Why Chase Sapphire Preferred Is Best Credit Card For Airfare

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On Monday I wrote a post entitled “Which Credit Card To Use For Airline Ticket Purchases?”

The post was intended to just provide:

  •  A direct comparison between the number of miles airlines offer on their co-branded credit cards for airline ticket purchases
  • And the non-airline affiliated cards which offer bonuses for airfare purchases.

So not surprisingly the answer as to which credit card to use to purchase airfare varied on the circumstances.

However, some great points were made in the comments section, and I think if there’s a single “best” card for airfare purchases, it would be the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Double points on airfare

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers double points on all travel purchases, which includes airfare. It’s worth nothing that unlike with American Express, it’s not just airfare purchased directly with an airline, but also airfare purchased through online travel agencies, etc.

Regardless of which airline you’re purchasing your ticket with, that’s 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent.

No foreign transaction fees

The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, so regardless of whether you purchase a ticket with a US or foreign airline, or in USD or a foreign currency, you’re not paying any extra fees. On an American Express card, that would add ~3% to the total.

Extra point per dollar when making ticket purchase through Chase mall

If you book your ticket through Chase’s online portal, you earn an extra Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent.

Chase-Mall-Extra-Point

Prices through the portal should be the same as directly with the airline, and you’re still eligible for mileage accrual, upgrades, etc. — for all practical purposes it shouldn’t be any different than if you purchased the ticket directly with the airline. The portal is easy to use as well, with a similar interface to most online travel agencies.

Chase-portal

For what it’s worth American Express also offers an extra point per dollar when you book airfare through their portal, though their credit cards which offer bonus points for airfare only offer that when the airfare purchase is made directly with the airline. So that kinda negates the benefit of earning an extra point for booking directly through American Express, since you’re giving up two points per dollar in order to do so on cards like the American Express Premier Rewards Gold.

Chase Sapphire Preferred baggage delay benefit

While it’s not the most extensive coverage in the world, baggage delay protection is included on the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I actually took advantage of this benefit this past December, when my bag was delayed on a trip to Brazil.

The basic details of the benefit are as follows:

  • You can be reimbursed up to $500 when some or all of the cost of a common carrier ticket is charged to your card (therefore award tickets are eligible if the taxes are charged to the card)
  • You can be reimbursed a maximum of $100 per day for emergency purchases of essential items at a destination other than your current residence
  • For tickets purchased before November 1, 2013, your first day for purposes of reimbursement begins 18 hours after you arrive at your destination
  • For tickets purchased starting November 1, 2013, your first day for purposes of reimbursement begins six hours after you arrive at your destination
  • The benefit is in excess to all other valid and collectible insurance
  • You have to file your claim within 20 days and provide proof of loss within 90 days.

So even if you just put the taxes from an award reservation on your Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’re eligible for this benefit.

Bottom line

There are specific circumstances under which it could make more sense to purchase airfare with a different card. For example, I still use the Alaska Airlines Visa for purchasing Alaska tickets, since I value their miles so greatly and they offer three miles per dollar spent on Alaska airfare.

However, for a vast majority of people I think the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the most rewarding for airfare purchases, between the bonus points, lack of foreign transaction fees, bonus points for booking through their portal, and baggage protection. It’s as close as it gets to a single perfect card for all your airfare purchases.

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Comments

  1. Remember in order to get the extra 7% you must have the card the following Feb/March when the bonus posts. There are a lot of churners who do not keep the card for more than a year.

  2. I usually prefer to book directly on an airline’s website since I like to specify discount or voucher codes on UA, fare class or voucher codes on DL, and my Business ExtraAA number on AA (I know I can call to add it, but that is a PITA). Therefore, I use my AMEX PRG card and earn 3.5 AMEX MR points per dollar on airfare. Although 4.14 UR are more valuable than 3.5 MR, AMEX has transfer partners that Chase does not. Diversification is a good thing…

  3. Good article. One observation though. You still might lose out on certain benefits for booking through an airline website if you book through Chase. For example, if you book a ticket on United.com, you have 24 hours to change or cancel your reservation, a feature that has come in handy several times for me. Not a major difference, and if you’re definitely sure you’re taking a flight, however, booking through Chase is a better bet, just thought I’d point it out.

