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With the preponderance of excellent travel credit card offers currently available, you might be thinking about applying for a new card. If you were to get just a single travel credit card right now, though, it should be the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The Ultimate Rewards points it earns are more versatile than almost any other rewards currency out there, including most airline miles and hotel points. Throw in its excellent travel and purchase protections, and a few other value-added perks, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred will be the only travel credit card you need as you get out into the world again.
The value of Ultimate Rewards points
The term “travel rewards” usually means airline miles or hotel points. However, the Ultimate Rewards points you can earn with the Chase Sapphire Preferred are another type of travel rewards currency, and they can be much more useful. That’s because instead of only being able to redeem them for award tickets on a single airline or free nights with just one hotel chain, you can use Ultimate Rewards points in a variety of interesting ways, both travel-related and otherwise.
First and foremost is simply to cash them in for travel bookings—including flights, hotels, cruises, and vacation rentals—directly through the Chase travel portal. Rather than having to search for and find limited award availability, as you would with individual airline or hotel programs, using Chase points this way is just like paying for a trip. Only you’re using points instead of cash.
Thanks to Chase’s “Pay Yourself Back” feature, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders can redeem their points now through June 30, 2022, at the same 1.25-cent rate for purchases at Airbnb, as well as for donations to various charities.
Otherwise, you can always redeem Ultimate Rewards points for statement credits against other purchases at one cent apiece, sort of like cash back. Airline miles and hotel points, on the other hand, tend to yield much lower values when redeemed for things other than travel.
More partners, more options
What makes Ultimate Rewards points even more special is that you can also convert them into various airline frequent-flier miles or hotel points on a 1:1 basis, and usually instantaneously (though transfers might take up to a few business days). The current partners include:
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- World of Hyatt
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
The beauty of transferable points is that they expand your redemption options dramatically. You can use a specific airline’s miles for tickets on its own flights as well as those of partners. But because you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to 11 airlines, you can take advantage of all their partners as well. Having multiple hotel options also means more places to redeem points and save money on nightly rates, too.
And while it might take a little more work to leverage British Airways Executive Club Avios for American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights, or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points for Delta awards, that shouldn’t put you off. Plus, with three major U.S. airline partners—JetBlue, Southwest, and United—you should be able to find plenty of ways to redeem points easily for domestic travel and beyond.
Another advantage to transferable points? Rather than having to spend years being loyal to an individual airline or hotel group, which could change its rewards chart at any time and raise its points prices, you can accrue transferable points and then send them to the specific partner program with the best options for you when it comes time to redeem. Basically, transferable points free you from the loyalty hamster wheel, and insulate you against any unexpected changes a single airline or hotel company might make to its rewards program.
Lucrative earning rates
Many airline credit cards earn multiple miles per dollar on purchases specifically from the affiliated carrier, but just one mile per dollar on most other purchases. Likewise, hotel credit cards tend to earn a lot of points on stays, but fewer points on other purchases, although some also offer bonus earning in other categories such as gas stations or grocery stores.
Part of what makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred unique, though, is its earning structure as of August 16, 2021. It now accrues..
- Five points per dollar on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Three points per dollar (up from two) on dining
- Three points per dollar on select streaming services—including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, Sling, Vudu, Fubo TV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube TV
- Three points per dollar online grocery purchases, except for Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs
- Two points per dollar on travel not booked through Chase
- One point per dollar on other purchases
The number of merchants classified within its bonus categories is truly staggering, so you can really ramp up your earning with little effort.
Unparalleled travel protections
Although they don’t get much attention, some of the most valuable benefits any credit card can offer are travel insurance and purchase protection. While many other credit cards have cut back on these benefits recently, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is such an ideal travel credit card precisely because it continues to offer one of the most comprehensive compendiums of travel protections of any rewards credit card.
Among the ones that set it apart from the pack are trip interruption and cancellation insurance of up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip and primary auto rental insurance for theft or damage to a rental vehicle, so you can steer clear of a rental agency’s expensive policies. With trip delay insurance, if your common carrier (e.g., an airline) is late by more than six hours, you can claim up to $500 for expenses like meals and lodging. Lost luggage is covered up to $3,000 per person, and if your bags are delayed six hours or more, you might be eligible for up to $100 per day for as many as five days to cover things like replacement clothes and toiletries.
Finally, the card’s purchase protection lasts up to 120 days after purchase and will cover up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account if your item is damaged or stolen. That won’t cover major buys, but it will still be sufficient for most travelers’ needs.
Savings and statement credits
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great choice for international travel, too, since it waives foreign transaction fees that usually amount to two or three percent of each transaction.
Among the other benefits coming into play as of August 16, 2021, the card will now offer a $50 annual credit on hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards. (New cardmembers can earn this credit immediately, while existing cardmembers will start earning this after their next card anniversary.) Each year on the anniversary of opening their account, cardholders will now earn bonus points equivalent to 10 percent of the total purchases they made the previous year, too.
Downsides and shortcomings
There’s no doubt that the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a strong choice for the average traveler. That said, if you’re loyal to one particular airline or hotel, you might miss out on certain benefits.
For example, many airline credit cards, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, extend money- and time-saving day-of-travel benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding, and in-flight discounts (terms apply). Some, like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, even include lounge access. If you fly with one particular airline more than any other but do not have elite status, you might want to consider getting one of its cobranded credit cards instead of the Chase Sapphire Preferred to enjoy these elite-like benefits.
In the same way, many hotel credit cards, including the World of Hyatt Credit Card, actually offer automatic elite status as one of their benefits, so you might receive upgrades and other conveniences like free premium Wi-Fi and late checkout during stays just for being a cardholder. That obviously wouldn’t be the case with just the Chase Sapphire Preferred in your wallet.
Unlike some of its main competitors, including the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (which charges the same $95 annual fee as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, incidentally), the Sapphire Preferred does not include statement credits toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applications, either.
Finally, if it’s VIP treatment you’re after, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® extends a lot of premium perks, like the ability to enroll in Priority Pass Select for access to over 1,200 airport lounges and $300 in annual travel statement credits that help offset its $550 annual fee.
In short, if you’re looking for perks with one particular airline or hotel chain, you might be better off with their cobranded cards. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred will still be a better choice for folks who play the field more or who already earn elite status through their usual travel activity so they can enjoy these types of perks on their own.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is among the best travel rewards credit cards ever created, and if you can only choose one, this should be it. Paired with excellent travel protections and other valuable perks, applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred right now is the best move you can make to stock up on travel rewards for your next trip.
While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available. This article was originally published June 25, 2021, and updated in August 2021, October 2021, and again on April 27, 2022.