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When to Use Hotel Credit Cards vs. Chase Sapphire on Large Purchases

September 11 2018
5 min read
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"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week by TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card are among the best credit cards in the travel game. But TPG reader Justin wants to know which card to reach for when he's making large purchases...

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[pullquote source="TPG Reader Justin"]A lot of us have both the Chase Sapphire and some hotel cards (for me, Ritz-Carlton credit card). We often struggle with which card to use when making some major purchases... Can you offer some advice on when to use either, so as to maximize benefits?[/pullquote]

After the entry of the latest premium hotel credit card, the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card., the top travel rewards cards have a new competitor. So for someone who holds either a Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred and a hotel credit card, what's the better one to use when making a large purchase?

We've detailed the best credit cards for major purchases as well as the best business cards for big purchases in other stories, but how does Chase's popular Sapphire line specifically compete with other hotel cards? Well, when it comes to the number of points you'll earn on everyday spend, your best bet is often to go with a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, since the transferrable points are currently worth 2.0 cents each based on TPG's latest valuations.

And if you pair either Sapphire card with a Chase Freedom Unlimited, you'll be earning 1.5x Ultimate Rewards on everyday purchases, which would net a substantial 3% return. That's substantial, especially after the devaluation of SPG cards' earn on everyday spend. In fact, even just either of the Sapphire products alone will net you a 2% return on everyday purchases, while most hotel credit credit cards earn just a 1.8% return.

CardEveryday Spend PointsTotal Return (based on TPG valuations)
Chase Sapphire Reserve1x2%
Chase Sapphire Preferred1x2%
Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express3x1.8%
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card3x1.8%
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card2x1.8%
Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card2x1.8%
The World of Hyatt Credit Card1x1.8%
IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card1x0.6%

But it's not all about just earning points — you should also consider other benefits like purchase protection, return protection, extended warranty coverage and price protection. Purchase protection will reimburse you if an eligible item is lost, stolen or damaged within a certain time period, while return protection offers compensation when a store won't accept a return of an eligible item within a few months after purchase and extended warranty coverage will extend the manufacturer's warranty on many products between one and five years.

The remaining coverage — price protection — is becoming a bit of a rare credit card feature. Earlier this summer, Chase ended price protection across all of its cards and return protection on some of its products, including the Sapphire Preferred card. Amex has never offered price protection as a benefit, so it's often best to use a Citi card to get access to the issuer's Price Rewind tool if you want to take advantage of price protection.

However, as far as the other coverages go, we confirmed with a Chase rep that the IHG Premier card still includes purchase protection (though not return protection) and the Sapphire Reserve still includes return protection. But if you're debating between an Amex hotel co-branded card and a Sapphire Reserve, it's likely better to put the purchase on the Amex card, since all Amex cards include purchase protection, return protection and extended warranty coverage.

CardPurchase ProtectionExtended Warranty CoverageReturn Protection
Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American ExpressYesYesYes
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend CardYesYesYes
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury CardYesYesYes
The World of Hyatt Credit CardYesYesNo
Chase Sapphire ReserveYesYesYes
Chase Sapphire PreferredYesYesNo
Chase IHG PremierYesYesNo

Bottom Line

If you're looking for pure return on spend, it's probably best to put large purchases on either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, since you'll get the most value for your earned points, even at just 1 point per dollar spent. However, any American Express card is also a solid option when it comes to most purchase protections. In fact, TPG himself once saved $1,400 using purchase protection after his watch broke, with no questions asked.

Thanks for the question, Justin, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.