  4. lucky,

    You stated above “The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers double points on all travel purchases… also airfare purchased through online travel agencies, etc.”

    Would this also apply to Priceline purchases, including Name Your Own Price, or winning bids?

  5. Although not directly relevant to “airfare” per se, although clearly tax and fees may be significant for certain award bookings, another important perk is that lost luggage insurance and baggage delay insurance apply if “free flights have been awarded from frequent flier or Rewards programs, provided that all of the miles or Rewards points were accumulated from a Rewards program sponsored by Chase”. To my knowledge this is a benefit unique to Chase cards, and a very useful one for frequent flyers. I have no idea how they determine if all the miles were accumulated by Chase programs.

  6. Lucky:

    Most definitely off topic, but I have a request — since you’re full timing hotel living now, how about an SPG run through BKK?

    TOO many good SPG hotels in that city (and country, in general)…

    Booking a trip for April ’15 and no idea where to stay!

  7. @ Ben — So far I’ve reviewed the St. Regis and Le Meridien, but hope to check out more once things “settle down” a bit in Thailand. Agree, lots of great options! If you can swing the St. Regis, I’d highly recommend it.

  8. @ John DELTA — I don’t have any firsthand experience with this, but my guess is that it would count. I assume Priceline is coded as “travel.”

  9. I love this card but I haven’t found a lowest price for airfare through Chase Ultimate Portal ever.

  10. @ John DELTA
    Yes, they do count. Taxis, Uber, etc., also code as travel. The same for public transportation.

  11. Also the included trip delay coverage has been come in useful when I had to overnight at ORD unexpectedly due to a delayed flight and depart the next morning. The coverage on the sapphire card reimbursed me for my hotel and meal expenses. Worth the annual fee!

  12. I just signed up for the Barclays Arrival Card…so you would recommend using the Chase Sapphire over Barclays Arrival for airline ticket purchases?

  13. @ Jyoti — Definitely. The Arrival Card is great, and offers the equivalent of 2.22% return on everyday spend. However, it doesn’t offer bonus points for airfare purchase. I’d definitely choose 2.14+ Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent as opposed to 2.22 cents.

  14. Really? I dont think so… the best cc are the ones that dont pay bloggers $$$ like the penfed premium travel rewards at over 4 cents a dollar spent no annual fee, or the Wells FArgo propel card or even the Flexperks in some circumstances. But the AMEX or the Chase, nope fail!

  15. I think the conclusion is that Amex needs to up their game and come out with some better cards. If CC companies try to one-up each other, we all benefit. Although, I’d be perfectly happy with some much-needed improvements to SPG Amex, at least (like no FTF).

  16. Does the recent changes by United change the value of the Sapphire card? I think they process it as “bulk”, so not sure what that means!

  17. So Ben, a ‘what if’ (since we can dream, right?):
    What if UR partnered with AS? Would that make the CSP the ultimate card, hands down?

    What if Amex MR partnered with AS? Would that change the equation to favor that method at all?

    Personally, I’d like to see UR partner with AS…

  18. @ Paul — I wouldn’t say so. They’re also transfer partners with Hyatt, Korean, and Singapore, all of which have great programs.

  19. @ Kelly — In theory that would hugely increase the value of either points currency. I just don’t see it happening, but I could be wrong. If it happened and the charts were kept the same it would be a game changer, but I think if they partnered with either major currency we’d see a huge devaluation fairly quickly.

  20. PRG 3x is more useful methinks. I doubt many holders are buying tickets in non-USD transactions. And with UA and Hyatt devaluations, I think MRs are more valuable currency thanks to Amex transfer bonuses. About only clear positive for URs is better hotel partners (mainly Hyatt).

  21. Having never actually redeemed any of my points, does the 7% dividend come after each redemption? Or at the end of the statement? Year?

  22. If you have to pay a checked baggage fee, you are probably better off with the cobranded airline card that waves the fees.

  23. The Chase Business card could be better if you were to buy multiple gift cards from an office supply store and use those for travel purchases. I used that strategy for an $1,800 air and hotel package I recently purchased. 9,000 points.
    Just another option.

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