You Don’t Have To Be Rich To Fly First Class

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There are a lot of great credit cards out there, and there’s not a single card that’s going to be best for everyone. When it comes to applying for a credit card, I always recommend factoring in the sign-up bonus, return on everyday spend, and perks.

I’ve reviewed the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, but not fully since the Chase Sapphire Reserve® was introduced last summer. With that in mind, I figure it’s time for an updated review on what’s one of the most popular credit cards out there, and especially contrasting it to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

I consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to be one of the most well-rounded cards out there, and also one of the best cards for beginners, given that it has a generous sign-up bonus, waived annual fee the first year, good return on spend, and excellent perks.

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:

<b>Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®</b>

Assuming you earn all 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points, those can be redeemed for $750.00+ 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. Personally I value Ultimate Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each, so to me 60,000 points are worth $1020.

Why You Should Apply For This Card First

In the past couple of years Chase has added an unpublished “5/24 rule”, meaning that they typically won’t approve you for some new cards if you’ve opened more than five new accounts in the past 24 months.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. Nowadays more cards offer such bonuses, though I still consider the return on this card to be compelling. Specifically, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers:

  • 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:

Aer Lingus Aer ClubIHG Rewards Club
Air France/KLM Flying BlueMarriott Bonvoy
British Airways Executive ClubWorld Of Hyatt
Emirates Skywards
Iberia Plus
JetBlue TrueBlue
Singapore KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
United MileagePlus
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

In general here’s how long you can expect it to take for points to transfer:

Ultimate Rewards Transfer PartnerTransfer RatioTransfer Time
Aer Lingus Aer Club1000 : 1000Instant
Air France KLM FlyingBlue1000 : 1000Instant
British Airways Executive Club1000 : 1000Instant
Emirates Skywards1000 : 1000 Instant
Iberia Plus1000 : 1000Instant
JetBlue TrueBlue1000 : 1000Instant
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1000 : 1000~ 1 to 7 days
Southwest Rapid Rewards1000 : 1000Instant
United MileagePlus1000 : 1000Instant
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1000 : 1000Instant
IHG Rewards Club1000 : 1000Instant
Marriott Bonvoy1000 : 1000~ 1 to 2 days
World Of Hyatt1000 : 1000Instant

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.

Those are just a couple of examples of the many great uses of Ultimate Rewards points.

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
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
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 fewer than seven 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.

How Does This Compare To The Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

Last summer Chase introduced the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which quickly became super popular due to its huge sign-up bonus and great benefits. For many people, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a better option than the Preferred. Let’s compare the cards across a few areas:

Annual Fee

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee.

Return On Spend

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers double points on dining and travel, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers triple points on dining and travel.

Other Perks

There are a few points of differentiation for the Chase Sapphire Reserve:

  • It offers a $300 annual travel credit
  • It offers a Priority Pass membership
  • It allows you to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase, rather than 1.25 cents each

So, How Do The Numbers Work Out?

Let’s say that the $300 annual travel credit is more or less worth face value. I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, and by using the travel credit you’re forgoing 3x points per dollar spent, so we’ll say the $300 credit is worth ~$285.

So your real “out of pocket” difference between the two cards is $165 the first year, and $70 in subsequent years:

  • If you value a Priority Pass membership, that could be worthwhile, though personally I already have such a membership through other cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • If you value the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase, that’s another advantage; personally I’ve never redeemed my Ultimate Rewards points that way, since I’d rather transfer them to an airline or hotel transfer partner
  • So it comes down to how much you spend on dining and travel, as you’re earning an incremental return of ~1.7% on those purchases on the Reserve over the Preferred; that makes the breakeven point on spend for the $70 per year “out of pocket” difference somewhere around ~$9,700 the first year and $4,100 in subsequent years, though this only factors in the spend you’d put on this card and not what you’d spend on other cards (for example, I put my airfare spend on The Platinum Card® from American Express to earn 5x points, so wouldn’t count that towards the total)

Everyone has to crunch the numbers for themselves, but there’s potentially merit to both cards.

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has been around for almost a decade, and continues to be one of the all-around most lucrative travel credit cards.

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, no foreign transaction fees, etc. Furthermore, given Chase’s rules for approving new cardmembers, this is a card you’ll want to apply for early on, if possible. Even if you’re someone who otherwise avoids cards with annual fees, it can make sense to have at least one premium card for things like no foreign transaction fees, car rental coverage, etc.

For some the Chase Sapphire Reserve® might be a better option, especially if you don’t otherwise have a Priority Pass membership or if you spend a lot on dining and travel. Regardless, one of these two cards should be in your wallet.

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