Why The Chase Sapphire Preferred Is Still The Ideal First Credit Card To Get

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For many years the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card was basically the undisputed best credit card for maximizing miles & points. However, the past few years we’ve seen many new credit cards introduced, as well as additional perks added to existing cards, so perhaps the card isn’t as clear cut of a winner as before.

However, for someone just getting started with miles & points, I continue to believe that the Sapphire Preferred is the most well rounded card out there in terms of having a low annual fee, great welcome bonus, generous return on spend, and useful perks. So why is this the best option if you’re new to miles & points?

First let’s recap the basics of the card, starting with the welcome bonus and annual fee:

Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Chase Sapphire Preferred Earning Rates

  • 2x points on travel (includes airfare, hotels, car rentals, subway tickets, taxis, parking, etc.)
  • 2x points on dining (includes restaurants, coffee shops, etc.)
  • 1x 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 includes 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.

On the Chase Sapphire Preferred, travel includes the following categories:

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


Earn double points on hotel stays with the Sapphire Preferred

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:

AirlinesHotels
Aer Lingus Aer ClubIHG Rewards Club
Air France/KLM Flying BlueMarriott Rewards
British Airways Executive ClubRitz-Carlton Rewards
Iberia PlusWorld Of Hyatt
JetBlue TrueBlue
Singapore KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
United MileagePlus
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.


Redeem Ultimate Rewards points for Singapore Airlines’ new Suites

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.

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 BenefitsDetails
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
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

This is a benefit which was introduced last year — coverage is primary as of July 20, 2014. The Sapphire Preferred offers insurance against damage up to the cost of most rental car vehicles provided you decline the CDW coverage offered by the rental agency. Includes economy through luxury class vehicles, vans that carry less than 7 passengers, and SUVs.

Chip & Signature Enabled For International Travel

This seems minor, but is a nice feature, particularly for travel to Europe. The added heft of the Chase Sapphire Preferred means it sometimes doesn’t swipe in foreign card readers, so being able to use the chip functionality at small merchants and train ticket kiosks is quite helpful.

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. There are very few credit cards that offer that kind of service.

Why You Should Apply For The CSP First

Not only is the Chase Sapphire Preferred a great card for people new to this hobby because it’s incredibly rewarding, but there’s another reason you’ll want to apply for it early on.

Chase has what’s referred to as the “5/24 rule.” With this policy, Chase typically won’t approve people for cards if they’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months. Once you get over that limit, you won’t be approved for that card anymore. So there’s really an incentive to apply for this card (and the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, which is the business version of the card) ASAP.

Also Consider The Chase Sapphire Reserve

A bit over a year ago the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card was introduced, which is the premium version of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The card has a $450 annual fee, but offers triple points on dining and travel, a $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass membership, and more.

This is a very rewarding card as well, and for many it could be worthwhile. However, if you already have a Priority Pass membership (I have four of them right now), and if you don’t spend that much on travel and dining, the Sapphire Preferred could be the better option.

The Sapphire Reserve also has a slightly smaller welcome bonus. It also offers 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months.

So you could always apply for the Sapphire Preferred, see how you like it, and then after a year you could product change to the Sapphire Reserve if you think it better suits your needs.

Bottom Line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred continues to be one of the most well rounded credit cards out there, and is one of the cards I highly recommend if you’re new to miles & points. Between the great welcome bonus, reasonable annual fee (which is waived the first year), solid return on spend, and great travel and purchase protection, this is a fantastic card to consider.

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Comments

  1. Stop pushing cards and do a series about which airlines are best to accumulate miles in each of the alliances.

  2. I had the CSP a few years ago and now have the CSR. Most of my travel is from awards so the 2-3x on travel doesn’t mean that much to me. I spend a moderate amount on dining (about $10k/yr) so I enjoying 3x there. However, it may make more sense for most people (including myself) to just skip all these cards and just get a great 2x card with no AF like AMEX Business Plus. Assuming you value UR the same as MR, you would have to spend close to $10k on travel and dining per year to cover the CSR’s AF. OMAAT and every other blogger have already explained how easy into is to get business credit cards.

  3. Actually, you would never cover the AF with CSP by spend since both cards are 2x. But you would have to spend close to $15K on CSR to cover the $150 de facto AF.

  4. Another bogus myth in the making by self-anointed “travel gurus”, who are now creating an echo chamber promoting a good but inferior product when there is a clear better alternative.

    The CSP would be the “best first” only if one is not eligible or is not approved for the CSR, ESPECIALLY because of the 5/24 rule. Why get yourself closer to 5/24 by first getting the CSP and then CSR? In fact, many people who did not get approved for the CSR are the type who hang onto and then act on every word written by self-anointed “travel gurus” urging them to get this great card or that other superlative card. Then when a truly unique card like the CSR comes along, they cannot take advantage of it because they already shot their wad and are over 5/24. Incidentally, the new Hilton Honors AMEX ASPIRE card — likely hotel loyalty’s equivalent of the CSR — launches on January 18, 2018. Will you get caught with you pants down, having already applied for too many other “best first” cards and unable to perform?

