Seems like the only Chase credit card we hear about these days is the flashy, perk-laden Sapphire Reserve. You know, that one with the formerly mega- and currently super-signup bonus. But the issuer actually has plenty of quality cards on its roster. (You can find a full list here.) Among them is the Sapphire Reserve’s big — or maybe we should say little — brother: the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
A general-purpose travel rewards credit card, the Sapphire Preferred has a solid base rewards program, a competitive signup bonus of its own and a decidedly lower annual fee ($95, waived the first year.) Of course, even that fee might not be worth it, depending on your spending habits. Or bad credit could prevent you from becoming a cardholder.
Here’s what you need to know about the Chase Sapphire Preferred (as always, see the full card agreement for all the fine print).
The Chase Sapphire Preferred
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 16.49% to 23.49%
Signup Bonus: Cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points if they spend $4,000 in their first three months as an account holder. That bonus is worth $625 when the points are redeemed through Chase’s travel portal.
Rewards Details: Cardholders earn double points for all travel and dining charges, and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Points are earned in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, which can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to 7 different airline partners (British Airways, Flying Blue, Korean, Singapore, Southwest, United and Virgin Atlantic), four different hotel programs (Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Ritz-Carlton), as well as Amtrak Guest Rewards.
Cardholders can also redeem points directly for travel reservations through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. Finally, there are a variety of other rewards offered — including gift cards, merchandise and cash back, at a rate of one cent per point. There are no foreign transaction fees.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Benefits
This product has many features that have helped it to become one of the leading rewards cards in its class. First, it offers double points on all travel and dining expenses, which adds up for those on the go.
More importantly, Ultimate Rewards points offer flexibility and good value. For example, customers can put together an entire award trip by transferring points to both airlines and hotels, while using the Ultimate Rewards travel portal to book a rental car and activities.
The first year’s annual fee is waived and there’s a currently competitive sign-up bonus – (always check with the issuer for the latest offering). Finally, this card has no foreign transaction fees, which is an essential feature for any international traveler. In contrast, many credit cards still impose a 2% to 3% foreign transaction fee on all charges processed outside of the U.S.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Downsides
Many travel rewards cards that are co-branded with airlines and hotels feature perks and benefits for travelers that the Chase Sapphire Preferred does not offer. For example, an airline card will typically offer free checked bags and discounts on in-flight purchases, while hotel cards generally offer elite status that includes room upgrades, late checkouts and free Wi-Fi. In addition, while the Ultimate Rewards program is flexible, it may be a bit too complicated for novice users. It requires customers to become a member of various reward programs, and be skilled at finding the best values offered before making transfers (which are irreversible).
Furthermore, this card has a higher interest rate than many competitive low-interest rate cards that do not offer rewards. So as with other rewards cards, this card is best used by those who pay each month’s statement balance in full.
Finally, the annual fee for this card is $95 per year (after it is waived the first year), which may only be worth it to those who earn plenty of points.
Is This Card a Good Match for You?
This is a great card for frequent travelers and rewards travel enthusiasts. Those who have a high level of knowledge on the subject of travel rewards programs can realize substantial value from the point transfer options. For example, it’s possible to receive 4-6 cents in value per reward point when transferring it to travel partners and redeeming for business class flights, luxury hotels and even sleeper accommodations on Amtrak. This card also makes sense for frequent travelers who aren’t particularly loyal to a single brand of airline or hotel. Finally, this card is exceptional for those who spend a large amount on travel and dining, as they will receive double points more often.
To be eligible for this card, the issuer requires you to have good to excellent credit. That’s why it’s good to know where you stand before you apply. (Don’t want to risk a hard inquiry only to be rejected.) If your credit standing falls short of the credit issuer’s requirements, but you feel this card is otherwise a good match for you, consider taking time to build your credit and applying once you’re in better standing.
Furthermore, the ideal way to use a rewards card is to pay the balance in full every month so that you do not incur interest charges. If you carry a balance, what you earn in rewards may be wiped out by what you pay in interest charges. So if you plan to carry a balance, you may want to instead consider a card that offers a low interest rate, or a balance transfer card that offers a low introductory interest rate.
And, if you’re looking for a no-annual fee travel credit card, Capital One has a good alternative. Note: The rewards are less lucrative, but you’ll have an easier time breaking even, given you’re skipping that automatic cost. Again, see full card agreement for details.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: Variable 12.49% to 22.49%, depending on creditworthiness, after a 12-month 0% introductory APR expires on purchases.
Signup Bonus: Cardholders can earn 20,000 miles (equal to $200 in travel) if they spend $1,000 within 3 months of approval
Rewards Details: Cardholders earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase. There are no foreign transaction fees. Get your full card review.
Chase Sapphire Preferred FAQ
Can points be combined with other Chase cards like the Freedom & Ink?
Yes, you can combine points among different Chase products. You can also transfer points between the accounts of spouses and domestic partners.
How long does it take to transfer points to travel partners?
In most cases, the transfer is nearly instant, however transfers to Singapore, IHG and Marriott often take one to two days.
What types of charges count as travel for the purpose of earning double miles?
Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.
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This article has been updated. It originally ran on August 7, 2015.