#1 Credit Card Recommendation for those Starting with Points and Miles!

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I am constantly asked the question “Which credit card should I get?” And of course the answer is always “It Depends!”. It depends on your everyday purchases, the amount you spend per month on your credit card, how you like to earn and redeem your points, where you are looking to travel, etc. Typically there is much more of a conversation that needs to happen to recommend the right credit card. However, many people really just don’t know. They are just starting to dip their toes into the points and miles game – they want a credit card that will help them points towards free travel at some point in the near future, but not exact sure where or when. A flexible card with a good sign up bonus and a first year annual fee waived is clearly the most desirable.

Learn More About Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

My recommendation for this person is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Here are my top 5 reasons:

1. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are extremely flexible.

When using your Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card you are earning Ultimate Reward points. This currency is extremely valuable as you can either redeem your points through the Chase travel portal or transfer your points to partner airlines. When redeeming through the travel portal you get a 20% discount. For example, a $500 flight booked through the portal will only cost you 40,000 points.

If you prefer to transfer your points to partner loyalty programs, you have 12 options which include: United, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air France KLM, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton. Redeeming through a partner program will typically get you the most value for your points. For example, Hyatt is a partner and you can stay at the Andaz Papagayo in Costa for only 15,000 Hyatt points per night – thus requiring only 15,000 Ultimate Reward points. Rates at this property can easily be over $500 a night, meaning each Ultimate Reward point is worth over 3 cents per point! Or, let’s say you prefer business class over economy (I mean who doesn’t, but you need to have the points or make a ton of money!), you can fly roundtrip Boston or Chicago to Spain for 68,000 Iberia points – again requiring 68,000 Ultimate Reward points. This business class flight can easily cost over $4,000 (something I’d never pay for!), making each point worth well over 5 cents per point!

Now, if you find that you just aren’t traveling as much as you’d like and would prefer cash, you can always “cash” out your points for cash instead of using them for travel. Definitely not a method I’d recommend for your points as it is not a great value, but cash is king sometimes. You can cash out where 1 point = 1 cent. So 50,000 points, for example, would get you $500.

2. A decent sign up bonus.

New applicants will receive 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on the card within the first 3 months plus an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and the user makes a purchase within the first 3 months. Adding an authorized user to your card is free. If you use the “pay with points” option through the travel portal, the 50,000 points is worth $625 towards travel and if you transfer to partner loyalty programs I typically see new cardmembers getting about a $1,000 value. But of course, you can always get more value depending on how you use your points!

While this sign up bonus is not the best offer within all Chase Ultimate Reward cards out there, there is no annual fee for the first year and it is a personal card which is easier to get approved for. The highest offer right now is the Chase Ink Preferred card comes which comes with a 80,000 point offer, but is a business card and the annual fee is not waived for the first year. Still an awesome card to get but not as easy to get approved for!

3. Double points on travel and dining out.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you’ll receive double points on all travel purchases and dining out. These are two popular categories that can quickly increase your point balance! Of course if you have high spend in other categories, it is definitely worthwhile to get a card that has an increased category bonus for that particular category. The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives 3x points for these same categories, but has a significantly higher annual fee. Depending on how much you spend in these categories might determine if the higher annual fee is worth it for you.

4. Annual fee waived for the first year. 

As I mentioned above, the annual fee for this card is waived the first year. While this is common for some credit cards, not all cards waive the first year fee. After that it costs $95 a year. For all Chase Ultimate Reward cards that carry an annual fee, this is actually the only card that waives the fee the first year. This allows you to try out the card and see if it works for you based on your spending habits and travel desires. If you find you are not getting the best value for the card you can always cancel/downgrade.

5. Great travel protection. 

When you book a flight or other non-refundable travel expenses (hotels, tours, etc.) with select Chase credit card (which includes the Chase Sapphire Preferred), you get some great travel protection in case of a flight cancelation, delay, lost baggage, etc. For example, if you have to cancel a trip due to a covered reason (sickness, severe weather, etc.) you are able to be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses. For lost luggage, you are covered up to $3,000 per passenger (which includes you or immediate family members). Or if your luggage is just delayed for 6+ hours, you can be reimbursed for toiletries and clothing at $100 a day for up to 5 days. And my ultimate favorite (and the most common protection) is if your flight is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you are covered for unreimbursed expenses (i.e., meals and hotels) for up to $500 per ticket. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a slightly better flight delay policy where it only requires a 6 hour delay, but that card does come with a significantly higher annual fee.

Learn more.

If you are new to the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card or the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, these posts can get you up to speed fast:

Key Link:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – 50,000 bonus points with $4,000 spend in 3 months + 5,000 points after adding an authorized user; $95 annual fee waived the first year. Learn more

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