An update: UR points no longer transfer to Amtrak and Avios 4,500-mile domestic redemptions are no longer available as of February 2nd, 2016.
Inspired by Devil’s Advocate posts on Travel Codex blog, I will introduce my own “whenever I feel like writing it” series. Created by my alter ego (we shall call her Julia), the posts will take a popular belief on certain credit cards and defend it. Wait, what?
Well, think about it, my blog is contrarian in nature. So by arguing my own posts, I will be inadvertently supporting prevailing views in the industry. Got it? Ok, let’s get down to business. What card shall we start with? Why, that would be our beloved Chase Sapphire Preferred, of course!
The “devil” aspect has to do with the fact that it’s not worth $95 annual fee for an average joe. Don’t get me wrong, the sign-up bonus is fantastic, no question about it. But I have long argued that it’s not worth renewing for most regular families. Emphasis on “most.”
My diabolical mind has created a family that is a perfect fit for Chase Sapphire Preferred. Let me introduce you to to a married couple Chace and Ruby Fancy (names inspired by Chase, Sapphire and Preferred). They are ex-hippies, live in San Francisco and have two kids, ages 13 and 15 (an important fact).
They don’t own a car and take a trolley to work. They also grow their own vegetables and shop at a local food market or grocery store that only accepts cash. They live very frugally and only buy clothes from a thrift shop, that, you guessed it, only accepts cash as well. Their rent includes utilities, which they pay by check. They don’t live near Sam’s club and hate Walmart corporation for being the evil machine that it is.
Their biggest expenses are dining and travel, which they prefer to pay with a credit card. They love Amtrak and twice a year they like to take the whole family to Los Angeles by train. Their yearly credit card expenses break down this way:
1. Dining and travel: $8,000
2. Everything else (no grocery, gas or Amazon purchases): $8,000
They just want to get one credit card and that’s it, no m/s shenanigans, basically to keep it as simple as possible. My advice: Get Chase Sapphire Preferred. Why? If they use it for everything, they will have 24,000 Ultimate Rewards points by the end of the year. You can transfer them 1:1 to Amtrak Guest Rewards program.
That amount will take care of 4 roundtrip tickets from San Francisco to Los Angeles, since the route falls under special zone pricing. Here is a post on The Points Guy that lists other Amtrak bargains
When reserving paid fares, you can get a discount if your kids are age 12 and under, which is not the case with our hippie family.
The award redemption starts at 1,500 points one-way, and beats flying any day. Additionally, since they are collecting flexible points, they will have a measure of protection in case of devaluation. Remember, you can fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles on American for only 4,500 Avios one-way ( through British Airways program, Chase partner), which is a pretty good deal as well.
If they used Citi Double Cash card, they would get $320 in rewards at the end of the year. Roundtrip Amtrak fare costs around $250 for 4 people on that particular route, so 2 trips would be worth $500. Even if you deduct a $95 annual fee, it’s still considerably more than what we would get with a 2% card.
Interrupting this post for a quick segment within a segment, called #BetYouDidn’tHaveaClue, also inspired by Devil’s Advocate. The hashtag sign is here for “hipster” affect.
Bet you didn’t have a clue that you can transfer SPG points 1:1 to Amtrak Guest Rewards! So why not recommend Amex SPG instead? After all, the annual fee is only $65 and you can make up for it through various promotions. BTW you can now register your Amex cards for Small Business Saturday. Thanks to my reader Chris L for the reminder.
Well, Amex is still not accepted everywhere and our family wants only one card for everything. Also, Amex SPG gives only 1 point on everything, no bonus categories. So even though the family is paying $95 annual fee on Chase Sapphire Preferred, it’s justified by double points they will earn on dining an travel.
OK, back to our regular programming. As you can see, Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great choice for this particular family. Are most families like the one I described? Nope. My point is, there is no perfect long-term card for everyone.
Some cards come pretty close to being universally recommended, like Amex Everyday Preferred and Citi Double Cash card. But they still have flaws, and may not be the right choice for you. Additionally, many notions (preached as gospel in this industry) simply don’t apply to an average family in America. Like I always say, do your own math and don’t listen to bloggers like me too much! #DoYourOwnThing
Readers, what other cards would you like me to feature in this segment?