After Half a Dozen Years, Chase Sapphire Preferred is Still the Best All-Around Rewards Card

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Key Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred was the best all-around, most rewarding personal credit card for 6 years. If you’re just getting started in the hobby, it’s the card you should get.

There are three key value propositions for a credit card.

  1. Signup bonus (how much will they give you upfront for getting the card)
  2. How value is the earning for your ongoing spend (do you actually want to put spending on the card once you’ve earned the bonus)
  3. Benefits of having the card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is towards the top of wallet for the first two of those criteria — one of the very best signup bonuses, 50,000 points after $4000 in spending within 3 months plus 5000 more points for adding a free authorized user to the account and making a purchase within that same timeframe, and that’s an exceptionally good offer because their points are among the two best currencies of any loyalty program. You also get double points earning in that most valuable of programs on all travel and dining spending.

Chase Sapphire Preferred has even upped its game in benefits for carrying the card. I always found it useful for travel protections, I cracked the screen on my phone, it cost me over $300 to fix, and the card’s insurance coverage paid me back. They’ve added primary collision damage when you rent cars. You earn double points on the rental, and get collision coverage — you may not even have to inform your own insurance company if you damage the rental vehicle. And I like that for trip delay coverage you only need to have paid for a portion of your roundtrip ticket with the card.

Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Airline and Hotel Programs

While you can redeem these points at 1.25 cents apiece towards paid travel, that’s not their best use. You want to hold onto them and transfer them to frequent flyer programs most of the time.

I value ‘flexible’ points the most, points where you can choose where to point them at the time you’re ready to redeem for an award.

If you accumulate miles in an airline program, then you need that program to have the award you want at the time you want to fly. But with points that transfer to your choice of programs, you increase the odds substantially of getting the award you want — if one program doesn’t have the award, another one likely will.

The transfer options with this card are:

  • Airlines: United, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Air France KLM
  • Hotels: Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, IHG Rewards Club

The best hotel transfer value is Hyatt in most cases, but it’s really valuable to be able to top off an account towards an award no matter which account of yours that winds up being.

Usually I think of United, Korean and Singapore as the best values for points transfers.

United gets you all of the Star Alliance with no fuel surcharges.

Singapore Airlines is great because the airline makes tons of premium cabin awards available to their own members that aren’t available using miles from partners.


Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Suites Class

And Korean Air is fantastic because their first class awards are plentiful, too, and generally not accessible through most partner programs so there’s little competition for the seats.

Plus, just as British Airways gets you access to oneworld partner flights, Korean will get you access to Skyteam partner flights. They offer 80,000 point roundtrip business class awards between the US and Europe on Skyteam airlines, albeit with fuel surcharges

Further, points to several of the programs transfer literally instantly, and it’s useful for helping to prevent miles from expiring (by dropping say 1000 miles into a United account).

A Very Strong Card for Earning Points

Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the very best cards for earning points based on spending. Now, the most leveraged thing you can do with your spending is get a new card with a big signup bonus (like this one), but when you’re deciding what card to put spending on that’s not going towards a signup bonus, this one is really strong.

In addition to the standard points-earning (you get a point per dollar on your spend, and as-described it’s a valuable point – plus it’s a Visa so I can use it even at my dry cleaner’s that doesn’t take American Express), you also get:

  • Double points on travel and restaurant spending
  • No foreign currency conversion fee
  • Additional points for your online shopping through access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall, a mileage-earning shopping portal that earns extra points for the online purchases you’d make anyway.

Why You get Started With Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Sapphire Reserve

This year Chase introduced the Sapphire Reserve Card for a short while longer it has a 100,000 point bonus after $4000 spend within 3 months of cardmembership, earns triple points on travel and dining, and comes with a Priority Pass Select card for airport lounge access. The big signup bonus on the card is no longer available.

The Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee is $0 the first year then $95. The Sapphire Reserve Card’s annual fee is $450, and it applies from year one.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is best for getting started in the hobby. There’s a pretty big hurdle for getting someone to commit to a $450 annual fee card. Sapphire Preferred lets you try it for a year, and then if you like it keeping it is only $95.

Sapphire Reserve comes with a $300 annual travel credit. That’s calendar year statements, not cardmember year. So most people will be able to get the travel credit twice in their first annual fee (cardmember) year.

Sapphire Reserve authorized users cost $75, but authorized users do receive Priority Pass Select cards on request as well so there’s value there. Sapphire Preferred authorized users do not come with a fee, and if you add one during your first three months with the card and make a purchase you get 5000 bonus points.

There’s a higher hurdle for being approved for a Sapphire Reserve card, another reason Sapphire Preferred can be better for someone starting out. Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card and that starts with a minimum credit line of $10,000. Sapphire Preferred needs you to be approved for $5000 in credit.

If you’re considering one of these cards, look at whether you’ve had 5 or more new cards in the past 24 months. That doesn’t prevent everyone from getting approved, but it does prevent many people. I’ve heard reports of approvals for people with more new cards than that, usually with high incomes and credit scores.

For someone who can get approved for a Visa Infinite, and who spends heavily on travel and dining, I think Sapphire Reserve is worth it. For someone starting out, and far from 5 new cards within the past 2 years, I think getting Chase Sapphire Preferred Card first makes sense… and then getting Sapphire Reserve Card later.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. I replaced my Sapphire Preferred with the Sapphire Reserve when it came out and really don’t know what I’ll do when my annual fee comes up. I’ve started using the Ritz Carlton for the $100 airfare discount and am considering getting the Citi Prestige for the 4th night benefit which doesn’t leave much spend for the Sapphire Reserve. I may downgrade to a Sapphire Preferred to preserve the transfer partners.

  2. I see no incremental value from Sapphire Sapphire aside from the free annual fee the first year. Reserve gives you better purchase protection, and the annual travel credit and the priority pass lounge access offset the high annual fee. I was told by my local Chase branch that I was pre-approved for Reserve, despite having more than 5 new credit cards open in the last 24 months.

  3. Any recommendations for husband and wife who have lots of cards including each of us having preferred and reserve, and the preferred annual fee is now due? Can’t decide whether to close the reserve now that I’ve maxed out calendar year 2’s travel credits.

  4. @Jake, if you and your wife both have the Preferred and Reserve (4 cards total), yeah, you should probably close both Preferred cards and maintain/keep one (or both) of your Reserve cards for the 3X travel and dining points, primary car insurance, trip interruption insurance, $300 annual travel credit, and Priority Pass lounge access. Just my 2 cents.

  5. With just three comments​ and all three reflecting confusion (e.g., concern about the nonexistent high AF of the CSR), it seems clear that the overwhelming majority “gets it” and already concluded that the claimed continued supremacy of the CSP is pure fiction.

    For just $55 more in AF that easily pays for itself, the CSR offers EVERYTHING that the CSP offers except more, bigger and better.

    The CSR, if you don’t got it, get it!

    Cheers from a LH Premium Economy cabin somewhere over the Atlantic of my way to ATH 😉 :-$

  6. Can’t believe you are still recommending the CSP over the CSR….. may I ask why, Gary??? What are your reasons? I think everyone involved in this “hobby” overwhelmingly agree that the CSR is the all-around king right now.

    @ Jake– just have chase downgrade your CSP to a Freedom Unlimited or something instead of closing it. That’s what I did, and they even prorated the CSP annual fee for me.

  7. I absolutely argued that Reserve had the best bonus at 100k and mentioned this over and over and over. It’s now down to 50k, with the authorized user card CSP lets you earn 55k.

    Reserve has 3x vs 2x on travel and dining, $450 fee, $300 travel credit. I think the math works out well even after just a few thousand dollars a year charged in these categories. But CSP is the better starter card at $0 fee first year then $95, most people will look at the $450 fee and balk especially without the 100k kicker.

  8. @Gary — Newbies would balk at the CSR’s nonexistent $450 AF only because they are not being given the facts by the “Thought Leader”, who has a clear conflict of interest. Clicks on the link for the CSP are income, whereas with no link for it, promoting the CSR is a “wasted opportunity.”

    If the newbie is told that she will actually earn $150 from the CSR’s $300 travel credit the first year because she will receive the $300 twice the for $600 vs. the $450 AF; that she will pay $0 in AF the first two years because she will get the travel credit 3 times in 2 years for 3x$300=$900 vs. 2x$450=$900; and that subsequently, the CSR AF will be just $150 thanks to the $300 travel credit vs. the CSP’s $95 AF. In the meantime the CSR offers EVERYTHING that the CSP offers except more, bigger and better. A newbie going for the CSP knowing those facts would need to have her head examined.

    The CSR, if you don’t got it, get it!

  9. Another thing to consider though when debating which card to close – CSR or CSP – is that when you reopen a CSR in two years for the bonus again you’ll be able to get two calendar year travel credits again, so bonus points + statement credit profits. Something to think about! Thoughts on doing this as a post Gary? You can take it a step further and try to decide if it’s all about the break even now for both myself and wife’s cards, or if there’s quantifiable value to one of us keeping CSR even as we forgoe bonus points later (opportunity cost of keeping is not reopening later).

  10. In case anyone reads this later and gets curious – I decided to cancel both my Preferred card and my wife’s, as both $95 fees were due this month. Later in the year our Reserve card fees will come due, and at that time I’ll request to DOWNGRADE both of our reserves into PREFERRED cards, which will then allow me to apply for and open a reserve card for each of us in 2 years, (or at least one of us since we’re using my credit and trying to keep hers under 5/24). Opening in 2 years will then allow us to get the calendar year $300 travel statement credit twice, so $600, plus whatever bonus we get. Downside is that we’re earning 1 less point per dollar in travel and dining throughout the year, and we only get 1.25ppd out of the travel portal instead of 1.5, but honestly I’d rather transfer to air or hotel program to get way more value.

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