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Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Bank of America Travel Rewards — Which should beginner travelers get?

Aug. 30, 2020
9 min read
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If you're just jumping into the travel rewards game, it can be overwhelming to pick which credit card to get started with. There are a lot of competitive options, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Today, I'm going to walk through two popular beginner travel credit cards — the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card. Both offer an entry point into earning travel rewards, but which is best for your wallet?

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Card comparison overview

Before we dive deeper into how these cards stack up against each other, let's run through a quick overview of each card's details.

Perk/benefitChase Sapphire Preferred CardBank of America Travel Rewards
Sign-up bonus60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.25,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual fee$95$0
Earning rates5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards

3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out

3x points on select streaming services

3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)

2x points on all other travel

1x point on all other purchases

 

Temporary COVID-19 earning rates 

1.5x on every purchase
*Point value2 cents each1 cent each

*Point value is based on TPG calculations and is not provided or reviewed by the issuer.

Sign-up bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred clearly has a superior bonus in terms of value. You'll receive 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which is worth up to $1,200 according to TPG valuations. By comparison, you'll only get 25,000 points points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening (a $250 value) from the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card.

However, something to keep in mind here is the spending requirements. While you have to spend $4,000 in the first three months to earn the Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus, you'll only need to spend $1,000 in the first 90 days with the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card.

At the end of the day, the value of the bonus doesn't matter if you can't reasonably hit the spending requirements. For those with smaller budgets, the Bank of America Travel Rewards sign-up bonus might be the more attainable (and therefore more beneficial) option — though be sure to check out our guide on reaching minimum spending thresholds for tips on how to hit a higher requirement.

Earning

Once again, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes out ahead in the earning department. You'll earn 3x on dining and 2x on travel purchases, plus 5x on Lyft purchases through March 2022.

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, on the other hand, earns 1.5x across all purchases. However, preferred cardholders can boost this earning rate significantly. If you are an existing Bank of America customer with enough money stashed away with the bank to qualify for the Preferred Rewards program, you can earn anywhere from 1.87x to 2.62x on all purchases. Those who are Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards members (meaning you'll earn 2.62x on all purchases) might end up getting more value from earning this higher flat rate across all purchases long-term.

Redeeming

Another major difference between the two cards is the redemption options. The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card earns fixed-value points, which essentially operate like cash back on eligible purchases. You can redeem your Bank of America Travel Rewards points at a value of 1 cent apiece as a statement credit to cover flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a lot of flexibility in its redemption options. You can redeem your points at a 25% bonus for travel when you book through the Chase Travel Portal (which is powered by Expedia), but you can also transfer points at a 1:1 rate to one of Chase's valuable transfer partners. At a minimum, you can get a 1.25 cent value from your Chase points through the Chase Portal, but transferring to the right partner could get you even more value.

Chase has also recently added a Pay Yourself Back feature, which allows you to redeem points for grocery stores, home improvement stores and dining establishments at an enhanced value of 1.25 cents per point through Sept. 30. Once the bonus period has ended, you'll still be able to use the feature to redeem your points for non-travel purchases — just not at the same bonus rate.

While there's certainly something to be said about the simplicity of Bank of America's redemption process, Chase still takes the cake with more potential value and flexibility.

Benefits

Neither of these cards is a premium travel card, which means they offer comparatively little in terms of additional benefits.

That said, the Chase Sapphire Preferred stands ahead in this category, as it does offer cardholders at least one complimentary year of DashPass service, which gives you $0 delivery fees and reduced service fees on eligible DoorDash food delivery and takeout purchases (must activate by 12/31/2024). You'll also get a solid lineup of credit card protections, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary car rental coverage, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, travel and emergency assistance services, purchase protection and extended warranty protection.

On the other hand, the Bank of America Travel Rewards card is much more limited, though — like the Sapphire Preferred — it is a Visa Signature card, so that will provide some benefits.

How have these cards measured up during COVID-19?

A number of travel credit cards have added temporary benefits to help cardholders make the most of their cards even while spending habits have changed and travel has been put on the back burner for most. Chase has been one of the top issuers throughout the coronavirus pandemic in this regard. Through Sept. 30, 2020, there are a number of additional bonus categories you can take advantage of, plus additional statement credits available for Instacart Express membership purchases.

Related reading: Chase adds new Sapphire perks and benefits

That being said, not all cardholders have been happy with Chase's level of customer service throughout the coronavirus pandemic. J.D. Power released the most recent edition of its 2020 Credit Card Satisfaction Survey, which ranked Bank of America higher than Chase overall. J.D. Power's survey weights interaction, credit card terms and communication as the most important factors when ranking customer satisfaction in this study, which would indicate that while Chase remains a leader in providing additional cardholder benefits, Bank of America has been more valuable to cardholders in terms of customer service.

Which is better for you?

On paper, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is certainly the more valuable credit card. It comes with a sign-up bonus, a more robust earning rate (unless you are one of the few who have over $100,000 in eligible Bank of America banking or investment accounts to qualify for Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards status), more value and flexibility in redemption options and more travel protections.

However, that doesn't automatically mean it's the better card for you.

For starters, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a $95 annual fee. While many will be able to easily offset that cost with the Chase Sapphire Preferred's earning rates and other benefits, beginners with small budgets may want to start off with a no-annual-fee credit card like the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card.

Something else to consider is that the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is great for beginners who do not want to worry with maximizing redemption options or varied bonus categories. You're earning a flat rewards rate across every purchase, no matter what. And then those rewards can be redeemed at a fixed rate as a statement credit. It's simple and easy, which may appeal to beginners who feel overwhelmed at the idea of transfer partners and travel portal redemptions.

Bottom line

While both of these cards may be considered starter travel credit cards, each appeals to a different audience. Those who hope to build a robust travel credit card strategy and learn about how you can maximize transfer partners and card pairings to take your award travel to the next level? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great starting place. But if the thought of trying to navigate transferring points to a specific airline and juggling different bonus categories and temporary perks makes you break out into hives, the simplicity of the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card makes it an excellent choice.

At the end of the day, it's all about deciding which type of travel credit card meets your specific wants and needs.

Want to learn more about these cards? Check out TPG's credit card reviews for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card.

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.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases