Wanderlusting about a vacation is fun and all—until you peep the total cost of airfare and hotels. That’s where a travel-friendly credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card comes in. Thanks to a generous redemption system and a ginormous sign-up bonus, it’s basically designed for folks who travel a lot and want to pay for that travel in points. We checked in with the team at The Points Guy to find out more.
First things first: What are Chase Ultimate Rewards? Chase Ultimate Rewards is actually a system of rewards-based credit cards that offer a pretty respectable return (in the form of redeemable points) in most spending categories, especially when you put those rewards toward travel.
But what’s so special about the Chase Sapphire Preferred? This card is the perfect entry point to the Ultimate Rewards family—and while it’s great for most people, it’s a credit card that’s particularly lucrative if travel is your jam. (There are no foreign transaction fees, it comes with all kinds of travel insurance and you get 25 percent more value when you redeem points on airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises.) It also comes with a $95 annual fee versus the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers even more rewards, but comes with a $450 annual fee.
What about that sign-up bonus? After you fill out an application online and get approved, you need to spend $4,000 on your card in the first three months. That will net you a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points, which is worth around $750 on paper (when redeemed through Chase’s travel portal) or up to $1,200 when transferred to almost 13 partner airlines and hotel brands, based on The Points Guy valuations. (You can redeem points for things like cash back or Amazon purchases, but you’ll get a better bang for your buck if you use exclusively on travel.)
Don’t believe us? One user said, “I used the Chase Sapphire Preferred to stay at a five-star hotel in Paris completely free. I applied the sign-up bonus first, but then was able to rack up enough additional points through everyday spending to cover the cost of our entire stay, which was four nights. It was pretty amazing to receive the final bill with a total due of $0.” With travel, it also helps to maximize point redemption sweet spots, according to The Points Guy. Another Preferred user explains: “Every now and again, airlines offer a cheaper flight to certain locales—say, Spain. When you see that and you’re simultaneously planning a trip, don’t wait to book. Because when the cost of a flight goes down, many times, the number of points you’ll need to redeem goes down as well.”
Any other benefits I should know about? Besides the sign-up bonus, you’ll earn 2X Ultimate Rewards on any dining or travel spending. (Think everything from groceries or a lunchtime salad to car rentals or gas.) You’ll also reap the rewards of many perks typically associated with credit cards in the $450+ annual fee range, including primary car rental insurance, trip delay and cancellation insurance, baggage delay and cancellation insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty protection. (Pro tip from The Points Guy: If you rent cars with any kind of regularity, the Sapphire Preferred is worth it for the primary rental insurance alone.)
What about upgrading to the Reserve? Look, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a ton of value, too. Not only is it the flagship Ultimate Rewards credit card, it also includes the same 50,000 point sign-up bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first three months in addition to 3X points on dining and travel, a $300 annual travel credit that applies to pretty much anything you can think of (and a nice way to offset that $450 annual fee), up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, and upgrades to the primary rental car and trip delay/cancellation insurances. Do keep in mind, however, that as of August 2017, you’ll have to wait 24 months after getting the Sapphire sign-up bonus before you can get the sign-up bonus on the Reserve.
PureWow has partnered with Skimlinks and The Points Guy for our coverage of credit products. PureWow, Skimlinks and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers. Please note: the offers mentioned above are subject to change at any time and some may no longer be available.