What’s My Favorite Card for Beginners?

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Ben, commented:

I’m going to apply for my 1st travel rewards card.  What is the best card to get?

Welcome to the world of Big Travel with Small Money, Ben!

With so many great deals out there, it’s tempting for folks who are new to this hobby to jump right in and start signing-up for cards.  But doing this could give you points in different accounts that aren’t useful for you.

So you’re doing the right thing by starting slow and thinking carefully about which card you’ll get first!

What's My Favorite Card For Beginners

Which Credit Card Is the Best for Folks Who Are New to Miles & Points?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is my favorite card for beginners.  I’ll explain why!

Before You Get Started

Link:   Beginner’s Guide

Link:   5 Dangers of Applying for Credit Cards

When you’re new to miles and points the best place to start is the Beginner’s Guide.  It will give you an overview on how this hobby works and help you understand the risks involved.

I typically apply for 3 to 5 cards each quarter because credit card sign-up bonuses are the quickest way to earn Big Travel!

For folks who are just getting started, like Ben, I recommend getting 1 or 2 cards and take it slow until you feel comfortable.  Make sure you can meet the minimum spending requirements so you don’t miss out on the bonus.  I have some tricks that will make it easy!

What's My Favorite Card For Beginners

Decide Where You Want to Go and Determine Which Points Will Help You Get There Before You Choose Your 1st Travel Rewards Credit Card

To find the right credit cards for you, set travel goals and find cards that will help you meet them.  That way you don’t end up with points that aren’t useful for your travel plans.

My Favorite Card for Beginners

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred – 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Link:   My Full Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

I recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for beginners.

With this card you’ll earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the 1st 3 months of opening your account.

And there are a lot of other things I love about this card:

1.   The Only Personal Card That Unlocks Airline & Hotel Transfer Partners

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card (or Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Bold small business cards), gives you the ability to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners.

Rumor 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Point Sign Up Bonus With New Card Coming Soon

The Power of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Is That It Allows You to Transfer ALL Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (Including Those You Earn With the Freedom Card) to Great Travel Partners Like United Airlines and Hyatt

Chase Ultimate Rewards points give you a lot of flexibility.

You can use your 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for cash back and get $500 (1 cent per point).  But you’ll get more out of your points by transferring to airline and hotel partners including:

 Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfer Partners 
British AirwaysFlying Blue (Air France/KLM)Korean Air
Singapore AirlinesSouthwestUnited Airlines
Virgin Atlantic
 Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners 

So you could transfer to Hyatt for a 2-night stay at Andaz Maui!

What's My Favorite Card For Beginners

Pour a Glass of Wine and Watch the Sunset From the Comfort of Your Private Balcony at the Andaz Maui

This hotel can cost ~$500 per night, which gives you a rate of ~2 cents per point (~$1,000 for 2 nights / 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points).  That’s double the value you get with cash back!

Emily and I have used our Chase Ultimate Rewards points to surprise my mom in Sydney for her birthday, for a weekend getaway on the West Coast, and for a special trip to Italy.

2.   Book Paid Travel With NO Blackout Dates!

You can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book paid travel (flights, hotels, cars, and activities) at 1.25 cents per point.

This gives you more flexibility because there are NO blackout dates and you won’t have to worry about finding open award seats or available award rooms.  So it’s a great option for folks booking last-minute holiday travel.

And sometimes you’ll spend fewer points on cheap flights than if you booked an award ticket.

Plus, you’ll earn miles and points for your flight or hotel stay!

3.   Excellent Bonus Categories

If you do a lot of spending on travel and dining, like I do, you can easily earn more points for free travel.  That’s because you’ll earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points in these categories.

What's My Favorite Card For Beginners

Travel, New Foods, and Chase Ultimate Rewards Points – These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

4.   No Annual Fee for the 1st Year

The $95 annual fee is waived for the 1st year.  So you can give the card a try for ~10 months to see if it works for you without having to pay anything.  If you like it, you’ll happily pay the annual fee in exchange for Big Travel (like I have for many years!).

Or if you decide to cancel, you can call Chase and have them close the account without any hassle.

What's My Favorite Card For Beginners

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Is Well Worth the Annual Fee, but If You Decide to Cancel It’s as Easy as a Quick Phone Call

5.  This Is the Card I Use for Rental Cars

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is 1 of only a few credit cards that offer primary insurance when you use it to pay for a personal rental car.

Most other credit card rental insurance is secondary, which means if you have your own car insurance, you have to file a claim with your own insurance company first.

