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Arguably the best way to earn miles & points right now is through credit cards, both in terms of maximizing your return on everyday spend, and also in terms of taking advantage of great sign-up bonuses. Most people simply aren’t maximizing their credit card rewards, which is probably a blessing, since it leaves more points for us. 😉
I’ve been blogging for well over eight years, and almost since day one I’ve been talking about the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It’s one of the all-around most lucrative cards. The very generous sign-up bonus, double points on dining and travel, and other benefits make it a must-have card for travelers.
And if you’re new to miles & points, it’s also the first card you should apply for.
For those of you already familiar with the card, by all means skip this post (after all the card has been around since 2009, and I know many of you have this card already). But this remains one of the best cards for travel rewards, and it always amazes me how many people don’t have this card.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Sign-Up Bonus
The details of the best cards are constantly changing, be it the sign-up bonus, perks, etc. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has been offering its best publicly available sign-up bonus for some time now, with a very generous welcome offer:
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Sign Up Bonus|
|50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months|
|Additional 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you add an authorized user to the card that makes a purchase within three months|
Beyond that, the card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
Assuming you earn all 55,000 Ultimate Rewards points, those can be redeemed for $687.50 towards a travel purchase when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. As I’ll talk about below though, the better value is generally transferring the points to one of the Ultimate Rewards hotel or airline partners.
Why You Should Apply For This Card First
Not only is the Sapphire Preferred a great product for getting started with travel rewards, Chase has tightened approvals over the years. They’ve recently implemented what’s referred to as a “5/24” rule, where they generally won’t approve someone who has applied for more than five cards in the past 24 months.
For many people this is of course not an issue. But it’s something to be aware of, and is a reason to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred ahead of other cards.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Earning Rates
Back in the day this card was a true trendsetter, and one of the only travel rewards cards to offer bonus points on dining. American Express and Citi have since added similar products, but the earnings rates on the Sapphire Preferred are still solid:
- 2x points on travel (includes airfare, hotels, car rentals, subway tickets, taxis, parking, etc.)
- 2x points on dining (includes restaurants, coffee shops, etc.)
- 1 point per dollar on all other purchases, with no limits
It’s also worth noting that unlike some other cards, the double points on travel with the Chase Sapphire Preferred include not just airfare purchased directly with an airline, but also airfare purchased through online travel agencies, and I’ve found their definition of “travel” to be quite generous.
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the following categories are included as “travel:”
airlines, airports, car rental agencies (including truck, trailer, and RV), cruise ships, hotels and motels, timeshares, local and commuter transportation (including trains, buses, taxis/limos, ferries, bridges, tolls and parking), travel agencies
Chase Sapphire Preferred Rewards Program
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns Ultimate Rewards Points, which I find to be one of the most valuable flexible points currencies.
Ultimate Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to the following programs, and in most cases transfers are instant:
|Aer Lingus Aer Club||IHG Rewards Club||Singapore KrisFlyer||World Of Hyatt|
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||Korean Air SkyPass||Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards|
|British Airways Executive Club||Marriott Rewards||United MileagePlus|
|Iberia Plus||Ritz-Carlton Rewards||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
Points are also worth 20% more when redeeming for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. So 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, though you’re almost always going to get a better value by transferring points directly to the airline or hotel partner.
For example, you could transfer 25,000 points to Hyatt Gold Passport for a free night redemption at the Park Hyatt Maldives.
Or for as little as 57,375 KrisFlyer miles plus some mild carrier-imposed surcharges you can book Singapore Airlines Suites Class between New York and Frankfurt.
Or for 80,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles plus some mild carrier-imposed surcharges you could book Korean Air first class between the US and Korea.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Benefits
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is issued as a Visa Signature, which gives you access to all of those perks, such as the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. You also receive the following benefits with the card:
|Visa Signature Benefits||Details|
|Baggage Delay Benefit||• 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 should be 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
|Lost Luggage Reimbursement||• Receive reimbursement for lost or damaged checked or carry-on bags and personal property|
• Maximum reimbursement is $3,000
|Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance||• Receive the non-refundable amount of the passenger fare or $5,000 (whichever is less) in the event of a trip cancellation or interruption|
• The cancellation or interruption must be caused by death, accidental injury, disease, or physical illness of the passenger or immediate family member
• This also covers you if your airline goes out of business or tickets are otherwise cancelled by the carrier
|Trip Delay Reimbursement||• Receive up to $300 if your trip is delayed for more than 12 hours|
• The trip has to be delayed by an equipment failure, inclement weather, labor strikes, or hijacking
|Purchase Protection||• Receive up to $500 for personal property that has been stolen, damaged, or lost within 90 days|
|Return Protection||• Receive up to $500 per item if you are dissatisfied with a purchase and the retailer won’t return the item|
• There are lots of exclusions, including items purchased overseas, and all items have to be returned to Chase as part of the process
|Price Protection||• Receive up to $500 if you purchase a product and find it advertised for for less within 90 days of purchase (the difference in price is refunded to you)|
• The advertisement has to be printed, and doesn’t include internet retailers, so this won’t be useful for many of us
|Warranty Manager Service||• Extends the free repair period under the original manufacturers repair warranty up to one additional year|
• Motorized vehicles (boats, cars, aircraft, etc.) aren’t included
Other Cool Features Of The Chase Sapphire Preferred
Primary CDW Coverage On Rental Cars
The Sapphire Preferred offers primary insurance against damage up to the cost of most rental car vehicles provided you decline the CDW coverage offered by the rental agency. This includes economy through luxury class vehicles, vans that carry less than 7 passengers, and SUVs.
Shop Through Chase
Having the Sapphire Preferred gives you access to Shop Through Chase, which is the card’s online shopping portal and can really accelerate the points you earn. By “clicking through” the portal you can earn extra points per dollar with purchases at dozens of online retailers.
I earn several thousand extra points each year on purchases I would have made anyway just by clicking through the Shop Through Chase portal first.
Great Customer Service
This is advertised as “24/7 direct access to dedicated customer service specialists” and they mean it. 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.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a “must have” for anyone looking to maximize their spend and get started with travel rewards.
The card has a great sign-up bonus, excellent return on dining and travel spend, great customer service, and some useful perks, like primary collision coverage. About 90% of my discretionary spend is on travel and dining, so you can bet I’m earning double points on most of my purchases. 😉
Furthermore, given Chase’s rules for approving new cardmembers, this is a card you’ll want to apply for early on, if possible.
For those that already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, what’s your favorite benefit of the card?