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Chase offers an array of valuable credit cards, especially for travelers. But there’s one card that is often touted above the rest: The Chase Sapphire Preferred®. I’ve got to agree with the masses — this is the best Chase credit card for travelers and here’s why.
You need this card to transfer Ultimate Rewards
In order to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to travel partners, you have to have either the Chase Ink Plus® or the Chase Sapphire Preferred®. Without one of these, you are restricted to redeeming Ultimate Rewards as cash back or for things like gift card redemptions. Thus, if you’re a traveler, it’s really easy to narrow down your “must have” cards from Chase right of the bat: the Chase Ink Plus® or the Chase Sapphire Preferred®?
The Ink Plus® is a great card with perhaps even better earning potential than the Sapphire Preferred® and a great sign-up bonus. However, it is a business card. That means that you’ll need some form of a business to apply for the card. In addition, the Ink Plus® is generally harder to get approved for than the Sapphire Preferred®. For those reasons, I think the far more practical option for most people is to go with the Sapphire Preferred®.
Good sign-up bonus
The sign-up bonus for the Sapphire Preferred® is 50,000 Ultimate Rewards when you spend $4,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account. And when you add an authorized user, you can earn an additional 5,000 for a total of 55,000 Ultimate Rewards. When transferred effeciently to travel partners, these points can easily amount to significant value.
For example, I recently used about 60,000 of my Ultimate Rewards to book a Singapore Airlines flight where the value per point came out to over 10 cents per point. That means the 55,000 Ultimate Rewards provided me with over $5,500 worth of value. When you consider the annual fee is only $95 and it is waived the first year, that is amazing value. Now, the redemptions won’t always amount to such high value, but even at 2 cents per point, you’re still getting over $1,000 in value from the sign-up bonus on this card.
Good earning potential
The Sapphire Preferred® earns the following rates:
- 2X on Travel
- 2X on Dining
- 1X on all other purchases
The travel category for the Sapphire Preferred® is one of the most broadly defined “travel” categories out of all credit 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. […]
While these earning categories are decent they are surpassed, in my opinion, by the earning potential of the Chase Freedom cards and the Chase Ink. However, I don’t like to ever think of them as mutually exclusive. In fact, I think that if you are going to go with Sapphire Preferred® you should definitely look into pairing it up with at least one other Chase card.
The travel category, along with 2X on dining, allow for travelers to earn exceptional earnings when they combine the Sapphire Preferred® with the Chase Freedom and/or Ink. If you go with the Freedom and the Ink, you can create the Chase Trifecta and end up with substantial earning potential of valuable Ultimate Rewards.
While other co-branded cards like the British Airways Visa Signature® card, Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, IHG® Rewards Club Select credit card, etc., all can provide you with worthwhile bonuses and ways to rack up points, it is the flexibility of the Ultimate Rewards that make “home” cards like the Sapphire Preferred® stand out over other co-branded cards. The flexibility offered by programs like Ultimate Rewards makes planning for trips much easier, especially when you’re really not sure where you want to go and how you want to get there.
Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal
The Sapphire Preferred® gives you access to the Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal, which often has some of the best offers for earning points with online shopping. 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. The Ink Plus® provides you with this option as well but not the Freedom.
No foreign transaction fees
- Like most Chase travel cards, the Sapphire Preferred® offers no foreign transaction fees.
Primary car Insurance
Not many credit cards offer primary car rental insurance but the Sapphire Preferred® does. This is an often overlooked benefit but it’s great because it means that you are usually covered for up to the full loss value of the vehicle without having to file a claim with your insurance company (potentially raising your premium). It also just helps to streamline the process were anything to go wrong and potentially save you from incurring processing fees.
The only other Chase card that allows offers primary insurance and allows you to earn flexible Ultimate Rewards is the Chase Ink Plus®. However, you’re only covered for your rental car when you’re traveling on business.
Great travel protection
- Lost or damaged Luggage: If you or your immediate family members’ checked or carry-on bags are damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000.00 for each Insured Person for each Common Carrier Covered Trip and up to $500.00 for each Insured Person for each Common Carrier Covered Trip for jewelry, watches, cameras, video recorders, and other electronic equipment.
- Trip Interruption: 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.
- Trip Delay Reimbursement: 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.
- Baggage Delay Reimbursement: covers up to one hundred ($100.00) dollars per day for a maximum of five (5) days and is limited to emergency purchases of essential items needed as a result of the delay including but not limited to: clothing, toiletries, and charging cables for cellular telephones,
- Travel and Emergency Assistance: provides a wide range of emergency services available twenty-four (24) hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five (365) days a year
Great purchase protection
- Purchase Protection: Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
- Extended Warranty Protection: Extends the time period of the original manufacturer’s written U.S. repair warranty by one (1) additional year on eligible warranties of three (3) years or less, up to a maximum of ten thousand ($10,000.00) dollars per claim, and
- Price Protection: 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.
- Return Protection: 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.
I always have to end a discussion of the Sapphire Preferred® on the metal note. This card contains metal and it’s pretty fun getting responses from people when I use it. It’s not quite on the level of the Ritz-Carlton Card but it’s still impressive in its own right.
Simply put, the Sapphire Preferred® is the best Chase credit card for travelers because it is necessary for transferring Ultimate Rewards to travel partners; offers a great sign-up bonus, benefits and decent earning potential; and is more practical to obtain than the Ink.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the digital smart wallet, 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.