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Andrea Rodgers is a young professional who uses travel rewards cards and is a contributor to MileCards.com. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of Chase or any other issuer.
A few months ago, I upgraded from Chase Freedom, my primary credit card for the last 2 years, to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. As a long-time Chase client, I am very happy with my decision to upgrade and I’d like to tell you why.
In order to understand my reasoning, it may be helpful to understand why I am so loyal to Chase. I have lived in Chicago, New York, and will be moving to Texas. In all of these locations, there has been an abundance of conveniently located Chase banks and Chase ATMs.
The next, and maybe most important, reason for being loyal to Chase is the ease of use of their online banking portal. As an avid user of the internet, I understand that sometimes there are malfunctions for a company’s online interfaces and I tolerate these to varying degrees depending on my affinity for said company. However, when it comes to Chase, I have had to tolerate e-inconveniences exactly one time in 3 years.
I cannot say enough about the ease-of-use of Chase’s online banking.
Not only do I have two credit cards with Chase, I have my primary checking and savings accounts and my car loan. I manage all of these within one portal that is so self-explanatory that I am convinced even a baby could do it… or a grandparent.
One of the main reasons for utilizing Chase for my primary credit card is because I can pay off my credit card right in the portal, transferring money from checking account right to my bill very securely.
To continue with the theme of commending Chase for their excellent online prowess, I also am loyal to Chase because of their Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Although I do not think their rewards mall is better or worse than comparable programs, it is incredibly easy to use and understand. This helps me feel confident and in control of my rewards and doesn’t give me the uneasy feeling that I might be missing out on unrealized points potential.
I recommend the Chase Freedom card to any recent graduates who are entering the work force and will be taking complete or increased control of their personal finances.
When I finished my undergrad and adventured into the “real world”, I, like most of my peers, was bombarded with advertisements and offers from almost every corner of the financial world. Anyone in marketing will tell you that they want to snatch up your loyalty early because they know the lifetime value of these young professionals.
I was overwhelmed with all of the offers and was tempted to throw in the towel completely when it came to personal finance. However, I knew I had to get a credit card and a bank account beyond the student checking account I’d shared with my parents since high school.
So, I did some research, feeling like I could barely keep my head above water in the sea of all the credit card offers out there. I did end up throwing in the towel because of the overly complicated nature of most offers that were presented (Remember, this was 2011). Some of those included Discover, Capital One, Citi, Bank of America, and Fifth Third Bank.
The Chase Freedom card was exactly what I needed.
Chase was an easy one-stop shop for banking and credit cards.
Most importantly, the Chase rewards program is easy to understand. You get 1% cash back on EVERYTHING and 5% cash back on rotating categories. That’s all you REALLY need to know if you’re too overwhelmed to really dig into any program.
Chase Freedom is great for recent grads because it is a no-fee card and gives you a good intro bonus for spending very little (in my case it was a $100 bonus after spending $500 – a very low spending requirement for any rewards program). This will definitely suit consumers who are living on an entry-level salary.
If you are an avid online shopper, Chase Ultimate Rewards also offers opportunities to earn more through their rewards shopping mall. Simply use the direct link to the Ultimate Rewards page through your Chase interface and you can click to the Rewards Mall to see which stores are offering extra points per dollar spent.
The best thing about the Chase Freedom card, in my opinion, is the rotating categories. Every quarter, three categories are chosen that will receive 5% cash back. If you do decide to switch over to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, like I did, it is worth it to keep your Chase Freedom card.
I am using my Chase Freedom card for 1- my automatic payments. This is a good idea because those need to be monitored carefully (I recently had a problem with Best Buy charging me once from Best Buy and once from Geek Squad for the same automatic insurance charge). I also use my Freedom card for 2- the categories.
Right now (Jan- March ’14), the categories where you earn 5% cash back are gas stations, movie theaters, and Starbucks. Around Christmas, they’ll sometimes throw some extras in or a special deal like 15% cash back on Kohls. You can find this out really simply through the Ultimate Rewards interface
(Note: Make sure you click “activate cash back rewards” once every quarter.)
For me, the biggest draw for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is that there are no foreign transaction fees. When I applied for this card, I knew I would be traveling abroad for extended periods over the next year. My other cards had 1%- 3.5% foreign transaction fees.
