There are a lot of amazing travel rewards credit cards nowadays, and in many ways credit card issuers have become significantly more competitive when it comes to the perks associated with cards. In this post I wanted to take a close look at what has been a popular card for years — is it still as good as it used to be?
Chase Sapphire Preferred Basics
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 low annual fee, good return on spending, excellent perks, and has a generous welcome bonus.
60K Welcome Bonus ($750 Worth Of Travel)
The Sapphire Preferred has a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months. This bonus was increased earlier this year, as previously the card offered a bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
At an absolute minimum, Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards a travel purchase, meaning that 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points will get you $750 worth of travel.
As I’ll explain below, there are ways to get way more value out of the points than that.
Redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for a flight in Singapore’s A350 business class
Chase’s 5/24 Rule
Chase has something that’s known as the 5/24 rule. With this, you typically won’t be approved for the card if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months. So if you do apply for this card, make sure you’re under that limit.
Card Bonus Eligibility
If you’re applying for this card, you can only be approved if you don’t currently have any Sapphire card, and haven’t received a new cardmember bonus on a Sapphire card in the past 48 months (this includes the Sapphire Reserve).
It’s worth being aware that Chase will often let you product change cards from one card to another, assuming you’ve had it for at least 12 months. For example, one strategy could be to apply for the Sapphire Preferred, use it for 12 months, and then later you can upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve, if you’d like.
You’ll have to call Chase to find out the options available on your account.
Chase is pretty good about letting you product change between cards
$95 Annual Fee
The Sapphire Preferred has a reasonable $95 annual fee. You can add authorized users to the card at no extra cost, and any spending they put on their card will contribute towards the points you earn.
Earning Points With The Sapphire Preferred
The Sapphire Preferred offers bonus points in two categories that some people may find useful. When picking a credit card, I always recommend getting one that has bonus categories that match up with your spending profile.
Some cards offer bonus categories on travel, dining, gas stations, supermarkets, etc., so pick the one that works best for you.
2x Points On Travel & Dining
The Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points on dining and travel purchases globally. The card offers 1x points on all other purchases.
What Counts As Travel & Dining?
Chase includes the following in the 2x points on dining category:
merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments.
Here’s what Chase includes in the 2x points on travel category:
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
No Foreign Transaction Fees
The Sapphire Preferred has no foreign transaction fees, so this is an excellent card to use for purchases globally, since you can earn valuable rewards while not being stuck with those fees, which are sometimes 3%.
You can earn bonus points even on train tickets with the Sapphire Preferred
Redeeming Sapphire Preferred Points
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 Club||IHG Rewards Club|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||Marriott Bonvoy|
|British Airways Executive Club||World Of Hyatt|
|Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
Points are also worth 25% more when redeeming for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. So you can apply points towards flights, hotels, car rentals, and more, at the rate of 1.25 cents per point.
That means that a $750 flight will cost you 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points, though you may get better value than that if transferring points to an Ultimate Rewards partner, especially if you’re looking for a first and business class flight, or a luxury hotel.
For example, you could transfer 30,000 points to World of Hyatt for a free night redemption at the Park Hyatt Maldives.
Redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for a stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives
You can find more about all the ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points and why I value them so highly in my Ultimate Guide to Ultimate Rewards.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Benefits
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers quite a few benefits that make this card even more valuable, from car rental coverage, to benefits that can earn you more points, to other travel and purchase protection. Let’s take a look at how those benefits work:
Visa Signature Benefits
The Sapphire Preferred is issued as a Visa Signature, which gives you access to many additional perks, including the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection.
Travel & Purchase Coverage
The Sapphire Preferred offers quite a bit of valuable travel and purchase protection, including the following:
|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
|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 Car Rental Coverage
The Sapphire Preferred offers primary collision damage waiver 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. You’ll want to check your cardmember agreement for full details.
Collision damage waiver coverage on car rentals is a valuable perk of the card
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.
One of the great features of Chase cards is access to Chase Offers, which provides savings on purchases with all kinds of retailers. The program wasn’t launched that long ago, but has already saved me a significant amount of money.
