Everyone knows about hacking your way to travel on the cheap. Credit cards, rewards programs, frequent flier miles, bonus points—you name it, someone somewhere out there has hacked it. Despite traveling quite a lot before my big trip in March, I had never had a credit card with rewards. I’d never gotten any bonuses, I never worried about hacking, I didn’t even think about it.
So after this last Christmas (2015, which I spent in the UK), I decided I needed to get my shit together. If I was going to spend the money, I wanted the free stuff. So I did my research—I opened and read all of the junk mail offers for credit cards I got in the mail. I read all the online reviews. I scoured all the blogs. I picked my credit card, and I haven’t looked back. After using this card for most of 2016, both in the US and abroad, I’ve decided it’s about time to do a full review of it.
So, Introducing The BEST Credit Card for Travel:
the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
With any credit card with travel perks, you should look for the same things: no foreign transaction fees, a large bonus within the first few months, and a rewards program that allows you to use your bonus points on the things you want (travel). Your credit card is even better if it is Visa or Mastercard (as American Express and Discover aren’t necessarily accepted everywhere), and if it has a waiver for the annual fee (meaning it’s free for the first year).
Chase Sapphire Preferred has it all. And more. Guys, I seriously love this credit card.
I’m an amateur and definitely not an expert—but man do I like free stuff. The bonus from this credit card, and the additional points I earned, meant that my most recent trip to Las Vegas was free. Or basically free, as I decided to bring my partner along—and after flights and 4 nights in a hotel room for two, he and I spent only $100 each! (But be careful about resort fees.)
If you are thinking about opening a credit card and want to hack a bit for travel perks, this is it. As always, you should never open a line of credit if you aren’t able to pay it back. You shouldn’t buy things you can’t afford in the first place. Never treat credit cards like free money—they aren’t. I don’t know much about hacking points and transferring balances and the credit score you’ll need to have and all the nitty gritty details of it all—but I do know that for someone like me, who is young, travels on a budget, and really wants to save the most on big expenses for the trips I do take (ie. flights), this card is perfect for me. I’m not an expert, this is just my honest opinion. So now that that disclaimer is out of the way, I’ve broken it down into categories to make this post a bit more organized. So here we go, my full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card!
Ease of Usage: My Chase Sapphire Preferred is a Visa card, so it’s accepted pretty much everywhere that accepts cards. I’ve never had a problem with it not working with a card reader. There is a chip (although as it’s a US card, it’s not a chip-and-pin) for added security and easy usage. It is also very straightforward to make payments online—you can set up automatic payments too.
Annual Fee: The annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is $95. But that fee is waived for the first year, meaning that it’s 100% free to sign up for users who haven’t had the Chase Sapphire in the past. If you think you’ll spend enough money on the card to make the annual fee worth it, it’s a good deal.
Fees: Praise Jesus, Chase Sapphire Preferred has NO foreign transaction fees!!! This includes fees when purchasing something on a foreign website which charges a foreign transaction fee—I’m looking at you, Ryanair. This has saved me probably $100-200 this year. There is a fee for cash withdrawals though—either 5% or $10 (whichever is higher), so seriously DON’T plan to withdraw cash.
Bonuses: The bonus for Chase Sapphire Preferred is why I signed up for the card in the first place. Spending $4000 in the first 3 months gets you 50,000 bonus points (which is worth $625 of travel when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards). This is how I got my points to go to Vegas! You can get an additional 5,000 points for adding an authorized user in the first 3 months. It is absolutely worth getting the card just in order to spend and get that bonus. The bonus is added to your account the cycle after the month that you hit the $4000 mark though, so don’t plan on booking something right away after you hit it. Also random but awesome, I also got $30 off my first Uber ride when I signed up with my Chase card!
Rewards Program: Chase Ultimate Rewards is the rewards program for Chase Sapphire Preferred. You receive 1 point/$1 spent on everything, and double points (2 points/$1 spent) on travel and dining—hotels, restaurants, fast food, trains, all get you double points! I even get double points from the parking lot I park at for work. It is great. There is also the Ultimate Rewards store, where you can shop at popular stores online and get additional points. Stores include Apple, Macys, Best Buy, Sears, Wal-Mart, JcPenney, and more. You can accumulate a lot of points by being savvy with your purchases.
One of the main reasons I love this card is that they are fairly flexible in redeeming your points—it’s not tied down to one airline or hotel chain, but instead allows you to find the best deal (since you’re not limited to just one or two options). Which is great for a budget traveler who doesn’t have airline loyalty, but instead wants to fly cheap—ME! It is all easy to book online through Chase Ultimate Rewards and redeem your points. The only downside of all of this is that you have to book your travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, which means that prices will be more expensive than you might find on Skyscanner or other price compare websites. Redeeming your rewards for travel is flexible, but perhaps not as flexible as other cards on the market. You can also redeem your points for giftcards.
Customer Service: I have only ever had excellent customer service with Chase. They have always been extremely polite and helpful whenever I’ve had problems or questions (and hearing “have a great trip!” when you’re calling to tell them you’re going abroad is a really nice touch). Most importantly, I have literally never sat on hold for more than 1 minute with them. Which is so important when you’re calling from abroad and getting charged like nothing else to make the call in the first place! And this is in contrast to my bank, where I once had to wait for 20 minutes to talk to someone about my card.
I absolutely recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card as a great starter card to anyone looking to get a good travel credit card, and who can spend a lot in the first three months. If you don’t think you can hit the $4000 mark (which I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do, had I not been traveling during those months), I’d find a different card to apply for—then apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred when you know you have a lot of big spending coming up. No foreign transaction fees, a big signup bonus, and the rewards program are the reasons why I love my Chase Sapphire Preferred!
No credit card is ever perfect, but this one is just about as close to perfect as it’ll get for me!
Which credit card do you use for travel? Do you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card? What do you think about it? I’d love to hear your experiences (and answer any questions I can) in the comments below!