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Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Discover it Miles: Two Travel Cards Go Head to Head

Sept. 21, 2015
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards
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They’re two of the top travel rewards cards on the market: the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and the Discover it® Miles. Which is best for you depends on your spending habits, fee sensitivity, rewards redemption preferences and preferred perks. Let’s see which card should take you on your next trip.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card vs.
Discover it® Miles: Rewards

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining, and 1 point on all other purchases. It has an industry-leading 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®.

Ultimate Rewards points are best redeemed for travel. You can use points to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal at a value of 1.25 cents each or you can transfer them to one of Chase’s partner programs for a potentially higher value. Check out our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for partner information.

With the Discover it® Miles, cardholders get 1.5 miles for every $1 spent. Plus, you’ll get a bonus: Discover will match ALL the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. That's $600 towards travel! Miles are redeemable for travel or cash back, at a rate of 1 cent per point.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card vs.
Discover it® Miles: Fees

The annual fee on Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is $0 for the first year, then $95. The Discover it® Miles has an annual fee of $0. Neither card charges foreign transaction fees, but Discover isn’t widely accepted overseas. The Discover it® Miles also has an introductory APR of 0% on Purchases for 14 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 14 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR.

The annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card looks steep, but it could be the better deal if you spend heavily on travel and dining. We’ll do the math later to show you how much you would need to spend to break even.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card vs.
Discover it® Miles: Additional benefits

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with access to the Ultimate Rewards bonus mall. You can use it to get extra rewards on purchases from more than 250 online retailers.

The Discover it® Miles boasts a $30 annual credit for in-flight Wi-Fi, complimentary access to your FICO score.

Nerd alert: Let’s do the math

For rewards, the card that’s best for you will depend largely on your spending habits. Let’s see how the cards compare in the first year vs. the second year and beyond.

  • First year: Based on our assumptions (noted below), if you spend $55,555 or more in your first year of card membership, you’ll get better rewards out of the Discover it® Miles, due to its sign-up bonus, which is contingent on your spending for the year. Otherwise, you’re better off with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, because its annual fee is waived the first year.
  • Second year and beyond: A credit card is a long-term game. Let’s move to year two and beyond — the sign-up bonuses have passed and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s annual fee has kicked in. If you spend less than $25,333 per year, the Discover it® Miles is the better deal. If you spend more than that, you should go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Nerd note: These numbers are based solely on our assumptions, which may not reflect your spending habits. For instance, if most of your spending is on travel and dining, it will take a lot less spending to make the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card the better option, even with its annual fee.


  • Our consumer’s annual spending is 50% travel and dining, 50% other.
  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s points are redeemed for travel at a rate of 1.25 cents each through the Ultimate Rewards site.
  • The value of any additional benefits, as well as any fees other than the annual fee, have been excluded from this calculation.

Bottom line: Choosing the best card for you

If you spend primarily on travel and dining, spend enough each year to justify an annual fee and plan on taking your card overseas, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the way to go. However, if you’re a smaller spender, want an introductory 0% offer and use Wi-Fi on your flights, the Discover it® Miles is the better deal. Either way, you’ll end up with a great travel card.

Erin El Issa is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @Erin_Lindsay17.

Image via iStock.