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In many ways, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the card that made travel rewards accessible to the masses. You didn’t have to be rich or a business traveler any more to earn some of the most valuable and versatile points out there. All you had to do was build a strategy centered around the CSP, and free flights and hotels would be yours.
But with increasing competition and the introduction of more premium products over the years, it’s important to see how well the Sapphire Preferred has stood the test of time, and if you don’t already have it, whether it should be the next addition to your wallet.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred currently comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first 12 months, and the card has no foreign transaction fees. The sign-up bonus is worth $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. But as you’ll see in a bit, you can get a lot more than that from these points if you maximize them.
In addition to the sign-up bonus, the Sapphire Preferred earns points at the following rates:
- 2x points on travel purchases
- 2x points on dining purchases
- 1x on everything else
The CSP — and really Chase as a whole — stands out for how broadly it defines the bonus categories. Travel purchases aren’t just limited to flights and hotels, but include transactions like ride sharing, public transit and even some parking fees. Similarly, the dining category includes merchants like meal delivery services, giving you plenty of opportunities to rack up points.
You have two main options on the redemption side. If your goal is simplicity, you can use your points to book travel directly through the Chase travel portal at a fixed rate of 1.25 cents per point, turning your 50,000 points into $625 worth of travel. If you don’t have enough points to cover your entire trip, you can even mix points and cash together as you see fit. Booking directly with Chase can also sometimes be a great trick for American Airlines fliers, as these reservations have been known to code as “special fares” and earn miles on a distance-based (instead of revenue-based) chart.
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- British Airways Avios
- Iberia Plus
- Korean Air Skypass
- Singapore KrisFlyer
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Rewards
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
- World of Hyatt
These partners cover all three major alliances along with three of the biggest hotel chains, meaning that no matter where in the world you’re traveling, points from your CSP should be able to help you get there.
It’s nice when your travel plans go off without a hitch, but as I’m sitting here writing this story, I’m in the process of waiting out a 6-hour American Airlines delay. Obviously, things don’t always go the way you planned, but when they don’t, the Chase Sapphire Preferred can come to the rescue with some incredibly generous travel benefits.
Top of the list here is trip delay insurance. If your flight (or other common carrier) is delayed 12 hours or more or requires an overnight stay, you can be reimbursed up to $500 for food, lodging, and local transportation. And if your trip is cancelled by illness, weather, or other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for pre-paid expenses such as tours, hotels and plane tickets. Finally, if your bag is delayed 6 hours or more, you can be reimbursed up to $500 ($100 a day for 5 days) for purchases like clothing and toiletries.
There are a few other lesser-known Sapphire benefits, including primary rental car insurance, but the bottom line is that when things go wrong on the road, this card has your back.
Who Should Wait to Get the CSP?
TPG Editor-at-Large Nick Ewen has previously made a compelling case for why the Chase Sapphire Preferred should be your first card. Unfortunately, not everyone who wants this card will be able to get it, so let’s examine who should hold off on getting a Sapphire Preferred…
The Infamous 5/24 Rule
In an effort to combat credit card churning and attract valuable long-term customers, a few years ago Chase introduced the 5/24 rule. Simply put, this means that you’ll be automatically rejected for many Chase cards — including the CSP — if you’ve opened five or more cards in the last 24 months. If this applies to you, don’t waste your time and a hard inquiry on your credit report applying for the Sapphire Preferred, as you won’t be able to get it.
Current Chase Sapphire Cardholders
For a while after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it was possible to get the bonuses on both Sapphire cards. Then Chase decided to stop this practice, and changed the terms on the Sapphire Preferred application to read as follows:
“This product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card or (ii) previous cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card who received a new cardmember bonus in the last 24 months”
So if you currently hold either a Chase Sapphire Reserve or a plain Chase Sapphire, or you’ve received a Sapphire welcome bonus in the last 24 months, you won’t be eligible for the bonus on the CSP and shouldn’t apply right now.
Is Ultimate Rewards the Best Program For You?
As mentioned before, Ultimate Rewards provides access to a broad range of airline and hotel loyalty programs. That being said, there are certain circumstances where one of those programs might not be right for you.
For instance, if you live in an American Airlines hub like Miami (MIA) or Charlotte (CLT) and primarily fly long-haul international flights to Europe, you might not get great value out of British Airways Avios, which is the only Oneworld transfer partner in Ultimate Rewards. Similarly, if you’re a die-hard Hilton loyalist, the ability to transfer points to Hyatt might not excite you that much.
That being said, I’m a loyal American Airlines flyer who’s never redeemed Ultimate Rewards for hotels, and I still find immense value in the program. So I’d encourage everyone to analyze their own travel habits and see if branching out to a new Chase transfer partner could add value.
Sapphire Preferred vs. Sapphire Reserve
If you’ve made it this far — confirming that you’re eligible to earn the bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred and deciding that Ultimate Rewards points fit well with your travel plan — the last question to ask yourself is whether the CSP is the best card to get you there, or if you should opt for the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve instead.
Many people are wary of the CSR because it comes with a $450 annual fee (vs. $95 on the Preferred). But the Sapphire Reserve also offers many benefits to make up for that cost. First off is a $300 annual travel credit, which brings your out of pocket cost down to $150. The Reserve also has a long list of premium travel benefits, but let’s focus just on the travel credit and the elevated 3x points on travel and dining for this calculation.
After accounting for the $300 travel credit (which I take at face value), the difference in cost between the Preferred and Reserve is $55 a year ($150 vs. $95). $55 is equal to roughly 2,619 Ultimate Rewards points ($55 divided by 2.1 cents per point). That means if you spend more than $2,619 a year on travel and dining, you’ll come out ahead earning 3x with the Reserve instead of 2x with the Preferred, though ultimately you’ll have to decide whether you travel enough to take full advantage of the CSR’s benefits. If not, then the CSP would likely be a better choice.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred continues to be one of the most well rounded rewards credit cards, and a great option for most travelers. If you’re eligible to apply for this card and don’t already have it, you should strongly consider getting it next. It’s likely to quickly become a “go to” card in your purse or wallet.
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®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- 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