Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the Best Beginner's Travel Rewards Card

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If you’re new to points and miles, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the advice and information. Today, we’re getting back to basics with a look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card from the beginner’s perspective.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Our #1 recommended beginners rewards card featuring a 60,000 point signup bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases

To keep things simple, we've organized the post around seven key factors you should consider before you pick a credit card. The Sapphire Preferred is our top recommendation for beginners, so we’ll be highlighting how it fits into each of the criteria with examples throughout the post.

What Makes a Great Card for Beginners?

  • A valuable welcome bonus for new cardmembers
  • A manageable spending requirement (to earn the welcome bonus)
  • An easy path to redeem points without advanced knowledge
  • Higher value ways to redeem points as you gain experience
  • Points that are easy to earn
  • A low annual fee
  • Excellent benefits just for being a cardmember

A Valuable Welcome Offer

You can think of the new cardmember bonus as a massive downpayment the bank is offering for the chance to earn your business. Banks make a lot of money on credit cards, and the welcome bonus is your chance to grab a fair share of the profits.

A typical welcome offer consists of the signup bonus (the number of points you’ll receive) and a spending requirement to earn the reward. The bank wants you to get in the habit of using your new card, so an offer will usually come with a set period of time to reach the spending goal.

The Sapphire Preferred has one of the best welcome offers of any rewards card available today:

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

If you're comparing other cards, it's important to know that not all points have the same value. Depending on the type of rewards, a 60,000-point bonus might be worth more money than a 100,000-point bonus with a different loyalty program. Think of each type of points as a different foreign currency with its own exchange rate. We'll cover the reasons Chase Ultimate Rewards are one of the most valuable (and flexible) types of rewards below.

A Manageable Spending Requirement

A new cardmember bonus is usually an all-or-nothing proposition. If you don't reach the minimum spending requirement within the timeframe, you'll miss out on the entire bonus.  Although it might be tempting to increase your spending to earn a bonus, the ideal strategy is to move your existing expenses to your new card.

A “manageable spending requirement” will depend on your monthly spending habits, but there are a few key strategies that can help you shift purchases you had planned to make anyway to your new card. We've covered tactics to meet minimum spending requirements in a dedicated post, but here are a few examples:

  1. Pay your monthly bills — Although some service providers are stuck in the last century, most will let you pay using a credit card. Power, phone, internet, cable, insurance, auto maintenance, daycare, and pet care can add up fast and will contribute a significant chunk towards your minimum spend.
  2. Pay your taxes — If you time your application right or pay estimated quarterly taxes, you can often achieve the entire minimum spend in one go. Services like Pay1040.com allow you to pay Uncle Sam for a 1.87% fee (minimum fee $2.59). Although this isn't a good deal if you're earning only one point per dollar, it's a great option to reach the minimum spend on a massive signup bonus. According to the IRS, those service fees might be tax-deductible. Consult a tax professional for advice on your particular situation.
  3. Pay by check with a credit card — Plastiq is an awesome service that lets you send a check using your credit card as the payment method. This is perfect for big expenses like the mortgage payment or college tuition. Similar to paying taxes, the service fee makes this a bad deal unless the extra spending helps you capture a big signup bonus.

Redeem Points without Advanced Knowledge

It's hard to overstate the importance of having an easy way to use points at a fair value. Too often, points and miles blogs jump right into complicated redemption strategies designed to maximize your savings. Don't get us wrong, it's great to save twice as much with a clever redemption, but if you're just starting out, it's important to be able to use your points without any extra work.

This is one of the huge advantages to the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you'll earn with the Sapphire Preferred. As noted above, 60,000 points have a minimum value of $750 when redeemed for travel. Each Chase point is worth 1.25 cents, and it's easy to use them on the Ultimate Rewards website. If you know how to search for a flight or hotel on Expedia, you should have no problem using the Chase Travel Portal to book with points.

Higher Value Redemptions as You Learn

Now that we've checked the box for “easy options”, it's time to look at the potential for high-value redemptions. You won't be a beginner forever, so it's important to earn points that have a higher upside as you gain more experience with redemption strategy.

Chase Ultimate Rewards are special because they can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to 13 partner loyalty programs. These transfer partners often require far fewer points than you'd pay by booking through the Chase travel portal, creating the opportunity to unlock huge savings. If you're curious about the options, check out our complete guide to the Ultimate Rewards transfer partners.

For a quick example, consider this booking with Chase points transferred to United MileagePlus: A first-class ticket on All Nippon Airways from Los Angeles to Tokyo would cost 110,000 points plus $5.70 USD in taxes and fees. The same seat purchased with cash is $14,032. A value of over 12.7 cents per point! Even factoring in that you could pay for a first-class flight on another airline for as little as $5,550, you still receive more than 5 cents per point in value for your rewards.

Business and first-class international flights are a great example of the oversized value that is possible with Chase Ultimate Rewards redemptions. If you tried to book the same first-class ticket through the Chase Travel Portal, you'd need over a million points using the minimum value of 1.25 cents per point.

