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The credit card industry is much more competitive now than it was several years ago, so it’s tougher to argue that there’s a single “best” credit card. Not only have sign-up bonuses increased significantly over the years, but so have bonus categories, as well as the ongoing perks offered by cards.
One card that has been highly regarded for years is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Last year Chase introduced the Sapphire Reserve, which is a more premium version of the card. It’s a great card that competes well against The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Citi Prestige® Card.
However, I’d argue that the Chase Sapphire Preferred continues to be the most well rounded mid-range credit card. When it comes to categorizing cards by annual fees, we have no annual fee cards, mid-range cards (with annual fees of ~$50-200), and then premium cards (with $200+ annual fee cards).
What makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card the best mid-range credit card out there?
A sign-up bonus of 50K+ points
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. On top of that, you can earn 5,000 additional bonus points if you add an authorized user and have them make a purchase within that same timeframe.
So that’s a sign-up bonus of up to 55,000 bonus points, which I value at ~$935 (since I think Ultimate Rewards points are worth ~1.7 cents each). That’s the best sign-up bonus of any mid-range personal card.
The first year’s annual fee waived
While the card has a reasonable $95 annual fee, the annual fee is waived for the first 12 months. This is a great chance to try out the card before you have to actually “buy” it.
No foreign transaction fees
This might sound like a given, but there are quite a few cards with ~$100 annual fees that still have foreign transaction fees. For example, as much as I love The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, it has a $95 annual fee and still has foreign transaction fees.
2x points on dining and travel
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers double points on dining and travel, which I find to be among the most useful bonus categories out there. These bonus categories apply for purchases in the US and abroad (some other cards restrict bonus categories to US purchases), and Chase takes a pretty broad definition of those categories.
“Travel” covers everything from flights to hotels to Ubers to parking to subway tickets.
Even parking qualifies for 2x points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred
Great travel & purchase protection
Often great travel protection is reserved for premium cards, though the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers all kinds of great travel protection in the event your flight is delayed, your bags get lost, etc.:
|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
Primary CDW coverage on car rentals
One other perk I really value in credit cards is car rental coverage, given how much car rental companies often charge for this protection directly. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers primary coverage 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 fewer than seven passengers, and SUVs.
Awesome travel partners
When collecting credit card points, I always recommend earning flexible points, which can be transferred to a hotel or airline partner. That’s useful because it protects you from any devaluation that a program may make. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Ultimate Rewards points, which can be converted at a 1:1 ratio to the following transfer partners:
|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|
Among those, I find Air France/KLM FlyingBlue, Korean Air SkyPass, Singapore KrisFlyer, United MileagePlus, and World of Hyatt to be the most useful.
Unlock the full potential of no annual fee cards
Since the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Ultimate Rewards points, it lets you greatly increase the value of the points you earn on some Chase no annual fee cards. Specifically, I have the following three no annual fee cards that earn points that can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio in conjunction with the Sapphire Preferred:
- The Chase Freedom® Card offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 of spend per quarter; the card has no annual fee
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5x points on everyday spend; the card has no annual fee
- The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each anniversary year on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services, plus 2x points on the first $25,000 spend in combined purchases each anniversary year on gas stations and restaurants; the card has no annual fee
So having the Sapphire Preferred would let you earn 1.5x points per dollar spent on the Freedom Unlimited, 5x points in rotating categories with the Freedom, etc.
A word about getting approved for the card
There are two major restrictions to note when it comes to getting approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
First of all, the bonus on the card isn’t available to current cardmembers of this card, or previous cardmembers who have received a new cardmember bonus for the card within the past 24 months.
Furthermore, this card is subjected to Chase’s 5/24 rule, meaning that you typically won’t be approved for the card if you’ve opened more than five new accounts in the past 24 months. So if you’re new to miles & points, that’s another reason to make this one of the first cards you apply for, since you may not be eligible for the bonus in the future.
If you’re not eligible for the card based on that, keep in mind that some Chase cards, like the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card, don’t have that restriction, so you can be approved for them even if you’ve opened more than five accounts in the past 24 months.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is also worth considering
For many, the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card is going to be a better option. This is the premium version of the Preferred Card, and offers triple points on dining and travel, a $300 annual travel credit, and more. The card also has a $450 annual fee.
For someone looking for a single mid-range credit card with a reasonable annual fee, big sign-up bonus, great return on spend, and lots of travel protection, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is tough to beat, in my opinion. This is especially true if you combine it with some of Chase’s great no annual fee cards, which can earn you 1.5-5x points per dollar spent, all without paying any additional annual fees.