Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Review
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a popular travel rewards credit card that’s ideal for people who dine out and travel often. Though it does come with an annual fee of $95, Sapphire Preferred earns an unlimited 2 points per $1 spent on eligible restaurant dining and travel purchases, and an unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.
Plus, it has one of the best sign-up bonuses around: If you can afford to spend at least $4,000 within 3 months of opening your account, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points. That’s a $625 value when redeemed for travel purchases – more than six times the annual fee.
Sapphire Preferred represents a step up from Chase’s basic but popular cash back rewards credit card, Chase Freedom, and a rewards-rich alternative to the low APR card, Chase Slate.
When you spend at least $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account, you earn 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points. That’s good for up to $625 on airfare, car rentals, cruises, and hotel stays purchased through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal. It’s worth up to $500 on all other redemptions.
You earn an unlimited 2 points for every $1 you spend on eligible travel purchases, including airfare and hotel stays, and eligible restaurant purchases. You earn an unlimited 1 point for every $1 you spend on all other eligible purchases.
You can redeem points at Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal. Redemption options include cash and cash equivalents (statement credits, bank account deposits, and gift cards), as well as general merchandise purchases and travel purchases.
Points are usually worth $0.01 apiece at redemption, but they go 25% further when redeemed for travel purchases (such as airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises) made directly through Ultimate Rewards. For instance, 50,000 points – normally worth $500 in cash equivalents or general merchandise – are worth $625 when redeemed for eligible travel purchases. As long as your account remains open, your points don’t expire.
You can also transfer your points to participating frequent traveler programs offered by airlines, hotels, and alliances, at a 1-to-1 ratio – regardless of the monetary value of the participating programs’ points. Participating frequent traveler programs include British Airways, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Korean Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott. This can potentially increase the value of your points even more, depending on how you use them after transfer.
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal offers opportunities to earn points faster. Various merchants represented on Ultimate Rewards offer an additional 1 to 5 points per $1 spent (and sometimes even more) on top of the Sapphire Preferred card’s baseline 1 point per $1 spent.
The annual fee is $95, but it’s waived for the first year. There are no foreign transaction fees. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5%, while cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%.
Sapphire Preferred offers a bevy of travel protection services for cardholders in good standing. These include:
Sapphire Preferred cardholders get exclusive or VIP access to a variety of exciting events, including the PGA Championship and private dining experiences with celebrity chefs. Additional fees may apply.
This card requires excellent credit.
By many measures, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great credit card. However, it’s definitely not for everyone. Keep in mind that the extremely attractive sign-up bonus, worth up to $625 when redeemed for qualifying travel purchases, requires you to spend at least $4,000 within 3 months of opening your account. At an annualized rate, that works out to $16,000-per-year spending rate – nearly 30% of the average U.S. annual household income, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged at about $53,000 in 2014.
Needless to say, not everyone can afford to reap Chase Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus. And, as this card requires good to excellent credit, it’s fair to bet that many Americans don’t qualify for it anyway.
If you need to improve your credit history, Chase Sapphire Preferred is probably out of your reach for the time being. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t work to earn it down the road. For now, apply for a secured credit card, or an unsecured card meant for building credit (such as a student credit card). Concentrate on spending responsibly and making timely payments. Request credit line increases as time passes. And regularly monitor your credit score to track your progress.
Who knows? If you’re diligent, Chase Sapphire Preferred’s current sign-up bonus might still be in effect when you’re ready to apply.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great travel rewards credit card for moderate- to heavy-spending frequent travelers and diners out. The $95 annual fee is likely to turn off thrifty applicants, but the generous rewards program (including a 25% bonus on qualifying travel redemptions) and huge sign-up bonus offsets its cost for active cardholders.
Other benefits include no foreign transaction fees, one-to-one points transfer to participating frequent traveler programs, and very flexible point redemption options. If you’re looking for a travel rewards card that rewards non-travel or -dining purchases, or one with an intro APR promotion, look elsewhere.
A great sign-up bonus, generous rewards geared toward travelers and diners, 25% boost for travel redemptions, and 1-to-1 points transfer are all great. Watch out for the annual fee, lack of intro APR promotion, and pricey cash advances.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.
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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Review
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