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
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on 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
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
AwardWallet Tip of The Day
Did you know that you can mark an account as Active, and then that account will show up in the Active Accounts tab? Using the Active Accounts tab an excellent way to filter your most used loyalty accounts.
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Comments

  • Thank you. I signed up. Now to meet the spending requirement 🤨

  • Is it a practical strategy to open a Sapphire Preferred account to earn the 60,000 sign up bonus and close it before having to pay the $95 free for the second year, then open a different card to earn another sign up bonus of Chase Ultimate Rewards to keep building into the same Ultimate Rewards account?

    • ron_vaughn@hotmail.com says:

      IMHO, yes. I did this once and the Chase rep even steered me to a zero fee card so I could preserve the credit limit on the closing CSP card. Right now I am thinking about switching to the CSP before the new, higher annual fee on my CSR card kicks in. But I’ll miss my Priority Pass. Sigh.

      Then again, the net fee (after the $300 travel allowance) on he CSR is really just $250, or $155 more than the CSP. Is the $155 fee worth the Priority Pass card? Depends on my international travel plans next year. I value the lounge visits at about $25 each (space, food, drinks, amenities), so I need six visits just to break even. Given the lack of access at most major U.S. hubs, that six uses is hard to get. Sorry Chase, goodbye CSR.

    • @Chuck: IMHO the ongoing earning potential of the CSP is such that it will likely make sense to keep it, unless of course you plan to go for the Sapphire Reserve at some point. In any event, you’ll absolutely want to keep at least one premium UR-earning card (CSP, CSR, Ink Pref) in your Chase portfolio to enable points transfers to partner.

    • You could but I don’t recommend it at all. For a card you get positive value from, just keep it. And know the rules. You can only earn a Sapphire bonus once every 48 months but this actually means you aren’t eligible for a bonus if you’ve earned one in the last 48 months. ie I applied for my CSR Jan 2017 and earned my bonus in April. If I want to try and get a bonus again, I can’t apply until April (or maybe May) 2021 because it’ll be 48 months at that point.

      • Susan Maijala says:

        Great review of the CSR and benefits. I also previously held this card and am waiting for the 48 month period to pass so that I can again cash in on the benefits of this card. I currently hold the Chase Freedom so that I continue to earn UR points. Thanks.

  • It’s unfortunate that you use “value” with respect to a First Class international ticket. “Value” equals the amount you’re willing to pay, not the retail price.

    Nobody reading your blog would ever pay that kind of money for a flight, so at best that redemption is brag-worthy.

    • Meaning what? An Intl F flight is value-less? That line of thought doesn’t entirely make sense. Based upon your premise, if a Intl F flight was otherwise an impossibility, if not for redeeming UR points, could it not then be argued that those points are in fact priceless?

      In any event, how would you better restate the phrase you disagree with, “outsized value”?

    • “Value” is always subjective. If you look for practicality, you should go for a cash rebate card.

    • Thank you!! I would NEVER pay $21,000 for some of these YOLO flights that are like 150,000 points. Those points are worth about $3,000 and I’d rather use them on a full vacation, or two, not literally a single flight that I’d be sleeping for half of it.

      But to each their own.

  • I can see this. I would then recommend a person get the Freedom Unlimited. A card that they wouldn’t have to think about categories. Just like you recommended.

    Now that I am more into how to do what and driving my husband nuts with which card gets what charge, I am earning pretty well. My brain is actually thinking about how to consolidate now. How long do ya’ll think you’ll have so many cards? Will you ever consolidate?

    • The FU is definitely your foundation card. From there get the Freedom and then for one or two categories per quarter, you now use a different card for those categories. Then add a CSP or CSR for travel and dining. You still primarily use your FU but in a few select situations pull out a different card instead.

  • While I agree that the annual fee is reasonable. That spend requirement is hardly easy for a beginner. I would think the top end of easy would just be $1000 spend, not $4000.

    • It’s certainly not easy, though I would say to anyone out there that if they can’t meet the minimum spend, they probably shouldn’t consider this “game” just yet.

      • Have to say I disagree. If one were to direct all spend (gas, groceries, mobile phone, television, internet, streaming, etc.) to the $4k minimum on this CSP offer its easily achievable for pretty much any household consisting of more than one person.

  • Nice outline of options. Always good, however, to consider individual situation – loyalty to one particular brand of hotel/air, not wanting an annual fee, ability to spend this much are considerations.

  • Well, you couldn’t close the card (and go to no UR earning cards at all) without losing the points (or via spouse transfer, etc). So you’d need to open another card first at a minimum.

    That said, at just $95 I think you’ll find it worth keeping the card.

  • I will be cancelling my Chase Sapphire Reserve when the annual fee posts and then apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred as soon as I am eligible.

