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INSIDER SECRET: Chase credit cards have played a significant role in helping me visit 84 countries so far, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is one of my favorites due to Priority Pass airport lounge access (eat and drink for free at airports) and trip delay coverage, which has easily saved me $3,000 in the last two years alone!
Traveling is my favorite thing to do, and there’s no way that I would be able to travel as much as I do or in the style that I do without credit cards, specifically Chase credit cards, and more specifically the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. I grew up with a pretty “normal” American family, and we typically took one vacation a year — usually to Florida or the Upper Penninsula of Michigan to visit the grandparents, and every few years something a little different.
I never knew about “budget travel” or really about airline or hotel loyalty programs until I was in college and wanted to travel more, but didn’t have the funds to do it. And when I first discovered the world of utilizing credit card points and benefits for travel, understanding Chase credit cards was my first goal.
Since then, I’ve expanded the number and types of credit cards I use, but Chase credit cards are still some of my favorites. Some of my top current picks include the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, and more. Chase credit cards seriously are some of the best credit cards for travel. And now, with the goal of visiting every country (eventually), credit cards are a serious part of my strategy.
In addition to sharing some of my favorite Chase cards, I’ll also show you about how I have used the points and benefits from my Chase cards to help me visit 84 countries!
Why Chase Credit Cards Are Great for Free Travel
While I definitely don’t only use Chase credit cards, they are still some of my favorites. That’s because Chase Ultimate Rewards points, the type of points earned by many Chase credit cards, are super valuable and flexible. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points instantly at a 1:1 ratio to a bunch of Chase airline and hotel partners and they can be redeemed directly through Chase’s Travel Portal or even for cash back, too.
And in addition to the Ultimate Rewards-earning cards, Chase has a host of other cards that are co-branded with a hotel or airline and offer the ability to earn the airline’s miles or the hotel’s points and often include other travel benefits.
The Best Chase Credit Card for Beginners — The Chase Sapphire Preferred
Apply Here: Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is my number one pick for beginners. That’s because it can get you started earning valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points and it has a reasonable $95 annual fee. You’ll typically need good or better credit to get approved for this card — think a credit score of 700 or higher. But, even if you have a high credit score, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be approved because the decision is completely up to Chase. Keep in mind this and other Chase cards are affected by the Chase 5/24 rule, which means you won’t be approved if you’ve opened five or more cards from any bank (except certain business cards) in the past 24 months.
My favorite thing about the Chase Sapphire Preferred is that it offers a 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Those points are worth at least $750 in travel if you redeem through the Chase Travel Portal or they can be transferred to Chase’s partners like United and Hyatt where they could be worth a lot more.
In addition to offering an excellent sign-up bonus, you’ll be able to rack up points quickly because you’ll earn 2x points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1x points per dollar on all other purchases. The Sapphire Preferred also offers great travel insurance including trip delay coverage, lost baggage coverage, and primary rental car insurance coverage, just to name a few.
To find out more, read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Trip Spotlight — Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points for an Adventure in Asia
The first time I ever used my Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel was back in 2014 to visit Asia for the first time. I redeemed, at the time, 102,500 United miles, transferred from Chase at a 1:1 ratio, to fly from Detroit, Michigan in coach on the way there, and first class on the way home. I spent a few days in Beijing, about five weeks in Cambodia and Vietnam, a day in Thailand on the way home and a day in Germany on my flights in both directions.
Not only was this my first Chase Ultimate Rewards point redemption and my first trip to Asia, but it was also the first time I ever flew in a premium cabin. I redeemed for Thai and Lufthansa first class, including a visit to the Lufthansa first class terminal in Frankfurt. It was epic, to say the least!
Unfortunately, this award would cost a bit more now, but you could still book a similar trip for 180,000 United miles. Even though it’s more expensive, I would definitely consider redeeming my miles for a similar trip again.
My Absolute Favorite Chase Credit Card EVER — The Chase Sapphire Reserve
Apply Here: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns the same type of points as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but it earns more points on travel and dining and offers other amazing benefits that I regularly take advantage of. Of course, it also has a higher $450 annual fee.
The sign-up bonus currently offered for the Chase Sapphire Reserve is 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Those points are worth at least $750 in travel when redeemed through the Chase Travel Portal, but they can also be transferred to airline and hotel partner programs at a 1:1 ratio where they could be worth much more.
In addition to the sign-up bonus, you’ll earn 3x points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1x points per dollar on all other purchases. Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Sapphire Reserve also offers trip delay coverage, lost baggage coverage, primary rental car insurance coverage and more.
But where the Reserve really sets itself apart is with a few great benefits. First off, you’ll get a $300 travel credit each year that will automatically be applied to the first $300 in travel spending on your card each year. This effectively brings the annual fee down to $150 per year. And one of my most used benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is Priority Pass airport lounge membership. Priority Pass consists of over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide, and Sapphire Reserve cardholders can access them for free! Since I spend quite a bit of time at airports, this benefit has easily saved me $1,000s.
To find out more, read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Note that you can no longer have the Sapphire Reserve at the same time as the Sapphire Preferred, so you’ll have to pick the one you like better.
Trip Spotlight — Algeria
On my way to Oran, Algeria in October of 2018, the trip delay benefits from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card really came in handy. I had redeemed some of my Bank of America Travel Rewards earned from signing up for the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card to cover most of my flight, but I made sure to charge a little bit on my Sapphire Reserve so that I would still have trip delay coverage.
