Two years later, I still stand by telling people that the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) card is hard to beat. It had a low $95 annual fee and has many great features that makes it the best travel credit card to have in your wallet when you’re starting out. The current ELEVATED sign up bonus is 80,000 points (up from 60,000!)
If you want to delve more into my tips for travel hacking, see this page. For me travel hacking is how one is able to travel cheaply or for free (or close to free with just a small amount for taxes and fees) but also how to travel better such as upgraded cabin on a flight / upgraded hotel room. (Here’s my travel money saving post ). And so why are credit cards my favorite travel hack? Because they really make your money work for you with the benefits that they offer especially when you take into account the large sign up offers. It’s hacking at its finest ~ being able to earn points and miles without flying or staying in hotel rooms to be able to use later to pay for hotels or flights by spending as you would have without the card..kinda crazy right?!
In case you don’t read my other posts on this subject, I must stress to please only consider if you can pay off the credit card IN FULL every month because no reward amount can justify interest charges! And it may help you to know that it took me some time to get on board with this hack because I didn’t understand why someone would pay an annual fee for credit cards when so many of them are free until I really started diving into the numbers and reading up on the why and hows and now I am one of the loudest converts raving on about this! When you get the RIGHT rewards card for you even when accounting for the annual fee, you will still end up saving money and allowing yourself to travel better for less!
A few guidelines to help you figure out what is the best travel credit card for you:
First, figure figure out the why/what for your travel. Why the CSP is so beloved is that it allows you to earn Ultimate Reward Points that can be transferred to their travel award partners as opposed to having a co-branded card (one that is tied to a specific airline or hotel). While there are good reasons to have those cards, they should be in addition to a flexible currency card ~ meaning that those points can be transferred. It allows a lot more flexibility into how they can be used and gives greater opportunity to really maximize your savings!
With this card, you earn 3x points on dining, streaming services, online groceries and 2x TRAVEL and 1x for all other spending. But what does that really translate to: 80K points are worth $800 (per Chase’s calculation) But you ARE NOT going to redeem these points for cash back or use the Chase portal to book. You will transfer to Chase’s airline (United, Air France, Singapore) and hotel loyalty programs partners (Hyatt or IHG) so those points from your SUB are really worth $1,600. There’s also many times when Chase will offer a % bonus on transfers so the rate might be 1:1.25 or even 1:1.5 so your points will go even further!
Second, make sure to get a card doesn’t have an foreign exchange fee if you’re traveling abroad and again the CSP meets this criteria. In almost all cases, the best exchange rate I had when traveling was when I used my credit card for purchases plus I earned rewards on those purchases as well!
Third, when you are putting all of your purchases especially travel expenses on a credit card, look for one that offers purchase and travel protections and it’s pretty amazing what the CSP offers for its $95 annual fee: Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Baggage Delay Insurance, Trip Delay Reimbursement, Travel and Emergency Assistance Services, Purchase Protection, Extended Warranty Protection! The more I have looked into these insurance, the more I have been impressed that it’s so high caliber (car rental insurance is primary/travel insurance’s definition of family is wide ranging) for a $95 AF card!! Side note: Depending on the location and the activities that I will be doing, I purchase a standalone travel insurance policy since it’s very costly to be injured overseas and/or I need more robust travel protections based on the activities I will be engaging in and the one downside is that there is no medical or evacuation coverage with the CSP.
Fourth, look at the other perks that the card offers. For example, American Express Centurion and Platinum card offer access to Priority Pass and most importantly Centurion airport lounges (an incredible add on for me!). Unfortunately the CSP doesn’t have any lounge access but I am able to recoup the AF and then some with the annual DoorDash Dashpass subscription ($120) + free 6 months of Instacart+/$15 quarterly statement credits ($110) and $10/month GoPuff statement credits ($120) ~ I’m not sure I’ll use these services as much as I continue my recovery but they were a godsend when I was unable to drive myself and through the past 28 months of rehab in general!
For $95 per year, you also receive a Visa Signature card (why there are so many travel and purchase protections) which can be a really big deal when it comes to travel when you book stays through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. You get elite-like benefits such as
- Automatic room upgrades upon arrival, subject to availability
- Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi, when available
- Complimentary breakfast for two
- A $25 food or beverage credit
- VIP guest status
- Late checkout upon request, when available
So if you have not been loyal to a hotel chain this card and these benefits offer an exceptional deal at brands like the Peninsula, Park Hyatt and Shangri-La. Some of these perks you would have to be at one of the upper elite levels in a reward program to get such as the breakfast option or room upgrade. It is important to note that this is considered a non-direct channel so if you are pursuing elite status, you would want to book through the hotel’s website/app!
Lastly, I suggest that you wait for a LARGE sign up bonus and then make sure you meet the requirements in time to get the bonus and reminder that this is CURRENTLY a large sign up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred (while not as good as the 100K when I first wrote this post, the offer has increased to 80K)! For this offer, you must spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. One thing that I do love about the Chase app is that they have made it very transparent with their credit card offers as seen below: The top part of the photo details my Chase Sapphire Preferred as you can see The date that I opened my card 6/10/2021 and three months from that date would be 9/10/2021 to earn 100K bonus rewards and then a bar graph showing my progress towards the spending amount. The bottom part of the photo is for the new account bonus for another credit card I had opened at the beginning of the year ~ before my injury (I’ll do another post about what credit cards I currently have and why and go more into depth about why I originally got that card).
It makes sense to put all of your purchases on your credit card to maximize the number of points that you will earn and also to help you meet the spending requirement. Here’s a few tips for how to get this done without spending more than you normally would. I typically get a credit card every year in February/March because I don’t escrow my house insurance or property taxes and make those payments myself. Neither my insurance company nor the City and County of Denver charges any fees to pay with my credit card so I know that I will be able to hit a spending requirement for any large credit card sign on bonuses with those two charges alone! My parents’ county does charge a fee to use their credit cards so it is really important to check for your specific area. Depending on the fee, it may make sense to still use your credit card if this is one of the ways to meet the spending requirement without having to make purchases you wouldn’t otherwise have ($2,500 x 1.5% fee is $37.50 is better than spending $2,500 anyways and then not going to get the bonus). I am also able to charge all my medical expenses on a credit card without any fees with my healthcare provider and this has been huge for me this year – there’s a positive about my leg. If you happen to be like me with some crazy high medical bills (and I am sorry that you’re also in this boat), the last two providers I had allowed for balances to be set up on a no interest plan so sometimes I will set one up so that I can time it to meet the SUB. So look at all the expenses and purchases that you already have and see what you can put on your credit card (utilities/insurance/etc) – I am looking forward to the day that I can put my mortgage on there but I have heard of a number of leasing places that will take credit cards for no fees – a perk of renting! Also be creative – I recently went on a girls’ road trip and I put everything on my card – meals, drinks, etc and was reimbursed by my friends…with Zelle, Venmo, Paypal this option is really convenient for everyone especially the servers who didn’t have to split checks and run multiple cards!
And lastly, if you are going to apply to the card – I would happily send you a referral bonus (to be 100% transparent, I do receive 15K bonus points if you are approved) so please consider reaching out. If you are in Colorado, I can literally sweeten the deal with a $40 credit for my baked goods if you get the card this way.
Because life should be beautiful and delicious – Rosemary