A credit card checkup includes reviewing annual fees

Cashing In columnist Tony Mecia
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. He writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com

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Question Dear Cashing In,
I have 104,000 points on my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and my yearly fee is due. The problem is Chase doesn’t transfer the points to American Airlines, just United.

Should I cash in the card and get around $1,000 and get the Capital One card that you can apply the points to any airline? Is it worth it to pay the annual fee, or should I close the Chase Sapphire Preferred and get the cash?

I never know if I need United or American until I’m ready for a vacation. – Phyllis

Answer Dear Phyllis,
In general, you should regularly evaluate the cards that you have and determine if they are your meeting your needs. When doing your credit card checkup, you should also examine available cards to see if they are better for you than your existing cards.

Too often, people stick with the rewards cards they have simply because those cards are familiar to them. A 2017 CreditCards.com survey found 37 percent of cardholders rarely change cards, if ever. In reality, card offers are changing all the time, and issuers are constantly devising new cards. If you haven’t surveyed the landscape of reward cards in a few years, you should.

With your Chase Sapphire Preferred card (annual fee: $95, waived the first year), you can transfer points to certain airlines and hotels, and you are correct that those points can be transferred to United but not American (at least not directly). You also are correct that there are other rewards cards that let you redeem your points for any airline.

If you choose to cancel, don’t lose your points

If you decide to cancel your Sapphire Preferred card, do something with your points first. If you have another Chase card earning Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to your other account. You also can redeem your points for cash at a rate of 1 percent back, or roughly $1,040.


Video: How your points can pay for memorable experiences

Or as a Sapphire Preferred cardholder, you can use the Chase online travel portal and redeem your points for flights, hotels, car rentals and other travel at a rate of 1.25 percent, or roughly $1,300.

Note that you can use those points to book flights on any major airline, including American and United, and that there are no blackout dates or restricted award availability when booked through the portal. 

Another option is that you can transfer your Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards points to an airline or hotel program such as United or Southwest.

Also note that if you want to use Chase points to fly on American, you can do that by transferring the points to British Airways and booking the American flight through British Airways.

If you decide to cancel, there are plenty of travel cards that allow you lots of flexibility in how you use your points. Happy hunting!

See related: Ditch or keep rewards card when annual fee comes due?Calculate your rewards card’s value: an 8-point checklist, When canceling a rewards card, purge clutter, but not points

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Updated: 02-19-2019