Keep in mind, primary rental car coverage with a credit card only pays for damages to your rental car, NOT damage to other cars, property, or injuries.

So don’t rely on this as your only coverage if you don’t have your own insurance!

6.   You Can Make Charges Outside of the US Without Paying Fees

You can use your Chase Sapphire Preferred card wherever you are in the world (as long as they accept Visa) and you won’t pay foreign transaction fees.

7.   Get It While You Can

Chase has recently denied applications from folks who have ~5 or more new credit cards (from any bank!) in the past 24 months.  There are exceptions and it isn’t in writing.  And I don’t think folks who are new to this hobby need to worry about it too much.

But it’s good to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card 1st because you may not be able to get it later!

Bottom Line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is my favorite card for folks who are new to miles and points.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn give you flexibility because you can transfer your points to airline and hotel partners like United Airlines and Hyatt for Big Travel!

You’ll earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on dining and travel, which are 2 categories where many folks in this hobby do a lot of spending.  The $95 annual fee is waived for the 1st year, which gives you a trial period with the card.

And you can use it anywhere where Visa cards are accepted without paying foreign transaction fees..

Chase is making it harder to get new cards if you’ve opened ~5 or more credit cards in the past 24 months.  So it’s a good idea to make this your 1st card.  Because you might not be able to get it later!

Be sure to check out the Beginner’s Guide before you get started, so you have an overview of how to get the most out of this hobby!

Thanks for the question, Ben!

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9 responses to “What’s My Favorite Card for Beginners?

  1. The CSP alone is pretty much a dud after the signup bonus. This card has fallen behind its competitors and I wish you guys wouldn’t push it so hard. I give it 2 stars.

    However, if you can pair it with a Chase Freedom then I’d give the combined pair 3 stars.

    A better card is the Ink+ – 3 stars. Pair it with a Freedom – 4 stars.

  2. I checked the Card Match Tool, and the CSP card shows up as a match. Does that mean that I have a good chance to be approved? I don’t meet the current requirements for the card, as I have applied for 5 or more cards in the last 2 years.

  3. I’d recommend the Alaska Airline card from BOA as the best first card. With no spend you get a round trip for $75 (annual fee) that will work on American or Delta!

  4. Hello – Does anyone know if you meet the spending requirement for the 50K points in month one, are the points given to you in month two? Or do you not see the points until month four? Trying to understand the timeline of how early I could use the points!

  5. @ Allizon

    The points normally post on your statement. The 50K bonus points may post a month later, depending on when you pass the threshold. To be safe, you should count on the points the statement after you qualify.

    The Alaska card is a good card [as is the business version] but there are better point value cards. Check out Americanexpress.com … pre selected cards [and/or card match] to see if you have better targeted offers [i.e. 100000 points for a Platinum or 50,000 points for a Gold. Business cards are better for Amex as [you can get them again] after 12 months after closure. Currently Amex personal is once in a lifetime, but I think that will change as Amex is losing Costco and the SPG card among others. A few years ago, Chase was once per lifetime and they went to 23 months from EARNING bonus. Good luck to you all. I have been hardcore since September 2011 – have flown my family of 3 on 5 premium international trips and arranged trips
    around the world for several friends on the side and still have over 2,000,000 points [air, bank and hotel] in my accounts. See what good credit scores and knowledge can do. Thanks D? btw.

  6. Opps Chase is a minimum 24 months after earning the last bonus, not 23 months. It was a typo…

  7. My 20 yr old step son wants to apply for his 1st credit card, I was thinking Southwest so he can fly for springbreak somewhere but now I’m not sure if that’s the best option.

  8. @Fat Chance – I like earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points because I can transfer to partners like Hyatt. And yes, the great thing about the Chase Sapphire Preferred is it becomes even better when you combine it with cards like the Chase Freedom.

    @ToddC – Can’t say for sure.

    @Evan Marks – Thanks for sharing your top pick!

    @Allizon – Once you complete the minimum spending, the post will post after your statement closes

    @Marriott Marty – Thanks for chiming in!

    @Boonie – If this is his 1st credit card, he may want to take some time reading the beginner’s guide and the risks of signing-up for credit cards:



    I recommend signing-up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred first, because it could be hard to get this card later. And it will give him a lot more flexibility. He could transfer the points to United Airlines or Southwest for his trip. And if he can’t find award seats, because spring break is a busy travel time. He can book paid flights through the Chase Travel portal.



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