What Makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card the Best Rewards Card

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

Yesterday I posted about a study that listed the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® as the most rewarding travel rewards credit card.  Since it earns 2x on all purchases, has a very simple rewards structure that allows you to redeem points for travel charges via a statement credit, and gives 10% points back on travel redemptions, I can see why it would be a favorite among those who have no desire to be “miles and points gurus”.  While I like that card, it is not my #1 travel rewards credit card, and never will be…even for those new to miles and points.  However, what that article (and multiple emails from readers) taught me is that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is very misunderstood.  That card got a ton of coverage on miles and points blogs for the first year or so after it was introduced, so I think it was just assumed that by now all are born with innate knowledge on why it is so valuable, but I am now certain that is very much not the case.

In fact, here is a snipit of an email I received just yesterday:

I have been comparing the Chase Sapphire and the Chase Sapphire Preferred cards. It looks like the only difference is the $95 annual fee.  Is the preferred card worth the $95 annual fee? 

This email is from someone who has been putting spending on a travel rewards card for some time, but wants to expand their card portfolio.  It was not from someone who is totally new to rewards credit cards, so at the risk of boring those who are very familiar with the Sapphire Preferred, I do think a refresher course is very much needed for those who don’t understand why it is the best personal travel rewards credit card.

What makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card the best personal travel rewards credit card is the transferability of points 1:1 to Hyatt, United, British Airways, Southwest, Marriott, IHG Rewards, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Amtrak, and Ritz. 

Sure you can use your points toward travel charges at a rate of one point = 1.25 cents toward travel via the Ultimate Rewards portal, but if that is how you are predominately using your Ultimate Reward points, then in all honesty this is not the best card for you.  I would recommend looking at the Barclay Arrival card if that is how you prefer to use your points.  The best way to redeem your Ultimate Reward points with the Sapphire Preferred is to transfer them 1:1 to a program like Hyatt Gold Passport, United MileagePlus, or even Southwest Rapid Rewards when you have a specific redemption that you need them for.  The regular Chase Sapphire card may look like a good option as it does not have the $95 annual fee, but it does not offer the option of transferring your points to hotel and airline partners unless you also have the Sapphire Preferred and/or the Ink Plus® Business Card or Ink Bold® Business Card.

The beauty of the Sapphire Preferred over a card like the British Airways Visa or United MileagePlus is that you aren’t locked into just one type of rewards currency.  For example, if I only had a United card, and only earned United miles, then I would be sunk if there weren’t award availability on a Star Alliance carrier when or where I wanted to travel.  However, if I instead was earning Ultimate Reward points via the Sapphire Preferred, then I would also have the option of OneWorld carriers like American Airlines via the British Airways program, via SkyTeam carriers like Delta thanks to Korean Air, or even Southwest which has no blackout dates.  In that way, these points are valuable because they give you lots of options when it comes time to redeem.

The other really important thing to note about why these points are so valuable is that you have the option to redeem them for first class flights and/or very expensive hotel stays that you would need a whole bucket load of points for if you were using a system where one point equaled one cent toward travel.  For example, earlier this year I stayed at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek during ski season at spring break, right on the mountain.  That room was easily selling for $400+ per night.  That would be at least 40,000 points if you were operating on a system similar to the Capital One Venture card or the Barclay Arrival card.   However, it is a just a flat 22,000 Hyatt points per night as a top tier Hyatt hotel.  Since I can transfer my Ultimate Reward points instantly to Hyatt 1:1, it was just 22,000 Ultimate Reward points instead of the 40K plus it would be with some other fixed value programs.

Another good example is if you ever dreamed of going to Europe (or anywhere else) in a lie-flat premium cabin seat.  Many, many families I know want to do that at least once.  It is fair to say that business class tickets to Europe usually cost at least $3,000+ RT per person (and often more).  That would be 300,000 points RT via most fixed value programs.  However, if you transfer to United, then it is just 100,000 points/miles, plus you can build in stopovers and/or open-jaws that may or may not be permitted on the ticket you purchase.

