Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: not sexy in all countries?

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has lots of benefits, though probably my favorite day-to-day (as in, every time I whip it out to pay for something) “benefit” is how sexy the card is. For those of you that have no clue what makes the card different, it’s really thick and the numbers are on the back, so it looks pretty snazzy.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve received the following comments when making purchases in the US:

  • “That’s the coolest card I’ve ever seen.”
  • “Is this the card that comes with a private jet?”
  • “Wow, is this that special card with no spending limit?”
  • “You know what they say about guys with thick credit cards?” (sadly I’m not joking on that one…)

Little do they know it’s a card with a $95 annual fee, and not the American Express Centurion credit card. But that hasn’t stopped me from almost for a second thinking I’m that much of a high roller. Until I go outside the US.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has no foreign transaction fees and offers double points on travel, so it’s a no brainer to use abroad. But clearly the admiration of the card isn’t universal.

When checking in at the Park Hyatt Shanghai I gave my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for the guarantee, and the front desk agent asked me if I had a credit card instead of a debit card. I had to catch my tongue, because I was about to tell him all the things I’ve been told about the card that aren’t true — “Do you know who I am? Do you know that this credit card comes with a private jet and has no credit limit? I think it’ll suffice for this hotel stay.”

And this has actually been the case the last four times I checked in at hotels abroad. They either assume it’s a debit card or ask me why I’m giving them a useless card with my name on it.

Has anyone had similar issues abroad?

Filed Under: Chase, Credit Cards
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  1. While it wasn’t the SP (which I now use these days), I was using the Pres Plus for a rental car in Costa Rica and they wouldn’t accept it because they couldn’t take an imprint of it. Pretty ridiculous. That’s one downside to the chase-style numbers on the back.

  2. I believe Visa Electron cards don’t have raised numbering which is probably why they’re thinking it’s a debit card since I believe in some countries banks issue Visa Electron cards as debit cards.

  3. I used it in Paris a couple months ago, and it worked fine most of the time. But it got rejected two or three times which was really annoying (missing out on points AND paying a transaction fee on my backup card). I think some places stuck it in their handheld readers expecting it to have a chip inside.

  4. Usually once they pick up the card and feel how heavy it is, they’ll realize its not a normal card. Then they’ll usually turn the card around to look for the number.

  5. Just use the sp in Costa Rica…no problems except for people trying to make carbon copies. Eventually they got it.

  6. YES. In Hong Kong I got asked the same thing (and ended up not being able to use it) and in Canada it always seems to take convincing (someone tried to explain to me that their debit cards have things printed on the back like the Sapphire?)
    …I love the card but these experiences have made me hesitant to use it first when Im overseas.

  7. yup, a hotel in vietnam thought i was trying to pass them a frequent flyer card instead of an actual credit card =D

  8. On a relatively unrelated note — how do you destroy a Sapphire card when it is replaced? The magnetic strip on mine died, so Chase sent me a replacement card last week. Like an idiot, I put the old card into my shredder (like I do with any other old credit card). The shredder nearly broke apart, and the shredded card that came out the other end looked like a Sapphire Card that had been fed to a shark. The card is still in one piece, and all of the numbers and my name are still readable. So, did someone forget this little detail when designing the card? Maybe, I can sell it for the scrap metal? 

  9. A hotel in Cape Town would not accept my card when I tried to rent a card from them because they needed a card with embossed numbers to swipe through one of those old-school manual, carbon-copy machines.

    Some cabs in the US have also refused this card for the same reason (which is too bad because I can’t get the 2x pts).

  10. I just hand it to the clerk inverted so they can easily see the Visa logo. When i do that, i have no problems.

  11. But the card is still eventually accepted right? I plan to use mine for 2 upcoming European trips, and I don’t have any back-up cards with no FTF’s!

  12. In Germany I got “Do you have a credit card? We do no accept debit” followed by “WHAT!! No, No, This card will not work. It is not credit card” but they finally accepted it since the only other cards I had was Amex and they did not accept Amex

  13. My Chase Sapphire didn’t work for me at a restaurant in Vietnam, but my Fidelity Debit card worked fine.

  14. Sad to say, but this is the only reason I still have my Chase BA Visa. Just in case the SP doesn’t get accepted.

  15. The far bigger problem is the continued lack of smart chips in credit cards for use overseas. It’s becoming harder to find places (particularly bars and restaurants in foreign countries) that will even accept cards with no chip.

  16. I used my Sapphire Preferred Card in Mexico and Jamaica recently with no issues. Got locked out of my house in DC a few days ago and called a locksmith. Had to hand him my debit card because he was trying to run an imprint on a paper card slip by running back and forth over the numbers with a pen. Joy. I wish the SP card was “chip & pin.” Still love it!

  17. Gene: If you contact Customer Service they will send you an overnight FedEx or UPS envelope to ship it back to them for destruction. I had the same problem as you and my return envelope arrived the next day.

  18. Dan is right, in many countries Visa Electron and Maestro (among others) are not embossed, it’s nothing personal. Just point that Visa Signature / MC World Elite is never a debit card.

    To be honest I thought the card was cool, but nobody ever said anything, a few noticed the weight/feel was different, but didn’t comment. I’ve had a couple of people who were puzzled about the lack of a logo on the front, I told them to flip it. That was all outside the US.
    In New England I saw the Sapphire Preferred in a TV commercial, don’t know if it aired nationwide.

