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Points and Miles

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Review: One of the Most Approachable, Easy-to-Use Travel Cards

Even the most advanced points and miles hobbyists will find some use out of this entry-level travel rewards card. 

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Of the 26 credit cards in my possession (yes, 26—it’s possible I take points and miles too seriously), one of the cards I use most often is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Just before I sat down to write this article, I used it to order food via DoorDash, pay my Netflix bill, and book a hotel via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Which is all to say: Even the most advanced points and miles hobbyists will find some use out of this entry-level travel rewards card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a low annual fee of $95, a lucrative rewards structure, and a bevy of benefits that help the card pay for itself. This makes it one of the most approachable and easy-to-use travel credit cards available right now. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to get started with points and miles for travel—and even if you don’t travel at all. Read on for a full Chase Sapphire Preferred review, with information on its perks and ways to spend your accumulated points.

Why it’s worth it

My friends often ask me, “What’s the best starter credit card for travel rewards?” Without fail, I name the Chase Sapphire Preferred as a perfect card for points and miles beginners. Its varied spending categories make it easy to use both at home and abroad, especially because it does not charge foreign transaction fees and, as a Visa card, it’s widely accepted around the world.

The card has an annual fee of $95, but this fee can be offset by the card’s annual travel credit: $50 credited back to your account when you use the card to book a hotel stay through the Chase travel portal. So by booking a night at a hotel worth at least $50, you’re effectively reducing the card’s annual fee to $45. From there, the card’s other benefits are easily worth $45: trip cancellation and delay insurance, delayed or lost baggage insurance, a complimentary DoorDash DashPass membership, and more—not to mention the multiple points you earn per dollar on various types of spending.

However, other credit cards on the market have higher earning rates for the same spending categories. For example, I could use the Chase Sapphire Preferred to earn three points per dollar at restaurants, but more often, I use my American Express Gold Card to earn four points per dollar while dining out, and stick to the Preferred for delivery. If you’re someone with multiple travel credit cards, you might find the Sapphire Preferred somewhat lacking when it comes to earning points on everyday spending—for newcomers, though, it’s an easy way to get your points strategy started.

Another card some travelers might get more mileage out of: a direct competitor like the CapitalOne Venture Rewards Credit Card. It also has an annual fee of $95, but offers a $100 credit for Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck and comes with complimentary access to Capital One Lounges. The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn't offer lounge access, nor does it come with a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Still, the Sapphire Preferred is a valuable card for many people for its ease of use. Not a lot of cards match the breadth of this one’s rewards structure, making it a perfect starter card for people who want to earn travel rewards without thinking too much about it.

Sapphire Preferred benefits and perks

When it comes to perks, the Sapphire Preferred’s fancier sibling, the Sapphire Reserve, has this entry-level card beat. The Reserve comes with access to Priority Pass airport lounges, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit, the infamous $300 travel credit, and more. But the Sapphire Preferred is no slouch either. It’s rewarding enough for folks who need an introduction to the benefits of travel rewards cards.

The Sapphire Preferred’s annual $50 travel credit kicks in whenever you book a hotel stay through the Chase travel portal. There’s no minimum spending required, so you could even book a hotel night worth $50 exactly and the credit would still work.

This card is issued as a Visa Signature card, which means it comes with an array of travel and purchase protection coverage. For example, you can be reimbursed for lost or delayed luggage, or delayed flights. If you rent a car on your travels, the card offers primary collision damage waiver coverage too. Luckily, I haven’t had to use these benefits yet, but they offer some peace of mind in case of emergencies.

The Sapphire Preferred also comes with some complimentary memberships: a DoorDash DashPass membership, valid through December 31, 2024, which waives all delivery fees and reduces service fees on eligible DoorDash orders; and a six-month Instacart+ membership, with enrollment required by July 31, 2024, which similarly waives delivery fees and reduces service fees on eligible Instacart orders. While I prefer to do my own grocery shopping in-person, I’ve abused the DashPass benefit almost every week. If you love ordering in when you’re home, these benefits could be valuable enough to offset more of the card’s annual fee.

