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During the heart of the pandemic, I logged into my Chase account and felt a jolt of surprise when I saw the $95 annual fee for my favorite travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. At the time, my only “travel” consisted of curbside pickup runs, so I decided to try to get my money back.

As a credit card journalist, I know you can often get an annual fee removed from your bill if you immediately call the card company to cancel or downgrade to a no-annual-fee card. So I called to change from my Chase Sapphire Preferred, not giving much thought to the travel benefits I’d lose. 

The Chase representative suggested I switch to the no-annual-fee Chase Sapphire card, a little-known card not available to new cardholders. I agreed to the product change and used the card without noticing much difference — until I took a long trip to South America and got hit with foreign transaction fees.

Here is my cautionary tale about downgrading a card without taking a full inventory of the benefits you’ll be losing — and how you can avoid making my silly mistake.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Our ratings are based on specific use cases for each card. We compared this card to others in the same category and developed our rankings based on this criteria, along with our editorial input. Note that although we chose this card as the best in its category, the right card for you will depend on your own financial circumstances.
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On Chase Bank USA, NA’s secure website

Welcome bonus

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

60,000 bonus points

Annual fee


Regular APR

21.49%-28.49% Variable

Credit score

Credit Score ranges are based on FICO® credit scoring. This is just one scoring method and a credit card issuer may use another method when considering your application. These are provided as guidelines only and approval is not guaranteed.

(700 – 749) Good, Excellent
Earn 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases, plus more.

Editor’s take

  • Flexible points that can be transferred to 14 travel partners or redeemed through Chase Travel℠ at 1.25 cents each.
  • $50 annual statement credit toward Chase Travel hotel bookings.
  • Valuable travel protections.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Category bonuses are limited and not competitive against other travel cards.
  • Transfer partner list is limited compared to programs like Amex Membership® Rewards and Citi ThankYou®.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred may not have a premium fee but it comes packed with enough benefits to stand tall in a crowded field of travel cards. It earns rewards at generous rates on travel purchased through Chase and on dining, and offers the same lineup of transfer partners as the more expensive Chase Sapphire Reserve®, plus a robust selection of travel protections.

Card details

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a winner for travel

Before I downgraded, my Chase Sapphire Preferred served as my go-to travel card for many years, with a solid slate of benefits that more than made up for the annual fee. Once I realized my mistake, I upgraded back to the card again because it’s one of the best travel credit cards on the market for moderately frequent travelers.

I don’t travel quite enough to justify a premium travel card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or The Platinum Card® from American Express, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a perfect fit for me. Why do I like the card so much?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has loads of travel and dining benefits, including:

  • A solid welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
  • A good rewards structure with bonus categories for travel and dining purchases.
  • Excellent travel coverage, including trip cancellation/delay and delayed luggage coverage.
  • Primary auto rental collision damage waiver in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Purchase and extended warranty protection.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

The card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, one of the most flexible point currencies on the market. These points can be redeemed through the Chase Travel℠ portal or transferred to one of Chase’s airline or hotel partners for potentially better value.

The card served me well on many international trips, including vacations to Argentina and Spain with my husband and a solo language-learning trip to Guatemala. With its top-notch travel protections, I always used it to buy plane tickets and rent cars in the U.S. and abroad, enjoying the peace of mind that comes from having primary auto rental insurance coverage on a card.

And, in my international travels, I saved hundreds of dollars by not paying foreign transaction fees.

My silly mistake in downgrading my Chase Sapphire Preferred

When I downgraded my Chase Sapphire Preferred to the plain Chase Sapphire card, I had one thing on my mind: getting a credit back for my $95 annual fee.

Because this was 2020 and we were right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was barely leaving home, except to pick up groceries or stock up on cleaning products and hand sanitizer. International travel seemed like a distant memory.

For that reason, I didn’t ask the Chase representative much about what benefits I’d be giving up by trading my Chase Sapphire Preferred for the more basic version of the card. I didn’t ask about rewards earning rates, which are a little lower, and I definitely didn’t think to quiz her about foreign transaction fees. 

