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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card was my very first rewards credit card. It helped me earn enough points to take my first points-funded trip to Croatia, and it is what got me started with the points-and-miles game. But even though I've added more credit cards to my wallet since I first got my Chase Sapphire Preferred, it still holds a top spot in my wallet. And I still recommend it to friends and family members who are also looking to start earning credit card rewards.

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(Photo by Riley Arthur for The Points Guy)Source: The Points Guy

With so many great credit cards out there, why do I still value this mid-tier card? Today, I'm going to walk through my reasoning.

Broad bonus categories

The Chase Sapphire Preferred only has two primary bonus categories: 2x on dining and travel. Right now, you'll also earn 5x on Lyft because of the rideshare company's partnership with Chase. But historically, 2x on travel and dining have been the signature categories offered.

But even though that may not sound like I'm earning across a ton of purchases, it's surprising the number of things that code as travel or dining on my statement. Chase defines both categories very broadly, so many expenses that you may not assume would earn bonus rewards actually do. Bars and breweries that don't serve food, parking lots and garages, tolls and vending machines are just a few of the more surprising things that Chase generally counts as dining and travel. Some TPGers have even reported yacht club fees as earning 2x with the Chase Sapphire Preferred in the past.

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Other top credit cards are much more strict in what they will count as travel. Chase counts Airbnb (which I typically prefer over hotels depending on where I am traveling), campgrounds, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites and more as travel. In comparison, my American Express® Gold Card only earns bonus rewards on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex travel.

So even though there are only two main earning categories, those categories encompass quite a few different purchases.

Chase Ultimate Rewards program

In my mind, there are four top credit card rewards programs: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points. Out of these four, Chase and Amex are generally regarded as the most valuable because of their transferable currencies. I have both a Chase UR card (my Chase Sapphire Preferred) and an Amex MR card (my American Express® Gold Card), but I generally favor the Chase Ultimate Rewards program when I look at earning and burning, even though the Membership Rewards program has more transfer partners.

Why? At this point in my life, I book economy flights more often than premium class. Most of the time, I'd rather save on points and fly economy than splurge on business class seats. Of course, I imagine this will change as I get more confident with my points and miles redemptions, add more cards to my wallet and have more expendable income as I get older. But for now, I don't mind economy and it means I can take more trips with fewer miles. Chase Ultimate Rewards offers a 25% redemption bonus when you book eligible travel through its travel portal. For economy flights (excluding some one-off amazing deals), I typically find I end up getting more value from booking through the portal than by transferring then to Amex Membership Rewards.

So as long as Chase continues to offer that redemption bonus, I'll continue to have a Chase Ultimate Rewards card in my wallet. Right now, it makes more sense for that card to be the Chase Sapphire Preferred (though I will likely upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve in the future).

It's easy to pair

Another reason the Chase Sapphire Preferred continues to be one of my top credit cards is because of how easy it is to pair with other credit cards to create a more well-rounded credit card strategy.

Within the Chase ecosystem, you can pair the Chase Sapphire Preferred with Chase's no-annual-fee cash back cards (both consumer and business). The rewards earned with those other credit cards are then converted into Chase Ultimate Rewards points, meaning you'll then be able to use them for 1.25 cents each through the Chase travel portal or transfer them to partners.

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)Source: The Points Guy

But even outside of Chase credit cards, I've found it easy to pair with my other cards. It fits in pretty seamlessly with my American Express Gold Card, for example. The Amex Gold does offer some benefits that the Chase Sapphire Preferred does not, such as the up to $100 airline fee credit, $120 dining credit and bonus rewards on U.S. supermarkets. But the Chase Sapphire Preferred fills the gaps left by the Amex Gold's limited travel categories. And while there is some overlap between transfer partners, there are also several partners that Chase offers that Amex does not and vise versa.

Bottom line

I get a lot of value from this card while only having to pay $95 per year for the annual fee. So all the rewards I earn and all of the benefits I enjoy (including travel protections and a complimentary year of DashPass) are easily offset each year.

When I first got my Chase Sapphire Preferred, I put pretty much every single purchase on the card. As I've added other valuable cards to my rewards strategy, that's changed. I use my Amex Gold for my supermarket and dining purchases because I earn 4x on those expenses. But the Chase Sapphire Preferred is what I use for a solid portion of my non-bonus spending and the travel and dining purchases that won't earn rewards on the Amex Gold or my other credit cards. Even with my reduced usage of the card over the past year, it's still been easy to justify keeping it. The rewards I get still greatly outweigh the fee.

Eventually, I'll level up to the Chase Sapphire Reserve so I can take advantage of the other perks. I had originally planned to upgrade earlier this year, but I put that plan on pause because I didn't want to pay a super high annual fee off the bat if I wouldn't be able to use many of the perks until later in 2020. But even when I do finally make the switch, I'll continue to recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred to points and miles beginners and casual travelers who are looking for a great all-around rewards credit card.

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