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Which credit card is BEST for folks new to miles & points?
There isn’t one magic answer for every single traveler. 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 are NOT useful for you.
It’s a good idea to start slow and thinking carefully about which card you’ll get first!
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is my favorite card for beginners. I’ll explain why!
Before You Get Started
Link: Beginner’s Guide
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, I recommend taking it slow with 1 or 2 cards, 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!
The Best First Credit Card for Beginners
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
I always recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for beginners.
One reason I advise new readers to open this card first is because of the Chase application rules. If you’ve opened 5+ cards from any bank (NOT counting Chase business cards and these other business cards) in the past 24 months, it’s unlikely you’ll be approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
This card comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. Chase Ultimate Rewards points give you a lot of flexibility.
Here are the top reasons I love this card. And what you can do with the valuable sign-up bonus!
1. $500 Cash Back
You can use your 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for cash back and get $500 (1 cent per point).
I do NOT recommend redeeming your points this way, because you can get much more value for your points when you use them for travel. But you can know you have a guaranteed $500 in cash when you open this card and complete minimum spending requirements. Who would pass up $500??
2. Potentially $1,000+ in Travel With Airline & Hotel Transfer Partners
You can transfer your points to valuable airline and hotel partners for Big Travel. Chase transfer partners include:
|Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfer Partners|
|Aer Lingus||British Airways||Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)|
|Southwest||United Airlines||Virgin Atlantic|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners|
So you could transfer the points you earn from the sign-up bonus to Hyatt for a 2-night stay at the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York!
This hotel can easily 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!
3. Book Paid Travel With NO Blackout Dates!
You can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal to book paid travel (flights, hotels, rental cars, and cruises) 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.
You’ll sometimes even 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!
4. Earn Extra Points With Bonus Categories
If you’re like me, you do a lot of spending on travel and dining. When you use the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points in these 2 categories. Even when you’re spending overseas!
Spending money in these categories means you’ll be on the way to your next vacation much sooner!
5. NO Annual Fee the First Year
The $95 annual fee is waived the first year. So you can give the card a try for ~11 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.
6. Save Money When Renting a Car
One great benefit of the Chase Sapphire Preferred (and a few other cards, too!) is that it offers primary car rental insurance coverage when you decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW) and pay in full with your card. It’s not comprehensive coverage, but it’s still an excellent benefit that can save you tons of money. Using a rental car agency’s CDW can easily cost $15+ per day!
Some other credit cards offer secondary rental insurance. That 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!
7. Make Charges Outside of the US Without Paying Fees
You can use your Chase Sapphire Preferred wherever you are in the world (as long as they accept Visa), and you won’t pay foreign transaction fees. Lots of cards charge ~3% in foreign transaction fees. So this perk alone will save you a lot of money, depending on how much you spend.
For example, if you spend $2,000 on expenses overseas, you’ll could save ~$60 in fees ($2,000 X 3% in fees). Keep in mind that you’ll often be charged foreign transaction fees when you reserve international hotels online. Even if you’re reserving from the US website!
Here is the best starter credit card for beginners:
- Best First Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Ultimate Rewards points give you lots of flexibility. The sign-up bonus is worth $500 in cash. Or potentially $1,000+ when you transfer your points to airline and hotel partners like Southwest, United Airlines, and Hyatt!
The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, which gives you ~11 months to try the card out.
If you’ve opened 5+ cards from any bank (NOT counting Chase small business cards and these other small business cards) in the past 24 months, it’s unlikely you’ll be approved for this offer.
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!