I got my money back, and I was happy with the downgraded card — until I got to South America and started using the card for dining out, groceries and other daily expenses.

My trip to Uruguay and getting surprised with fees

In late 2021, my husband and I were finally able to take a dream trip that got postponed by the pandemic: A year in Uruguay. We had both fallen in love with the tiny country, known for its beaches and sunsets, on a side trip from a previous Argentina vacation.

There was a flurry of activity to get ready for such a long trip, including getting our house ready for Airbnb guests, that credit cards weren’t top of mind. In fact, I forgot I had downgraded my Chase Sapphire card.

We got to Uruguay and settled into our apartment, hitting the local pet store to buy a bed and food for our dog, buying a bunch of household items and of course exploring the capital city of Montevideo as tourists. We visited museums, tasted Uruguayan wine and hit plenty of parillas — grill restaurants where Uruguay’s famous beef, cheese and vegetables are grilled to smoky perfection.

Unfortunately, each time we handed over our plain Chase Sapphire card, we were getting hit with foreign transaction fees since the downgraded card did not have the same “no foreign transaction fees” benefit as the Chase Sapphire Preferred. My October statement included two pages of foreign transaction fees ranging from 10 cents to $3.75. By the time I noticed the fees the following month, they totaled over $70 all told. 

I immediately called Chase and upgraded back to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. For me, the annual fee is worth it. Turns out, I ended up paying almost as much in foreign transaction fees as the price of the annual fee on the Sapphire Preferred card. I’ve kept the upgraded card ever since, and don’t intend to downgrade again.

I’m now getting ready for my next international trip, to Mexico, and I’ve learned from my mistake. The Chase Sapphire Preferred will be my go-to credit card for that trip. And I’m also shopping for a backup credit card with no foreign transaction fees since it’s a good idea to carry at least two no-foreign-transaction-fee cards in case one gets lost or stolen during a trip.

A good travel card can be a safety net when traveling. Here are 11 Chase Sapphire Preferred travel benefits you should know

Final verdict

It’s a good idea to do regular surveys of your credit card portfolio, looking at the annual fees, benefits and main purpose for which you use the card. 

Downgrading a card when you’re not getting enough value from the rewards and perks to make up for the annual fee can make more sense than canceling the card. 

By downgrading, you keep your credit line with the card issuer, which can help to keep your credit strong. That’s because the available credit you have on any given card affects your credit utilization, the amount of available credit you’re using, and thus your credit score.

But it’s important to make sure you won’t be losing an important benefit you rely on, and to fully understand what your new downgraded card does — and doesn’t — offer, especially before you take it on a major international trip.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy. The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Allie Johnson


Allie is a journalist with a passion for money tips and advice. She's been writing about personal finance since the Great Recession for online publications such as Bankrate,, MyWalletJoy and ValuePenguin. She's also written personal finance content for Discover, First Horizon Bank, The Hartford, Travelers and Synovus.

Ashley Barnett has been writing and editing personal finance articles for the internet since 2008. Before editing for USA TODAY Blueprint, she was the Content Director for an international media company leading the content on their suite of personal finance sites. She lives in Phoenix, AZ where you can find her rereading Harry Potter for the 100th time.

Robin Saks Frankel is a credit cards lead editor at USA TODAY Blueprint. Previously, she was a credit cards and personal finance deputy editor for Forbes Advisor. She has also covered credit cards and related content for other national web publications including NerdWallet, Bankrate and HerMoney. She's been featured as a personal finance expert in outlets including CNBC, Business Insider, CBS Marketplace, NASDAQ's Trade Talks and has appeared on or contributed to The New York Times, Fox News, CBS Radio, ABC Radio, NPR, International Business Times and NBC, ABC and CBS TV affiliates nationwide. She holds an M.S. in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University. Follow her on Twitter at @robinsaks.