People are often intrigued when they find out about using points and miles for travel, especially when it comes to credit cards.
Without fail, there’s one question that gets asked again and again.
What’s your favorite credit card to earn points for travel?
I get it. People understand you can earn points and miles with a travel rewards credit card, but want the BEST one.
Beginners might even feel hesitant about applying for too many credit cards. Instead, they’re looking for 1 or 2 multi-purpose travel cards, particularly as they get started with miles and points.
The best practice for applying for travel rewards credit cards is to choose a card to help you meet a specific travel goal, especially in the beginning.
Everyone’s travel goals are different so giving a blanket recommendation about a travel rewards credit card is not as simple as it seems.
The hesitation when the above question gets asked is because of the word “favorite.” What makes a travel rewards credit card a “favorite” is subjective.
Someone who lives near an airport with Southwest flights and flies Southwest often may choose their Southwest credit card to be their favorite.
While another person who mainly travels internationally may have no need for a Southwest credit card.
One person’s travel goals are not the same as another’s.
But what about thinking long-term and for multiple travel goals? That’s why the question a points-and-miles-beginner should really be asking this instead.
Which travel rewards credit card is the best to start earning points and miles?
The answer is simple. It’s the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
The Sapphire Preferred is one of the cards in Chase’s Sapphire family. The card earns flexible Ultimate Rewards points which can be redeemed for travel in a variety of ways.
In fact, the Sapphire Preferred is arguably one of the best travel rewards cards available and has only had its earning potential and benefits enhanced over the years.
I started with this card, myself, and used it for countless free flights, before eventually getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Current Welcome Bonus: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months from your account opening.
Favorite Card Features:
- $50 annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit
- 5x on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal
- 3x on dining (including eligible delivery services)
- 3x on select streaming services & online grocery purchases
- 2x on other travel purchases
- 1x on all other purchases
- No foreign exchange fees
- Transfer Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners like United, Flying Blue, and Hyatt
- 1.25 cents per point value if you redeem points for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal
- Get a 10% Anniversary points boost calculated by how much you spent on the card during the year
- Complimentary DashPass which comes with no delivery fees and lower service charges on DoorDash orders for a minimum of a year (activate by 12/31/24)
Annual Fee: $95
Sapphire Preferred is a well-rounded card for anyone hoping to earn travel rewards points and redeem them for flights, hotels, and more.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes the Sapphire Preferred my favorite card for miles and points beginners and anyone interested in travel rewards.
The Sapphire Preferred is a great combination of an attractive welcome bonus, solid earning potential, and easy-to-redeem travel rewards.
Not only does this give your Ultimate Rewards account a points boost, but the points you’ll earn can be used to book flights, hotels, and more.
Sapphire Preferred has valuable bonus categories which allow you to earn more than 1 Ultimate Rewards point for every dollar spent on travel, dining, online grocery purchases, and streaming services.
There’s no limit to the number of points you can earn. Outside of these spending categories, you’ll earn 1x for every dollar spent.
5x Travel in the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
When you purchase flights, cruises, or make reservations for hotels, rental cars, vacation rentals, you’ll earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points with Sapphire Preferred.
3x Restaurants & Dining
You’ll earn 3x on purchases in this category for sit-down dining, as well as take-out, delivery, and fast food. Delivery service merchants that are categorized as a restaurant will also fall into this bonus category.
3x Online Grocery Services
The Sapphire Preferred earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points when you order groceries online from a grocery store for pickup or delivery. This can be a brick & mortar grocery store that offers online ordering, as well as online grocers.
Meal delivery services and gourmet markets will also trigger the bonus.
Walmart, Target, and wholesale clubs will NOT earn 3x.
3x Select Streaming Services
If you subscribe to YouTube TV, Spotify, Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, Vudu, Apple Music, ESPN+, SiriusXM, Fubo TV, Pandora, and/or Sling, pay with Sapphire Preferred to earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points.
