The best travel credit card for beginners

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Chase Sapphire Preferred card on patterned background


To pursue; Well-informed person


  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great entry-level card if you’re new to credit card rewards.
  • You can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening, worth $1,440 based on Insider ratings.
  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card pairs well with other cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points.
  • Read Insider’s guide to the best rewards credit cards.

It may seem strange to attach the “best” title to a card that is outperformed by other cards in the same family in virtually every significant way.

Yes, the bonus points the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card earns on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, dining and all other travel purchases are dwarfed by the 5 total points of $550 per year from Chase Sapphire Reserve ® on air travel and 10x points on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards (after earning the $300 travel credit) and 3x points on all other travel and dining purchases.

Yes, the 1.25 cents per point value you’ll earn with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card when you book travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal or redeem through Pay Yourself Back can’t match the mighty 1.5 cents per reserve point.

But here I am, telling you that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best travel credit card for people new to points and miles.

We focus here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and spend only what you can afford.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers great value

ordinary APR

16.24% – 23.24% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to excellent

ordinary APR

16.24% – 23.24% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to excellent

More information

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. That’s $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits like a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, and more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 to travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back(SM), your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select and rotating categories
  • Count on trip cancellation/interruption insurance, car rental collision damage waiver, lost luggage insurance and more.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card has one big advantage: it’s cheap. At $95 a year, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is a premium card packed with tons of potential at an entry-level price. Plus, it actually offers a higher sign-up bonus than Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, you can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. With Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the signup offer has the same minimum spend requirement in the first three months, but you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

That small fee grants access to a host of impressive benefits for such an inexpensive card including, but not limited to, primary car rental insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and trip delay reimbursement. Most recently, the card added a 10% anniversary point bonus and up to $50 in credit toward hotels booked through Chase.

In addition, the card earns Ultimate Rewards points, which are one of the main currencies in the world of points and miles. Its value, like most other banking points, is enhanced by its flexibility: You can transfer the Ultimate Rewards points in your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card account to various travel partner loyalty programs.

Or, as mentioned above, you can use those points to book travel through Chase’s native booking portal. By doing so, your points are worth 1.25 cents each, providing a huge discount compared to booking direct cash.

The Sapphire Preferred earns flex points, which can be very valuable

If you’re new to booking travel with points and miles, you should know that flexible currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards points are great because you have so many options for using them.

Many newcomers to the world of points and miles begin their journey by identifying an airline or hotel program they use frequently and then apply for that specific airline or hotel’s co-branded credit card, thinking those cards would provide significant value. . They’re not necessarily wrong, but points and miles earned through co-branded cards are generally less valuable than transferable points (although, as with most things to do with credit rewards, that measure is somewhat subjective).

Flex points are more valuable because when you earn points with a specific program, like Southwest Rapid Rewards, for example, they typically can’t be moved or redeemed elsewhere. There are, of course, some exceptions to this. However, banking points, like those earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, offer much more flexibility, making them more valuable by nature.

For example, let’s say I earn 80,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points on a Southwest credit card. I can find some great deals, redeeming those points for rates that would have otherwise cost quite a bit of cash. But if I’m determined to keep just a few credit cards in my portfolio, those points may come with a moderately high opportunity cost.

Instead, let’s say I earn 80,000 points on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card. If I need to fly on a route served by Southwest that costs, say, 15,000 Rapid Rewards points, I can transfer my Chase points directly to Southwest to cover the cost. Now, I have 65,000 points left over to use however I want. I could use my remaining points for different hotel or airline program transfers or reservations, depending on where my travels take me, or even for non-travel redemptions.

This is how I normally use my points, transferring between various travel partners as the need arises.

The Sapphire Preferred is easy to combine with other Chase cards

Another reason I like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is that it works great with other cards to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

In addition to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, I also have the Chase Freedom® card

(no longer available to new applicants), which offers 5% cash back (x5 points) on quarterly rotating categories, up to $1,500 each quarter I activate, as well as Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which earns me at least 1 .5% cash (1.5x points) on my purchases.

Chase allows cardholders to combine points from their accounts. So when my points post to each of my accounts each month, I transfer them to my Chase Sapphire Preferred® card account.

I’ll use my Chase Sapphire Preferred® card for food and travel purchases, my Chase Freedom® card for those specific rotating categories, and my Chase Freedom Unlimited® for everything else. This ensures that, at a minimum, I will always earn 1.5x points on every purchase, sometimes more, and those points will be put to good use when they are eventually transferred to my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card account.

One day I’ll probably end up buying the Reserve

I’ll likely upgrade to Reserve at some point in the future. Because Chase currently requires four years to pass before a cardmember is eligible for another Sapphire product sign-up bonus, I will simply upgrade to Chase Sapphire Reserve® instead of closing my Chase Sapphire Preferred® card account entirely.

Due to my travel habits, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® would probably have given me more value than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. But I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t know if I’d figure out how to easily navigate points transfers and other loyalty complexities. I didn’t know if I would travel enough to take full advantage of all the benefits of Chase Sapphire Reserve®. I now know that I have a decent handle on the big strokes of the world of points and miles.

I also know that because I chose to start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, it was an affordable education. Soon I will have the premium sibling of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, but for now, I will enjoy and continue to get great value from my Chase Sapphire Preferred® card.

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