
Is the CSP worth the annual fee?
Unfortunately, like most things in this hobby, there’s no cut-and-dried answer to the question, “Is the Sapphire Preferred worth the annual fee?” That being said, there are some situations where the answer is a resounding yes, so consider opening and holding onto the card in year two and beyond if you fall into one (or more) of these categories:
- You are able to hit the sign-up bonus. If you know you’ll be able to earn the 60,000-point sign-up bonus, that’s up to $1,200 in value that far outweighs the first-year cost of the card.
- You spend at least $4,318.18 in combined dining and travel purchases each year. The extra points you’d earn on the Sapphire Preferred will easily cover the annual fee, not including any additional value you get through partnerships (such as the new DashPass benefit or 5x on Lyft).
- You spend at least $3,166.67 a year outside the U.S. and don’t currently have a card that waives foreign transaction fees. Once again, the money you save will cover the $95.
- You’re looking for valuable travel protection. Some of the most under-appreciated perks on travel rewards credit cards involve the various coverages they include, and many involve travel. The Sapphire Preferred has primary car rental coverage, trip cancellation and delay insurance and even baggage delay protection. It’s hard to peg a value to these benefits before you use them, but when things go wrong, they can be a lifesaver.
- You currently hold the Chase Freedom and/or Chase Freedom Unlimited. When you hold the Sapphire Preferred with one of these cards, you can freely move points from one account to another, effectively augmenting the value of your Freedom earnings by translating them from cash-back rewards into fully-transferable Ultimate Rewards points.
Everyone’s spending and travel situation is unique, so it’s exceedingly hard to speak in absolutes when it comes to a specific travel rewards credit card. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card continues to represent a solid value proposition for a wide swath of the traveling public. So long as you’re using the card frequently enough to get more than $95 in value from the rewards earned and benefits utilized, this card is definitely worth the annual cost.
If you’re ready to move beyond cash back or 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 (almost 10 years) as a first-rate rewards credit card 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 and can make for one of the best credit cards available today.
Apply here for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with a 60,000-point sign-up bonus.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg and Nick Ewen.
Featured image by The Points Guy
- Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs). Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 4/1/2020.
- New! With Status Boost™, earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to four times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
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