Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Travel Card With Its Own Ecosystem

This affordable card features robust rewards, especially for travel booked through Chase.

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card requires a $95 annual fee and provides quality rewards in return, especially if you're willing to book your travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal.

While the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve® card offers big rewards with a high annual fee and Chase Freedom Unlimited® provides more modest travel rewards and cash back for no annual fee, Chase Sapphire Preferred serves those consumers seeking a middle road. It's a great option for travelers looking for good rewards back for a small yearly fee.

If you are open to booking trips through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you can net up to a whopping 6.25% back toward future travel redeemed through the portal. You can also transfer your rewards points to any of Chase's 14 travel partners like United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue at a 1-to-1 ratio.

The overall benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card may not take your breath away, but the credit card offers a great way to experience the world of travel rewards for a modest annual fee.

In this article

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Card Highlights
Intro OfferEarn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
APR16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3x on dining.
  • 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Annual Fee$95
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Foreign Transaction Fees $0
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3x on dining.
  • 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

Rewards and welcome bonus

Rewards are earned in the form of Ultimate Rewards points, a versatile currency that can be transferred to a number of airline and hotel partners, or redeemed for travel through the Chase portal called Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Sapphire Preferred earns cardholders 5x points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, online grocery purchases and select streaming services, 2x points on other travel purchases and 1x points on everything else. 

The Chase Sapphire Preferred's reward structure is most valuable for those who spend a significant amount on travel and dining, and for those who shop for groceries online. Since there's a big rewards difference between booking flights, hotels or car rentals through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (5x points) and regular travel purchases (2x points) -- which also include passenger trains, buses, taxis and more -- cardholders should use the travel portal whenever possible. 

The welcome bonus is in line with similar cards -- 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 if used to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Reward portal, or $800 if redeemed as cash back or through other methods. 

Redeeming your Ultimate Rewards points

The value of your reward rates is determined by the method of redemption. While Chase offers a variety of redemption options at $0.01 per point -- including cash, gift cards and statement credits -- the two most valuable ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points are by booking travel through the travel portal or transferring your points to an affiliate partner. 

If you use your points to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you'll get a 25% value bonus, making one point worth 1.25 cents (or 100 points = $1.25). That means your Chase travel purchases (5x points) earn 6.25% back in rewards toward future travel, which is a great rate. It also means when you apply points earned on other purchase categories to travel via the portal, you effectively earn rates of 3.75% on dining, online grocery purchases and select streaming services (3x points), 2.5% back on other travel purchases (2x points), and 1.25% back on all other purchases (1x points).

Meanwhile, if you transfer your points to one of Chase's 14 travel partners -- such as United, Southwest, AirFrance, British Airways, JetBlue, Hyatt and others -- you'll get a 1-to-1 transfer ratio, meaning one Ultimate Rewards point will get you one British Airways Avios point, or one United MileagePlus mile. The actual point value will vary depending on the specific trip and partner.

Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal

Given that the highest reward rates are for purchases made through the travel portal, it's important to get a preview of that experience. The Ultimate Rewards platform uses a third-party booking tool that looks across a variety of airlines and hotels for the best prices, similar to Expedia or Priceline. 

The tool itself is accessible and easy-to-use. However, you can't always choose between the main cabin and basic economy. You also won't earn miles or elite status points on the respective airline or hotel, since you're not booking directly with them. When it comes to customer service, there can sometimes be issues resolving problems with third-party bookings.

That said, the rewards rate bump is worth it for most people. But if you always prefer to book directly with an airline, there are other cards that don't have that restriction, like The Platinum Card® from American Express, or credit cards for specific airlines

Other travel perks

In addition to the rewards and welcome bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred also offers a $50 annual hotel credit, which can be applied toward hotel stays booked through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. For cautious travelers, the Sapphire Preferred has trip cancellation and interruption insurance, an auto rental collision damage waiver and lost luggage insurance. And, as one would hope with a travel credit card, there are no foreign transaction fees

Comparable cards

Citi Premier® Card

The Citi Premier® Card is also a midlevel travel card with a $95 annual fee. It is less travel-focused than the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and offers a well-rounded rewards program and greater flexibility. You earn 3x points on air travel and hotels, restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets, and 1x points on everything else. Points are equivalent to $0.01 each when redeemed for cash back or a statement credit, or as travel booked through Thankyou.com. This flat 3% rate back on air travel and hotels offers more flexibility with how you book and earn points.

Check out our full review of the Citi Premier Card for more details.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards credit card is another comparable travel card with a $95 annual fee and 75,000-mile welcome bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. With the Venture Rewards, cardholders earn unlimited 2x miles on all purchases, and 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Miles are worth $0.01 with most redemption methods, and there is no additional redemption value when you book through Capital One Travel.

Like the Sapphire Preferred, the Venture Rewards is a good entry point into the world of travel rewards. If you don't like to worry about which categories most of your expenses fall in, the Venture Rewards' flat rate across all purchases is a simple option. 

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is in a bit of a different league than the Sapphire Preferred. It's a premium travel card, so avid travelers may want to consider this luxury. While the Chase Sapphire Reserve card's $550 annual fee is steep, the yearly travel credit of $300 essentially brings the overall cost down to $250, making that fee more manageable. 

The 50,000-point bonus -- earned after spending $4,000 in the first three months -- is worth $750 toward travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The reward rates are also slightly better than the Sapphire Preferred, and when you redeem through Chase's travel portal, you get a 50% bonus instead of 25%. All together, it's fairly reasonable to make up for the difference in the annual fee, but it will require some work.

As an additional perk, cardholders get a statement credit reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (worth $100 for Global Entry or $85 for TSA PreCheck, both of which are valid for five years), plus a number of VIP-style travel perks. 

FAQs

How do travel credit cards work?

Travel credit cards turn purchases into points or miles that can be redeemed for travel purchases, like flights and hotel stays. Sometimes you can redeem those points for cash or a gift card, but you typically get the best rate when using them to book travel. The top cards have their own travel booking portals through which you can find flights, hotels and rental cars. Sometimes, points are worth more when used in credit card company portals.

Airline credit cards and hotel credit cards operate like loyalty programs in that you stay in a closed-loop rewards system. You earn rewards when you purchase flights or book hotels through your chosen companies, and you can use those points for perks or future bookings through the same airline or hotel group.

How do you choose the best travel credit card?

The points and travel benefits that you accrue through a travel rewards program are often redeemed through your credit card issuer's website (or app), or they appear as a statement credit reimbursing you for past purchases you made with your credit card. Points or miles can also be transferred to travel partners -- mostly hotels and airlines -- at a fluctuating conversion rate, where they can then be used to book a flight or hotel room.

In choosing the best travel credit card, there are a few key factors to consider: 

  • Annual fees: Most travel rewards programs have annual fees, with some climbing as high as $695, but those fees are usually mitigated by monthly or annual credits. 
  • Exclusive perks: Some travel rewards card options also grant access to exclusive travel perks, like airline lounges, priority boarding or VIP welcomes at hotels. The value of those perks is subjective and something you'll have to evaluate based on your needs and wants.
  • Foreign transaction fees: The best travel cards don't make users pay a foreign transaction fee, so that's not something you have to worry about.

What extra benefits do travel credit cards usually offer?

Most travel credit cards, some of which carry hefty annual fees, include benefits that add value to those cards, such as travel accident insurance, trip cancellation insurance, trip delay reimbursement or protection, lost luggage reimbursement and rental car collision insurance.

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