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

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Review

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Editor's Rating: 4.6 / 5
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has one of the best sign-up bonuses in the business, potentially clocking in at 55,000 Ultimate Rewards Points. You’ll Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Earn another 5,000 points when you add an authorized user in the first three months and they make a purchase.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also offers ongoing rewards and perks that’ll capture your attention. It turns out 55,000 points can be worth a lot more than $550.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • A large bonus
  • $0 foreign transaction fee
  • Cool factor - metal card
  • Rewards redemption bonus through Ultimate Rewards

Cons

  • Introductory annual fee of $0 the first year, then $95
  • Best for savvy travelers

Bonus Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $95

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.24% - 23.24% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

At a glance
Annual fees $0 for the first year, then $95
Foreign transaction fee None
Rewards program Ultimate Rewards Points, worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash back or gift cards or 1.25 cents when redeemed for travel booked through Chase
Sign-up bonus Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Verdict: When redeemed for travel, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is among the highest earners out there.
Good for:
  • Someone looking for a large sign-up bonus
  • Someone who flies United, Southwest or Virgin Atlantic
  • Someone who travels and has the Chase Freedom®
Bad for:
  • Someone who wants more flexible travel booking options
  • Someone who isn’t a big spender

We value Ultimate Rewards points at a very conservative 1 cent apiece, but if you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards site, your points are worth 25% more. Award-flight mavens can get even higher rates by transferring their points to airline mile programs. This means that the sign-up bonus is worth more than $625, if you redeem it right.

In this article:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card video review
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: The basics
Ultimate Rewards Points: They make the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card special
Where the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card shines
Where the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card falls short
Bottom line: Should I get the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card?

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card video review

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: The basics

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point on everything else.

The card has an $0 for the first year, then $95 after that, and no foreign transaction fees. There’s also an EMV chip for safer transactions domestically and internationally, making this a great card for all of your overseas excursions.

Ultimate Rewards points: They make the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card special

1 cent per point: Standard cash back or gift cards. 

If you want cash or gift cards, you can redeem your points at a rate of 1 cent per point. However, you can get better value out of your Ultimate Rewards points if you use them for travel.

1.25 cents per point: Travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Ultimate Rewards Booking Tool is similar to Kayak. You input a departing airport and destination, plus your preferred flight dates and compare prices across several airlines. When it comes time to book, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders have the option to pay 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-Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders)
  • Pay 8,000 points (for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders)

Only the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Plus® Business Credit Card have this 20%-off perk.

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:
    • Air France/KLM
    • British Airways
    • Korean Air
    • Singapore KrisFlyer
    • Southwest
    • United
    • Virgin Atlantic
  • Hotels
    • Hyatt
    • Marriott
    • Priority Club/InterContinental Hotels Group
    • Ritz-Carlton

As you can see, Ultimate Rewards points hold more value when you’re redeeming with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With the exception of the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, no other Chase card gives the 25% points bump or lets you transfer your points 1:1 to partner loyalty programs.

Keep in mind, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and another Ultimate Rewards-earning card — like the Chase Freedom® — you can transfer the points you earn on the  Chase Freedom® to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card account and redeem for more than 1 cent per point.

For more information about the redemption options, check out our review of Ultimate Rewards points.

Where the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card shines

The Nerds’ love for this travel card runs deep. Here’s why:

High sign-up bonus: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a personal credit card with a better sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. That, plus the additional 5,000 points you’ll get if you add an authorized user and make a purchase within three months, is worth $687.50 if you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Extra points on your dining and travel spending: If you travel frequently, you’re likely eating out often as well. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has you covered with extra rewards on both purchases. Remember, the dining and travel merchants must be coded as such for you to get the bonus point on each dollar spent.

Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards bonus mall: Online shoppers can also enjoy extra rewards by shopping through the Chase Ultimate Rewards bonus mall. You’ll get additional points on purchases from your favorite stores, including Apple, Starbucks and Nordstrom.

Discounted travel with Chase Ultimate Rewards: A 20% discount on travel is no joke. Let’s say you put $1,500 on your credit card each month, $800 of which is dining out and travel. This will earn you 27,600 points per year, assuming you don’t use the bonus mall for online purchases. That’s $345 of free travel for making your regular purchases. Add that to your sign-up bonus for the first year, and you’re looking at more than $970 in free travel the first year you have the card.

Even better rewards coupled with Chase Freedom®: If you’re spending within the 5% bonus categories of the Chase Freedom®, you’ll enjoy serious rewards by using both cards.

Let’s say you hit the spending caps of $1,500 for 5% categories each quarter. You’ll earn 7,500 points per quarter, or 30,000 points per year. Transferred to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card account and used to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, that’s $375 worth of free travel instead of $300 in cash.

Where the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card falls short

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card isn’t ideal for everyone. Consider a different travel rewards card if you’re:

Someone who wants more flexible travel booking options

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Apply Now on Barclaycard's secure website

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • 0% intro on balance transfers APR for 12 months
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee

Bonus Offer

Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening.

Annual Fee

$89 - waived first year

Intro APR Promotions

0% intro on balance transfers APR for 12 months

APR

  • APR: 16.24% or 20.24%* Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Chip card technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad
  • No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months for each Balance Transfer made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, currently 16.24% or 20.24%, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Complimentary online FICO® Credit Score access for Barclaycard Arrival cardmembers

If you want to book through the travel site that gives you the best deal, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is a better option. It offers 2 miles on every dollar spent and a killer sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. You can redeem miles for travel statement credit on almost any travel expense, including flights, hotel stays, campground stays, cabs and more. You’ll also receive 5% of your miles back every time you redeem.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® has a slightly smaller annual fee — $89 - waived first year — than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It has no foreign transaction fees and comes chip-enabled with PIN capability for overseas purchases.

Someone who isn’t a big spender

BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card

Apply Now on Bank of America's secure website, or call (800) 211-3740

Pros

  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Generous flat rewards rate on all purchases
  • Flexibility to book travel how you want
  • Rewards accelerator if you bank with Bank of America or Merrill Lynch

Cons

  • More restrictive than a straight cash back card
  • If you're a big spender with excellent credit and willing to pay an annual fee, there are cards with higher rewards

Bonus Offer

20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Purchases for 12 billing cycles

APR

  • APR: 15.24% - 23.24% Variable APR
  • Penalty APR: up to 29.99% APR
  • Cash Advance APR: See Terms

Card Details

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Now with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 15.24% - 23.24% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%. Click “Apply Now” to learn more about Preferred Rewards.

If you love travel, but don’t spend enough to justify the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s high annual fee, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card is a good option. It offers 1.5 points on every dollar you spend and a sign-up bonus: 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases. Points are redeemable for travel statement credit on the travel expenses of your choice. The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card has a $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Bottom line: Should I get the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card?

If you spend a lot on travel and dining at restaurants, and typically fly on one of Chase’s travel partners — like United, Virgin Atlantic or Southwest — this is a fantastic card. You’ll also enjoy the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card if you have an authorized user because you’ll get an even better sign-up bonus and if you have and use the Chase Freedom®. If you want more flexibility in booking travel or don’t spend enough to outweigh the annual fee, check out our alternate card recommendations. Now go get your new travel card — adventure awaits.

Erin El Issa is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @Erin_Lindsay17 and on Google+.


Image via iStock.