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Wealth and Wants

Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great first travel card

With an eye-popping 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 why we think the Chase Sapphire Preferred card 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.

And I can’t go any further without mentioning its eye-popping welcome bonus: 100,000 points after spending $4,000 in your first three months after opening 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. 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. The most notable examples are groceries, dining and home improvements. That program is currently scheduled to end on Sept. 30, 2021. The 100,000-point introductory bonus is worth $1,250 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 100,000-point sign-up bonus
Ultimate Rewards travel portal1.25 cents$1,250
Statement credit1 cent$1,000
Direct deposit1 cent$1,000
Gift cards1 cent$1,000
Apple purchases1 cent$1,000
Amazon.com purchases0.8 cent$800
Chase Pay purchases0.8 cent$800

Transferring points

It’s also possible to transfer your points to Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners: Aer Lingus, British Airways, Emirates, Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), Hyatt, Iberia Airlines, IHG, JetBlue, Marriott, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

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, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card (which charges a $550 annual fee) and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (which charges $95). If you have one of these three cards, you can also combine points you earn from other Chase cards, thereby making those transferable as well.

For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is normally viewed as a straightforward cash back card with points worth 1 cent apiece. But if you have both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer your points from one account to the other, which can unlock a lot of added value in terms of redemption options.

Chase Sapphire Preferred transfer options

Redemption optionPoint valueValue of 100,000-point sign-up bonus
Singapore Airlines transfer2.36 cents$2,360
World of Hyatt transfer2 cents$2,000
Iberia Plus1.7 cents$1,700
Southwest Airlines transfer1.6 cents$1,600
JetBlue Airways transfer1.53 cents$1,530
United Airlines transfer1.52 cents$1,520
British Airways transfer1.4 cents$1,400
Emirates Skywards transfer1.1 cents$1,100
Air France/KLM transfer1 cent$1,000
Virgin Atlantic transfer0.8 cent$800
Marriott Bonvoy transfer0.8 cent$800
IHG Rewards Club transfer0.55 cent$550

Earning points

The Sapphire Preferred gives 2 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. While this isn’t the highest earning rate for the everyday essentials, you can get the best of both worlds by pairing the Sapphire Preferred with the Freedom Unlimited. The Freedom Unlimited gives 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through the Chase portal, 5 points per dollar on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 3 points per dollar at drugstores and restaurants and 1.5 points per dollar elsewhere (the Chase Freedom Unlimited is technically a cash back earning card but the percentage back is calculated as points your Chase portal).

On most purchases, you would earn more points via the Freedom Unlimited, and then by virtue of also holding the Sapphire Preferred, you could squeeze at least 25% more value out of each point by transferring and redeeming your points with the Sapphire Preferred – potentially even more if you play the travel partners right.

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/trip interruption insurance (up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip). Other notable benefits include purchase protectionextended warranty coverage, baggage delay insurance and more.

Bottom line

I’d sum up the Sapphire Preferred by emphasizing the generous 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 5x higher. That’s a higher-risk gamble.

It 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? E-mail 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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