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This may make travel credit card rewards believers of us all.
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Introducing . . . Eric Rosen, AFAR’s new credit card and loyalty expert. The former managing editor of The Points Guy, Eric continues not only to write about points and miles but also uses them to book his own travels all over the world.
Since it launched back in 2009, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has been one of the most popular travel rewards credit cards available. That’s thanks to the fact that the Ultimate Rewards points it earns are worth 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed for bookings through the Chase travel portal, but are also transferable to 13 airline and hotel partners—including biggies like Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, and Marriott Bonvoy.
Right now, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is also offering new applicants its highest sign-up bonus ever—up to 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases with the card in the first three months from account opening, plus up to $50 in statement credits toward groceries in the first year. Considering the card’s annual fee is just $95, that makes this one of the best travel credit card deals around.
Getting a new travel rewards credit card might not seem like a top priority at the moment, given the decline in travel through COVID-19 and the rising cost of things like groceries and setting up a home office. But the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers the opportunity to earn points on the things you buy every day and put them toward the promise of future travel. Here are the basics:
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Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This card’s sign-up bonus is usually only 60,000 points with the same spending requirements. Plus, you can get up to $50 in statement credits toward grocery purchases in the first year.
Earning: The card earns two points per dollar on dining, including at restaurants and on takeout and delivery, as well as on a broad range of travel purchases like airline tickets, hotel reservations, and even taxis, rideshares, and parking. Now through March 2022, cardholders can also register to earn five points per dollar on Lyft rides. They earn one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Other benefits: The card waives foreign transaction fees, which makes it an excellent choice for spending outside the U.S., and provides a comprehensive slate of travel protections, including trip cancellation and interruption coverage, baggage delay and loss protection if your luggage goes missing, and primary rental car insurance, among others. Through Chase’s partnership with DoorDash, Sapphire Preferred cardholders qualify for at least a year of complimentary DashPass membership, after activating by December 31, 2021, which can save them an average of $4 to $5 per order on food deliveries.
Annual fee: $95 per year.
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The chance to earn 80,000 bonus points sounds great, but the real question is: What can those points get you? Folks with the Chase Sapphire Preferred can redeem their Ultimate Rewards points in a number of ways.
Travel, of course: The first is for travel bookings, such as flights, hotels stays, and even cruises among other options, made directly through the Chase portal. Used this way, points are worth 1.25 cents apiece.
Loyalty points and miles: What makes Ultimate Rewards points even more special, though, is that they can be transferred to 13 airline frequent-flier and hotel points programs. These partners include British Airways Executive Club, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, World of Hyatt, and IHG Rewards Club, among others. That makes Ultimate Rewards points extra versatile since cardholders can rack up points on everyday spending then convert them into points or miles with the partner program they choose when they need them for a specific redemption.
Retail: Now through April 30, 2021, cardholders can redeem their points at a rate of 1.25 cents apiece for eligible purchases made within the past 90 days through Chase’s “Pay Yourself Back” feature. There are also a few other ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points, including toward Amazon and Apple purchases, gift cards at over 150 merchants, including Best Buy and Starbucks, and for cash back as statement credits or deposited into a U.S. checking or savings account, but you don’t tend to get as great a value from using your points in these ways.
Now might not seem like the best moment to apply for a new rewards credit card given all the COVID-related travel restrictions still in place and the fact that many are keeping a careful eye on their finances. However, those same circumstances may actually make it the perfect time to apply for this offer.
Most significantly, the sign-up bonus is a full 20,000 points more than it usually proffers, all for the same minimum-spending requirement the card normally carries. Those 80,000 bonus points are worth up to $1,000 toward travel purchases made through Chase, but cardholders can reap even more value from their points by redeeming them for flights or nights with the Ultimate Rewards program’s travel transfer partners. Aside from the initial bonus, however, cardholders can continue to accrue points quickly thanks to the card’s various bonus earning categories, including travel and dining. Plus, its $95 annual fee is more reasonable than that charged by many of its direct competitors, such as the American Express® Gold Card, whose annual fee is $250 (see rates and fees).
Finally, while the travel slowdown continues, new cardholders will have some breathing room to hit their bonus-qualifying spending and to rake in points on everyday spending so that when they are ready to hit the road again at some point, they will have a healthy stash of Ultimate Rewards to redeem for trips.
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 on September 15, 2020, and was updated in March 2021.
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