How I’ve earned over $1K with the Chase Sapphire Preferred

175,965. That’s the total number of points I have earned on my Sapphire Preferred card since getting it two and a half years ago. While these points have a straight cash value of $1,759.65, with these points, I have paid for over $2,000 worth of international flights through converted airline miles. (I could say $6,000, but it’s so specifically for my scenario that it’s not a realistic goal to have). That’s an astounding figure that I am very proud of.

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How does the math make sense? The Chase Sapphire card (Preferred and Reserve) has partnerships with multiple travel partners. United Airlines is most convenient for me, so I converted my points into miles at a 1:1 ratio. An international, round-trip flight on United costs 70K miles plus ~$100 in additional fees. If I were to pay full price for my trip to China this fall, a single ticket would’ve cost me over $3,000. Pro tip: rewards booking is a flat mileage cost, regardless of how many layovers there are. While a round-trip ticket to Shanghai can be found for $1,000, the additional distance from Shanghai to the smaller, western city I’m actually going drastically increased the price of my ticket.

$3,000 is a lot for a flight, though. Let’s just do the math with the cheaper cost of $1,000 for a flight to Shanghai. The total mileage cost of two round-trip tickets = 140,000. That’s a cash value of $1,400. Value of the flights = $2,000. Even if I take out $100 for airline fees, that still leaves me with a $500 difference. Each point I earned with my Sapphire Preferred card ended up being worth 1.33 cents. That’s better than the 1.25 value I would get by booking the flight with my points through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Here’s the real question: How did I accrue so many points?

  1. Referral bonuses. I’ve referred 4 people to this card to-date. 3 were at a 5K bonus; the other was a 10K bonus when Chase increased the referral reward amount. That’s $250 just for having someone apply for the card via a link that credited me. I consider my referral reward to be reimbursement for the 2 annual fees I’ve had to pay (more on that in a moment).
  2. Using this as my primary card. As of right now, the Sapphire Preferred is the only card in my wallet with an annual fee. For the first two years, however, I also carried the United and American Airlines credit cards but canceled them each after a year (my earnings potential could’ve been even higher on the Preferred!). Now, I only use my other cards for purchases that would net me more points, which only applies to gas, groceries, and whatever category Chase Freedom offers 5% on at any given time.
  3. Company reimbursements. At my last job, work travel would be booked on a personal credit card and then later reimbursed a paycheck or two later. Since credit card bills aren’t due until at least a month ofter any transaction, this never bothered me. This card is perfect for work because it gives bonus points on travel and dining – my two biggest expenses when traveling for work. This is the main reason why I was able to accrue so many points, especially since I traveled regularly.
  4. The 7% dividend. This is a benefit that has since been discontinued, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred used to offer a 7% annual dividend on all points earned within a year, which was a huge incentive for keeping the card top of wallet. The dividend only counted towards points earned from spending, not the signup bonus, but it still gave me an extra thousand points my first year.
  5. This should be a half-point, but meeting the spending requirement for the signup bonus should be an obvious one. I got this card back in the day when the signup bonus was only 40K (it’s since increased to 50K), but that bonus makes up just under a quarter of my total earnings on this card.

Since my current job doesn’t involve travel, I no longer spend enough to justify having this card. I actually attempted to cancel my Sapphire Preferred card last fall but was offered a $30 credit, reducing the annual fee to $65. Getting a discounted (or waived) annual fee for the Sapphire Preferred card is notoriously hard to get, so I opted to keep the card for one more year. I will definitely be canceling the card this year. My plan is to wait two years and then reapply for the card to get the large signup bonus. This is a travel card strategy that is popular among credit card mileage aficionados, and one I’ve already done one cycle on with the United and American Airlines cards. Plus, done right, you’ll likely see an increase in your credit score, not a decrease! For my next travel card, I’m considering adding the Barclaycard Arrival Plus into my travel cards cycle, as it waives the annual fee for the first year and is also a pretty decent card. I’m taking recommendations, though, if anyone has any!