    Bottom line: There is NO compelling reason whatsoever for anyone to go with the CSP if they can get the CSR. Not because of the AF (with the CSR you make $150 the first year, have no AF the second year, and pay just $150 thereafter vs. the CSP’s $95); not because of the additional AU [have no use for it], and at 3X vs 2X, definitely not because of the return on the $ spent…

    G’day!

  5. I am somewhat disagree with Ben. First, for a fee card, the earning rate is mediocre at best. Second, for all that extra perks, people like me don’t understand them not mention how to use them. Then there is Ultimate Rewards program. With rounds after rounds of devaluation, there are maybe few sweet spots left that are worth considering, not to mention the endless restrictions and rules that come after every airlines customer service “enhancement”. I understand that it is not the fault of Chase and beyond Chase’s control, but when its partners devaluate their currency, then Ultimate Rewards points are worth less as well. The way I see it, the Ultimate Rewards program offers flexibility, but not value. As for shopping portals, most US airlines have them too. The earning rate is more or less the same. However, I do see one sweet spot for Sapphire Preferred is to combine with no fee Chase freedom card. With 5X points for in season category, points can be accumulated fairly quickly. As a standalone card, it is hard to justify $95 fee especially there are so many creative cards in the marketplace. For a first timer with no particular goal, I recommend no frill, no fee 2% cash back card. For someone who intended to redeem points for future travel especially in the premium cabin, I recommend Starwood Preferred Guest card because most of the everyday spending falls under 1% everything else category. It has more than dozens of airline partners and unmatched value in the point business. Initial bonus is lower. However, in the long run, dollar for dollar, it is much better value assuming everything stays the same.

  6. I’m curious, Jing, about the relative value you mentally assign to SPG Points vs. MR points. I know it’s subjective. For me, the SPG stays in my wallet for everyday spend until I exhaust the AmEx BBP 50k @2x. Cheers.

  7. @Jeepie, I am sorry I am not familiar with MR points, but I do value SPG points more than UR points especially it has unique and valuable transfer partners like Alaska airlines. As for everyday spending, of course I will always look for cards with better than 1% return rate. However, for people like me, most of my spending falls under everything else category with dismal 1%. Furthermore, in the case of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the maximum is 2 points for travel and dining. How do you justify paying $95 annual fee when there is 2% cash back card with no fees. Of course, UR point is not the same as cash back, but with frequency and ways that airlines devalue their currency, they are not too far from each other. So my conclusion for Sapphire Preferred as a standalone card is that it is a mediocre card at best.

  8. @Jing sez: “.. but I do value SPG points more than UR points especially it has unique and valuable transfer partners like Alaska airlines. ”

    That type of one-dimensional thinking has simply got to stop. Anyone who does not think in terms of airline alliances is not playing the game with a “full deck” and this is what I mean:

    Chase UR points transfer 1:1 to at least one member of each of the three major airline alliances. That means that by signing up FOR FREE with a Chase airline partner in each of the three alliances, one is able to essentially “transfer” UR points to some 62 or more members of the 3 airline alliances combined. I quoted “transfer” because what one really does is to transfer UR points to the miles of a Chase partner in an alliance (e.g., I joined Korean Air [SkyTeam] and Singapore Air [Star Alliance, even though I am with UA, because redeeming directly through SQ has many advantages]) and then use the miles of that partner to redeem award flights DIRECTLY on any of that partner’s alliance partners. The ability to “transfer” UR points to various airlines is, therefore, virtually unlimited. Not all transfers will be the most favorable but the ability to transfer UR points widely is definitely there for multi-dimensional thinkers. Lastly, one can also simply use UR points as cash and get a revenue ticket with any airline that would earn both award and elite-qualifying miles. At the same time, “UR points as cash” are worth 50% more when they are redeemed for travel through Chase. An option definitely worth considering in some instances…

    Oh, one more thing that should make you or anyone else think long and hard about continuing to be infatuated with starpoints and the SPG AMEX, which have been pretty useless for a good while now because of availability of much better rewards cards, is that starpoints-to-miles transfers can take many days to weeks to happen, by which time a “hot deal” could or would have gone cold. By contrast, Chase UR points transfer to airline partners instantaneously in many cases (e.g., UA) or within 24-48 hr (e.g., SQ) at most.

    Bottom line: To continue to obsess with starpoints and SPG AMEX makes little these days because they are a thing of the past. There are much better options for earning transferable points than earning starpoints @1/$ on SPG cards, and waiting days to weeks for transfers to partners to happen when there is “hot deal” that could disappear if you blink.

    G’day!