I know not everyone wants to redeem their miles and points for premium cabin travel or five star accommodations, but having the option to transfer to hotel and airline programs is so valuable even if all you want is an economy flight from Dallas to Orlando for 7,500 Avios that you can transfer 1:1 from Ultimate Rewards.  Odds are that is fewer points than if you were using a fixed value program since the flight would have to be about $75 or less to beat that points redemption.

Of course there are other benefits to the Chase Sapphire Preferred like access to the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, no foreign transaction fees, 2x points on travel and dining, etc.  However, I’ll start and end with what makes this card so darned valuable: the transferability of points 1:1 to Hyatt, United, British Airways, Southwest, Marriott, IHG Rewards, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Amtrak, and Ritz.  That is what makes this card secure in the #1 spot in personal rewards credit cards for newbies and old pros alike.

 

Disclaimer: I do receive commission if you are approved for some of the credit cards mentioned in this post.  As always, your support is very much appreciated.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the great comparison on the redemption side although you failed to take the 10% point value in the Barclay card in to effect (so it’d be closer to 36000 pts for the Hyatt stay).

    What was lacking in your analysis is a thurough comparison on the earning side of the cards. After all it might sound great that your Saphire card requires less points to redeem but if the Barclay card nets you an average of 2x points per dollar vs Saphire than in fact the “cost” of the award is the same for both cards.

    I see bloggers make similar mistakes for example when looking at Hyatt or Starwood “value” compared to other hotel programs. Sure 22,000 points seems cheaper than 60,000 from a similar hotel from a different chain but when the other chain lets you earn 3x as many points per dollar, it ends up being very close in cost.

  2. Omatravel, the redemptions were just meant to give an idea, not get too nitty gritty. That’s why I didn’t count the 10% because it wasn’t tied just to the Barclay card, but to fixed point programs in general (the 10% is mentioned at the beginning of the post). If I wanted to get super detailed on redemption then the 22k to Hyatt would also save you the daily resort fee + taxes which would come to more than the 4k points the Barclay card would give back. Still, you are right that the Barclay card would give you 10% back. Keep in mind award stays with Hyatt mean you don’t pay taxes or resort fees (except in Vegas).

    I do agree you need to look at earning rates closely and I do think that the Barclay card is good at 2x, but I think everyone needs to look at their own travel goals to see if 2x on a fixed value point is going to get them to their goals faster than earning transferable points. Of course in a perfect world much of your spending is going on a card that pays a bonus in that particular category, but that is a bit of a different can of worms. 😉

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Personally, I will use my arrival card for purchases where I can only earn 1 UR point. If I had a choice between 100k UR points vs 200k arrival points, I’d choose the 200k points. The flexibility is just too valuable.

    One thing not really mentioned is that point redemptions are generally fixed, such as Hyatt 22k points for their best rooms. But by booking rooms with cash, I can often find coupon codes or deals online to reduce the cost and essentially spending less arrival points and boosting the redemption value.

    With that said, sapphire preferred is still my favorite card, and I will still be using the UR portal, making travel and dining purchases, and freedom 5x purchases. But I think the Arrival card potentially has a place in anyone’s portfolio.

  4. Oh yeah, and I will also continue transferring my UR points to Hyatt and booking $900+ rooms for 22k points 😛

  5. Hi,

    When I saw the reader question, I was hoping to get a better comparison of the Chase Sapphire vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred. I recently downgraded my Chase Sapphire Preferred to the no-fee card (after transferring all of my UR points to my Ink Bold so as to not lose the transfer options). I can’t think of a feature that I’ve really lost in the process.

    I still have the transfer options, I believe, from the Chase Ink Bold. I have several cards with no foreign transaction fees. And, I still get 2x on dining from the no-fee Sapphire card. I miss out on the 7% bonus, but that’s only truly impactful during the sign-up year, IMO.

    A few comments about what I’m missing, if anything, would be appreciated.

  6. For business class seats, the Sapphire makes a lot of sense because it’s far less expensive to get a business class seat for what it costs in points.

    For domestic economy, I’d disagree.

    For example:
    Suppose I put my everyday non-restaurant spending on the Sapphire. To get 7500 points for that redemption, I’d need to spend $7500. If I spent $7500 on any of my 2% cashback cards, then I’d end up with the equivalent of $150 worth of redeemable value. I don’t have any trouble finding a $108 ticket from DFW-MCO. In this case, I even have an extra $42 sitting around that I can use for whatever I want.

