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Chase Sapphire Preferred review: a low-cost card for travelers

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is one of the top travel credit cards available, ranking as CNBC Select's best travel credit card with an annual fee under $100.

Cardholders can take advantage of numerous travel benefits, a unique rewards program and generous welcome bonus, which make the $95 annual fee worthwhile. When CNBC Select crunched the numbers and analyzed over 200 credit cards, we found that consumers can earn competitive rewards with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® over a five year period. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)

Below, we break down the rewards, benefits and fees associated with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® to help you decide if it's the right card for you.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® review

  • Rewards
  • Additional benefits
  • Fees
  • Bottom line

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

  • Rewards

    5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    17.49% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Transfer points to leading frequent travel programs at a 1:1 rate, including: IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy™ and World of Hyatt®
  • Free DashPass subscription for a minimum of a year when you activate by December 31, 2021
  • Travel protections include: auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • No hotel-specific perks or credits
  • No introductory 0% APR
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $997
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,986

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

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On Chase's secure site

Rewards

This card is geared toward travelers and foodies with the ability to earn 2X points on travel and dining worldwide and 1X points on all other purchases.

New cardholders can also benefit from 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® has a unique perk for points redemptions: If you redeem points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, they're worth 25% more.

That means the welcome bonus can be worth up to $750 when you book hotels, airfare, cruises and more directly through the travel portal.

CNBC Select calculated how many rewards the average American can earn if they optimize the way they use their Chase Sapphire Preferred® card. We worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $21,852.

The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,019), gas ($2,394), dining out ($3,365), travel ($2,154), utilities ($4,959) and general purchases ($3,961).

Here's how many points you can earn with your Chase Sapphire Preferred® in each category:

  • Groceries: 5,019
  • Gas: 2,394
  • Dining out: 6,730
  • Travel: 4,308
  • Utilities: 4,959
  • General purchases: 3,961
  • Total: 27,371

If you redeem those points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®, you'd receive a 25% bonus — increasing the approximate $274 value to about $342, depending on how you choose to redeem points.

Based on the annual spending budget from Esri, the average American can earn an estimated $997 in the first year of card membership, thanks to the welcome bonus, and $1,986 over five years with the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, net the $95 annual fee. This assumes that cardholders are redeeming points for a typical maximum value of 1.25 cents per point. Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value, and you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your spending habits.

Additional benefits

Beyond rewards, cardholders can benefit from a variety of travel and purchase protections, that increase the value of the Chase Sapphire Preferred®.

Shopping

Purchases made with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® are eligible for purchase protection and extended warranty protection.

Chase Offers provides exclusive shopping discounts at select retailers. These offers typically give you a set dollar amount of cash back as a statement credit, applied to your account within 14 business days.

Chase also offers an online shopping portal that provides extra rewards on purchases made through a special link. You can receive extra points by using the link provided through the portal and paying with your qualifying Chase Sapphire Preferred®.

Travel

There are a variety of perks offered that can add peace of mind to travelers, including trip cancellation and interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement and travel and emergency assistance services.

Plus, benefit from no foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S., which saves you the typical 3% fee other cards may charge.

Fees

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® has a $95 annual fee. This fee isn't as high as other travel credit cards, such as the luxury Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which has a $550 annual fee. It can be easily offset if you take full advantage of the rewards program.

You could recoup the Chase Sapphire Preferred®'s $95 annual fee by spending as little as $3,800 on travel and/or dining each year and redeeming points through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. If you don't redeem points through the portal, you'd need to spend a total of $4,750 annually on combined travel and dining.

The APR is typical at 17.49% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers. We recommend always paying on time and in full to avoid interest charges.

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is a great choice for travelers looking to enjoy added value on travel-related point redemptions, travel protections and discounts. The $95 annual fee is minor compared to competing travel credit cards and can easily be recouped if you maximize using the card.

If you want a luxury travel card with more benefits and don't mind paying a higher fee, consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. (Check out the five best perks provided by the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.)

Don't miss: Chase Sapphire Reserve® vs Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Which is best for you?

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2018 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $21,852 in retail spending. This budget is comprised of the most common spending categories, including groceries ($5,019), gas ($2,394), dining out ($3,365), travel ($2,154), utilities ($4,959) and general purchases ($3,961). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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