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But I might as well be and discuss these two travel credit cards.
Chase Sapphire credit cards are fantastic because:
- You earn Ultimate Rewards points, which have a ton of great transfer partners including *United Airlines*, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, and Singapore Airlines.
- Both cards offer generous category bonuses for spending on travel and dining.
First, let’s start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (CSP), which I suggest in my “I’m Nervous” credit card combination. Overall, the CSP card is great for a number of reasons:
- Solid welcome bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on the card within the first three months.
- 2x points on travel, dining, and takeout
- 2x eligible delivery services
- 1x points on all other purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- $95 annual fee
The real benefit of the CSP card is the category spending bonuses on travel and dining. Since Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to either United or Southwest Airlines, it’s more advantageous to use the CSP for typical credit card use (since you’ll earn more points) than the airline credit cards, such as United MileagePlus Explorer or Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards cards.
So what does Chase consider travel? Quite a bit. Here are the official terms:
Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages. Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, educational merchants arranging travel, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of gift cards, points or miles does not qualify in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the travel category.
So pretty much anything and everything travel, with gas stations being a notable exception. And yes, Uber counts.
What about dining?
Merchants in the restaurants category are merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments. Please note that some merchants that sell food and drinks located within larger merchants such as sports stadiums, hotels and casinos, theme parks, grocery and department stores will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in a restaurant category. In addition, gift card and delivery service merchants will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the restaurant category.
This category isn’t as fuzzy as “travel,” but still helpful to see exactly what qualifies. While Chase gives a disclaimer that buying hot dogs and beer at sports stadiums may not count, I’ve found that the category bonus is usually applied quite liberally. Not that I would ever justify a round of beers because of the extra credit card points…
As I point out in “I’m Nervous,” after meeting the minimum spending threshold that’s potentially going to get me 80,000 welcome bonus points. That’s good for two roundtrip economy flights to Ireland with British Airways miles, a one-way business class flight to Europe/Argentina/Chile with United miles, and almost enough (10,000 more points needed) to fly one-way in first-class to Seoul with Korean Air miles.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is also a great way to top off your existing frequent flyer accounts. Especially since the amount of miles we infrequent flyers likely have (let me guess… 10,000-40,000?) is never going to be enough to redeem the type of high-value business class redemptions that we all read about. Transferring the 70,000 Ultimate Rewards points to your United or British Airways frequent flyer account will make those kinds of rewards much more attainable.
So hopefully you’re convinced the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a pretty sweet deal and a much better option than the typical airline credit card. But guess what… the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is even better.
- Great sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in three months;
- No foreign transaction fees
- 3x points on all travel and dining
- $300 annual travel credit
- 1x on all other purchases
- Statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck (one credit every four years)
- Complimentary Priority Pass access for cardmember and up to 2 guests in the travel party (additional guests are $29 each)
- Ability to redeem one Ultimate Rewards point for 1.5 cents in travel (in case you don’t intend to transfer to airline partners)
- …and a $550 annual fee (and not waived the first year) 😢
Believe me… I never thought I could ever be convinced to pay a $550 annual fee for a credit card. But bear with me here.
First, the $300 travel credit. The credit is automatically applied for every travel purchase until you max out the benefit. There’s no extra step or tracking necessary. And if you’re reading this blog, odds are that you travel enough to spend $300 on flights, hotels, taxis, parking, etc. over the course of a year. So while the $550 annual fee causes a bit of sticker shock, with the travel credit, the annual fee is more like $250.
But why pay “$250” when the Chase Sapphire Preferred card’s annual fee is $95? Because the other benefits can somehow compensate for that amount.
Let’s take a look at the Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit. Even for infrequent flyers, this can be a HUGE time saver when traveling through domestic airports. After pre-registering and initially paying the $100 fee, Global Entry allows you to skip the long, serpentine normal line when arriving at a U.S. airport from overseas. You can instead process through passport control by inputing your information into a Global Entry kiosk.
An example of a Global Entry kiosk. You can receive reimbursement for the Global Entry fee with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
SO. EASY. I’ve heard horror stories of people waiting in the typical passport control lines at Dulles airport for HOURS, and I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes now that I have Global Entry.
When you sign up for Global Entry, you are also enrolled in TSA Precheck. You have the option to pay $85 instead if you only wanted TSA Precheck, but since the Sapphire Reserve card reimburses you regardless, signing-up for the package deal with Global Entry is the best bet. After preregistering, you will receive a Known Traveler Number that you need to enter while booking your flight. You’ll see a “TSA Precheck” logo on your boarding pass, which grants you access to TSA Precheck lanes at most domestic security checkpoints.
Your boarding pass will have some iteration of this TSA Precheck logo.
You’ve probably seen the TSA Precheck lanes at airports around the United States. The Precheck lines are probably a lot shorter than typical security lines, and the people in the Precheck lanes are usually super smug about saving 30+ minutes by breezing through security. Those eligible for the TSA Precheck lanes don’t need to remove shoes, belts, lightweight jackets, electronics, or liquids from their carry-on luggage, so security is super quick. TSA claims that 93% of Precheck passengers go through security in less than five minutes, which is worth the $85 in my book. And that makes the annual fee a bit more palatable.
Another great benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is the complimentary Priority Pass, which allows free access to a variety of airport lounges both in the United States and throughout the world. While the pass doesn’t grant you access to all lounges, the list is quite comprehensive. Check it out here.
Priority Pass is free for Chase Sapphire Reserve Cardholders
Some people like to arrive at the airport hours before their flight and relax at the airport beforehand. My philosophy is usually to spend as little time as possible at the airport, so I’m generally less excited about the prospect of airport lounges. But nonetheless, sipping free macchiatos at the Turkish Airlines lounge beats fighting for an outlet outside Gate 23. And the Priority Pass is a crazy good deal when you look at how much it would cost normally.
WHO IS PAYING $400 A YEAR FOR PRIORITY PASS??
Yes, a Priority Pass with unlimited visits would normally cost $400… and this wouldn’t even include any free guests. This is what makes earning the Priority Pass with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card so special; not only does the cardholder receive free entry, but so does everyone else in the cardholder’s travel party. So if you’re a family of four and use an airport lounge just two times, you’re already “earning” back your annual fee.
There are a variety of other small travel perks (rental car damage waiver, hotel, and rental car discounts, purchase protection, etc.), but probably the best benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card are the 3x category bonuses on travel and dining. I mean, this is a points blog, so naturally, we’re most interested in collecting as many points as possible.
I used to think that the best way to earn a bunch of United miles as an infrequent flyer was to use the United MileagePlus Explorer credit card. But I would only earn 2x points on spending on United flights. Meanwhile, with the Sapphire Reserve card, I could earn 3x points on all travel and dining, then transfer those Chase points into my United account. If only “2014 Jameson” would have cracked the points code before flying we fly 20 hours in the economy to South Africa 🙄. At least we were able to binge-watch the second season of Narcos.
Be sure to read over The Chase “5/24” Rule and Points for Beginners if you’re just getting started. If you’re having a hard time understanding credit card points and award redemptions, you can sign up for our travel concierge where we offer one full year of unlimited consultation.