Which purchases count as travel with Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve?
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is well known in the travel credit cards space — and it’s also the winner of Best Premium Travel Credit Card in the 2020 TPG Awards. Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the lower $95-annual-fee version and remains a top pick, especially for those new to the award travel game.
Even better, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is now offering its sign-up bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
No matter which Sapphire card you have, Chase has a very generous definition of what counts as travel. Both cards award generously for travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal and all other travel purchases. We’ll go over the purchases that count (and don’t count) toward earning bonus points in this guide.
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How Chase defines travel
First, the Chase Sapphire Reserve awards 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal and 5 points per dollar on flights booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal. But if you’re looking to book direct with the airline, hotel or another company or get awarded for other travel purchases like taxi rides and parking fees, you’ll still earn 3 points per dollar on these remaining purchases.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns similarly, with 5x on all travel purchases booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal and 2x on other travel purchases.
Here’s how ‘travel’ is defined, according to Chase’s website
The Ultimate Rewards portal is powered by Expedia, allowing you to book various types of travel. For “all other travel purchases,” here’s how Chase defines it:
Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.
Compared to bonus categories from other credit cards, Chase’s travel category is extremely generous.
While cards such as the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express offer bonus points for airfare purchases made directly with the airline (with a spending cap of $500,000 on the Amex Platinum per calendar year), the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards let you earn a bonus on virtually every trip-related charge.
The travel category encompasses a wide variety of purchases, from hotels and airfare (that doesn’t have to be booked directly with the airline) to cruises, tolls, and even parking fees. Finally, Uber and Airbnb purchases count as travel as well.
Purchases that don’t count as ‘travel,’ according to Chase’s website
The following purchases do not apply toward the 2x or 3x bonus categories on these cards, but most of them shouldn’t be a huge surprise or disappointment:
Some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, educational merchants arranging travel, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, RV and boat rentals, merchants within hotels and airports, public campgrounds and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. Purchases from gift card merchants or merchants that sell points or miles will not qualify in the travel category.
A few notable travel-related charges that have not posted as travel for the purposes of bonus points with Chase for TPG staffers in the last year include an RV rental (as outlined above) as well as some home rentals via VRBO and similar services. Whether or not a vacation home rental automatically codes as travel seems to depend on if an individual or a conglomerate operates it. In the latter case, that charge may code as “professional services” instead of travel.
If you’re ever unsure whether a given purchase counts as travel, it could be worth making a small charge and checking 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 or secure messaging Chase and requesting consideration for that charge to be awarded points as a travel charge. 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.
- Educational merchants arranging travel.
- Inflight goods and services.
- Onboard cruise line goods and services.
- Sightseeing activities.
- Tourist attractions.
- RV and boat rentals.
- Merchants within hotels and airports.
- Public campgrounds.
- Merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling.
- Gift card merchants.
- The purchasing of points or miles.
Cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred have plenty of opportunities to earn 3x or 2x points respectively on “other travel purchases.” Based on TPG 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 10 airline and three hotel partners.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Chris Dong.
Featured photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy.
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