For all travel purchases outside of the Ultimate Rewards Portal, earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points.
Chase’s definition of travel is broad extending beyond flights, hotels, and rental cars to also include trains, ferries, taxies, tolls, parking, camping fees, and travel booking websites.
$50 Hotel Credit
Every year for your account anniversary, you’ll receive up to a $50 statement credit for hotel purchases made through the Chase Travel Portal.
This offsets more than half of the card’s annual fee.
Primary Car Rental Insurance
Sapphire Preferred comes with primary collision insurance on rental cars when the vehicle is paid for with the card. To trigger this benefit, decline the CDW or collision damage waiver offered by the rental car.
This insurance is generally enough to cover the damage to your average rental car. However, this doesn’t include injuries to others or damages to another vehicle if an accident is found to be your fault so it’s important to read the terms and conditions.
Yet, not paying the added per-day charge for CDW coverage is a legitimate money saver which can offset the annual fee in just 1 or 2 car rentals a year.
No Foreign Exchange Fees
Travel abroad worry-free with Sapphire Preferred. Purchases will not incur any added exchange fees.
Chase Sapphire Travel Protections
Purchasing travel with Sapphire Preferred earns more than just the bonus points from the travel bonus categories.
You’ll get protection for things like baggage delays, trip delays, trip interruption, trip cancelation, and roadside assistance. There’s also purchase protection and extended warranty coverage for eligible purchases.
Chase Sapphire has a $95 annual fee.
Annual fees are absolutely worth paying when the card earnings and benefits you’re receiving offset the fee or even deliver added value above and beyond the fee.
In the case of Sapphire Preferred, the welcome bonus and ongoing annual benefits make it easy to get value from this card, even if you travel 1-2 times a year.
Another Reason to Consider Sapphire Preferred
Aside from the Sapphire Preferred benefits, credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points like the Sapphire Preferred are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. It’s an important rule to know, especially for those of you who are new to miles and points.
This rule says, Chase will deny you for any of their travel rewards credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards in the last 24 months from ANY bank. This also includes merchant credit cards like a Macy’s store card.
For example, if you haven’t applied for any new credit cards in 24 months, you’re considered 0/24. When you apply and are approved for the Sapphire Preferred, Chase now considers you as 1/24.
Business credit cards from other banks don’t factor into your overall 5/24 count. However, Chase business credit cards are subject to the rule even though they won’t add to your count if you’re approved.
So this means, when you apply for a Chase business card like the Ink Business Preferred, the bank will look at whether or not you have 5 or more new credit cards in the last 24 months.
If not, you’d hypothetically be approved and your “5/24 count” would stay the same because business cards don’t add to your number of cards.
For anyone getting started with miles and points, it’s important for the first credit cards to earn Ultimate Rewards points so as not to be locked out of earning this valuable flexible rewards currency.
Redeeming Ultimate Rewards Points
One of the unknowns for anyone getting started with points and miles is understanding what a card’s welcome bonus is actually worth.
There’s a lot to learn about how to best use your miles and points. However, here are a few calculations to help you get a sense.
Ultimate Rewards points redeemed with Sapphire Preferred are worth1.25 cents per point in the Chase Travel Portal. For example, 100k Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards points would return a $1,250 value.
Another valuable thing about Chase Ultimate Rewards points is their flexibility. You can transfer them to Chase’s airline and hotel transfer partners.
Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio. And, these partners can elevate the value of your points by giving you access to premium seats on flights that would normally cost thousands of dollars.
These redemptions can be far above 1.25 cents per point.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Bottom Line
Chase Sapphire Preferred is my favorite credit card for anyone new to miles and points!
It’s also a great card for earning Ultimate Rewards points if you’re hesitant about taking on the higher annual fee of the more premium Sapphire Reserve.
With no foreign exchange fees, access to transfer partners, excellent bonus categories, as well as primary rental car insurance and trip protection, it’s the best card to launch your points and miles adventure!
What’s your favorite travel rewards credit card?
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