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I’m a flight hacker and frequent traveler, and I’m always on the lookout for good credit card deals. Earlier this year, I set my sights on a round-trip flight to Istanbul, so I started looking for a card that would cover most of the cost of my trip.
It didn’t take me long to realize that the card I was looking for was the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, especially given its impressive welcome bonus at the time.
Nearly one year later, not only did that welcome bonus pay for my trip, but the card’s reward rates have made it my go-to for almost all of my daily expenses. Add in its unique 10 percent anniversary bonus and an annual $50 hotel credit (through Chase), and it’s easy to see why it quickly became one of my favorite rewards credit cards.
A great welcome bonus
When I applied, the Chase Sapphire Preferred was offering 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months when I signed up. The offer is now 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, but that’s still a great deal.
I had considered getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve® instead, but the $550 annual fee was too high for me — plus, I got a much better welcome bonus with the Sapphire Preferred than I would have with the Sapphire Reserve. Bankrate values 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points at $1,250 (when used to book travel through the Chase travel portal), and up to $2,000 if you take full advantage of Chase’s transfer partners. Even the baseline value was well over 10 times the $95 annual fee — too good an offer to let slip.
To get the welcome bonus, I needed to spend a minimum of $4,000 within the first three months. In my case, I usually spend around $800 on food and groceries every month, so I put all of those expenses on the card. This was a sensible choice since I earn 3X the points on dining and online grocery purchases.
No foreign transaction fees and other perks
I live an international life, splitting my time between Canada, the U.S. and Istanbul. I frequently travel to Asia, too. I find myself using my credit cards abroad all the time. That’s why I always travel with a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and the Sapphire Preferred fits the bill. The other benefits of the Sapphire Preferred — such as travel and purchase coverage and partner benefits with DoorDash and Lyft — make it more useful and more fun.
Transfer points to loyalty programs easily
One of the things I like most about the Sapphire Preferred is that it enables me to transfer my points to other loyalty programs, like Chase’s partner airlines and hotel chains, at a 1:1 rate. This allows me to get much more value out of my points.
When I redeem my points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, the most I can get is 1.25 cents apiece, which is pretty good. However, if I transfer them to a partner airline’s loyalty program, I will often get much more. For example, I can transfer my points to United Airlines’ MileagePlus and use them to pay for flights. When I do, I generally get a value of 2 or more cents per point — in line with Bankrate estimates that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth around 2 cents apiece toward transfer partner travel.
In my case, I booked a round trip from Houston to Istanbul in business class. The cheapest cash flight I could find cost $2,300, but I only spent 69,000 miles, plus $81.65 in taxes and fees. This means my points were worth over 3 cents each, making the welcome bonus worth over $3,000. I live for this type of deal.
Annual 10 percent bonus
With this benefit, I get 10 percent of my total spend back in points at the end of each year. If I spend $10,000 on my card throughout the year, I’ll get 1,000 bonus points. That’s an additional 10 percent bonus I wouldn’t earn with any other card — and one more perk that helps the Chase Sapphire Preferred pay for itself.
The bottom line
The welcome bonus alone makes the Sapphire Preferred well worth the annual fee. I’ve already accumulated more than 20,000 points this year from my everyday spending, plus some extra points I’ve earned on a few large purchases. By the end of the year, I’ll likely earn about $1,000 in rewards just by using my card.
While the Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t offer premium travel benefits like airport lounge access, the money I save using the card easily offsets these small costs. As I wait for my annual 10 percent points bonus and prepare to spend the rest of the points I already have, I can’t help but feel that this is one of the smartest financial moves I’ve made in some time.