    • I think we’ll see a decent chunk of people do that, but not as many as maybe these type of forums would lead us to believe. I bet many keep the card. But I’m with you.

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    The points and achievable first spend is easily within reach. What i appreciate most, is the travel protections. That can be a real life saver in far off places.

  • I have the CSP and it’s a terrific card. Its super powers increase when paired with a Freedom or United card, I’ve found. Unfortunately Chase recently changed their policy so you can only earn the bonus once every four years (up from two), which has thrown a wrench into some plans…

  • I’ve been trying to find a new travel rewards card to my portfolio, and many of the points listed here are exactly the criteria I’ve been using to evaluate whether or not a card is the right fit for me or not. the CSP is definitely one of the final contenders. Bookmarking this page for reference so I can compare/contrast the few cards I have left that I’m considering.

  • There is a much better case to be made for the Preferred now due to the increased annual fee on the Reserve. $450 could be justified for even an occasional traveler. At $550, the appeal may narrow considerably if you can’t make good use of the DoorDash and Lyft benefits.

    • One still needs to consider the earning potential of 3x on travel/dining with CSR vs. only 2x in with CSP. As those categories represent the lion’s share of my annual spend, in terms of return the CSR is still the winner, even if it costs $100 more per year to keep the card.

  • I think the CSP is not only good for beginners, but also pretty good for more experienced folks in the miles & points world as the CSR is now completely useless.

  • I wonder if sign up bonuses of 100,000 will ever show up again?

    • I don’t know the history of loyalty programs, but I would have to believe as a group they’re cyclical… as in the industry goes thru an increase in the value of benefits to lure customers; then everyone devalues those benefits for a time; then the game beings all over again when someone bucks the trend and heads back up.

  • If you travel 3 to 4 times a year internationally, the reserve comes out on top

  • I definitely agree with this article. Get your feet wet (and get your Sapphire clock started) and if it’s for you, upgrade to the CSR and if it’s not for you, product change to a Freedom.

  • Up until this latest CSR change I would have disagreed as if you flew 2-3 times a year CSR was a money maker. Now you have to use priority pass significantly more or have an insurance claim to make it worth while if you’re not a lyft or doordash user.

  • The card is great for the “rich beginners” who are simply too busy with the rest of their lives. 🙂

  • The range of transfer partners is great for topping up to redeem towards last minute plans.

  • I wonder how you will be protected by the card benefits if you are inconvenienced by the coronavirus chaos during your travels.

  • good article- can you change from the reserve to the preferred? I just got the reserve but the annual fee going up to $550 is a killer.

  • We should always remind beginners that if you cannot incur the $4,000, and cannot pay it back without interest, do not do this.

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    The travel protection benefits are the most worthwhile part of this deal. I’ve reached out in the past to other cards when needed and it is very reassuring.

  • I agree! This was my first travel card, and it was a good fit for me.

  • I believe the CSR is a better card due to the benefits including the travel credit, so compare that before you decide since you cannot get the bonus for both cards.

  • Leora ringelheim says:

    Thank you for this great article. I loved learning about Plastiq- never heard of that one before. I wonder if you find this card better than the reserve card while the rate is still only 450- really only 150 with travel discount?

  • This is awesome!!!

  • gotta agree it’s one of the best cards out there

  • I always recommend this card for those who don’t travel enough to get the Reserve. (For those that do travel and would use Priority Pass and Lyft, the Reserve is a no-brainer) When they balk at the annual fee, I ask them if they ever buy travel insurance or rental car insurance. If the answer to those questions is “yes”, then it is easy to show them that the annual fee is just buying that insurance ahead of time, rather than with the airline ticket or car rental itself. Of course, for beginners, the first question is “do you pay your balance off every month? If the answer is “no”, I stop talking.

  • I wouldn’t call myself a beginner however I did find this article useful for adding insight into why I should reconsider getting CSP versus CSR

  • It’s a good card for the sign on bonus. CSR may be a better card depending on the benefits you can take advantage of.

  • The only downside to the spending strategy is that those categories do not earn a bonus with the sapphire

  • Right now I am in hoarding mode. After having United’s card for the same price but not traveling enough to utilize the two free passes, I switched over to the Sapphire. Now the points are in my Chase account and I can transfer them to United or other partners when ready.

  • Always had this card….wouldn’t mind getting CSR sometimes in the future though

  • The CSP has been my go-to card for several years. You can combine UR points with the other Chase cards (Freedom, Ink) and can either redeem them via the UR portal or transfer them to various partners (my recommendation as you’ll get better value). For a $95 annual fee, the CSP is the perfect card for my personal spending and travel needs.

    FYI: Chase’s 5/24 rule is something to be aware of if you’re looking to apply for this card. If you’re new to the points and miles, you may want to get this card first before applying for other rewards cards.

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