While many people have been singing the merits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card ever since it debuted last year, I still consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred to be the best starter travel credit card in the business.
If you’re new to this hobby, you really cannot go wrong with the card. It certainly made my list of best starter cards (SEE: 3 Great Starter Travel Credit Cards). Here are 5 reasons I will still recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred as the best starter travel credit card around:
Great sign-up bonus
When looking for a good travel credit card sign-up bonus, you should be looking in the $500+ range if possible. There are certainly some good cards out there with bonuses worth somewhat less than that and others that offer valuable ongoing perks. But $500+ is what I try to look for. The Chase Sapphire Preferred definitely calls in this range.
The standard 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards (UR) points offer for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is worth at minimum $500. That is a value if you simply cashed out the points. The same 50,000 points are worth $625 when redeemed through the Chase travel portal, and you can often get even greater value by transferring to travel partners.
In short, it is a solid sign-up bonus.
No initial annual fee
Some people new to this hobby may be turned off by the idea of paying an annual fee “just for a credit card.” I’ve actually written a post about some of the best no-fee credit card options out there (SEE: 5 of the Best No Fee Credit Cards for Travel).
The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you the best of both worlds. Since the fee is waived the first year, getting the card doesn’t cost you anything up front. I’m hesitant to say it is “risk free” since credit card can indeed be risky if you don’t manage your finances responsibly! (SEE: 5 Commandments of Travel Credit Cards).
If you do, however, this is a perfect card that gives you a great sign up bonus, yet lets you put off deciding whether you want to pay a fee for the product. It gives you 12 months to decide if the card is a good one for you.
One of the best features of having a “premium” Chase Card (Ink Preferred, Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve) is the ability to use the points in multiple ways. The fact that the Chase Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee out the gate and has flexible options for using the points is a major reason I consider it the best starter travel credit card.
First, you can always cash them out for 1 cent per point, but I do not recommend this.
The second option is to use them to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards travel. You can book flights, hotels, and rental cars. You’ll receive greater value this way as each point will be worth 1.25 cents. For Sapphire Reserve cardholders it is 1.5 cents. But let’s focus on the Sapphire Preferred.
Last, but certainly not least, is the ability to transfer points to an array of partners. This is where most of the best value is found.
High-value transfer partners
Of the three major bank programs that have an array of travel partners to which you can transfer your points, I’ll readily argue that Chase is the best. American Express Membership Rewards isn’t all that far behind, but I still consider Chase to be top dog.
Chase has several high-value partners, including United, Hyatt, Korean Air, FlyingBlue, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, and Virgin Atlantic (SEE: 5 Best Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners). The ones that are both exclusive to Chase and high value are United, Korean Air, and Hyatt.
Hyatt is by far the best hotel transfer partner of the Ultimate Rewards program, often giving you twice the value from your points as either Marriott/Ritz or IHG.
Ability to transfer points from other Chase cards
The ability to transfer points between UR-earning cards is another great perk of the Ultimate Rewards program. This isn’t exclusive to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but it comes in especially handy.
To transfer points between Ultimate Rewards accounts, you must either transfer them to one of your own other accounts, or to an account of someone who is a member of your household.
For example, I have transferred points several times from my Chase Freedom card to my wife’s Chase Sapphire Preferred. Given that I don’t have a Sapphire Preferred, this lets us use the points I earn from my Freedom card for travel and for transferring to partners. If I didn’t have this option, I could only cash the points out at 1 cent each. For a full rundown on transferring UR points, see this article.
Convinced that it’s the best starter travel credit card?
There are certainly other cards that offer a bigger sign-up bonus or better perks. But few have all the qualities that make the Chase Sapphire Preferred the best starter travel credit card.
In case you think I get paid to push this product, I have no affiliation with Chase. I don’t make money from credit card referrals (but who knows…I may someday). This is solely my own personal opinion, and still my recommendation after 5 years of being in this hobby.
If you’re interested and want to support me, send me a note via the contact me page and I can send you a referral link! (Yes, this is different than an affiliate link, as it is a personal referral).