The Sapphire Preferred now features contactless pay technology. This means you can pay using your card without even swiping it whenever you see the contactless pay symbol.
Great Customer Service
While I try to do as much as possible online, I find that in situations where I have to call Chase, the customer service is excellent. They don’t have some of the annoying phone prompts that other issues have, and I’m almost always connected to an agent right away.
I’m not sure this is necessarily a selling point anymore nowadays, but the Sapphire Preferred was one of the first mainstream credit cards to be metal. That’s something that a lot of people like.
Is The Sapphire Preferred Worth It?
Going back several years, the Sapphire Preferred was almost unarguably worth it. But is the card still as valuable as it used to be? Let’s take a look at some of the factors to consider, ranging from a comparison to the Sapphire Reserve, to other cards to consider in place of this, to cards to consider as complements.
Comparison: Sapphire Preferred Vs. Sapphire Reserve
A few years ago Chase introduced the Sapphire Reserve, which is an even more premium version of the Sapphire Preferred. So, which of these two cards is better? Let’s compare it across a few categories:
- Welcome bonus: Sapphire Preferred offers up to 60K points, Sapphire Reserve offers up to 50K points
- Annual fee: Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee, Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee
- Points earning: Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points on dining and travel, Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on dining and travel
- Other perks: The cards have some overlap in terms of benefits, though the Sapphire Reserve has the edge of offering a $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass membership, a TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry fee credit every four years, the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each, and Visa Infinite perks
If you spend a good amount on dining and travel and value lounge access, then I think the Sapphire Reserve is worth it. If you don’t, the Sapphire Preferred is awesome.
If you value a Priority Pass membership, the Sapphire Reserve may be a better option
Complements: Freedom & Freedom Unlimited
If you have the Sapphire Preferred, then it’s totally also worth picking up the Chase Freedom® (review) and Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review). These cards have no annual fees and can hugely supercharge your points earning and you can combine them with Ultimate Rewards points:
- The Freedom offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 of spending per quarter
- The Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5x points on all purchases
At a minimum the Freedom Unlimited is a great compliment, so you can earn 2x points on dining and travel and 1.5x points on all other purchases.
Alternatives To The Sapphire Preferred
Nowadays the Chase Sapphire Preferred has some cards in its competitor set, so let’s take a look at how they compare, and how to decide which card is best for you:
Amex Gold Card
The American Express® Gold Card (review) offers 4x Membership Rewards points for dining at restaurants globally, 4x points for purchases at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 of spending per year), and 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines.
Those are some spectacular bonus categories, though the limitation on only being able to earn bonus points at supermarkets is significant, especially for those with large grocery bills.
The card has a $250 annual fee (Rates & Fees), though offers a $100 annual airline fee credit and up to $120 annual dining credit to offset it, though both of those benefits come with quite a few terms.
Amex Gold Card
The American Express® Green Card (review) was recently refreshed, and offers 3x points on dining, travel, and transit, which in many ways means it has better bonus categories than the Sapphire Preferred.
The card has a $150 annual fee (Rates & Fees), and offers a $100 annual CLEAR credit and $100 annual LoungeBuddy credit. The major downside of this card compared to the Sapphire Preferred is that it doesn’t offer travel or car rental coverage, which is an important perk for many.
Citi Premier Card
I’d say the Citi Premier℠ Card (review) is the most direct competitor to the Sapphire Preferred. The card offers triple points on travel and gas, and double points on dining and entertainment, so the bonus categories are actually better than on the Sapphire Preferred.
The card has a $95 annual fee, so in that regard it’s the same as the Sapphire Preferred.
ThankYou points can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards the cost of airfare (and only airfare, and not other travel purchases, unlike the Sapphire Preferred) and there are also some great ThankYou partners, which I’d say are comparable in value to Ultimate Rewards.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Summary
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has been around for about a decade, and continues to be one of the all-around most lucrative travel credit cards.
The card offers excellent rewards on dining and travel spending, great customer service, and some useful perks, like primary car rental 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. Even if that’s the case, it could make sense to get the Sapphire Preferred and later upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve.
Regardless, one of these two cards should be in your wallet.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees), and American Express® Green Card (Rates & Fees).