Your First Travel Credit Cards (Part 1)

This post is part of the Travel Hacking 101: First Class in 90 Days series.

Which points are worth the most?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors that vary from person to person. What is your goal trip? Do you want to fly in first class or are you fine with economy? Is your home city a hub for a certain airline? Which airline has lots of award availability available at the moment?

While all of these considerations factor into the value of a point, there are a few types of points that are certainly worth more than others. If you don’t have a certain trip or award in mind at the moment, having flexible points is key.

As a beginner, you want to acquire transferable points. These are points that can be transferred to a number of different airline and hotel programs, giving you the most flexibility when redeeming your points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards are some of my favorite points in the game. They are easily transferable to 11 different rewards programs, are easy to redeem, and have some really solid award options.

Your First Travel Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred / Chase Sapphire Reserve

The best travel credit card for beginners comes in two variations. Both of these cards earn Ultimate Rewards. In the past I would have recommended getting both, but as of August 27th, 2017 you can only have one of these at a time. Here’s how they stack up against each other:

Chase Sapphire Preferred

sapphire_preferred
Sapphire Preferred

Annual Fee: $95 (waived for the first year)

Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 within the first 3 months. Earn an additional 5,000 when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first 3 months.

Category Bonuses: 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining, 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Transfer Partners: Transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to Air France, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG and Ritz-Carlton.

Perks: No Foreign Transaction Fees, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Trip Cancellation/TripInterruption Insurance

Chase Sapphire Reserve

sapphire_reserve
Sapphire Reserve

Annual Fee: $450 (not waived the first year, but comes with a $300 travel credit annually)

Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 within the first 3 months.

Category Bonuses: 3 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining, 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Transfer Partners: Transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to Air France, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG and Ritz-Carlton.

Perks: $300 Annual Travel Credit, Priority Pass Lounge Access for you and everyone you are traveling with, $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre Check, No Foreign Transaction Fees, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Trip Cancellation/TripInterruption Insurance, special car rental privileges from National, Avis and Silvercar.

Which one should you get?

Don’t be scared off by the Sapphire Reserve‘s $450 annual fee. If you know you’ll spend at least $300 on travel each year, the fee is effectively knocked down to $150. If you find the added perks of the Sapphire Reserve worth the difference in annual fees, it might be a good choice for you. This card is a staple in my wallet.

However, if you just can’t stomach the $450 annual fee, the Sapphire Preferred is also a great choice for any beginner. You could in theory get this card and all the points for free. If after 11 months you decide you no longer want the card, you could cancel it before the first annual fee is due. Also, you get an additional 5,000 points just for adding an authorized user and making a single purchase on the card. Adding someone as an authorized user does not prevent that person from getting the card themselves, but could count against their Chase 5/24 count.

After meeting the sign up bonus on either card, you will have at least 54,000 points. You’ll probably have more than that if any of your spending was on travel and dining, or if you added the authorized user on the Sapphire Preferred. According to Chase, 54,000 points is good for $810 in travel.

Don’t Apply Just Yet!

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll discuss what your 2nd travel credit card should be. You will want to apply for both of these cards on the same day, so hold off on applying for now. Hopefully you are are starting to picture yourself on your first, first class flight. You’re so close to applying for your first travel credit cards!

 

Editorial Disclaimer: All written content on this site is for information purposes only. Opinions expressed herein are solely of the author, unless otherwise specifically cited. All information or ideas provided should be discussed in detail with an advisor, accountant or legal counsel prior to implementation. Neither the editorial content nor the comments on this site are provided by the companies whose products are featured. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or evaluations provided here are those of the author’s alone.

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