If you’re going to Europe, you already know that everything is more expensive than it looks because of the exchange rate between the US dollar and the euro or pound. Whenever you’re buying something you try to do some quick mental math to figure out how much that is in USD. If you also have to calculate a transaction fee, forget about it!
As a general rule of thumb, I find that if you’re going to be spending at least $5,000 in foreign currency in a year, it’s worth it to get a card with no foreign transaction fees, even if it means paying an annual fee on the card. Though there are many no annual fee cards with no foreign transaction fees, and you can see a list here.
This may be a superficial benefit of this card but it’s a benefit nonetheless. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a metal card. It is a lot heavier than your run of the mill credit card. It also has your name and number on the back of the card only, which gives me a sense of security.
People are always impressed by this unique card and store clerks typically comment on it. It is really cool.
My coworker also had this metal card and we didn’t believe it was really metal. We called Chase and challenged them on it and they assured us that it is and told us not to put it in a shredder because we would break the shredder. Well, our office had to buy a new shredder because we just couldn’t help ourselves (see the picture below).
I can’t say enough about the Chase Sapphire Preferred customer service line that I’ve called. They are always so helpful. I recently called to ask them to send me a card with the chip and signature technology.
They had to transfer me to someone, which is typical for customer service. However, I was surprised and impressed to find that when I was connected to the second person, the first person came on the line and reiterated my issue (so I wouldn’t have to detail it again) to the second person and then asked for my PERMISSION to disconnect. If you have had the same nightmarish experiences that I’ve had with customer service in the past, then you will be in as much disbelief as I was over this great and technique.
Chase is very flexible and accommodating. They have express mailed me replacement cards in the past even when the original delivery failure wasn’t their fault at all. They recently started letting me mail my Chase mail to my local branch and go pick it up. This was necessitated when our recent snowpocalypse took my mailbox as its prisoner.
My credit limit on the Chase Sapphire Preferred is about 3 times that of my Chase Freedom card. This might also be a good place to note that using the Chase Freedom card will help you build your credit so that you do eventually qualify for a card like Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Note: If you don’t qualify for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you may qualify for the Chase Sapphire, which has similar but not as spectacular rewards.
Having a higher credit limit allows me to build my credit even further. Whereas, I previously purchased high ticket items with a check, I now put them on my Chase Sapphire Preferred (and can pay them off almost immediately if I so choose).
If you are going anywhere in Europe, get chip technology. They will look at you funny if you do not have it. They have all had chip technology for several years and it’s a great joke amongst them that Americans are not up to speed.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred currently only has chip and signature technology. This will work in most places. However, if you’re trying to make a purchase somewhere such as a train kiosk, you will still not be able to. The kiosk asks you for a PIN, which you will not have. If you use the chip at the chip machines (such as at restaurants), it will automatically ask for a signature. This helps you fit in at least a little because if you have a card that only swipes, you will stick out like a sore thumb. I think a lot of store clerks even forget how swipe credit cards used to work.
The good news is Chase plans to launch Chip and PIN technology for the Sapphire Preferred soon, so you’ll be able to request an updated card and be able to use it at kiosks.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers 2 times the points on dining and travel, extra discounts if you book travel through their rewards system, a 7% annual bonus on points earned in the previous year, and free transfer to a number of other rewards programs. You can also use the Chase Sapphire Preferred Rewards mall to gain extra points for your online shopping.
Note: I recently discovered that you will also get a 10% bonus on annual points earned with Chase Freedom if you also maintain a Chase checking account. You learn something new everyday! I use both cards and the points from each can be combined into my Ultimate Rewards account, which lets me get the best of both worlds.
Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Preferred are both outstanding credit cards. If you are already banking with Chase, they are easy and convenient to pay off, and complement each other well.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is like the mature older brother of the Chase Freedom card. There are numerous benefits. Because of the $95 annual fee, I think you are treated with a higher priority by customer service and at Chase in general, though your own experience may be different.
Side Note: Chase Banking also offers “BluePrint”, which you will love because it shows you an overview of your spending habits (how much per category), it helps you plan to most effectively pay off your credit card debt if you do so happen to get into it.
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