By Martha C. White
March 20, 2019

It might be time for you to get a new travel rewards credit card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card just increased its signup bonus, paying out $600 cash back or $750 in travel rewards once you meet spending thresholds. And while Chase Sapphire Preferred now comes with an annual fee of $95, it’s significantly less than the $450 annual fee that must be paid for using cards with even bigger rewards payouts, like Chase Sapphire Reserve.

When it debuted in 2016, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card ushered in a sea change in the way Americans think about travel credit cards. Sure, there was a lot of talk about that $450 annual fee, but the sticker shock that elicited from some was offset by a signup bonus worth a whopping $1,500 if redeemed for travel through Chase’s rewards portal and benefits worth hundreds of dollars more.

Even after Chase dropped the value of the signup bonus for Sapphire Reserve to 60,000 points, which is worth $600 cash back or $750 in travel purchases, frequent travelers could still easily come out ahead, thanks to perks like credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry enrollment, an annual statement credit against $300 in travel purchases made over the past year, and access to a worldwide network of airport lounges.

Now, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the lower-cost cousin of the Reserve, is shaking up the travel rewards credit card landscape again with a signup bonus that’s equal to its high-rolling relative. Chase has just upped the Sapphire Preferred signup bonus, from 50,000 points to 60,000 points. The new signup bonus is the same as Sapphire Reserve, worth $600 if redeemed for cash or $750 if redeemed for travel through the Chase portal.

There is a rub, though: The $95 annual fee for the Preferred card used to be waived for the first year. Now, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders must pay the annual fee the first year and every year they have the card. Even so, the Sapphire Preferred annual fee is significantly less than that of the Sapphire Reserved. The new deal works out in your favor in another way too: Compared to the previous offer of bonus and no first-year fee, this larger signup bonus with Chase Sapphire Preferred puts you ahead by $30.

Beyond the signup bonus, Sapphire Preferred cardholders earn points at the same rate as always with this card: two points per dollar for travel and dining purchases, and one point per dollar on other purchases. The spending threshold for new cardholders to get their bonus points hasn’t changed. You’ll earn the bucket of 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months after getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

For some people, that’s not a challenge, especially if they have a big trip or remodeling project or similar coming up. But it might be a stretch for others, which brings us to the other thing worth noting: Chase — along with some other card issuers out there — has been quietly ticking up interest rates. Last year, the APR range on the Sapphire Preferred was 17.49% to 24.49%; now, it’s 18.24% to 25.24%.

So if you’re tempted by this richer signup reward with Chase Sapphire Preferred, just make sure you’re in a position to pay off your monthly bills in full rather than revolving a balance. Those interest payments — really, almost any credit card interest payment — will easily outweigh the value of any rewards you can expect to earn.

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