That turned out to be a super-smart move when my first of three flights for the day was delayed and I missed my connection in London. Oran doesn’t get many flights, so British Airways wasn’t going to be able to get me there until three days later, but they were able to get me into Algiers, Algeria the following day and then I took the train to Oran the day after that.
Unfortunately, it was still a pretty significant delay to my trip, but fortunately, the trip delay coverage from my Sapphire Reserve covered most of my expenses. I had one night at a hotel in London, one night at a hotel in Algiers, two meals, a new shirt and a portable battery pack all covered by my trip delay insurance. That totaled $500 in benefits, just for charging $5 of my ticket onto the card! For this reason alone, I always book my flights with my Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The Best Chase Credit Card for Small Businesses — The Chase Ink Business Preferred
Apply Here: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
The Ink family of cards has a lot of great options for small business owners, and the Chase Ink Business Preferred is one of my favorites. It currently offers an 80,000 Ultimate Rewards point sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months as a cardholder and only has a $95 annual fee.
The Ink Business Preferred offers great spending categories, too. You’ll earn 3x points per dollar on on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (up to a maximum of $150,000 in combined purchases per account anniversary year) and 1x points per dollar spent on all other purchases.
To find out more, read our full review of the Ink Business Preferred.
Trip Spotlight — Peru via Curacao
The most recent redemption that I’ve used Chase Ultimate Rewards points for is a flight from Curacao to Cusco, Peru. My trip ultimately involved three coach flights totaling about six hours in the air for 12,500 United miles, which I transferred from Chase at a 1:1 ratio. This itinerary would have otherwise cost me over $500 in cash!
I generally try to save my miles for business and first-class flights, but when I can get a solid 2 cents per mile for a coach redemption, I’ll still jump on it.
My Other Top Chase Credit Cards
I also have a few other Chase Credit Cards that I love.
United Explorer Card
Apply Here: United Explorer Card
Read our review of the Chase United Explorer
The United Explorer Card currently offers 40,000 United Airlines miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account.
My favorite thing about the United Explorer Card has nothing to do with earning miles. Just for having this card, I get access to expanded award availability on United flights. There have been times where, if it wasn’t for this benefit, I wouldn’t have been able to redeem miles for a flight I wanted to take.
In fact, just recently, I was able to help my boyfriend book a flight home from La Paz, Bolivia. Due to the extended award availability I have access to, he was able to book a much better itinerary than he would have been able to on his own.
To find out more, read our full review of the United Explorer Card.
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
Apply Here: The World of Hyatt Credit Card
Read our review of the World of Hyatt card
Some of my favorite hotel reward stays have been at Hyatt hotels, and the World of Hyatt Credit Card has helped me earn the points for some of these stays. My number one Hyatt stay to date was at the Palacio Dahau — Park Hyatt Buenos Aires. I spent 50,000 Hyatt points to stay for two nights, which would have otherwise cost over $1,000.
- 25,000 bonus Hyatt points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account
- Another 25,000 bonus Hyatt points after you spend an additional $3,000 ($6,000 total) on purchases within the first six months of opening your account
To find out more, read our full review of the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Apply Here: IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Historically, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has been my favorite hotel card. That’s because it used to provide a free night certificate that was valid at any IHG property in the world, with no cap! I stayed at the InterContinental Tokyo Bay with my certificate a few years ago.
Unfortunately now, the certificate is capped at hotels that cost 40,000 points or less per night, but it’s still possible to get some great value out of the card. For example, the InterContinental Lisbon only costs 40,000 points and is a great use of the free night certificate.
To find out more, read our full review of the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
Apply Here: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
Lately, my hotel loyalty focus has been somewhat turned toward Marriott Bonvoy, and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card helps with that by giving me 15 nights of credit toward elite status each year. While Marriott isn’t my favorite program ever, they do have hotels everywhere and that’s super helpful.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card Limited Time Offer! Earn 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5k on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
My mom is coming to Peru to visit me in a couple of weeks, and I’ve planned all of our hotel stays to be at Marriott properties. We’re staying at the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco with certificates earned from my Marriott credit cards, the Tambo del Inka in the Sacred Valley on a decent cash rate and at the JW Marriott Lima on a good cash rate. While I’d ideally like to use points at least for some of these stays, the Tambo del Inka was the only one that made sense from a value perspective, but there was no points availability. Either way, all of these stays will help me requalify for Platinum Elite Marriott Bonvoy Elite status for 2020, which is pretty important to me since Platinums get free breakfast at Marriott hotels!
To find out more, read our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.
Chase credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Ink Business Preferred and others have played a significant role in helping me visit 84 countries. Just from the few examples in this post, I’ve used Chase credit cards to help with my travels to:
- United Kingdom
And my Chase credit cards have helped with travel to more than just these 11 countries, and will continue to on my quest to eventually visit every country!
For more about Chase points, check out our guides:
- What Are Chase Points REALLY Worth?
- 5 Best Ways to Use Chase Points for Remarkable Value
- Your Guide to Chase Transfer Partners
- How to Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
- Quick Guide to Setting Up a Chase Ultimate Rewards Account
- Step-by-Step Video Guide to Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
- Do Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Expire?
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