And finally, the Chase Sapphire Preferred does not charge foreign transaction fees, so you’ll still earn points with this card whenever you use it abroad. It’s been handy for me to have whenever I travel because most places accept Visa cards.

Current welcome offer

Like many travel credit cards, the Sapphire Preferred comes with a hefty sign-up bonus, gained by spending a certain amount on the card within a few months of getting it. (Be sure to pay off your balances in full each month—otherwise, the interest accrued effectively negates the benefits and rewards you earn, since the interest is what you “pay” for them.) 

For a limited time, Chase is offering 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. Oftentimes, the sign-up bonus is only 60,000 points, so now is an especially good time to pick up the card.

How to earn points

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns multiple points in a variety of spending categories, which makes it a flexible card that can meet the needs of many types of people. Let’s break them down. 

First, the Sapphire Preferred earns five points per dollar spent on all purchases made through the Chase travel portal. This is the card’s most lucrative spending category. Personally, I only ever use the Chase portal to take advantage of the annual $50 hotel credit; last year, I put it toward an airport hotel for a long layover. Otherwise, I try to book directly with airlines and hotels so I can earn miles and points for my flights and stays.

That said, you can still use this card for travel spending. The Sapphire Preferred still earns two points per dollar spent on travel not purchased through Chase. For this card, “travel” has a generous definition: It includes airfare and hotel bookings, but also Airbnbs, car rentals, cruises, taxis—even parking garage fees. Two points per dollar isn’t the most lucrative earning rate (I use my American Express Platinum Card to earn five points per dollar spent on airfare instead), but the broadness of what counts as “travel” for the Sapphire Preferred can more than make up for it.

This card’s other spending categories are more competitive: You earn three points per dollar spent on dining worldwide (including eligible delivery services and takeout); on streaming services (Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, and Apple Music all count); and on online grocery stores (this excludes Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs, but includes meal kit delivery services). So even when you’re not on the road, the Sapphire Preferred can still earn points that could be redeemed for future travel.

Currently, there’s also a unique spending category for the card: You’ll earn five points per dollar spent on qualifying Lyft rides through March 2025. This promotion may or may not be extended, so if you’re a frequent Lyft user, this card is worth considering.

And finally, the Sapphire Preferred has one extra special benefit to it: the 10 percent anniversary points bonus. Every year, on your account’s anniversary, you’ll get a number of bonus points equal to 10 percent of the total amount of points you earned in the past 12 months. For example, if you spent $30,000 on the card in one year and earned 30,000 points, you’d get another 3,000 points simply for paying your annual fee and keeping the card for another year. 

How to spend/redeem points

You can easily spend your points directly through Chase’s travel portal; the sign-up bonus of 80,000 points alone is worth $1,000 if you book flights, hotels, or rental cars via Chase. When you’re ready to make a redemption, however, I recommend transferring your points to one of Chase’s many airline and hotel partners. 

For example, even just 55,000 points transferred to Air France could get you a one-way business class flight from New York to Paris—a ticket that could cost upwards of $5,000 if you paid for it in cash. This is the golden rule of points and miles: It takes a little time and research to find the right airlines and the right flights for you, but converting points into airline miles in this way will almost always get you more bang for your buck.

As for me, I combined my bonus points with points earned through spending at restaurants last year, transferred them to Singapore Airlines, and booked a swanky business class flight from New York to Manila via Singapore. The first part of my ticket was the nonstop flight from JFK to Changi—the longest flight in the world, clocking in at 9,537 miles and almost 19 hours in flight, booked for 99,000 points transferred from Chase to Singapore Airlines.

What I wish I knew before signing up

If you’re a newbie to points and miles, I definitely recommend picking up your very own Chase Sapphire Preferred. It’s a learner-friendly card and a good stepping stone to the rest of the travel credit cards universe. 

If you’ve already got a couple of cards in your wallet, you should consider the Sapphire Preferred if it can cover some gaps in your points strategy. For example, do you have something that earns three points per dollar on Disney+ or Hulu?

But if you’re keen on maximizing your points per dollar spent and ready to build a more comprehensive card portfolio, you might be better served by the Chase Sapphire Reserve, or by card combinations like the Amex Gold and the Amex Platinum.

Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.