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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card is constantly touted as the number one travel rewards credit card by bloggers and points and miles enthusiasts. And there’s good reasons for that. It offers great travel partners and point earning opportunities along with superior benefits that make it my favorite travel card. Here’s a 2016 review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns you Chase Ultimate Rewards, which are one of the most valuable reward currencies. They can be transferred to a number of travel partners, including:
- British Airways Executive Club
- Korean Air SKYPASS
- Flying Blue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- IHG® Rewards Club
- Marriott Rewards
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
It’s important to know that in order to transfer Ultimate Rewards to travel partners, you must have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Ink Plus® (which is a business card). Thus, for practical purposes, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of most important consumer rewards cards.
There are several reasons I really value Ultimate Rewards:
- Having United and Southwest as travel partners makes it extremely easy to rack up a lot of miles for domestic travel and/or trips to the Caribbean.
- Ultimate Rewards outdo American Express Membership Rewards with a 1:1 transfer ratio to British Airways, which can be used to book relatively cheap domestic short-haul flights on American Airlines, not to mention other partner airlines all over the world.
- Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG offer some pretty great redemptions
- Multiple ways to quickly earn with the Sapphire Preferred®, Ink Plus®, and Freedom.
- Easy transferring of points between me and my partner
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® has the following sign-up bonus:
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make your first purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
The standard bonus is 40,000 after spending $4,000, so try to jump on the 50,000 offer while you can. Since adding an authorized user is so easy, you might as well consider this offer a 55,000 offer.
For context, once you hit the minimum spend on the Sapphire Preferred, you’d only be 1,000 points short of having a roundtrip economy trip covered from Houston to London via United Airlines! Paying cash for that same flight would cost you $1,575.06. That’s 2.6 cents per point and even if you discount the $183.96 fee paid for the reward ticket, it is still 2.3 cents per point.
Paying $183 for a round trip across the pond to London?! Not bad… (considering typical London fuel surcharges)
Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal
As a Chase Sapphire Preferred® card holder, if you book travel through the Ultimate Rewards Portal you can redeem points as 1.25 cents per point. This isn’t horrible but as shown just above, it’s quite easy to redeem Ultimate Rewards for 2 cents or higher, often much higher.
Another plus to having this card is it grants you access to the Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal. If you’re unaware, there are many shopping portals that will allow you to earn miles or points when you make purchases online. Read about online shopping portals here if you’re unfamiliar.
The Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal often offers the best rates for earning points. For example, right now you can earn 1 miles per $1 spent at Wal-Mart for most airline portals, but with the Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal, you earn double that at 2 points per $1 spent.
Bonus category spending
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has some pretty decent bonus category spending compared to other cards, especially in its travel category. For the Sapphire Preferred® you earn:
- 2X on Travel
- 2X on Dining
- 1X on all other purchases
The travel category is extremely broad and might include the most liberal definition of the word travel out of any of the cards. Chase states the following fall into travel:
Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages. […]
It’s always a good feeling when after traveling you come to find an unexpected charge like scuba diving earned you 2X Ultimate Rewards and this card will likely offer you many opportunities for “unexpected” earnings.
The dining is pretty broad as well. Fast food definitely counts for the 2X category and I’ve come across bars from time to time that ring up as restaurants (I’ve even heard of some liquor stores ringing in 2X). Chase has the following definition for the restaurant category:
Merchants in the restaurants category are merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments. […]
Admittedly, the Sapphire Preferred® may not, for the average consumer, earn as much on bonus spending categories as some other cards like the Citi ThankYou® Premier or perhaps even the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card. However, the Sapphire Preferred® can become a “super card” when it is combined with the Chase Freedom and potentially the Chase Ink.
The Freedom offers you opportunities to earn up to 5X on rotating categories like gas, groceries, department stores, and Amazon.com or earn 1.5X on every single purchase. The Chase Ink cards can offer you additional 5X earnings on categories like cell phone, cable, and internet bills and office supply stores. What’s more, you can get a combination of all of these cards without incurring any additional annual fees!
Read more about the “Chase Trifecta” here but just note for now that the Sapphire Preferred® can allow you to put together one of the most valuable travel rewards card combinations available.
No Foreign Transaction Fees (FTFs)
At this point in travel rewards card evolution, any premier travel card with foreign transaction fees would pretty much be a travesty. Thankfully, the Sapphire Preferred® has no foreign transaction fees so there’s no nothing to worry about here.
The annual fee is $95 and is waived the first year. This is on-par with many other cards of this caliber like the Citi Premier. Some loyal customers have luck with getting the annual fee waived when it comes around after one year, but your mileage may vary when attempting to get the fee waived.
The Sapphire Preferred® offers you instant access 24 hours a day to a live representative. You don’t even have to give them your full credit card number when you call or deal with some terrible voice recognition routine each time you call. The representatives have always been very friendly and helpful from my experience, too. If you value quality customer service, then don’t underestimate this aspect of the Sapphire.
Tip: Call into the number on the back of your Sapphire Preferred® for inquiries regarding any of your Chase cards to expedite your service!
You can’t overlook the superior purchase and travel protection offered by the Sapphire Preferred®. These are things you don’t usually think about until you need them. Here’s a non-comprehensive look as some of the major benefits offered by the card.
- Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
- Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
- If a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.
- You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $500 per item, $1,000 per year.
- Car rental coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.
- If you or your immediate family members’ checked or carry-on bags are damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.
- If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.
- If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.
What’s great is that the travel protections apply even to reward flights so long as you pay for the fees and taxes with your Chase Sapphire Preferred® card.
One of the coolest features of this card has nothing to do with any of its earning potential. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® actually contains a combination of plastic and metal, making it extra weighty and impressive. I often get comments about how fancy or prestigious my Sapphire Preferred® is when I use it. For some people, that factor may not matter much, but I think it’s a great plus to an already impressive credit card.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card isn’t considered to be the best travel rewards card without good reasons. It’s got a great sign-up bonus, valuable transfer partners, thorough benefits, and if combined with even one card from the Chase Trifecta, superior point earning potential. Hopefully this review helped shed some light on why this card is definitely one of the most valuable cards that you should add to your credit card portfolio in 2016.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.