Need Help Choosing Your 1st Travel Rewards Card?

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Mitch comments:

I currently have a few cards including the Amex Blue Cash (wife and I use for groceries), Discover it® Cash Back (use it for regular purchases), Visa (just a plain Visa thru my local bank, not a great reward program).  But I don’t have 1 card dedicated to travel.

I’m considering closing the Visa card and getting 1 travel card to save for a family trip. Although I prefer no annual fee I would open to 1 if value is there.  I know you’re high on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Can you recommend a card?

Thanks for your question, Mitch!  And welcome to the world of Big Travel with Small Money!  Be sure to check out my Beginner’s Guide for all the details on how this hobby works!

It’s true, I really do like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card!  And it’s great for folks, like Mitch, who are new to this hobby and looking for their 1st travel rewards card.

Need Help Choosing Your 1st Travel Rewards Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Is an Excellent Choice for Your 1st Travel Rewards Card

I’ll explain what you get with this card and why it’s well worth paying the annual fee!

Why I Recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred – 40,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus

Link:   Everything You Need to Know About the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred you’ll earn 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the 1st 3 months of opening your account.

There is a $95 annual fee.  But it’s waived the 1st year.

It’s a great card to keep despite the annual fee because you get terrific category bonuses (like 2X points on restaurant spending), transfer partners (like United Airlines and Hyatt), and excellent customer service!

However, if you evaluate the card for ~10 months and decide it’s not worth the annual fee, canceling before the fee is due is an easy no-hassle process.  You can even cancel by sending a secure message through your online account.

Even if you redeem the 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn for cash back, you’ll get $400, which is well worth the annual fee.  Or you can book up to $500 in travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal.

But you’ll get the most value by using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for Big Travel with airline and hotels like United Airlines, Hyatt, and Southwest.

For example, Mitch could transfer his points to United Airlines for a round-trip flight to Costa Rica.

Need Help Choosing Your 1st Travel Rewards Card
You Could Use 35,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points for a Round-Trip Flight to Costa Rica, Worth ~$650

Or Mitch could transfer his 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt.  And with 40,000 Hyatt points he can get an all-inclusive weekend at Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos.

Need Help Choosing Your 1st Travel Rewards Card
2 Nights at Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos Could Cost ~$1,200!

So you can get a lot of value out of the points you earn with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

I’ve kept this card in my wallet way beyond 2 years.  That’s because it has many other great perks like:

  • 5,000 bonus points when you add an authorized user who makes a purchase within the 1st 3 months
  • 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 you spend on travel and dining
  • Primary car rental insurance – Covers damage or theft to your rental car, when you pay for the rental with your card
  • Trip delay reimbursement – Get up to $500 back per ticket when your trip is delayed more than 12 hours
  • No foreign transaction fees

I’ve transferred my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt for a stay at the Grand Hyatt Kauai and to United Airlines for Business Class flights to India.

But Do What Works for You!

I like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, but the best card for you depends on your:

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great starter card for folks, like Mitch, even if you don’t have firm travel plans or know where you want to go.  You get a lot of flexibility with this card because you have so many terrific transfer partners.  So this keeps your options open when you’re ready to book your trip!

Plus, it’s easy to earn points because you’ll get 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points for every $1 you spend on dining and travel.

Need Help Choosing Your 1st Travel Rewards Card
There Are Lots of Great Credit Cards Out There, Ultimately You’ll Have to Choose the Best 1 for You!

That said, Chase has recently tightened the rules for approving cards for folks who apply for lots of cards.  So if you’re just starting out with miles & points it’s best to get this card 1st before signing-up for cards from other banks.

You Never Have to Cancel a No Annual Fee Card

Link:   Why Everyone Should Have a No Annual Fee Card

Mitch doesn’t need to cancel his Visa card before signing-up for his new travel card.  It doesn’t cost anything to keep a NO annual fee card and hanging onto it could help his credit score.

That’s because the length of your credit history makes up 15% of your credit score.  Plus, having a card long-term lets you build a relationship with the bank and shows you can handle credit responsibly over time.

Need Help Choosing Your 1st Travel Rewards Card
Building Good Credit & Relationships With No Annual Fee Cards Will Help You Get Approved for New Cards in the Future

Bottom Line

If you’re trying to decide on your 1st travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is an excellent choice!  This is my favorite card for folks new to our hobby.  Because there are so many ways to use the points you earn including transferring to airline and hotel partners.

The 40,000 Chase Ultimate rewards points you’ll earn by completing the minimum spending requirements on the Chase Sapphire Preferred are worth at least $400 in cash back.  And when you transfer to partner like Hyatt you can get ~$1,200 worth of Big Travel!

Plus, you get benefits that make it worth keeping in your wallet.

That said, there are lots of great credit cards so choose the card that’s right for you!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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