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Making the Most of the Chase Sapphire Preferred

June 4, 2016
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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With high rewards earnings, flexible point redemption and a heavy sign-up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has long been one of the Nerds’ favorite travel cards and one of our most recommended cards overall. But if you don’t know the card on an intimate level, you may not be maximizing its value potential.

The Nerds do know the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card on an intimate level. Here’s how to get the most out of it.

Boost your points by booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for cash back, gift cards and Amazon purchases. But you get a 25% value boost when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The Ultimate Rewards travel portal operates much like popular travel sites Kayak and Orbitz. Tell it where and when you’re traveling and what you need to book (flights, hotels, cars or activities), and the tool serves up options. You can pay for travel with points (at 1.25 cents apiece), cash or a combination of the two.

If you’re planning a trip and you’re a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholder, checking Chase Ultimate Rewards before you book can make the process less stressful, and you’ll get more value out of your points. If you’re not traveling, the 1-cent-per-point redemption for cash back allows you to use rewards as you please.

Combine it with the Chase Freedom® for more rewards

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card boosts the value of your rewards 25% when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Chase Freedom® does not. The Chase Freedom® offers 5% bonus cash-back categories. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card does not.

But both perks can be had. Cash back on the Chase Freedom® is earned as points that can be redeemed for a penny apiece — or transferred to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. So owning both cards effectively combines their benefits into one. If you have both cards, you can earn the Chase Freedom®’s 5% bonus rewards and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s 2 points per dollar on restaurants and travel, and then get the 25% Ultimate Rewards points boost on both.

For the uninitiated, the Chase Freedom® earns 5% cash back (on up to $1,500 in spending) on a different category each quarter, historically including spending on restaurants, retail and gas. Here’s what it’s offering this year:

Chase Freedom® bonus rewards categories for 2018
Q1 2018 (Jan. 1 - March 31)• Gas stations.
• Internet, cable and phone service.
• Purchases via Chase Pay, Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay.
Q2 2018 (April 1 - June 30)• Grocery stores.
• PayPal, for online, mobile or in-app purchases.
• Chase Pay, for online, mobile or in-app. purchases
Q3 2018 (July 1 – Sept. 30)• Gas stations.
• Lyft.
• Walgreens.
Q4 2018 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)• Chase Pay.
• Wholesale clubs.
• Department stores.

Transfer points to other programs

In some cases, transferring points to other rewards programs can actually lead to higher redemption rates than one would receive redeeming for travel directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Say you find a $190 flight directly through British Airways for 10,000 points for a redemption rate of 1.9 cents per point. Compared with the standard 1.25 cents per point on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, a little extra work results in a better deal.

This won’t always be the case, but it’s usually worth checking to see whether you can squeeze at least a little more value out of your points. Here are all the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s 1:1 transfer partners:

Spend enough to get the sign-up bonus

Travel cards usually come with a sign-up bonus, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with a great one: 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®.

Of course, you do have to spend enough to actually get the bonus. If you use your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card exclusively until the bonus threshold is met, you shouldn’t have much of a problem scoring some free points — and, accordingly, free travel or statement credit.

How to redeem rewards on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

To redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards Points:

  1. Log on to your Chase account.
  2. Scroll to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. (If you have several Chase cards, they’ll all be displayed together.)
  3. Click “Go to Ultimate Rewards.”
  4. Choose how you’d like to use your points.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can redeem points for cash back (in the form of statement credit) for 1 cent per point starting at 2,000 points ($20) or for travel at the rate of 1.25 cents per point.

Kevin Cash is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: kcash@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @kevin_cash.