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How I Use Chase Sapphire Preferred: Let’s Travel!

July 25, 2016
Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

When NerdWallet employees were asked in spring 2016 which credit cards they carry, the runaway winner was the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Cardholders point to the card’s sign-up bonus, good rewards rate and flexibility in redeeming rewards.

Brad Walters, an assistant assigning editor on the insurance team at NerdWallet, did his homework before he got the card. When he applied, he says, “Chase was offering an increased sign-up bonus, and I’d had my eye on it anyway because I’d been looking for a card that would beat the standard 1% cash back rewards for travel and restaurant spending.”

Stephen Ervin

Stephen Ervin

Stephen Ervin, director of design at NerdWallet, came across the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card in an unusual way. “I actually applied for it on NerdWallet while doing research on the company prior to interviewing for my job,” he says. “I ended up signing up for it due to the sign-up bonus and the flexibility of the points. I love being able to transfer the points to any mileage program.”

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives you 2 points per $1 spent on travel and restaurants, and 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else. Points can be transferred on a 1:1 basis to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs, including United, Southwest, British Airways, Air France/KLM, Singapore Airlines, Hyatt and Marriott. If you use your points to book travel through Chase, you get a 20% discount.

And then there’s that 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®.

What do you like best about the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card?

Ervin says he particularly likes “the double points on travel and restaurants because I eat out frequently.”

Brad Walters

Brad Walters

City-dweller Walters appreciates the travel perks that come with the card, particularly rental car coverage. “I don’t have my own auto insurance because I don’t own a car, so when renting wheels I’d be lost without the card’s collision damage waiver coverage.”

Other travel benefits include trip cancellation and interruption protection, and baggage and trip delay insurance

How have you used the travel rewards?

“My favorite redemption was flying in Singapore Airlines’ ‘Suites’ class from Los Angeles to Tokyo,” Walters says. “Lobster thermidor and a double bed in the sky — doesn’t get much more luxurious than that! And Tokyo itself wasn’t too shabby, either.”

Ervin has been a globe-trotter, too, using his points for vacations in Bali and Europe. “I’ve been to Spain, Germany and France. I have also used it to do shorter trips like Santa Barbara and Vancouver.”

Both appreciate the multiple hotel and airline transfer partners. “I transferred points to United mileage,” Ervin says. “It was super easy and instant. Really handy in a time crunch.”

Walters adds, “I sometimes transfer points to United because my family lives near a hub city, and it couldn’t be simpler. The transfer is instantaneous, and the points show up immediately, so I can nab the flight I want virtually the moment I see it.”

What could be improved about the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card?

Both Nerds say they wish they could get a better rewards rate. “I wish I could get the same benefits of the Chase Freedom® card combined with this one,” Ervin says. “I currently have both and need to remember when to use which card.”

The Chase Freedom® offers 5% cash back in rotating categories that change each quarter, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, and 1% on everything else. If you carry both cards, you can transfer points from the Chase Freedom® to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. If you then redeem those points for travel through Chase, your effective rewards rate becomes 6.25% in the bonus categories and 1.25% on everything else.

Walters also pairs the Chase Freedom® with his Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. “I’d love if it were a pure 2% back card, but the ability to use it in tandem with Freedom’s 5% quarterly reward categories and pool those points together is nice.”

Any problem with the annual fee?

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has an $0 for the first year, then $95 — but this doesn’t bother Ervin or Walters. “The free flights I rack up each year seem to make it totally worth it,” Ervin says.

Walters concurs: “If you travel with any frequency, the card’s perks are worth well more than the $95 annual fee. My landlord also lets me pay with a credit card, so with my West Coast rent, it doesn’t take long to earn back enough points to more than justify the fee.”

What’s the biggest-ticket purchase you’ve put on the card?

People who use travel credit cards like to maximize the points or dollars they earn so the travel rewards are always available. To that end, Ervin says he has used Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to pay for some big-ticket items. “I paid for a lot of my home remodel materials on this card, which really racked up the points. I also bought a motorcycle on it.”

Now that’s traveling in style.

Interview by Ellen Cannon, a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ecannon@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ellencannon.