The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the most well-reviewed travel credit cards on the market, so in 2019 I picked one up for the 100 Nights of Summer Tour. The main selling point is the massive sign-up bonus along with a crazy amount of flexibility in redeeming rewards.
Issued By: Chase Bank
Annual Fee: $450 ($300 in travel charges is credited back)
Signup Bonus: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $3000 in the first three months
Notable Perks: Priority Pass airline lounge membership, no foreign transaction fees, TSA Precheck
What I Liked
It’s Chase Bank: I’ve had Chase credit cards for about 10 years now and the custom service has always been excellent. They handled a credit card dispute I had with lodging in Italy, picked up a fraudulent use of my card in California, and they have forgiven late payment fees at least three times during our history. They were even able to send a replacement card to Romania for free when I extended my trip past my card expiration date.
Travel Protections: I currently don’t have car insurance in the United States, but am covered under this card for at least collision. There’s also some key coverage for late travel reimbursement and lost baggage.
What I Loved
Massive Sign-Up Bonus: So. Many. Points. If you spend $3000 in the first three months, you get 50,000 points as a bonus, so only go after this card if you have some major purchases on the horizon like a Eurail Pass or your airline ticket. I used the points for 14 nights at hostels, apartments, and hotels.
Airport Lounge Access: I already hate the airport experience and wanted to decrease my environmental impact, so I tried to fly less this season. Still, 15 festivals in 15 weekends in 15 different countries meant that I did have to work in some flights. But let me tell you, having access to the a priority lounge makes a world of difference to flying. The Chase Sapphire Card comes with membership to Priority Club and a surprising number of airport lounges. The quality does vary quite a bit from the very classy (Barcelona) to the bare bones (Cluj), but nearly all of them have quality internet, free drinks, snacks, a workstation, and the dream for a traveling festival reporter – clean showers.
Versatile Use of Points: In my previous job as a mobile marketing tour manager in the United States it made sense to have hotel branded credit cards like Holiday Inn and Marriott, as we mostly stayed in these chains while traveling and the associated cards came with grip of perks. My current job as a nomadic festival reporter requires a bit more flexibility which I found with the Sapphire Preferred which allowed me to stay in nearly any type of lodging, spend points on airline tickets, or even transfer to a partner program.
What I Hated
The Annual Fee: It’s a little confusing. The annual fee is priced at $450, but $300 of travel is reimbursed so the final price ends up being $150 annual fee per year. Without the point bonus, I’m not sure if I would keep the card for another year with that annual fee unless I was living on the road. Keep in mind if you cancel the card, you lose all your Chase points, so make sure to burn through them all before you cancel the card.
Free Rooms Are Sometimes Not Free: Read those free room descriptions closely. I booked one night in Budapest for 2000 points (roughly $60 USD) only to see hidden way down in the description that there was also a $60 “housekeeping” fee. I cancelled because I’m not paying actual cash for a free room. Chase Rewards didn’t refund the points and I learned an important lesson that even on a “free hotel stay” website, you still have to watch out for hidden fees.
The Final Word
So Is It Worth It? Absolutely, just for the sign-up bonus alone. Even with getting screwed out of that one room, I essentially paid $150 for 14 nights of lodging, 12 airport lounge stops, a five year membership to TSAPreCheck, and no foreign transaction fees. I also generated enough points for an additional 7-8 free nights.
So Is It Worth It After One Year? I ended up hanging onto the card and paying the $150 fee again. I was on the fence about it, but still had 15,000 points (about 3-4 free nights) so decided to keep it for another year. So far it’s paid off, as I had a dispute with RyanAir over cancelled flights. After haggling with the airline for two months, I turned it over to Chase and they reversed the charge within a couple weeks saving me $120.