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Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great first travel card

With a valuable sign-up bonus, statement credits and numerous points transfer options, the Chase Sapphire Preferred may be your go-to travel card

Summary

With so many travel cards on the market, deciding on the right one can be a daunting task, especially if you are a first-time travel rewards cardholder. Read on to learn why we think the Chase Sapphire Preferred could be the right choice for you.

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a popular introduction into the world of travel rewards credit cards. The ability to make lucrative transfers to airline and hotel partners with a relatively low annual fee ($95) is a big part of this card’s value proposition. Plus, it offers a solid welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in your first three months once you open the account.

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How much are those points worth?

Each point is worth 1 cent when it’s redeemed for a statement credit or gift card. However, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred the value goes up to 1.25 cents per point if you use your points to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or, for a limited time, if you use them to offset certain eligible purchases through Pay Yourself Back. The 60,000-point introductory bonus is worth $750 if you choose one of the 1.25 cents per point options.

Value of the Sapphire Preferred card’s sign-up bonus

Redemption optionPoint valueValue of 60,000-point sign-up bonus
Ultimate Rewards travel portal1.25 cents$750
Statement credit1 cent$600
Direct deposit1 cent$600
Gift cards1 cent$600
Apple purchases1 cent$600
Amazon.com purchases0.8 cent$480
Chase Pay purchases0.8 cent$480

Transferring points

It’s also possible to transfer your points to Chase’s airline and hotel partners, including Aeroplan, British Airways, Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), Hyatt, Marriott, United Airlines and more.

This method can be the most lucrative, but it’s also the most complicated. If you’re willing to put in the work to research availability and maximize your points, you might be able to receive considerably more than 1.25 cents per point in value. International first-class airplane tickets tend to deliver the loftiest valuations. If you can nab an $8,000 ticket for 100,000 points, for instance, that’s a staggering 8 cents per point.

Only three Chase cards allow airline or hotel points transfers: the Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve® (which charges a $550 annual fee) and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (which charges $95). If you already have another Chase card in your wallet, or are considering adding one, you can combine your points onto your Sapphire Preferred (or Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred) to make them transferable, too.

For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is marketed as a cash back card, but its cash back actually comes in the form of Ultimate Rewards points, worth 1 cent apiece. If you have both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer the points earned from your Freedom Unlimited to your Sapphire Preferred, unlocking a lot of added value in terms of redemption options.

For anyone transitioning to your first travel card from a cash back card, don’t be too hasty in canceling or shelving the card — card combos can prove to be quite lucrative.

Chase Sapphire Preferred transfer options

The following point values for Chase’s transfer partners are according to The Points Guy as of August 2022.

Redemption optionPoint valueValue of 60,000-point sign-up bonus
Singapore Airlines1.3 cents$780
World of Hyatt1.7 cents$1,020
Iberia Plus1.5 cents$900
Southwest Airlines1.5 cents$900
JetBlue Airways1.3 cents$780
United Airlines1.21 cents$726
British Airways1.5 cents$900
Emirates Skywards1.2 cents$720
Air France/KLM1.2 cent$720
Aer Lingus1.5 cent$900
Aeroplan1.5 cent$900
Virgin Atlantic1.5 cent$900
Marriott Bonvoy0.84 cent$504
IHG Rewards Club0.5 cent$300

Earning points

Using the Sapphire Preferred on dining, select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), the card gives 3X points and 1X points on everything else. You can also earn 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 2X points on other travel purchases.

Three points per dollar is a great earning rate for everyday essentials, but you can get the best of both worlds by pairing the Sapphire Preferred with the Freedom Unlimited. Based on the fact 1 point is worth 1 cent, the Chase Freedom Unlimited gives 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2025) and travel booked through the Chase portal, 3X points at drugstores and restaurants and 1.5X points per dollar elsewhere.

On most everyday purchases, you would earn more points via the Freedom Unlimited, then by virtue of also holding the Sapphire Preferred, you could squeeze 25 percent more value out of each point by transferring and redeeming your points with the Sapphire Preferred.

What else I like about the Sapphire Preferred

It’s one of a small number of cards to offer primary car rental insurance, and it also boasts excellent trip cancellation/interruption insurance (up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip). Trip cancellation and interruption insurance is a rarity among travel cards — and rarer still among mid-tier travel cards with lower annual fees like the Sapphire Preferred.

Other notable benefits include purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, baggage delay insurance and more. Additionally, the Sapphire Preferred offers a $50 Ultimate Rewards hotel credit each year, which can save you even more on a trip booked through Chase’s portal. Topping it off, you’ll also get an extra 10 percent of the points you earned within the past year each account anniversary.

Bottom line

I’d sum up the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card by emphasizing the solid introductory bonus and the transferable points potential. Few cards with an annual fee of $95 or less can compete with the Sapphire Preferred’s overall value proposition. That’s why it’s such a great first travel card.

Later on, you may choose to upgrade to a card like the Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card® from American Express. Those offer additional perks (such as airport lounge access and credits that offset various types of purchases), but with annual fees more than five times higher. That’s a higher-risk gamble.

The gamble might be worth it, but especially if you’re new to the transferable points world, the Sapphire Preferred represents a more affordable way to start racking up points and experimenting with different redemption methods.

Have a question about credit cards? Email me at ted.rossman@creditcards.com and I’d be happy to help!

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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