The Goldilocks Approach to the Best Credit Card Rewards

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I have a wallet chock full of cards. I have a card for each kind of spending. I want to earn 5 points per dollar on my airfare, 4 points at restaurants and supermarkets, 5 points at office supply stores, etc. I also have a huge stack of annual fees, that only make sense if I’m getting a lot of value out of each card and spending a lot of money in each category I’m maximizing.

For most people the 10 credit cards in my wallet is too many. And that doesn’t count the cards in my desk drawer.

A good card offers,

  • A valuable initial bonus so you can redeem rewards quickly and get value from the card right away
  • Quality points that you earn quickly points you can use, and potentially even transfer to other programs, to get the award you want when you want it – and you should be earning more than one mile per dollar.
  • Strong benefits for having the card whether it’s trip delay coverage so that the card picks up your hotel and meal costs during an overnight delay, lounge access, or priority boarding these are extra benefits just for holding the card whether you use it for most of your spending or not.

Most people start with one card and keep it simple. And a $400 – $600 annual fee is a tough sell.

That’s why the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a great card to get started with, it’s an undervalued card, and it’s a great card to build from. It’s not to expensive, it’s not too cheap, it provides great value — it’s just right.

  1. It has a 60,000 point bonus after $4000 spend within 3 months. That’s the strongest initial bonus on a personal card with modest spend requirement in the market today.

  2. The points are valuable, transferring to a variety of airline and hotel programs or letting you redeem like cash for paid travel through the Chase portal.

  3. It still comes with premium protections like trip delay and baggage delay, and actually has primary rental car collision coverage – rent a car and ding it your own insurance company may not even need to know.

  4. The annual fee is modest at $95, you’re getting big value right up front from the initial bonus and on an ongoing basis it’s not a huge commitment or risk.

  5. The card serves as a ‘Chase hub’ – you can add no annual fee Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points faster than 1 point per dollar, transfer them to your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and they become eligible to move to airline miles or hotel points (which the no annual fee cards can’t do on their own). In other words, it’s a platform for growth.

  6. It’s easier to get approved for than the $450 annual fee Sapphire Reserve, which is a Visa Infinite and requires Chase to be willing to extend higher credit lines for approval. (One of the best ways to get a Sapphire Reserve is to get approved for a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and then after a year request a product change.)

This card has been a top rewards product for nearly a decade. I applied for mine in 2011. And it remains outstanding value today.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. @Stvr Trip delay and primary car rental coverage. Transfer points to Hyatt.

  2. While Citi Premier earns more points on most bonus categories now, there are situations where Sapphire Preferred can make more sense

    1) Sapphire will still get you 1.25 cents on the portal while Citi Premier is losing this feature
    2) Sapphire does have better travel protections
    3) Sapphire has more exclusive partners – mainly Hyatt, United and Southwest
    4) You can also get a 20,000 point bonuses with the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards – so 100,000 Chase UR over three card bonuses
    5) You earn 5x on Lyft vs 3x with Premier
    6) Chase Freedom gets you 5% back on a rotating basis

    Chase still should add 2x grocery tot his card

  3. I’m with Stvr. Citi premier plus double cash is a far better combo. It unilaterally beats ranting everywhere.

    That insurance promoted everywhere is crap. You’ll understand when you try to actually use it. The claims administrators invent reasons to reject everything I’ve ever tried.

    The Hyatt card is a better source of Hyatt points if you really need them. That’s my only Chase card now.

  4. Read the actual terms of the loss damage waiver offered through Chase Sapphire Preferred. It is nothing special for domestic US rentals, only provides primary coverage on international rentals. Am I reading it wrong? I sure WISH it had real primary coverage.

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