Points that are Easy to Earn

The Sapphire Preferred earns 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. Since this card doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee for purchases outside the United States, it's the perfect card to use abroad. One of the nice things about the Ultimate Rewards ecosystem is that Chase offers a full lineup of business and personal cards that earn the same type of points as your Sapphire Preferred.

If you want to fast-track the number of points you earn, you can combine points from multiple Ultimate Rewards earning cards into a single account. We've written a comprehensive post about how to put together the ultimate travel rewards credit card combo, allowing you to earn a ton of bonus points across different spending categories, and then combine your points to redeem. Chase also lets you pool points with family members living in the same household, making it easy to work towards a common goal with a spouse or partner.

Another easy way to earn points is using Shop through Chase℠, Chase's online shopping portal. With over 240 online stores, offering up to 25x bonus points earned for every dollar spent, this is an easy way to accumulate thousands of extra points every year.

An Affordable Annual Fee

While we'd love it if rewards cards didn't charge an annual fee, the key consideration is whether you can consistently get more value than the cost of keeping the card each year. The Sapphire Preferred has an annual fee of $95, which is on par with other top travel rewards cards.

For many, the ability to earn Ultimate Rewards on everyday purchases can more than cover the cost of the card, but the additional benefits you get just for being a cardmember do a great job of rounding out the card's value proposition.

Extra Perks and Benefits

The huge signup bonus and double points on dining and travel are fantastic incentives on their own but the Sapphire Preferred has a whole raft of advantages buried under the covers.

It pays to read the Sapphire Preferred Benefits Guide  as these benefits are a significant reason you want this card as a permanent feature in your wallet. The Auto Rental (CDW) and Trip Cancellation and Interruption benefits, in particular, are fantastic perks.

Sapphire Preferred BenefitsSummary
Auto Rental Collision Damage WaiverDecline the rental company's collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. 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.
Purchase ProtectionCovers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
Extended Warranty ProtectionExtends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer's warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
Trip Cancellation and Trip InterruptionTrip Cancellation insurance reimburses you or your Immediate Family Members for up to ten thousand ($10,000.00) dollars per person for each Covered Trip (up to $20k/trip & $40k/year) if a Covered Loss prevents you or your Immediate Family Members from traveling on or before the departure date and results in cancellation of the travel arrangements.
Lost LuggageIf 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.
Trip Delay ReimbursementIf 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 DelayReimburses you for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over 6 hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for 5 days.
Travel Accident InsuranceWhen you pay for your air, bus, train or cruise transportation with your card, you are eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000.
Travel and Emergency Assistance ServicesIf you run into a problem away from home, call the Benefit Administrator for legal and medical referrals or other travel and emergency assistance. (You will be responsible for the cost of any goods or services obtained.)

Final Thoughts

If you want to make a solid first push into collecting rewards points, it's hard to go past the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

It has the perfect mix of a fantastic signup bonus with an achievable minimum spend, first-class purchase and travel protection benefits, and arguably the most valuable rewards points you can earn. If you don't have the time or knowledge to pursue more advanced redemptions, this card gives you a dead-simple path to using points at a fair value. As you gain experience, your points will grow in potential value thanks to Chase's valuable transfer partners.

As noted previously, you can use the framework outlined in this post to evaluate any rewards card and welcome offer. This is by no means the only option on the table. But if you're looking for a failsafe starting point, you can't go wrong with the Sapphire Preferred card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Our #1 recommended beginners rewards card featuring a 60,000 point signup bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the Best Beginner’s Travel Rewards Card
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Comments

  • I used to agree with the advice of Sapphire Preferred as a good starter card. But since Chase introduced the 48-month rule across all Sapphire products, even award point rookies really need to consider the Sapphire Reserve instead. The $450 annual fee appears staggering at first, but the very-easy-to-use $300 travel credit nearly negates the premium over the Preferred, and it more than makes up for what remains with the other benefits: higher Ultimate Rewards redemption multiplier, Priority Pass, etc.

  • love sapphire card!

  • Chase rewards are great. I just closed my accounts with them due to a security breach. Chase merges old customer account data together, even if you closed your account. I had a comprised account with erroneous phone numbers and email addresses which Chase moved over to my new account. I had to close my account and escalate the issue to their executive department to get it resolved. Please check your accounts since Chase has a massive issue with data hygiene.

  • I’ve got the Sapphire Reserve card and use it for pretty much everything. I’ve had two business class trips to Europe and still have a ton of miles. I have a few other random no- or low-fee cards, but I’m wondering if there’s another card I should add to the mix. Nice to get that signup bonus! Suggestions?

    • I’d highly recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited to pick up 1.5X points on everything that isn’t 3x with the Reserve. If you’re looking for a great bonus, you’ll want to keep an eye on the blog. We’ll cover any noteworthy offers coming out to help expand your options.

  • The no Fee cards are excellent!!!

  • Is shopping thru chase travel portal more expensive than thru an airline directly?

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