Chase Sapphire Preferred® Review: A Best-In-Class Travel Credit Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card has a legion of fans for a reason. Everyday cardholders can expect a large new cardholder bonus and premium rewards for travel and dining. These are a few reasons why many travel cardholders consider it a must-have. We agree. Here’s some additional information to help figure out whether it's a good fit for you.

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

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Best for: Travel sign-up bonus and transfer partners Chase Sapphire Preferred®

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Our Bottom Line

It's one of the most popular travel cards for a reason. This offer is practically a must-have for travelers seeking a big sign-up bonus and if you spend enough on credit to justify paying a small annual fee.

Credit Rating Requirement: good
Highlights

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

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Why you can trust me

I've published over 400 personal finance and investing articles that have appeared on sites such as MSN, AOL, and Yahoo. The topic I've covered most is credit cards, everything from how to use them the right way when earning rewards to which are top picks. Further, I've personally carried cards from all the major issuers. That first-hand experience informs The Ascent's reviews and ratings, which are helpful to not only guide you to cards with valuable perks but also offers we'd recommend to our friends and family.

What I like about Chase Sapphire Preferred®

50,000 points sign-up bonus -- Cardholders earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. That's worth $625 for travel redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and one of the largest bonuses on the market for consumer travel cards with a low annual fee.

Unlimited 2 points per $1 -- Restaurant and travel purchases earn 2 points per $1 and all other purchases earn 1 point per $1). 

25% points bonus -- You can redeem points through Chase's Ultimate Rewards® travel portal at a premium rate of $0.0125 per point, thus dishing out a nice 2.5% overall yield for travel and dining purchases. Many travel card points offer lower blanket redemption value of $0.01 per point for travel redemptions.

High cash-back conversion rate -- Some travel cards penalize cash-back redemptions with a rock-bottom conversion well below $0.01 per point, but Chase Sapphire Preferred® cash redemptions are worth $0.01 per point, which works out to 2% cash back in premium categories and 1% on all other purchases.

No foreign transaction fee -- Pesky foreign transaction fees can quickly add up when whipping out credit cards for purchases abroad. And let’s be honest: We’re all a bit looser with our wallets while on vacation. Fortunately, Chase Sapphire Preferred® has nixed the typical 3% foreign transaction fee many card issuers charge. That’s a savings of $60 on $2,000 worth of international spending.

Points transfer partners -- Chase has secured one of the longest lists of points transfer partners we’ve seen, making Chase Sapphire Preferred® a no-brainer for cardholders stretching their points. Here’s a current list of participating programs: British Airways Executive Club,Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hyatt Gold Passport®, IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards® , The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.

What could be improved

Annual fee -- Chase Sapphire Preferred® carries a $95 annual fee. While the fee is modest compared with that of many premier credit cards, and waived for the first year, it’s a fee nonetheless.

0% intro APR -- A 0% intro APR offer would amp up the value of this card, especially when including this perk for new purchases. 

How to best use

To avoid interest charges while earning points

Travel rewards cardholders will generally be better off paying balances by the due date each month to avoid interest charges. It’s a losing strategy to rack up debt for the sake of earning rewards at single-digit rates only to watch as they get eaten up by far higher double-digit interest charges.

Make sure you qualify for the sign-up bonus

Spend more than $4,000 on purchases during the first three months to qualify for the new cardholder bonus of 50,000 points. No doubt this bonus can secure some cheap travel, especially knowing a roundtrip flight to parts of Europe can be covered fully with the points earned with the bonus.

Redeem through Chase's portal to boost points by 25%

One consistently valuable redemption option to redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® to value points at $0.0125 apiece.

Add an authorized user to increase the bonus

Consider adding an authorized user who makes a purchase to qualify for 5,000 bonus points. Keep in mind that authorized users can legally charge purchases to your card, but only you have the legal obligation to pay the balance. Don’t add an untrustworthy authorized user just for the sake of 5,000 bonus points.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Cardholders considering Chase Sapphire Preferred® may want to also consider Chase Sapphire Reserve® instead, mostly due to its luxury travel benefits and premium travel rewards. Sapphire Reserve® earns a higher 3 points per $1 on travel and dining, plus points redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® are worth 50% more. That makes the sign-up bonus (50,000 points when spending at least $4,000 within three months of account opening) worth up to $750! Plus, cardholders earn a total of $400 in statement credits, $300 each year for travel purchases and $100 for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®. The price of these premium perks is a $450 annual fee. Many travelers will find the annual fee is justified for the perks, but it’s best to run your budget numbers to uncover which card will net more rewards. Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve® review for more.

Another travel card to consider

For cardholders preferring flexible rewards

There are two camps of travel cardholders, those who prefer the ability to transfer points between partners to stretch the value and then those who want the flexibility to just redeem rewards for statement credits. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is for the latter. The card offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening which is worth $500 for travel-related statement credits. All purchases earn a flat 2 miles per dollar and the card includes the flexibility of redeeming miles for partial statement credits -- that's uncommon among competing cards and a convenient perk. Read our full Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card review to learn more.

Final take

No doubt Chase Sapphire Preferred® was built with travel versatility in mind, and there’s a reason many travel cardholders and even everyday cardholders consider it a must-have. The big new cardholder bonus and ongoing rewards rate can help add some stamps to your passport faster or dump a nice chunk of change back into your pocket. Simply put, it deserves a spot as one of the best, most versatile travel cards I've come across.