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Over the past couple of years there have been two cards that many savvy travelers have used to maximize the miles and points they can earn for everyday spend – the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card and the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card. The former is great for the triple points for airfare, double points for gas and groceries, and 15,000 bonus points when you spend $30,000 on the card annually. However, as I wrote about on TravelSort, several of their best transfer partners have either been discontinued or devalued their programs this year. The latter is great for other categories, given that Starwood points are so versatile and can efficiently be used for either hotels or mileage transfers.
But for the past few months there has been a new card giving those two a run for their money, specifically the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I signed up for this a few months ago just for the lucrative sign-up bonus, though in the meantime it’s a keeper for me, and actually belongs in the same category as the two above American Express credit cards.
As I mentioned the card comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (plus earn an additional 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points when you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening), so in and of itself it’s one of the best sign-up bonuses out there right now. But it has other benefits that make it worth keeping in the long run, as I’ll outline below.
How to Earn Points:
You can earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar on all other purchases worldwide. While there are plenty of cards that offer bonus points for gas and groceries, this is one of the few cards that offers bonus points for dining.
As far as travel goes, Chase Sapphire has a very broad definition of what constitutes travel, including hotels, airfare, car rentals, etc.
Ultimate Rewards Mall
Another great way to earn points with the card is the Ultimate Rewards Mall. While plenty of loyalty programs have online shopping malls, the Ultimate Rewards mall is unique for a couple of reasons. First, the points post fairly quickly for purchases in my experience, typically within a week or two, as opposed to most shopping malls that take 6-8 weeks to post points.
They also have some pretty unique purchasing opportunities. As outlined by Frequent Miler, you can actually earn 20 points per dollar spent at Sears, first by buying Sears gift cards with a 10 point per dollar bonus, and then again by redeeming those gift cards through the shopping mall. You don’t even have to use the card for the purchase. Valuing each point at two cents, that’s a 40% return on Sears purchases, which is amazing. If nothing else, you can easily meet the minimum spend requirement by buying Sears gift cards and reselling them at a profit.
Furthermore, they’re even offering 10 bonus points per dollar spent at IHG hotels, which is another amazing offer.
How to Redeem Points:
This is really what makes the program great. On September 30 American Express Membership Rewards ended their relationship with Continental OnePass, which was a huge loss for the program.
Ultimate Rewards not only partners with United MileagePlus, but also with Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, IHG Rewards Club, British Airways, and Korean Air.
The only two options you should be considering here are United and Hyatt, though, when it comes to transfers. They transfer 1:1 to both programs, so this is actually a way to earn more United miles and Hyatt points than you’d earn directly with their co-branded card, and that doesn’t even account for the further flexibility the card gives you.
Alternatively you can apply points towards any “revenue” ticket at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. That means that a $625 flight will cost you 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points. This isn’t the most efficient way to use points, though it’s still a bit more lucrative than American Express’ “Pay with Points” option in most cases.
Other Cool Features:
The Annual Fee is $0 for the First Year, then $95
No Foreign Transaction Fees
Seriously, I don’t remember the last time I made a purchase with it and didn’t get a comment of pure admiration. It even occasionally gets me numbers (or something like that). See, I’m not kidding.
It’s Not an American Express
A lot of small businesses don’t accept American Express cards due to the higher merchant fees, so it’s useful to have a Visa.
Great Customer Service
When you call the number on the back of the card, a human picks up right away. Literally. There’s no phone prompt. I don’t have any other credit card or elite status with any airline or hotel program that gets me service that quickly.
Anyway, the reason I’m promoting this card so heavily now is because after the Chicago Seminar Do this past weekend, it occurred to me just how many people still don’t have the card. This isn’t only a great sign-up bonus, but a great card for everyday spend.