  9. @Debit: First of all, I actually find these posts informative. His specialty is miles and points, and he does a damn good job explaining earning and redemption of airline miles and credit card points. I have learned a lot from him on how to leverage these benefits, since I travel a lot. It’s saved me loads of money and added value to money I was going to spend regardless. Second, I have no problem with him advertising these cards and earning a commission. To bring us the content, reviews and etc., he must have a source of income to fund his trips. Even though he uses lots of rewards, he still pays cash for lots of his travel. He couldn’t bring us this content if he can’t make a living doing it.
    Thanks Lucky for all you do!

  10. @DCS, like I said before, I agree that UR offers flexibility, but flexibility does not mean value. In a extreme case, UR has hundreds of transfer partners across the global, but every one of them is acting like Delta. What value does UR points have then? A few great transfer partner with favorable redemption rates beats all of them. In this case, according to Ben’s valuation, among all the transfer partners, the Korean air and Singapore have the maximum value at 1.5c/mile. That’s pretty average. There are few sweet spots, for example, transpacific Korean air first class for 80000 miles one way, but they are not eye popping. The point is UR might have more choices to choose from, but no matter which way I look at it, the number of good choices are limited. On the other hand, what makes SPG points valuable is not the number of partners it has, but the great redemption rate that some of it partners have to offer. Just for comparison, SPG transfer partner Alaska airline can redeem a transpacific first class on Cathay Pacific for 70000 miles one way. As for UR points as cash, I think you mean 25% more not 50% because it’s Sapphire Preferred not Reserved. At 1.25c/point, It is worse than some cash back cards with no annual fees. The maximum for return rate for Sapphire Preferred is 2X on travel and dining. However, it’s unrealistic to assume that people only spend on travel and dining. Big chunk of everyday spending falls under everything else category with return rate of 1 point/dollar spend. So realistically, the average return rate for Sapphire Preferred is 1.xx points/dollar spend. Take that 1.xx times 1.25c/point, I will be luck if I can get over 2c/dollar spend. At the same time, there exists 2% cash back cards with not annual fees. As for time to transfer points, I don’t know, maybe it’s me, I always plan ahead for my travel. If there is a “hot deal” and everything is in place, enough miles in the account and no time conflict etc., I will not hesitate. No hard feeling if I miss it. The bottom line is that the reason why people like you and I and the followers of this blog joined multiple rewards programs is to find that sweet spot for our travel needs and maximum our return. The way I see it UR is an average reward program with few good deals here and there. The real problem is the earning rate for Sapphire Preferred, 2X on travel and dining 1% everything else, is not competitive considering it has $95 annual fee. On a last note, the market is so diverse and segmented that there is no one card fits all or fits most. Sapphire Preferred might be the card to get few years ago, but considering today’s credit card landscape, it is not the card that I would recommend. The market trend I see is that the higher end credit cards are getting more compelling and expensive and the no fee cards are diverse and segmented to target a particular spending habits and population. The middle of the market is becoming somewhat irrelevant and replaceable.

  11. @Jing – don’t waste your time trying to reason with a biased, irrational person. Most everyone else still recognizes the benefits of Starpoints and the SPG Amex.

    Sure I can transfer my URs to BA…and pay 50% more miles for long haul redemptions plus surcharges, relative to redeeming on AA via SPG. That’s what DCS’ “advice” would suggest.

  12. @Jing — You’ve drunk too much of the starpoints-are-best kool-aid to see the light. Go ahead and earn them @1/$ and forgo all the other advantages I pointed.

    BTW, all you did in your long post was to nickel-and-dime in search of the tiniest advantage, which raises the question of whether you should play the game at all…

    At least for Star Alliance, virtually all UA (my #1 FF pgm) partner awards are “saver” awards, so that, overall, one does not do too badly transferring UR points, which, in my case, I earn 3x or 1.5x more than I would starpoints for the spend. Like I said, nickel-and-dime…

    Also you wrote: “As for UR points as cash, I think you mean 25% more not 50% because it’s Sapphire Preferred not Reserved.”

    I meant 50% because I have the CSR…so you just pointed out another reason why one should go with the CSR rather than CSP 🙂

    G’day and good luck!

  13. Does anybody know if paying for a passport renewal fee at the post office will qualify for the travel bonus category on the CSP?

  14. @DCS, let me start off by reminding you that this article is about CSP not CSR. I am really happy to see that UA awards work for you. To stay on the topic, I have already explained why I think CSP and UR points are not the most compelling choice to get. Like I said before, 2X on dining and travel is not competitive and UR points are worth less than it used to be. I will always choose quality over quantity. There are simply better alternatives that fit maybe not your needs but my needs and people like me. Obviously you have different opinion. Let’s just say that we agree to disagree, and I will leave from there. good luck!

  15. @Jing — Please read my first comment. The post may be about the CSP, but it is presented in a way that calls for comparisons, and the comparison to the CSR is “natural”, as many who have done it seem to concur.

    Now, what was your point again?

    I am done here. G’day.

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