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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has received plenty of attention since its debut back in 2016, and that’s in no small part due to the 3x points it earns on all travel and dining purchases. And even though it earns 2x rather than 3x on these same purchases, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card remains a top pick, especially for those new to the award travel hobby. The great thing about this is that Chase has a very generous definition of what counts as travel.
How Chase Defines Travel
We’ve established that earning 3x points on travel and dining is pretty impressive, but how do you know if a given purchase qualifies? While the dining half of the equation is relatively straightforward — all restaurants and even some bars that don’t serve food should earn you the bonus points, as should delivery services like Seamless — on the surface it’s less clear what counts as a travel purchase. Luckily, the answer is pretty much everything.
Here’s how “travel” is defined, according to Chase’s website:
Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.
Compared to other credit cards’ bonus categories, this one is extremely generous. While cards like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express and the Platinum Card® from American Express offer bonus points for airfare purchases made directly with the airline, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll earn a bonus (2x and 3x, respectively) on virtually every trip-related charge — from hotels and airfare to cruises, tolls and even parking fees. This includes Uber and Airbnb purchases as well.
The following purchases do not apply toward the 2x or 3x bonus categories on these cards, but none of them should be a huge surprise or disappointment:
Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, websites or owners that rent vacation properties, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, tourist attractions, merchants within airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of points or miles does not qualify in this category.
If you’re ever unsure of whether a given purchase counts as travel, it could be worth making a small charge and checking to see whether it earns any bonus points on your online Chase account. Additionally, if you feel like a travel purchase should have earned bonus points but didn’t, you can always try calling and taking it up with a phone representative. Even if you don’t get the outcome you’re looking for, you’ll at least get some clarity on how certain charges are coded, and can plan future spending accordingly.
To Recap, here are purchases that Chase counts as travel:
- Car rental agencies
- Cruise lines
- Travel agencies
- Discount travel sites
- Passenger trains
- Toll bridges and highways
- Parking lots and garages
And here are travel-related purchases that Chase DOES NOT count as travel:
- Real estate agents
- Websites or owners that rent vacation properties
- In-flight goods and services
- On-board cruise line goods and services
- Sightseeing activities
- Tourist attractions
- Merchants within airports
- Merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling
- The purchasing of points or miles
Luckily for holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred, the definitions for what counts as a travel (or dining) purchase are very broad — meaning you have plenty of opportunities to earn 3x or 2x points. Based on our valuations, that means you could be getting a return of up to 6% on these purchases, and you can put your points to use with some great travel partners.
The Points Guy Assessment:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.
- 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 a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 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