    If you use the Barclay card, you end up even better in this instance because you have another 10% on top.

    If you can get most of your spend in the bonus categories, the Sapphire ends up ahead, but if not, then it’s not as good of a deal if you’re doing mostly domestic.

  7. I agree with several of the comments that prefer cashback to UR points. I absolutely don’t dispute the value of UR points and I pull out my own Sapphire Preferred for travel/dining 2x purchases. But for 1x purchases? Cash offers more flexibility and a better value for me since I redeem for value hotels and coach tickets. With cash, there are no black-out dates, capacity controls, or other limitations + you can still earn toward status. It’s all based on personal spending and redemption priorities, so I think it’s hard to say there’s a “best rewards card” as a blanket statement.

  8. Nice comparison… thank you.
    I am a Newbie and appreciate the good info.

    Did not realize until now that Korean Air and Delta were Partners.
    Do you have a link on how to transfer pts to Korean Air then use on Delta?
    Thanks!

  9. @William – if you are comparing cash value for cash value when booking travel using “cash” then don’t forget that when using UR points to pay for travel, you save 20% automatically

  10. Another good redemption with ultimate reward points is to transfer them to Amtrak. 4000 Amtrak points allows you to travel anywhere on the east coast, where ticket prices can exceed $200 — especially if you are traveling on short notice.

  11. The cashback crowd is missing the point of the article, which was, What is the best “travel rewards credit card”. William, hit the nail on the head in that for domestic economy travel, you’re almost always better off using dollar bills. But that doesn’t mean 1x points earning is a bad idea, it’s just a bad idea for domestic economy travel. If you only use your UR points to fly J/F and stay at 5 star hotels, then the CSP is the best card ever. If you instead only fly to Wichita and stay at the Hampton Inn, then not so much.

  12. Don’t listen to these nit pickers MP! Thanks to you, MMS and a few other BA blogs I just booked my families first vacation via UR points to the new Hyatt Andaz Maui. The only reason we will be staying there thanks to your guidance (1 CSP, 2x Ink, 1 United Explorer, and 1 Hyatt Visa). THANK YOU!!!!

  13. Bails, totally agree and in a perfect world you don’t have just one card – you have more than one to maximize both on the earning and redeeming side. I think you have a good system in place!
    ABC, cash may be king, but miles and points are the queen. Best to have both. 😉
    David, I can do that no problem. Coming soon…
    William totally agree, it all depends on how you want to use your points. If I could only have one, or had to choose the best, CSP wins no question for me. However, like I said in the post, if most of your redemptions are for economy domestic tickets then a card like the Barclay Arrival card may be the best choice for you (but again, hopefully you have both to diversify options).
    Becky, what fun is it if there can’t be a best? 😉 That said, a best for one isn’t necessarily the best for all. I think having both and diversifying is actually the best…sounds like you do just that!
    Misty, try this post at Travel Sort.
    http://travelsort.com/blog/should-you-use-chase-ultimate-rewards-points-to-book-korean-air-skypass-awards
    Alon, very true, though if that is how you mainly use UR points you could do better with a different card.
    Fishing4Deals, absolutely.
    Dbest, for sure. I think it is the best overall card because if you do fly to Wichita, you can still just use 5,000 UR points to transfer to Hyatt and stay at the Hyatt Regency Wichita as a Category 1 Hyatt (which I have done). It is not the best card for every single person and every single situation, but I stand by it is the best overall travel card.
    Brian, I love nit picking! 😉 Rock on for getting your trip to Andaz Maui – phenomenal use of 22k Hyatt points per night (would be 50,000+ points otherwise). 😉 Have a great trip!

  14. I don’t have an arrival card, but I am adding to my next churn. As a leisure traveler, using points cuts into my barely earned status, so something that helps me buy revenue tickets is key. I’m only using points for first class and for the wife’s tickets, otherwise I’m going to be paying.

    • Scott, we got it on my husband’s applications last month. I think it is a great card to have in your collection. 🙂

  15. The gaping hole in your analysis is that when redeeming the Barlcays points you are STILL earning miles on the flights or hotel stay. Consider a bargain coast to coast RT flight for $200 which you negate with 20,000 Barclays points. You will also earn 5,000 miles from the flights, which, according to your post can be worth 3 cents/mile, or $150. This means the that 20,000 points are worth $350 (200+150) or 1.75 cents-per-point.

