In April 2014, this $500 bonus value is by far the best Chase Sapphire card offer you will find. This review will show you how to get the $500 worth of air/hotel rewards and show you the pros and cons for both the regular Chase Sapphire and the Chase Sapphire Preferred versions of the product. Before we discuss the benefits in detail, here's a brief overview of each card:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 2x points on travel, 2x points on dining at restaurants, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. To top it all off, you get an Annual Points Dividend equal to 7 percent of the points earned on new purchases during the preceding year. Your points go far since you get 20 percent off travel when you redeem them through Ultimate Rewards. At the moment you can earn 40,000 bonus points + an additional 5,000, which is the best offer they've had all year:
- 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months from account opening. 40,000 points can be redeemed for $500 in travel through Ultimate Rewards or $400 cash back.
- 5,000 additional bonus points after you add the first authorized user and they make a purchase in the first three months from account opening
- Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 (although higher fees of $125 and $149 have been appearing to some visitors on Chase's website)
- Here is the link to get this promotion while it's available
Chase Sapphire® Card: This card is less popular than the preferred version. It is the no-annual-fee basic version of the Sapphire. The rewards are less lucrative: 2x points for dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. The points are less versatile because you don't get 20 percent off travel through Ultimate Rewards, and you can't transfer your points to partner airlines/hotels (which the Preferred lets you do). However you can still redeem points for travel, gift cards, cash back and more.
As we all know, the customer service on most credit cards just isn't what it used to be. A simple phone call turns into an endless run-around of pushing numbers and waiting on-hold. And all you get in return is someone who doesn't seem to understand your questions and reads from a script. Fortunately, Chase created these cards to offer superior service:
Concierge ServiceHow do you earn points?
Both of the Chase Sapphire versions come with free 24/7 concierge service. Simply give them a call and they can help you out with all sorts of things... reservations, figuring out travel, planning your entertainment, helping you choose the perfect gift, etc. You can also use the concierge for simple tasks like directory assistance, too. This service can be a real lifesaver when you're driving and can't text or Google!
24/7 Dedicated Customer Service
Simply call up the number on the back of your card and speak with a real, live person immediately. No more of that endless number-pushing game! In fact, Chase even advertises that you are connected immediately "without pressing '#.' Guaranteed." Best of all, only US-based customer service representatives have answered when calling (even late at night).
When you do a comparison of the Chase Sapphire versus Sapphire Preferred, at first glance the points-earning structure appears identical. This is because they both give you:
But after that, they differ markedly. The Sapphire Preferred takes things to another level by offering you the following ways to earn points:
- 1 point per dollar on regular purchases
- 2 points per dollar on dining
- 1 point per dollar on air/hotel booked using the Ultimate Rewards tool
- Up to 10 points per dollar at nearly 300 top online retailers when you access those websites through the Ultimate Rewards Mall portal.
- No caps on reward earnings
As the saying goes, there are no free lunches, and the Preferred version does have an annual fee to offset the cost to the bank for those lucrative rewards. But for many who concentrate their everyday spending on this type of card, the extra rewards can offset the annual fee many times over. Plus, the Preferred also offers some additional benefits which I will discuss in a moment.
- 2 points per dollar on travel: Airlines, auto rentals, hotels, travel agencies, taxis, trains, cruises, bridges, tolls and parking. Plus, you also get 1 additional point per dollar on airfare/hotel booked through Ultimate Rewards (giving you a total of 3x points on those purchases).
- 7 percent Annual Points Dividend: Every year you are awarded a 7 percent points "dividend" based on the number of points earned during the prior 365 day period. So let's say you earned 100,000 points from spending during your first year. After the anniversary date, you would be given a dividend equal to 7 percent of that amount (so a bonus of 7,000 points for that example). You get this "points" dividend each and every year as long as you have the card.
- Points are worth more for travel using Ultimate Rewards: As a Preferred cardmember, whenever you redeem your points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through the Ultimate Rewards website, you get 20 percent off (so 20 percent fewer points are needed). For example, say you're using 30,000 points to buy a plane ticket, that would normally equal $300 in credit towards your ticket. However with the boost in value, your 30,000 points would be worth $375.
- 3 points per dollar on dining during the first Friday of every month for 2014: Instead of 2x points, this is just a little something extra they're giving you this year.
How do you spend points?
The Chase "Ultimate Rewards" program allows you to redeem your points for just about anything (including cash back). But as you probably guessed from the commercials, the most popular option is using them for travel rewards. It's a very fair and flexible program:
No Expiration – Your points will be there as long as you have the card.For travel, here's how it works...
No Blackout Dates – You can use your points for airfare and other travel purchases without restrictions.
