Get the classic Chase Sapphire Preferred travel credit card with a 60,000-point bonus

Benji Stawski, CNN Underscored
Fri February 7, 2020

Story highlights

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a favorite of frequent flyer mileage collectors.
  • New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first 3 months.
  • The card's bonus categories aren't right for everyone, but appeal to those with major travel and dining expenses.

CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. Sometimes we receive a commission through The Points Guy affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.

Our quick take: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is ideal for people just getting started with travel rewards. It comes with a great welcome bonus, offers a solid return on travel and dining purchases and earns some of the most valuable points around.

Pros:

  • Earn 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases.
  • Welcome bonus worth at least $750 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Points can be redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point, or transferred to any of Chase's 13 airline and hotel partners.
  • Strong travel and shopping protections.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Cons:

  • $95 annual fee that isn't waived for he first year.
  • No introductory rate on purchases or balance transfers.
  • No Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit.

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Best for: People with larger than average travel and/or dining expenses who want basic transferable travel points.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our "Best credit cards of 2020."

Digging into the Chase Sapphire Preferred

If you've done any research on credit cards, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred may sound familiar. At over 10 years old, it's practically the granddaddy of travel rewards credit cards.

The Sapphire Preferred offers 2 points per dollar on all travel and dining purchases, 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides, discounts on DoorDash food delivery orders, strong travel protections and a generous 60,000-point sign-up bonus — all for a reasonable $95 annual fee. Plus, the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn with this card are among the most valuable points around.

But is that enough for the card to justify a spot in your wallet? The credit card market has evolved immensely since the Chase Sapphire Preferred was first introduced. Other cards now offer bonus points or cash back in those same travel and dining categories — in some cases at higher rates — as well as other notable benefits like annual travel credits and airport lounge access. The key difference, however, is that those other cards are typically accompanied by higher annual fees. So if you aren't ready to shell out a lot of money for an expensive credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is an excellent starting point.

Advantages of the Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred currently offers new cardholders 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That's 10,000 more points than the bonus offered on the Sapphire Preferred's big brother, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which carries a $550 annual fee.

Points earned with the card can be redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point, so you're guaranteed at least $750 in travel right off the bat, and potentially much more if you take some time and effort to maximize Chase's 13 airline and hotel partners. In fact, the Ultimate Rewards program features some of the best transfer partners, including United Airlines, Southwest and Hyatt Hotels. Here's a complete list of Chase's 13 partners, all of which transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio (meaning for every 1,000 Chase points, you'll get 1,000 airline or hotel points or miles when you transfer them):

The reason you'd want to transfer Ultimate Rewards points instead of redeeming them through the Chase travel portal is because airlines and hotels sometimes sell travel for different rates depending on whether you're paying in cash or points. Even with many airlines and hotel chains shifting to dynamic-pricing frequent flyer systems, award redemption rates around high-demand dates and holidays often don't get the same mark-ups as the cash rates. There are also many hidden gems when booking award flights on partner airlines, particularly in premium cabins. A little bit of research and due diligence can definitely save you a lot of money (or points) in the long run.

Beyond the sign-up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining worldwide and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. It should be easy to quickly score plenty of points since Chase defines both of these popular categories very broadly. "Travel" includes purchases like cruises, mass transit, tolls, parking and even rideshares, while "dining" includes coffee shops, bars, vending machines and most food delivery services.

There's one exception to the travel bonus category, but it's a positive one. Thanks to a new partnership with Lyft, through March 2022, Sapphire Preferred cardholders will earn 3 additional points per dollar on Lyft rides for a whopping total of 5 points per dollar.

Other key benefits of the card include discounts on DoorDash food delivery orders via a complimentary DashPass membership (valid through at least Dec. 31, 2021) and a comprehensive suite of purchase and travel protections. This includes protecting your new purchases against damage or theft, an additional year of coverage on eligible purchases with a manufacturer's warranty of three years of less, coverage of up to $10,000 in the event your trip gets delayed or canceled, reimbursement for delayed or lost baggage and, most notably, primary rental car coverage.

What does "primary rental car coverage" mean? Whenever you use your card to pay for a car rental, you can safely decline the collision damage waiver offered by the rental company — which is usually expensive — and submit the claim directly to Chase instead if you have an accident with your rental car. The car rental coverage that's offered by other credit cards is usually secondary, meaning you have to look to your own auto policy first in the event of an accident. With the Sapphire Preferred, you can skip that step and avoid potentially seeing your auto premiums increase as a result of a claim.

