Let’s be clear from the start: the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card changed travel rewards forever.
Even if you don’t have the card, features on cards you do have are undoubtedly based on some bold bets from when the Sapphire Preferred launched, like the end of foreign transaction fees.
But since those triumphant days, an endless array of other cards have launched too, and like any other business, some new comers have brought new and exciting benefits to the marketplace too.
The recent addition of the Capital One Venture X card ushered in a new era of rewards, albeit at a different annual fee point, and a variety of co-branded cards, like the new Aeroplan card are also looking to shake things up.
Which leaves an important question: is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card “dead” due to all the new offerings? After changes of its own this year, it’s not an easy question to answer. An 80,000 point bonus worth at least $1000 toward travel may impact things.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Then And Now
In 2021, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve Cards underwent makeovers of their current offerings. Prior to these changes, it was probably fair to say that the Sapphire Preferred was still a “good” all around starter travel rewards card, but no longer much more than that.
It was getting beaten in earning categories it once championed like dining or airfare, and didn’t have any particularly unique features, outside of a food delivery pass and its clever travel protections, which it still has.
The travel protections like trip delay and lost luggage were arguably the best features.
The 2021 makeover added a $50 annual credit when you book a hotel through Chase Travel — not bad for a $95 annual fee card — and bumped up points earning rates too.
The card now offers: 5X points on travel booked through Chase Travel, 3X on dining and delivery services, 3X on streaming services and a 10% rebate on the points you earn. In other words, if you earn 100,000 points, you’ll get an additional 10,000 each year.
And — points can be converted into “cash” towards travel at a rate of 1.25X, so 100,000 points equals $1,250 toward travel purchases via Chase Travel.
A key hack with this, is that you can then earn airline miles on these tickets when you use points this way, since it counts as if you paid cash, rather than when you convert credit card points into airline miles to buy a ticket, which you don’t get rewards for.
So Where Does Chase Sapphire Preferred Stand?
This is where things get tricky. The Chase Sapphire Preferred now earns 3X on dining, which is a formidable opponent of the Amex Gold at 4X on dining. Sure, it’s an entire point “per” lower, but it’s a $95 annual fee card versus a $250 annual fee card.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t offer 5X on “all” airfare like Amex Platinum, but again, it’s a $95 a year card, instead of $695 like Amex Platinum. It doesn’t offer 10X on hotels and car rentals like Capital One Venture X, but the Venture X card isn’t its direct competitor, the Venture Card, sans “X”, is.
In reality, there are only two close direct competitors in terms of annual fee, and that’s the Capital One Venture (not the more premium Venture X) and the Citi Premier. If you have needs for higher earn rates, or benefits, it’s worth considering going up to annual fee cards at higher levels. If not, here’s how these three cards break down…
Travel Earning Rates
Chase and Capital One each offer an opportunity to earn 5X on travel with the Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture respectively, but only if you book through their respective travel websites.
For direct purchases with hotels or airlines, Chase offers the same 2X on airfare of direct hotel bookings made with chains or airlines as Capital One Venture. That’s better than 1X, but when you’re making large purchases, earning 5,000 points for a $1,000 flight is nicer than 2,000 points.
Citi Premier, meanwhile, offers 3X points on airfare and hotels booked directly with airlines or hotel chains, and you don’t need to book through the Citi website. This is a lower earning rate than what’s theoretically possible with higher fee cards, or via the Chase and Capital One Travel booking websites, but it gives more flex to booking.
So if it’s purely about across the board earn rate, Citi wins for flexibility, but if you’re happy booking travel through the new Capital One Travel, or Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel, the Sapphire Preferred and Venture tie for the win thanks to the 5X earning on airfare, hotels and cars.
Travel And Fee Credits
Should you expect big benefits from a $95 annual fee card, or do those only really come from more expensive cards? Thanks to robust competition in the marketplace, the answer is you can expect some!
Chase offers $50 toward a hotel booking made through Chase Travel each year, which can make a big dent in the annual fee. The card also offers a complimentary ‘DashPass’ subscription from DoorDash, which retails for $9.99 a month That’s basically circa $120 a year in value, if consumed. Together, that’s a $95 a year card offering $170 in credits.
Citi Premier, for its part, offers a $100 credit when you spend at least $500 on a hotel booked through ThankYou.com or by calling the Citi Travel desk.
Capital One has gone a slightly different direction, offering (2) lounge passes to its new Capital One Lounges in various US airports and bundled in Hertz “Five Star” elite status as well as dining access. There’s also recently been new fee credits towards travel and lifestyle memberships, like GravityHaus, with savings up to $300 annually.
Again, these are all pretty impressive for $95 a year cards with great earning rates and points transfer partners. A new 80,000 point welcome bonus worth at least $1000 does not hurt in the slightest.
Where Does Chase Sapphire Preferred Fit?
The big question for the Sapphire Preferred Card, and the others it competes directly against, is whether they’re caught in the middle?
The no annual fee Chase Freedom Flex offers many great earning rates on travel and other categories, just without the travel perks or points transfer partners and other low or no annual fee cards also push the boundaries too.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the increasingly premium cards, like the Sapphire Reserve, Venture X or Amex Platinum, which offer potentially $1,000’s in annual value, albeit with higher annual fees charged up front.
So is there a sweet spot with the $95 a year Chase Sapphire Preferred, or is the card somewhat stuck in the fray? That comes down to personal choice, as to whether the differences between the “no fee” Freedom, are glaring. For someone who just uses cash back, the answer is probably that the Freedom does enough.
But for someone who uses points transfers to airlines or hotels, or appreciates the protections like primary rental car coverage, Sapphire Preferred is clearly better.
Then that leaves the final question of whether you’re a super user, and would benefit more from the higher annual fee cards with higher multiples and more in the moment travel perks than the Sapphire Preferred offers. Basically, would you be better off with a card offering lounge access and more travel credits?
Where I come out? If you travel relatively infrequently, the Sapphire Preferred is a fantastic starter card which is not “dead” in the market. It’s a safe choice with great perks and fantastic travel partners, all at a price mosts people can stomach.
If you travel really frequently, the other cards may, but may not, be better. Across the board though, the Sapphire Preferred Card is more compelling in 2022 than it’s been in a few years, so the only question is whether you need a card that does more for you, less for you, or whether this is just right.