For those who are new to the points and miles game, “Where do I start?” is probably the common question we hear. Once you’ve read our free e-book for beginners, you may still be left wondering how everything works.
As you might expect, there’s a bit of a learning curve to understanding the process of using credit card points for some fun travel experiences. Like anything else, this all becomes much easier as you learn more.
Unfortunately, “you’ll learn more as you go” doesn’t answer your question about where to start. So, to help you start off on the right foot, I’ll tell you the best place to start.
Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Valuable Sign-Up Bonus, Reasonable Annual Fee
Each month, the 10xTravel staff discusses the current best credit card offers, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has had a stronghold at our top spot for a number of months.
The current offer terms are:
- 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- 2X points per $1 spent on dining and travel, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases
- Trip delay insurance
- Primary rental car insurance
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for 1.25 cents per point, or transferred 1:1 to travel partners such as United Airlines or Hyatt.
The current sign-up bonus offer is 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after meeting the minimum spend. The card has a $95 annual fee, which is not waived for the first year.
Using the 1.25 cent per point valuation through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, this bonus is the equivalent of $750 to spend on travel. If you’re strategic in your use of the points, you can get even more value out of those 60,000 points by transferring the points to one of the airline or hotel transfer partners.
Not sure what to do with these points? Here’s how each member of the 10xT team would spend them.
Why Not the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card?
Due to restrictions, Chase has implemented on the Chase Sapphire cards, new applicants are not able to hold more than one Chase Sapphire product. Since that restriction has been in place, applicants have had to choose between the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.
The current offer on the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is:
- 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- 3X points per $1 spent on dining and travel, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases
- $300 annual travel credit—if it codes as travel, it counts
- Priority Pass Select Membership—provides access to 900+ airline lounges worldwide
- $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit every 5 years
- Trip delay insurance
- Primary rental car insurance
- $550 annual fee not waived first year
As you can see, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card offers a lower 50,000-point sign-up bonus for meeting minimum spend. However, the $550 annual fee is dramatically more expensive than the $95 charged by Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card does have an advantage in that it offers 1.5 cents per point when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, which means the sign-up bonus is worth $750 in travel. Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can transfer your points to both airlines and hotels to get even more value out of the bonus.
The annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is a bit steep at $550 a year but the annual $300 travel credit effectively makes the annual fee $250. While $250 is much more manageable than $550.
Comparing the sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with a lower annual fee and the 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points earned from the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card with a $550 annual fee ($250 if you play your cards right), you can see that the Sapphire Preferred provides a better value for the first year.
If you are just starting your points and miles journey, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card makes more sense than the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card for many people.
Redeem 60,000 Ultimate Rewards Points With Travel Partners
The Chase travel portal redemption for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is 1.25 cents per point, while the travel portal redemption for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is 1.5 cents per point.
However, when transferring points to travel partners, points earned through the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card are transferred at the same 1:1 ratio as points earned through the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Therefore, if you are planning to transfer points to travel partners, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card should definitely be your first choice. Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to partners that can help you fly to Hawaii, book premium cabin seats, or stay at luxury resorts.
Personally, I have never used the Ultimate Rewards portal for travel redemption. I have found that I have been able to get a much greater value out of my Ultimate Rewards points by utilizing transfers to travel partners.
Pro Tip: If you book economy class flights, you should always compare the travel portal rate to the number of points required to book an award flight with one of Chase’s airline partners.
For example, I am currently planning a stay at the Hyatt Regency in Amsterdam.
The Lobby at the Hyatt Regency Amsterdam is STUNNING!
Booking directly through Hyatt.com offers a standard room rate of $353.33 including taxes and fees.
Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book the hotel would cost $329.32 + $17.65 in taxes/fee for a total of $346.97 or 27,756 Ultimate Rewards points per night.
If you didn’t want to use points, booking through the portal might seem like a great idea, as $346.97 is less than the direct hotel booking rate of $353.33.
However, booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal codes as an Online Travel Agency (OTA) booking, and many hotels do not honor loyalty status or award loyalty points to stays booked through an OTA.
I can’t really stomach the thought of paying $350 a night for a hotel room, even if the hotel is beautiful. If I redeemed Ultimate Rewards points for the stay, I would not have to spend any cash, but 27,000 points is a lot to shell out for just one night!
Thankfully, Hyatt is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Hyatt Regency Amsterdam is a Category 4 hotel, which means standard rooms require just 15,000 points per night, and club rooms require 21,000 points per night.
By transferring my Ultimate Rewards points directly to World of Hyatt and booking an award stay directly through the hotel, I will save myself more than 8,000 Ultimate Rewards points!
At a cash rate of $350 per night, my 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points will have a value of 2.33 cents each, which is much higher than the 1.25 cents the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers through the portal.
I also will have the added benefit of my hotel status being recognized, since the award stay is booked directly through the hotel. As a Globalist member, that will provide me Club Lounge access, earnings toward elite night credit and space-available upgrades.
Since all Ultimate Rewards points transfer to travel partners at a 1:1 ratio, getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is an excellent choice.
If you are just getting started with this hobby, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card should be at the top of your list for several reasons but one stands out above the rest.
Due to the low annual fee, you can start playing the points and miles game without having to spend a large amount of money out of pocket, while still earning valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Before you know it, you will have booked your first award flight or award stay and be well on your way to earning more points.
Disclosure: 10xTravel has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. 10xTravel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. You can read our advertiser disclosure here.