In 2011, Chase launched a couple high-end cards under the JP Morgan label. The most famous being the Palladium card, however for those seeking something modest with more lax requirements, there is the Select card.
Update for 2013
When I first wrote this review a year ago, I mentioned the rumor about this card being phased out because it’s too similar to the Sapphire Preferred. Well lo and behold it’s came true. You can no longer apply for it.
As a good alternative, I highly recommend the Sapphire Preferred. It also uses Ultimate Rewards points which can be transferred to partner airlines on a 1:1 basis. And with this current signup offer, it’s too good to pass up…
Everything below is about JP Morgan Select and I’m only leaving it up for legacy purposes. Remember the Select card is no longer available.
Putting it into perspective
The requirements are nothing out of the ordinary. If you are upper middle-class with good income and credit history, then approval shouldn’t be too hard.
This card has its pros but also a few cons. Let’s review them all…
No fee on foreign transactions - As I’m sure you’ve noticed, more travel-oriented cards (even mid-level ones) are adding the benefits of having no foreign transaction fees. Surprisingly the $175 Premier Rewards Gold still charges the fee… so this JP Morgan card clearly beats that card for this category.
On the other hand, the Sapphire Preferred also waives foreign transaction fees and has the same annual fee as the Select.
Double points on [some] travel categories – With this card you will get 2x points on hotels, airlines, and car rentals (excluding RVs, trucks, and trailers).
Ironically, the Sapphire Preferred also gives 2x points on travel, but more travel categories are included. So between the two, JP Morgan Select card loses.
Single point on regular purchases – This is pretty standard across all cards, so no surprise here. However rather than being concerned with the number of points per dollar, you should be paying more attention to the value of your points when converting them to travel (will discuss in a moment).
Security chip for using abroad – Still stuck on the ol’ magnetic strip, the credit card technology in the United States is terribly outdated compared to the rest of the world, who have already transitioned to chip based credit cards.
In fact, if you’re traveling by rail in say, France, and get your ticket from an automated machine, there’s a good chance you won’t even be able to pay using a card that only has a magnetic strip.
The JP Morgan cards were among the first in the US to include the chip. So as of right now that is still a unique benefit but other issuers are following.
Partner airlines – With American Express Membership Rewards Points, this is the best way to get the most bang for your buck because you can convert points to miles on over 15 airlines at an exchange of one for one.
The JP Morgan Select application mentions there are partner airlines but it didn’t list them. So I called up customer service and found out who they are:
- British Airways
- Southwest Airlines
So with this card you only get 3 airlines. Definitely not up to par with AmEx but I predict this list will grow over time, as Chase has been aggressively advancing into the travel card territory the past few years (as if you can’t tell from all their travel card commercials).
Furthermore, United is the largest carrier so if you can only have one… not a bad one to have, right? Meanwhile if you want to go the discount route, Southwest is probably the most popular discount carrier, so another good one.
These are the same partner airlines you also get with the Sapphire Preferred.
Travel benefits – You get the Visa Signature benefits such as insurance for lost luggage, common carrier travel accident for death or dismemberment, etc. but in addition, J.P. Morgan also throws in some unique benefits…
The biggest one that stands out from the crowd is that it gives primary auto rental coverage, instead of secondary. That means if a claim is made, you get to go straight through the credit card instead of first hitting up your personal auto insurance.
There’s also sickness coverage and emergency evacuation and repatriation (the latter two are unlikely to be needed, but either way still great to have).
So when you take a full look at these benefits, it’s a pretty good deal considering the $95 price tag.
Should you get this or the Sapphire?
While I was on the phone with customer service asking about the partner airlines, I also brought up the striking similarities between the Select and Sapphire Preferred. Why does Chase have two cards with the same annual fee and extremely similar rewards/benefits?
The rep told me that she thinks the Select credit card under the JP Morgan label will be transitioned to the Sapphire label eventually. That would make sense given how much marketing is put behind Sapphire and how little behind Select.
As to which one you should get? If you can’t wait for the chip to come to the Sapphire, then the Select is probably the way to go. That said, right now I think the Sapphire Preferred and its huge promotion is too good to pass up.
Written or last updated for Jan 2013