  19. I live in Edinburgh for grad school and have been using the Sapphire over here and throughout the UK for 6+ months with no problem (except people looking for a chip first). I also used it for a month in South Africa with no glitches. Ironically, the only time it’s been trouble is in NJ when they wanted to use a carbon machine and couldn’t because of the lack of raised numbers.

  20. No raised numbers AND no Chip & Pin = No transaction in many parts of the world.

    Sexy is all well and good, but a card you can’t actually use is kinda pointless.

  21. I just came back from Argentina and people had a hard time understanding the card. So I would handed over to cashiers turned around so they could see the number and the logo. And I would say, “it’s a visa”.

  22. Same issue here. In London and traveling thru Scotland, having no chip and no visa logo in the front made an issue. One cashier told me their machine won’t take cause it was too thick… I couldn’t stop laughing.

  23. OMG Gene .. I, too, had to get a replacement card – and I, too, tried to shred the defective one, only to have that Fellowes grind to a halt. The card is still stuck in its jaws. I wishi had read this thread earlier today.

    On topic, I am taking this baby to Europe in a few weeks – but looks like I’ll keep my AMEX Plat and Chase B/A Visa close by. No foreign transaction fees for all.

  24. I’ve run into similar issues abroad. People are usually confused at first trying to figure out what it is. And the fact that the magnetic stripe blends in with the rest of the card doesn’t help either.

  25. I have the Chase Presidential Plus and I get odd reactions while in the states. Since the magstrip is the same color as the card clerks 3/4 times before getting it right. One time they said “Sorry we don’t take international credit cards”.

  26. Oh look. Another boarding area post that provides no useful information and is just dedicated to getting people to sign up for credit cards.

  27. lol you’re cracking me up Ben.

    Usually after a confused look they just turn it over themselves. But sometimes I have to tell them to turn it over.


  28. I live in Thailand and while I have had no problems using the card, I almost always have to explain when using it and it is a subject of interest.

  29. I love the card as well, and since I’m living abroad, it is definitely my day to day spender, seeing as there is no foreign transaction fee. However, I have also had problems at times with them swiping the card. What is weird is that one day it will work at my local grocery market and the next, it won’t. I’ll give the cashier a different Chase card, and sure enough, that will work. Certainly annoying, but not enough not to love this card!

  30. The US is one of the few countries that have Visa/Mastercard logos on our DEBIT cards. For most countries, cards with no logo = debit cards, while cards with the logo are credit cards.

  31. I have used it in 6+ other countries. Sometimes people give it confused looks until they see the number in the back, other times they make a comment or show it off to their co workers.

    If you try to shred it in your shredder, its next to impossible.

  32. I’ve used my card in the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, and Australia with no issues. Did have a hotel clerk in Budapest who thought it must be an AmEx, which they don’t take, until I pointed out the Visa logo on the back. I use my UK cards here at my temporary UK home since they all have chips.

    @JetsettingEric: Really? My UK debit cards are Visa and MC, clearly marked on the front.

  33. I haven’t had any problems with *people*, but I have the darndest time with machines, especially the subway kiosks in London and Paris!
    Nothing quite like holding up the queue while you try to convince an inanimate object that you’re not trying to pay with a luggage tag…

  34. I got surprised and impressed reactions abroad: “Is this metal?” as the cashier tapped it against the counter.

    But here’s some news: after some fraudulent activity, I called Chase to have them send me a new card. The new card is NOT the same heavy, thick card I had before!! It’s a regular thin plastic card, albeit with the name and numbers on the back.

    To answer the question about how to destroy an old, thick Preferred card: a very good pair of scissors will do it (a crummy blunt pair won’t). I imagine sheet metal shears would also work. Indeed, there *is* a sheet of metal inside!

  35. When someone talks about how heavy the card is or ask what it’s made of I often say, “I think it’s made out of elephant tusk.”

  36. Hertz Car Rental in Perugia Italy refused mine due to “electronic only”. It took me awhile to realize is was the lack of embossing as he pointed to then mag stripe then rubbed his finger over the numbers as he said “electronic only”. He gladly took my Amex and proceeded to swipe it thru a mag stripe reader ???

    In Portland OR MAX (light rail) station, the kiosk loved my card and wouldn’t give it back. It’s not one of these machines which “swallow” the card then spit it out when done (like an ATM). It’s one where you slip the card in-n-out just like a swipe. The card would not slip out. I tried moving to top/bottom/right/left but it wouldn’t budge. There was absolutely no freeplay, as if the kiosk actually had a grip on it vs the card being caught on a ridge. The cancel button didn’t work either. After about 10 minutes of trying, a local girl (who seemed to know the “personality” of each of the 3 kiosks said she’d never seen that problem before. She finally got it out after 3 minutes.

  37. Just returned from 6 weeks in Europe and SE Asia. Same trouble with vending machines for transit–good old USA has to be different. Some odd looks and some admiring looks but once they saw the numbers on the back and VISA it was accepted everywhere.

  38. not sure if anyone mentioned this benefit, but apparently the card also comes with “trip insurance”. I had bought 2 tix on Spanair for travel in April… after the ceased ops on Friday I called the Sapphire line, and the lady mentioned that the card came with trip cancellation insurance (we got a full refund for the tix)… +1 to the great customer service, and no computers to navigate thru!

  39. Echohorn, I think any credit card would do that for you. You bought something that the company didn’t deliver; whether it was a sweater or a plane ticket, the bank will handle the dispute and refund your money if their investigation finds that the company didn’t deliver what you paid for.

  40. This made me laugh because I literally got the card in the mail on Friday and used it a ton over the weekend to rack up the $3K for the bonus points – and almost EVERY TIME I got the same kind of response!

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