You can use your points to pay for a lot more than just airline tickets. Book with more than 60,000 hotels and resorts across the globe. Take a cruise with Royal Caribbean or Carnival. You can use points to pay for a rental car and even airport parking. Almost any travel purchase can be paid for with points on the following conversion:
1 point = 1 full cent towards the travel purchase of your choice
There are no blackout dates or restrictions surrounding points usage. So if you found a plane ticket you wanted to buy that costs $371.00, you could pay for it using 37,100 points.
Sapphire Preferred cardmembers can get additional value for travel...
Your points are worth more for travel with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. When you buy your plane ticket or book your hotel room using Ultimate Rewards, you get 20 percent off. So that means that a $371 ticket would only require 29,680 points, instead of 37,100.
1 point = 1.25 cent value through UR Travel (since 20 percent fewer points are needed)
A great option you have with the Sapphire Preferred version is the unique ability to convert points to frequent flier miles on partner airlines with a full 1-for-1 conversion. The partner airlines and hotel programs are:
- United Airlines Mileage Plus
- British Airways Avios
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- Korean Air Skypass
- Marriott Rewards
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- IHG Rewards Club
- Amtrak Guest Rewards
Even if you don't see your preferred airline/hotel listed, remember that many of those programs allow you to spend miles on their partners too. For example, British Airways allows you to redeem Avios points for flights on their partner American Airlines. Two summers ago, I did that for this trip:
Only a couple airlines offer direct flights to Kauai. Solution? Transfer Sapphire Preferred points to British Airways Avios points (and use those to book the AA flight, pictured above). Just look how much that same flight would have cost if paying cash...
For this particular flight, that's over 2 cents value per point! See how valuable it can be to transfer your Sapphire Preferred points to frequent flier mileage programs?
Other ways to spend your points
What other benefits do you get?
- Cash Back – You can always opt for a cash rewards check and get a full 1 cent per point.
- Gift Cards – Choose gift cards from more than 75 partner retailers, restaurants, and gas stations. A few examples are Amazon, Target, Starbucks, Home Depot, Nordstrom, and Applebees. Sometimes you even get 'em on sale (making your points worth even more).
- Entertainment – The Chase Sapphire rewards program gives you access to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Use points to sit front and center at top concerts, shows, and events. In the past, cardmembers have even scored VIP passes for everything from American Idol to Fashion Week using their points.
Here are just a few of the extra benefits that both regular and Preferred cardmembers get:
The Preferred version comes with even more perks:
- No Pre-Set Limit – There's no preset limit, giving you ultimate flexibility with your spending.
- Travel Insurance – A wide array of free travel insurance services are included on eligible purchases made with the card; trip cancellation insurance, auto rental collision damage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and more.
- Blueprint – a one-of-a-kind credit card management tool which let's you decide exactly how you would like to pay your balances.
Chase Sapphire vs. Sapphire Preferred: Which is best for you?
- Chip and Signature Technology – Your card will come with chip technology. Trust me that will make your life easier while traveling internationally, especially anywhere in Europe. Chip and Signature capabilities will also make your card more secure when making purchases here in the United States, as well.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees – On the Preferred version you pay no fees for international purchases. This is a huge benefit for those that travel out of the country and it can help you recoup some of the cost of the annual fee.
Both of the Sapphire credit cards offers a wide array of benefits that you typically only find on premium cards with annual fees of several hundred dollars or more. Surprisingly, the regular version has absolutely no annual fee, which really makes it a no-brainer.
The annual fee for the Preferred may seem like a drawback, but the extra value you get with rewards is often worth it. Plus, you get a $0 intro annual fee for the first year. Trust me, it leaves quite the impression when you plop it on the table to pay for dinner since it's made out of real metal!
So get used to the "oohs" and "ahhs" from people when they see (and hear) you set it down. Back in November they added the EMV chip technology which makes it look even cooler.
If you are on the fence about whether you should go with the regular Sapphire versus the Preferred, my recommendation is to go with the Preferred since the current promotion waives the annual fee for one full year. That way, you can give it a test drive and if you change your mind, you can always downgrade when the first year is up to avoid paying the fee.
Remember you earn the 40,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months from account opening. During that same time if you also add an authorized user and they make a purchase, you will receive an additional 5,000 bonus points. Introductory annual fee of $0 the first year, then $95.
Spend $500 in the first 3 months from account opening to get the 10,000 bonus points - worth $100 in travel rewards. I would only recommend this one to a very light spender. However, considering that the Preferred card promo is waiving its annual fee for the first year, I would recommend snagging its big bonus while you still can versus the regular Sapphire. If needed, you could always downgrade the Preferred after the first year to the regular version.
Disclosure: CreditCardForum is proud to be an affiliate of Chase and advertise their credit cards. However please note that even though we have that relationship which makes it possible to bring you these special deals, this review and all opinions contained within it are solely ours.