- I’ve earned over a million points and miles, and I have more than a dozen rewards card to maximize my spending and enjoy travel benefits — while paying off my balances in full each month, of course.
- One of my favorite cards is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, thanks to the valuable Ultimate Rewards points it earns me.
- In my first year with the card alone, I earned thousands of bonus points on dining and travel, and I put those rewards to use for business-class flights, hotel stays, and more.
- See Business Insider’s list of the best rewards credit cards you can get »
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is often my go-to recommendation for those who are just getting into points and miles. The card has a generous welcome bonus, solid category bonuses, and tons of redemption options that are ideal for novices and experts alike.
I got my card back in 2011, and it’s maintained a place in my wallet ever since. Sure, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is nice with its $300 annual travel credit (and $450 annual fee) but it’s easier for me to justify the Sapphire Preferred’s lower $95 annual fee. Plus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers plenty of perks of its own.
Here’s how I got the most value out of the card in my first year. I’ve come a long way since then — I’ve now earned more than a million points and miles — but even in my first year I was able to score some great redemptions for travel with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.
Economy: I spent the welcome bonus on a business-class flight
The welcome bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred is currently 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. When I got the card a few years ago, the bonus was slightly lower, at 50,000 points, with the same minimum spending requirement. After earning additional points through credit card spending, I transferred 60,000 points to United and booked a round-trip business-class ticket to Paris.
It was a great redemption, especially since summer economy-class flights were well over $1,200 round-trip. I got to travel in comfort, for the cost of just taxes and fees.
Economy: The 2x bonus on travel and dining earned me over 15,000 points
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining. When I got the card, I started charging everything to it that I could. If there was a team lunch at work, I’d pick up the tab (and get reimbursed). I became the travel guru for my friends and family and was able to charge some big family vacations to my Chase Sapphire Preferred. As a result, I earned over 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points that first year.
What’s so remarkable is that earning these points didn’t require much effort. In many cases, it was a matter of swiping my card and then getting reimbursed soon after.
Economy: I use the 25% travel redemption bonus when transferring points to airline or hotels didn’t make sense
Redeeming points and miles for travel doesn’t always make sense — at least if you’re trying to maximize the value you can get from your rewards. I find this especially true when it comes to cheap basic economy fares or weekend hotel rates in busy financial districts.Rates tend to be lower and points are too valuable to part with. If I’m not getting at least 2 cents of value out of my points, I’ll usually pay cash.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers an alternative to transferring points to airline and hotel partners: Cardholders who use points for bookings through the Ultimate Rewards travel site get 1.25 cents of value per point — a 25% bonus. There have been several instances where redeeming points this way has worked out favorably for me.
For example, weekend rates at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco sometimes drop to $170 per night. An award night using Hyatt points (a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner) costs 20,000 points. Meanwhile, booking this hotel through the Ultimate Rewards travel site would require just 13,600 points factoring in the 25% bonus.
Economy: Adding an authorized user got me another 12,000 points (via spending)
Shortly after I received the Chase Sapphire Preferred card in the mail, I went about meeting the card’s spending requirement. At the time, I wasn’t very well versed in the points and miles world and the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a credit card seemed daunting. So I added my dad as an authorized user, knowing he had bigger expenses than I did.
As luck would have it, my parents were in the market for new appliances that they ended up charging to the card. During that first year, I earned over 12,000 additional Ultimate Rewards points just from adding one authorized user.
Economy: Final thoughts
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of my longest-held credit cards and continues to earn its keep every year. Beyond the welcome bonus, it provides valuable category bonuses and flexible redemption options.
With its $95 annual fee, it’s cheaper than the Sapphire Reserve but also lacks some of its premium travel perks. That works just fine for my rewards travel strategy. If you’re of a similar mindset, you might want to give the Chase Sapphire Preferred another look.