To top it all off, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has no foreign transaction fees, so you can safely use it and earn rewards when traveling overseas. Other credit cards can charge 3% to 5% in fees for foreign transactions, so having this benefit can make a big difference to international travelers.

Disadvantages of the Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn't offer the same luxury travel perks— like airline lounge access and travel credits — as the Chase Sapphire Reserve. That's expected considering the annual fee is also a lot lower, but worth noting given the other similarities between the two cards.

It's also worth pointing out that although the Sapphire Preferred's $95 annual fee is fairly standard among mid-tier travel credit cards, many other cards in this category waive their annual fee in the first year. On the flip side, the Sapphire Preferred does have a slightly higher sign-up bonus than most other cards.

While the 2x bonus categories cover a wide range of purchases, keep in mind there are cards like the Citi® Double Cash Card that earn 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off — and come with no annual fee at all. So if it's straight cash-back you're after, you might be better off with another card. But if you spend a lot on dining and travel — particularly on Lyft rides — and could use the travel and shopping protections, you're going to come out ahead with Sapphire Preferred. Even if you don't utilize the Ultimate Rewards program's transfer partners, you're getting at least 2.5% back toward travel on all your travel and dining purchases, and 6.25% back on Lyft rides. Just don't plan to carry a balance with the card, as there's no introductory interest rate on purchases or balance transfers.

The one other downside of the CSP pertains to the application process, and it applies to all Chase credit cards. Chase has an unpublished "5/24" rule, which means if you've gotten five or more credit cards across all banks in the previous 24 months, your application for a new card from Chase will be automatically denied. Given this restriction, it's important to time your credit card applications and apply for the Sapphire Preferred early on.

Stacking up the Chase Sapphire Preferred to our benchmark card

CNN Underscored has chosen the Citi Double Cash card as our current "benchmark" credit card. That doesn't mean it's the best credit card on the market — rather, we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they're worse.

Here's how the Chase Sapphire Preferred scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that is better than our benchmark. Red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark, and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.

When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. For each criterion, we indicate whether the card is better or worse than our benchmark card, and in what way it differs. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.

Other credit cards similar to the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Aside from the Sapphire Preferred's big brother, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the closest comparison to the Sapphire Preferred would be the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. It has the same $95 annual fee as the Sapphire Preferred, but it's waived in the first year and comes with a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit worth up to $100 that helps offset it. It has a smaller sign-up bonus of just 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, but it earns more rewards on everyday spending — a flat 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. However, Capital One miles are less valuable, as they're only worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed toward travel. They can also transfer to Capital One's airline and hotel partnersm but at ratios of 2-to-1 and 2-to-1.5, and the variety of partners isn't as exciting. You can find more details in our complete review of the Capital One Venture card.

American Express fields the American Express® Green Card, which was recently refreshed and now offers 3 points per dollar on all travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. It also features an up to $100 annual CLEAR credit for expedited airport security, and up to $100 in annual LoungeBuddy credits for purchasing airport lounge access. However, these additional perks come at a cost. The Amex Green has a higher price tag of $150 a year, and comes with a lower welcome bonus of just 30,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Should you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred?

Deciding whether you should apply for a credit card is not an easy decision, especially if it's your first card. Whether the Chase Sapphire Preferred makes sense for you ultimately depends on what you spend the majority of your money on, and what you hope to get in return.

Given its bonus categories, the Sapphire Preferred is ideal for those who spend a significant amount of money on travel and dining. Likewise, while you don't need to be loyal to a particular airline or hotel chain, you do need to actually travel (or, at least want to travel more) to maximize the card's benefits and redemption opportunities. While you can get decent value from your points with the card's fixed-value redemption option, the CSP unlocks access to some of the best transfer partners around, so it's also an excellent opportunity to dip your toes in the world of travel rewards and grow your knowledge on loyalty programs.

If cash back sounds more appealing to you, a card like the Citi Double Cash could make more sense. You'll also want to look elsewhere if you're chasing more luxurious travel perks like airport lounge access — the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve version of this card is a great alternative for that, or The Platinum Card® from American Express is also a popular option.

In the end, regardless of which redemption option you pick, the Chase Sapphire Preferred's 60,000-point sign-up bonus is more than sufficient to book your first award trip. So consider whether the card fits your needs, and as always, be sure to pay your balance in full each month to avoid high interest rates.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our "Best credit cards of 2020."

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.