    Now you also get a 10% bonus when redeeming the points, ie. 2,000, which we have established are worth $35.

    So you redeem $200 worth of points, and by doing so you not only get the free flight, you also get  $150 in miles and $35 in bonus points. Oh and don’t forget that you still get 2x back when you actually spend the $200 on your Barclay card  to book the flight, ie. 400 points, which are worth $7.

    Overall, when you redeem you 20k points you get the free flight and 150+35+7 = $192 of value in various combinations

    And of course to get earn 20k points you only have to spend $10k (since it’s 2x on ALL purchases) – this earns you $200+$192, or 3.92x on everything

    Isn’t this the most amazing deal there is?

    • Cogswell, very true. In the case where you can get flights at that price that absolutely makes sense to do it that way! In that particular case, that is the best choice. 😉

  16. For domestic flyers, consider the value of Southwest points. They’re worth 1.7-1.9 cents each toward Wanna Get Away (cheaper) fares, and points bookings are fully refundable (unlike Southwest WGA revenue bookings). The flexibility is worth a lot to me, so I prefer 1 Southwest point to 2 cents (or even 2.2 cents) cash back. (Yes, there’s no change fee on Southwest revenue bookings, but the rules for reusing “ticketless travel” funds are much less flexible than for using points.)

  17. I agree chase cards are great and ur earning is also good. i currently have over 400k with chase with the different cards i have opened.

    On the other side I have the arrival card as well and think for 1x earning, and even some dining out where i could get 2x with the saphire I still use the arrival to get spendable points. In your example you break down 22k for the 400$ room. With the arrival i can spend 20k and get 40k points. I can then pay the room off and get another 4k back which should be enough to cover tax at 10%. So for the 20k in spend you get 440$ credit with arrival. The other benefit is you get the abillity to find deals on the stays, and get stay credit ( hyatt points) as you are paying cash. Then on top of that you also get tripit pro, which will text you of checkin times with southwest, gate changes, and even baggage claim numbers. This is a very nice feature with a 49$ value.

    A couple weeks ago I was in vegas and had the link for mgm properties with two nights at a good rate would give you two show tickets. I could have used 22k per night for a hyatt properties but instead it was 150$ for two nights at new york new york, and 240$ at mgm on the second two nights. So i get four show tickets and use the arrival to pay with 39k points and will get 3900 points back. All of which i earned on opening the card. My saphire or UR points are not as good of a value in this case. With the resort fees… The Internet was slow at both locations and I let them know. It was credited back on both bills so I did not have to pay that while there as well. Now if i was going to the maldives chase poinst would be better for 22k at a 700-1000$ a night property.

    I know many bloggers need to keep applications comming in so they will write articles about cards that are not always better. I read your blog often and hope that does not become the case. For instance no one writes about the pen fed gas visa. It gives you 5% back on all gas on the next month statement when you pay at the pump. I have been using is for years and think it is the best card for fuel. That is sad that no one mentions this card as there is not commission to the blogger. I am all for you making a comission when someone uses a link as you provide a service. When cards are compared they need a full comparrison to show when cards are useful.

    • Victor, totally agree there are situations where both could be the winner, and ideally one would have both. I think the pen fed is good for sure, but as a travel blog I don’t give much coverage to pure cash back cards (and wouldn’t rank that one as best travel card as was the topic of this particular post), but agree it is still worth a mention from time to time so thanks for the reminder. I post about lots of cards not in the affiliate network, so that would not stop me one way or the other.

  18. Thanks for another great post. Like others, I am still debating using the CSP, Amex SPG, or Arrival for every day spend. In my daydreams and head, I want to accrue points for J/F intl travel. In my real life, however, domestic travel in economy is the type of travel I’ll be taking much more frequently and the Arrival’s flexibility is great for that. With this great hobby, I think it’s easy to sometimes to get carried away and lose sight of what is a better short/mid term investment.

    • Connie, you have a fantastic trio of cards. Good job setting yourself up for success and setting realistic travel goals for your family!

