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By Dave Grossman, April 15, 2024

Why This Credit Card Remains the Best Starter Travel Rewards Card

Guides

Note that I’m not saying that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® is the best credit card.

And to be clear, this isn’t a first ever credit card for most either…. I’m writing this assuming you already have credit cards, a decent credit history, and a 720-740 absolute minimum credit score. You just haven’t gotten started in the rewards game.

I’m saying it’s the best “first card” to get if you are new to miles and points. Here’s why:

Bonus Offer Worth $750 ++

If you redeem the 60,000 points for travel, you will get $750 worth of value since each point is worth 1.25 cents each towards travel..

chase sapphire preferred new card art

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Learning a Points Ecosystem

You can, with some effort, get much more value using Chase’s airline and hotel transfer partners, though, and that factors into why I say this is the best starter card for learning miles and points.

You see, the Chase Ultimate Rewards [Guide] ecosystem is the simplest of all the major card issuers. You can combine Ultimate Rewards across multiple Chase credit cards to the one that has the best redemptions.

This means that while the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 3X on dining 2X on travel, and 1X on most everything else, you can “pair” multiple Chase cards (even across their business and personal cards). This means that you can have multiple Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, use the best in each bonus category when shopping, and then roll them all up to your premium Chase cards.

You’ll learn that only Ultimate Rewards earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Chase Ink Business Preferred can be transferred to airline and hotel transfer partners. So if you have points earned with any of the no-annual fee cash back cards (like a Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited), you can combine them into your Sapphire Preferred to get the best value.

So you are learning how to accrue points effectively and learning the best ways to redeem points.

Once again, the best way to spend points is always by using transfer partners. While 1.25 cents per point in travel is nice and all, only a transfer to Hyatt would unlock the potential for something like 10 cents per point in value when spending 40,000 points a night on a $3,000 a night hotel like Ventana Big Sur.

The bonus alone is really enough for me to show you how to extract fantastic value for points.

Example High Value Chase Transfer Partner Redemptions

  • Hyatt: as above, you could get $5,000 worth of hotel stay at Ventana Big Sur for 70,000 – 90,000 points.

    Ventana Big Sur an Alila Resort

    Ventana Big Sur – an Alila Resort

  • Emirates: Spend 85,000 miles for a 1st Class flight on Emirates (yes, with the bar on board the plane) from New York to Milan or from Newark to Athens. This is worth around $4,000.

    Emirates First Class (A380)

    Emirates First Class (A380)

  • Air France Flying Blue: A one way Business Class ticket to Europe starts at 57,500 miles. The prices vary by day/route/time but you can see that just 115,000 points is almost a round trip in Business Class to Europe. That’s an easy $2,500++ in value.
  • Iberia: From the East Coast to Madrid off-peak, you can fly Round Trip in Business Class for just 68,000 miles round trip. That’s a flight worth $2,500+.

I could go on, but I won’t. The point here isn’t to actually teach you the redemptions, but just to explain why this card and its large bonus gives me so many options on helping you with a spectacular use of points – sure to whet your appetite for more points and more amazing experiences. Hey, that’s the whole reason I’m in this game!

Here’s a chart of all of the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners that you can transfer points from your Sapphire Preferred to:

Chase Transfer Partners

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Transfer RatioExpected Transfer Time *
Aer Lingus Avios1:1Instant
Air Canada Aeroplan1:1Instant
Air France Flying Blue1:1Instant
British Airways Avios1:1Instant
Emirates1:1Instant
Iberia Avios1:1Instant
JetBlue1:1Instant
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1:1~ 1 - 2 days
Southwest Airlines1:1Instant
United MileagePlus1:1Instant
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1:1Instant
Hyatt1:1Instant
Marriott Bonvoy1:1~ 1-2 days
IHG Rewards Club1:1~ 24 hours

Low Annual Fee

The $95 annual fee isn’t no fee, but it’s low and when you are being guaranteed $750 + on the bonus, this is a pretty easy fee to swallow.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Recently Got Better

The Sapphire Preferred gets:

  • 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards (2x on travel not booked via the portal).
  • 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
  • 3x points on select streaming services
  • 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
  • 5x points on Lyft rides through March 2025.
  • $50 Annual Credit on hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards. New cardmembers will start earning towards the credit immediately and existing cardmembers will start earning after their next account anniversary.
  • 10% Anniversary point bonus.
    • Each account anniversary year, you’ll earn bonus points that equal 10% of your total spend in points from purchases made with your card during the previous account anniversary year at a rate of 1 point for each $1 spent.
  • Annual fee of $95.

Benefits

The biggest and best benefit is primary car rental collision/damage coverage. This is very rare (if you want, you can see how few credit cards offer primary car rental CDW coverage).

This benefit means that if there is damage to your rental car and you carry your own insurance (which most people outside of a few dense cities do), you won’t have to involve your personal insurance at all – meaning no risk of a premium increase.

Other benefits: 

  • Trip delay insurance benefits, up to $500 per covered claim
  • Trip cancelation insurance benefits, up to $10,000 per person per covered claim $20,000 per trip max.
  • Baggage delay and lost luggage insurance benefits
  • Purchase Protection covers new purchases made with the Preferred card for 120 days against damage or theft (Up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account).
  • Extended Warranty Protection extends the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an extra year (on eligible warranties of 3 years or less).
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Bottom Line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is not going to be “the one credit card to use for everything.” In fact, once you get how this all works, you’d probably want to look into the Chase Trifecta to get more bonus categories working for you. Simply put, the 2X on travel and dining on the Preferred is weak compared to most rewards cards. But in combination with other cards, and as a first credit card to get your feet wet in the rewards game, I can’t think of a better one right now than the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The bonus is huge and it “unlocks”  better redemption options on all of your no-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards cards.

Once you get the hang of how rewards cards and the rewards programs work, we can elevate your game…

Also See: How Many Chase Credit Cards Can You Have

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