As part of my year-end credit card tune up, I was having a bit of a crisis of conscience about the Sapphire Preferred card. I went through this last year when I was considering not keeping the card when the annual fee came due (I ended up canceling my wife’s card and adding her as a user on mine so we could both get the points from dining and some travel).
But as I’ve thought about it, I realized that for most people who also have an Ink Bold or Ink Plus (myself included) this is actually not the best option.
I hadn’t thought much about the plain Sapphire card (the non-Preferred version), but now I think it’s a better (and $95/year cheaper) option for me (and for 80% of you) than the Preferred. Here’s why:
The primary benefits of the Sapphire are that it has no annual fee and offers double points on restaurants (it also has a 10,000 point bonus after $500 spend in 3 months). Those points, however, cannot be transferred to airline or hotel partners like those earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred – UNLESS you also have a card that does earn full Ultimate Rewards benefits (such as the Ink Bold or Ink Plus). If you have one of those cards, then the plain Sapphire points CAN be transferred to the full Ultimate Rewards program (just as Freedom points can be transferred to the Ultimate Rewards program if you have a Sapphire Preferred or one of the Ink cards).
The primary differences between the Sapphire and the Sapphire Preferred are that the Preferred also earns double points on all travel; there are no foreign transaction fees; and you earn a 7% bonus on earned points.
But if you have the Ink cards you have no foreign transaction fees with that card. And the Ink cards earn double points on hotels. So in essence, you are giving up double points on non-hotel travel and the 7% end-of-year bonus.
I believe the math works out this way: Given the 7% bonus and a 1 cent-per-point value (let’s not argue about that) you’ll have to earn 8878 points to make up the $95 annual fee. If you believe you put $8878 of non-hotel travel on your Sapphire Preferred, then keep it. But if not, you’re probably better off downgrading to the Sapphire (there’s no credit hit if you ask Chase to downgrade you, though you give up the 10,000 bonus points you would earn if you applied separately).
I recommend keeping the Ink cards once the annual fee comes due because the 5X you earn from phone/Internet/Cable/cellular alone will most likely more than pay for the annual fee.
I know people love the Sapphire Preferred, and if you don’t have the Ink cards it certainly makes sense for many people (and it’s definitely a great card for the 40,000 bonus points after $3,000 spend). But if you have the Ink you should do the math on whether you can save yourself some money by downgrading (such as it is) to the plain Sapphire card.
(Both Sapphire links are affiliate links…)
UPDATE: SB in the comments makes an even better point for many people. If you instead downgrade to the Ink Classic when your Ink Bold is due for an annual fee, you can still earn 5X points for office supply stores, internet, cellphone, etc (though it’s capped at $25,000). If you keep the Sapphire Preferred, then you can transfer the Ink Classic points to Ultimate Rewards. With this strategy, you would continue to use the Sapphire Preferred for the 2X dining & travel bonus, while still earning the 7% end-of-year bonus.
If you spend more than $25,000/year in the 5X bonus categories then stick with the Ink Bold — that isn’t so crazy if you’re into the purchase-giftcards-at-office-supply-stores strategy. But otherwise, the Ink Classic/Sapphire Preferred combo likely makes the most sense. In any case – the larger point is that you really only need EITHER the Sapphire Preferred OR the Ink Bold/Plus once the annual fee comes due.
The Ink Classic comes with a 20,000 point bonus after $3,000 spend in 3 months, and there’s no annual fee. Affiliate application link here.