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Jane Butler

Rewards

How I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card

Why I kept my annual fee travel card during quarantine

Summary

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers rewards that can be redeemed for travel, but faced with the pandemic, the card issuers adjusted the way cardholders could earn these rewards.

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During quarantine, I found myself wondering if paying the annual fees on my travel cards was a good idea. I have three: the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the American Express® Gold Card. Altogether, their fees come out to $595 – definitely a pretty penny.

Being stuck inside for a year, unable to use my credit card points, isn’t exactly conducive to maxing out your perks and earnings if your bonus categories are all travel-related. So, it would have made more sense to downgrade those cards instead of eating the annual fee, right?

Well, many credit issuers took to these concerns and adjusted the way consumers could earn points during the pandemic in order to retain current cardholders – and somehow, it definitely worked.

With my Chase Sapphire Preferred, I figured out ways to continue earning and made the card work for me.

See related: Coronavirus: Ultimate guide to limited-time offers and promotions

Using the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Sign-up bonus

With my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, I earned a 60,000-point sign-up bonus (this was the bonus offer when I opened my account in 2018; keep reading to learn more about the card’s current all-time high offer).

I was able to use 30,000 points to book a flight from Singapore to England through Chase Ultimate Rewards to kick off my month-long graduation trip throughout Europe. I saved the other half to book hotels and domestic flights when I returned home.

With the knowledge I have now about ways to finesse your points and book crazy deals, I know that I could have stretched those 30k points out further, but as a recent college graduate without a full-time job, it made perfect sense. It saved me almost $600 in cash, which not only offset my $95 annual fee, but I was able to put that money toward other expenses on my trip.

How I’ve used my card during quarantine

One of the initial reasons I signed up for this card was for the flexibility in spending. Because the Preferred doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, it allowed me to charge my card anywhere I needed without having to pay an extra fee on top of it. This was a make-or-break perk that, when added up, saved me a lot of extra money I could spend elsewhere.

However, now that we’ve been stuck at home for over a year, I haven’t been able to use this perk – along with many other travel-related bonus categories. Chase has made an effort to listen to these consumer concerns by making temporary adjustments to offer alternative ways to earn points in lieu of earning back on travel spend.

To reflect these changes, the current sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is 100,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.

The sign-up bonus worth $1,250 when spent in the Ultimate Rewards portal, pretty much offsetting the annual fee a few times over.

On top of that, Chase is currently offering a Pay Yourself Back feature, which lets you redeem your points for grocery store, dining and home improvement store purchases at 25% more value (points are redeemed and show up as a statement credit).

So now, you can pay yourself back for free using your points for all of those meals you’re cooking, quarantine home projects and food deliveries, and find ways to earn points alternatively from travel-related categories.

How I spend my card miles – and the best things I’ve gotten from them

As for using earned points, there are many creative ways to cash in. I did so by booking a staycation in February for nothing but points – and I even saved a few dollars off of the retail price.

I found a Queen Suite at the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt here in Austin, Texas, which came with two $20 food credits to use for breakfast the next morning, a high floor and a lakeside view. Booking this exact room directly through the hotel’s website would have cost me $326 (roughly 32,666 points). However, when you are a Preferred cardholder, Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points are worth 25% more when booking through the portal, so I was actually able to use only 24,500 points – which is equivalent to about $245 – to book the exact same room!

This is a major game-changer when it comes to redeeming points for award stays. That being said, always do your due diligence and cross-reference the pricing from the direct website of the hotel, airline, etc. you are booking with against the Ultimate Rewards portal so you are always getting the best deal.

Ongoing potential for the card

In addition to redeeming points for a staycation, I’ve also been using my Preferred to maximize my earning potential in a less traditional and indirect way: by combining my benefits of the Preferred with my Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex℠ .

Both Freedom cards earn cash back on purchases, but because I also have the Preferred, I can use the cash back that I earn from those two cards interchangeably as either hard cash or in the Ultimate Rewards portal as points!

The $684.71 I have currently earned from my Chase Freedom Unlimited account can now be redeemed as 68,471 points and can be redeemed alongside all the points I earn on my Sapphire.

This is another major perk of being a Preferred cardholder because it increases my earning potential and gives me more flexibility in the way I redeem both my points and cashback.

Is the card worth it?

The bottom line is yes, this card is worth it. While I haven’t been able to use the Preferred to maximize points on travel purchases recently, Chase has made adjustments to the way consumers can earn points until travel returns as an aspect of our everyday lives.

And with an extremely competitive sign-up bonus and convenient ways to redeem points and cash back, it’s obvious that the Preferred should be a staple in your wallet throughout the pandemic.

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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