Chase Sapphire Preferred Review: A Must-Have for Any Traveler
Want a killer signup bonus? Look no further: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has one of the best bonuses in the business, clocking in at 45,000 Ultimate Rewards Points. Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. And then, 5,000 when you add an authorized user in the first 3 months and they make a purchase. The Sapphire Preferred also offers ongoing rewards and perks that’ll make you sit up and take notice. Why? Turns out 45,000 can be worth a lot more than $450.
|At a glance|
|Annual fees||Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95|
|Foreign transaction fee||None|
|Rewards program||Ultimate Rewards Points, worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash back or airline miles or 1.25 cents when redeemed for travel booked through Chase|
|Signup bonus||Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.|
|Verdict: When redeemed for travel, the Sapphire is among the highest earners out there.|
We value Ultimate Rewards points at a very conservative 1 cent apiece, but if you redeem for travel booked through Chase, your points are worth 25% more, and award-flight mavens can get even higher rates by transferring their points to airline mile programs. This means that the 40,000-point bonus is worth $500+ if you redeem it right, providing one of the highest values on the market currently.
In this article:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred isn’t your typical airline card. You earn 2 points per $1 on travel and dining and 1 per $1 everywhere else. The card comes with a $95 annual fee, waived the first year. It has no foreign transaction fee, and comes with Visa Signature perks like travel discounts and purchase protection.
So far, so standard. But the key to the Sapphire’s value is the high-value ways you can redeem your points.
Ultimate Rewards Points: They make the Sapphire Special
1 cent per point: Standard cash back or gift cards.
If you’re a fan of cold, hard cash, you can simply redeem your rewards for pictures of dead presidents. However, as we’ll see, this is one of the worst ways to use your rewards.
1.25 cents per point: Travel booked through Chase
The Ultimate Rewards Booking Tool is pretty much like Kayak: You input a departing airport and destination, plus flight dates, and you compare prices across a number of airlines. (I personally have used this tool multiple times, and in my experience the prices are the same as Kayak’s, so they’re not trying to nickel-and-dime you there). When it comes time to book, Sapphire Preferred cardholders have the option of paying in cash, or redeem with points at a 20% discount. For example, if you want a $100 ticket (taxes and fees included), you can:
- Pay $100 in cash
- Pay 10,000 points (for non-Sapphire Preferred cardholders)
- Pay 8,000 points (for Sapphire Preferred cardholders)
Only the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus and Ink Bold (both business cards) have this 20% off feature. Your 8,000 points are redeemed for a $100 ticket, meaning they’re worth 1.25 cents each.
1.25 to 5 cents per point: Transfer to an airline or hotel program
Your last redemption option is to shift your Ultimate Rewards Points to one of Chase’s transfer partners:
- British Airways
- Korean Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Singapore KrisFlyer
- Priority Club/InterContinental Hotels Group
Ultimate Rewards bottom line: Ultimate Rewards are a lot better when you’re redeeming with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Except for the Ink Bold and Plus (business cards both), no other Chase card gives the 25% points bump or lets you transfer your points 1:1 to partner loyalty programs. But – if you have the Sapphire Preferred and another Ultimate Rewards-earning card (let’s say the Chase Freedom), you can transfer the points you earned on the Freedom to your Sapphire Preferred account and earn far more than 1 cent per point.
Should you even consider the no-fee Chase Sapphire?
The no-fee, plain-vanilla Chase Sapphire is a step down from the Preferred in a number of ways.
- Its signup bonus is just 10,000 bonus points when you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening - that's $100 in travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards(SM)!
- It earns 2x rewards on dining, rather than both dining and travel
- It isn’t eligible for the 25% points boost when using rewards for travel
- It charges a 3% foreign transaction fee
The Chase Sapphire Preferred always beats out the no-fee version in the short and medium term – only after five years would you even consider getting the no-fee version. But honestly, there’s no reason to get the regular old Sapphire – there are better no-fee travel cards out there. One such is the Capital One Quicksilver, which earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase, has no foreign transaction fee, and boasts a signup bonus: One-time $100 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months. But even then, careful use of your Ultimate Rewards Points can net you a base rewards rate well above 1%, so unless you don’t travel, the Preferred is better.
The Sapphire Preferred compared
At the beginning, we outlined two scenarios where the Preferred is less than ideal. We’ll go through each scenario here.
Someone who spends on gas or groceries: the American Express Blue Cash
on American Express's
on American Express's
Someone who spends more on dining out than on travel: the US Bank Cash+
on US Bank's
on US Bank's
What I do: Combine and maximize
My first credit card was the Chase Freedom, but I got the Sapphire Preferred a few months ago because I needed a no foreign transaction fee card and wanted the quick signup bonus. Now, I use the Freedom whenever my purchase falls within a 5% category, and the Preferred otherwise. I then transfer all my Freedom points to the Sapphire Preferred, and do all my travel booking through the Ultimate Rewards tool. That way, I can take advantage of the former card’s higher earn rate and the latter’s redemption rate.