Chase Sapphire Preferred Review: A Must-Have for Any Traveler

(5/5 - 118 Votes)

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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: 40,000 when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, and 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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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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 $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Verdict: When redeemed for travel, the Sapphire is among the highest earners out there.
Good for:
  • Someone looking for a quick signup bonus
  • Someone who flies United, Southwest or Virgin Atlantic
  • Someone who travels, and also has a Chase rewards card like the Freedom (we’ll explain later)
Bad for:
  • Someone who spends a lot of money on gas or groceries
  • Someone who spends more on dining out than on travel
  • A small spender looking for a long-term value card

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:

Sapphire 101
Ultimate Rewards Points: They make the Sapphire special
Should you even consider the no-fee Chase Sapphire?
The Sapphire Preferred compared
What I do: Combine and maximize

Sapphire 101

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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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on Chase's
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starstarstarstarstar
  • Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $500 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate RewardsSM.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus Chip and Signature enabled for international travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value — that means 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points.
  • 24/7 direct access to dedicated customer service specialists
  • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
thumbsupPros
  • No foreign transaction fee
thumbsdownCons
  • Has annual fee
Annual Fee Signup Bonus APR , Variable* APR Promotions
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95. Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. 15.99% (Variable) Purchase: None
Transfer: None

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:

  • Airlines:
    • British Airways
    • Korean Airlines
    • Southwest
    • United
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Hotels
  • Amtrak

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 a One-time $100 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months. signup bonus and no foreign transaction fee. 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

If travel isn’t your thing, consider a card that gives you bonus rewards on everyday spending categories. The best of these is the Amex Blue Cash, which earns 6% cash back on groceries (up to $6,000 spent annually) and an unlimited 3% on gas and department stores. Its $75 annual fee is offset by a Get 100 Reward Dollars, redeemable for a $100 statement credit, after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months. Plus, get one year of Amazon Prime after you sign up for a new membership with your Card and meet the spending requirement in the same time period. signup bonus. Don’t settle for the Preferred’s 1.00% rewards on gas and groceries (or 1.25% when you redeem for travel) when you could be getting 3% and 6% rewards.

Someone who spends more on dining out than on travel: the US Bank Cash+

US Bank Cash+(TM) Visa Signature(R) Card Credit Card
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The US Bank Cash+ offers 5% cash back on two bonus categories of your choice (in the demo, one available category is restaurants) up to $2,000 spent per quarter, plus 2% cash back on gas, groceries or drugstores (pick one). The card has no annual fee, and once a year, you can redeem $100 worth of cash back for $125. But there are two downsides: It has no signup bonus (sayonara, free vacation) and you have to physically go into a US Bank branch to apply, which is the biggest drawback for me. Still, it’s one of the best options out there for restaurant rewards and flexibility.

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.

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  • Linda

    What exactly constitutes “travel” other than airfare purchases?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Linda,

      According to Chase’s website:

      Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel from airfare, hotels, cruises and rental cars to train tickets, taxis, tolls and more.

      Hope this helps!

  • Steve Smtih

    I have given up on doing any business with Chase. I got the Chase affinity card for IHG. I spent the required amount but no increase in status level and no bonus points, OK, so I call Chase and they say call IHG. I contact IHG and they say (you guessed it) call Chase. One big circle. Have I been scammed? All I know is that when I have taken advantage of offers from AmEx or Citi, there has never been a hassle. The hassle factor with CHASE and IHG is too much.

  • Steve

    Hi there – I’m almost at the trigger point to either get the Sapphire Preferred Card or the Barclay Arrival World Master Card. From what I can tell these cards are pretty neck in neck?! Can you provide me your professional opinion on what card edges out the other? I also have heard from a previous Chase employee that Chase won’t even offer you a card unless you have a 750 or higher score which is where I’m at now. I dont know too much about Barclay. My other big question is I have 20,000 points on my USAA Amex along with a small $1,500 balance. Will I be able to transfer all my points onto either the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Barclay card or will I only get points from the balance tranfer soley??

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Steve,

      You can’t transfer your USAA points, unfortunately – your best bet is to cash out on those and start afresh. However, I’d advise against transferring your *credit card balance *to the Chase Sapphire or Barclaycard Arrival. If you have credit card debt, you should be looking for a card that has 0% interest on balance transfers, so you aren’t bleeding money in interest payments. Rewards cards like the Sapphire and Arrival tend to have very high interest rates, so if you don’t pay off your balance every month, you should look for a 0% APR card.

      Cheers,
      Anisha

  • louise von Hasseln

    Thanks for all the info.! I’m still confused about one difference between Capital One and Sapphire Preferred. Can both be used on other airlines, such as Virgin America? Where does one find a list of participating Airlines?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hey Louise,

      Capital One miles can be used against any travel expense – any airline or hotel, as well as gas, car rentals and other travel purchases. Chase Sapphire Preferred miles can be transferred to any one of the programs seen here. Hope this helps!

      Anisha

      • louise von Hasseln

        Thanks so much for the info.!!! I’ll look into it!

  • Tiff Duncan

    Hi,

    I used to have the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Then I downgraded to the fee free card. I still have the card now. Will I ever be able to get the sign up bonus again? Like, can I cancel my card, sit out a blackout period, and then apply after 12 months and get the bonus again? Thanks!

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      There’s almost no chance, unfortunately – they exclude you from getting the bonus if you’re a previous customer. From the Sapphire Preferred terms and conditions:

      This one-time bonus offer is valid only for first-time cardmembers with new accounts. Previous and existing cardmembers/accounts are not eligible for this bonus offer.

  • John Parker

    Do you know if foreign transactions also earn points? So, if I use my card at McDonald’s in, say, France or India, will I also earn 2x the points on the dollar equivalent of the total amount?

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Yes and no. You’ll earn the base rewards rate at the current exchange rate, so if you make a purchase of 1 euro and the exchange rate is 1 euro to $1.32 USD, you’ll earn 1.32 Ultimate Rewards Points (1 point per $1).

      However, bonus rewards is based on how the merchant categorizes itself. If a merchant tells Visa (or Amex, or MasterCard, or Discover) that it’s a restaurant, you’ll earn 2 points per $1 spent. But foreign merchants typically aren’t as good about categorizing themselves in the American system as stateside retailers. So chances are you’ll only earn the base rate overseas, even if you’re at a restaurant.

      • John Parker

        Thanks.

        I have another question – although you may not know the answer unless you have used the card internationally: How is the exchange rate for foreign transactions? Of course, there is no foreign transaction fee; however, banks can be sneaky and instead make money by offering a not-so-competitive exchange rate, can they not? I suppose I could compare Chase’s exchange rate for a transaction with that of the market the next time I travel abroad.

  • M S

    What are different ways to redeem the points? Is it possible to pay with points back to card or use points to purchase at amazon?

  • http://www.chauzer.com chauzer

    You only get the 20% discount when using points to “pay” for your flight

  • http://www.chauzer.com chauzer

    yes