    • Gary, love the SPG card and it would probably be my #2 or #3 personal card, but I think because of the 1x earning capability, the lack of something like the UR shopping portal, , and the lack of being useful with two of the two programs I find most rewarding (United and Hyatt), it isn’t in my #1 spot personally. Great card though and deserves to be a discussion of the “top personal rewards credit cards”, but just isn’t in my #1 spot.

  19. Great article! I got the Sapphire Preferred card a couple of months ago and have been wondering how to use the points. I quickly browsed through the Ultimate Rewards Mall, but hotels looked more expensive there than booking via an Expedia or other travel site. For spend, I like putting restaurants and travel on the Sapphire Preferred and everything else on my Starwood card (since I value Starwood points at 2.25+ cents per point).

  20. One thing I didn’t see mentioned is that if you combine this card with a Chase Freedom card, you can really rack up the points. With the Freedom 5% quarterly categories, you can get 5 points/$, which can then be transferred to the Sapphire Preferred card and then transferred 1:1 to a travel partner.

  21. I want to clarify because this is a pretty important point: is it being said, and is it true, that if I buy my airline tickets (United only) with the
    Barclay’s card, I can use earned points to pay and I will still get credit towards my Platinum Elite status? This doesn’t compute in my feeble brain. Basically with sufficient points I could pay for my entire ticket and still earn United points. What am I misunderstanding?

  22. @Rosanne, Barclay card says miles for points but in reality it is only cash back. You can’t redeem it as miles for any airlines. You cash it in. So if you had $200 or 20000 miles you redeem the $200 then you will use that money to buy the ticket. Therefore, the ticket it bought with cash and you get the miles of that ticket. Whereas, with CSP you buy with points and therefore do not get miles for that flight.

  23. I was wondering if someone can help me understand the star alliance united mileage. I will be flying to Japan quite often for business soon. I use a flight that is both ANA/United. Both are star alliance partners. If I transfer my CSP points to United Mileage can I move that to ANA via star alliance partnership? If I can’t transfer it I will buy the plane ticket as a United flight and not as an ANA flight ( even though you are still flying on the same ANA aircraft) so I can upgrade my flight with the mileage of the flights AND transfer points from my CSP and Freedom cards. How does this star alliance thing work? Personally I’d prefer ANA since it is more Asia oriented. Thanks for the help!

    • You can book via transferring your UR points to United then pick your Star Alliance partner of choice that is available, but your actual booking is with United.

  24. Thank you for all the information you have provided.
    I’m trying to decide between the Chase Saphire Preferred Card & The United MileagePlus.
    I need some explanation in regards to the Chase Saphire Preferred please,
    I have a friend who has the United Mileage plus, I was able to check out how the points redemption for flights work,
    so the United Card: I can redeem a 40,000 miles for a one way flight in economy class (the destination doesn’t matter), therefore using an 80,000 miles gets me a round trip in economy class.
    I would like to know that if I have a 40,000 point on the Chase Saphire Preferred, I can transfer them to the united program and become a 40,000 miles, and use them toward a one way ticket in economy class. If I understood that right?
    Also, Can I do the transfer points from Chase Saphire Preferred to United MileagePlus without having a United Card?
    Basically I’m trying to understand if the way of the redemption of the United Miles, is included in the Chase Saphire Preferred and has more.
    I appreciate your time and your help in advance 🙂
    Sarah Y.

    • Sarah, the short answer is the Sapphire Preferred points can be transferred into the United program at a 1:1 rate, so you can book anything with them that you can book with United miles since they are transferred into the United program. The Sapphire Preferred points can also be transferred to other programs, so you aren’t locked into just United. Hope that helps!

  25. Thank you Very much!!! 🙂
    one more question please, So I don’t need to have both cards to be able to transfer the Saphire Preferred Points to the United program, I can do so with having just the Saphire Preferred, correct?

  26. Thank you Very much for your answer! 🙂
    one more question please,
    do I need to have both cards to be able to do the transfer from Saphire Preferred to United Program ? or that could be done with having the Saphire Preferred?
    Thanks

  27. Did you know that you get the sign-up bonus twice? There is also a Mastercard version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. You just have to close your Visa card. This can be done during reconsideration. I love Chase!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *