This morning on Milepoint someone posted a question prompted by my blog post yesterday on whether Aeroplan fuel surcharges reduce the value of American Express Membership Rewards points and whether that changes my overall advice on best credit card.
The question was about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. It’s been all the rage with ‘in the know’ frequent flyers for months now, I only broke down and got the card myself over the summer, as Chase has improved the program substantially.
I’ve referenced it several times as part of larger posts, such as my advice on the best mix of rewards credit cards but I haven’t given it real standalone treatment.
As recent posts will tell you, I still love American Express Membership Rewards. I’ve even been defending Membership Rewards against naysayers who argue that this card completely outdistances the Amex program. But my case has been a limited one — I still use my Premier Rewards Gold card for triple points on airfare and double points on groceries.
Otherwise, this bad boy is pretty go-to.
Now, lots of readers already have this card, when I was in Chicago for the frequent flyer seminar last month where over 500 people were in attendance it was like a huge Sapphire throwdown. So if you’ve already got the card and know its benefits, skip this post.
And yes, if you choose to use my link to apply for the card I’ll get referral credit for it, but the advice is genuine — given my spending patterns it’s currently the card in my wallet that I’m using the most.
As I say, I use the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card for airfare (triple Membership Rewards points) and groceries (double Membership Rewards points).
I’ve actually reconsidered using the Amex card for gas, even though it offers double points, since as a travel expense it earns double with the Sapphire Preferred card as well. And I use the Starwood American Express for big general spend with merchants that take American Express.
But the value proposition in Chase Sapphire Preferred card is huge.
- 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after $3000 in spend within 3 months.
- No fee the first year, $95 thereafter.
- No foreign currency transaction fees. I have some upcoming Conrad hotel stays and would normally have used my Hilton Surpass American Express card, it earns 9 Hilton points per dollar. And that was marginally more valuable than 1 Hyatt point if I had used my Hyatt Visa which comes with no foreign currency transaction fee. Most cards add 3% on to all spend outside the US. Chase Sapphire Preferred waives the fee, and all travel spend earns double points. So I’ll give the Conrad properties in Asia my Sapphire Preferred, save the 3% on foreign currency fees, and even earn double points. I travel internationally several times a year, savings on foreign currency fees alone way more than cover the annual fee on the card.
- Earns one point per dollar spent, but two points per dollar on all travel-related (air, hotel, car,
gas, taxi, tolls) spend and restaurant spend.
- Here’s the beauty: points transfer 1:1 (and account names don’t have to match) into United/Continental, Korean, British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Amtrak. This is real flexibility. The best values are United/Continental and Hyatt. But this card is effectively the Visa version of American Express Membership Rewards. And it may be even better, since Amex has lost several partners and those that remain are less valuable than before. I still love my Membership Rewards points, but the value in these Ultimate Rewards points have been on the rise.
- When you have the card you can make purchases through the Ultimate Rewards mall. It often offers a better return for online shopping than competitor shopping portals. And as Frequent Miler often points out you don’t have to pay with your Chase Visa in order to earn points through the Mall, once you’re a member of the program. So with those merchants that allow points earning for purchase of gift cards, you buy gift cards through the Mall and then go back to the Mall to make purchases with those gift cards, effectively doubling your points. When they were offering 20 Sears points per dollar, buying gift cards first meant earning 40 points per dollar at Sears.com.
- It’s a gorgeous card. 🙂 With no embossed numbers on the front, and a heavier construction than most cards.
The program has gotten much better in recent months and I’m lovin’ it. Really matches my spend pattern (since my heaviest spend is travel and dining) and as a Visa it’s versatile, I use it at my cleaners for instance that doesn’t take American Express.
There are still other cards worth getting for signup bonuses, or for benefits (like Amex Platinum for lounge access or the Alaska Airlines Visa for their companion ticket). But for everyday use, I’m a fan.
In the trenches I’ll defend Membership Rewards against extreme claims made over at One Mile at a Time. But Ben and I still make use of the same cards..
Update: I was spacing on the gas thing, no double points on gas, that continues to go on my Amex Premier Rewards Gold card. Edited above!