Instead of wading through family credit cards, here is the one easy pick our family uses every day, plus a couple of honorable mentions worthy of your consideration.
TL;DR: Played the field with travel reward credit cards but looking to commit? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the one you can settle down with.
Finding the best family credit cards can take more work than dating
You know how it is. You get an interest. It becomes a fervor. Soon, you’re playing the field as much as you can. Sometimes getting rejected, sure. But time and time again, you score.
A new find.
A new fling.
Some are too demanding. Or too expensive. Your interest gets dwarfed by their interest rate, and you have to move on. Some don’t have a lot of expectations from you. You stick together for a while, but eventually the shine wears off. They wind up forgotten, and you don’t go out together anymore.
And then you find The One.
If you’re reading this, we figure that you are already guessing that we’re talking about travel credit cards. (Wait, what did you think we were talking about?) We’ve fiddled with rewards cards here and there, but there a lot of times it just didn’t work out. You know, like a lot of experiences dating. (Ugh. Shiver. So glad we don’t have to worry about that anymore.)
That one airline card we had for ages? The airline stopped flying out of our home airport, and it stopped being worthwhile.
That other rewards card we had, for a certain tech company that has something to do with fruit? Their program changed, and that card went away.
Then, too, our priorities changed. Now as a family of four, we want to travel. A lot. A family of four needs four airline tickets. And those buggers stack up quickly in price. Just as Jodie and Anthony are glad they found one another, they’re also relieved that they finally found their one and only for a family travel rewards credit card.
1 rewards credit card: The easy pick that we recommend (and use every day)
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Our primary household family travel credit card
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards Card. It’s an absolute darling of the family credit cards world. And for good reason. It isn’t just an empty darling. It’s also got the goods to back up its reputation.
There are lots and lots of posts out there about the Chase Sapphire Preferred (or from here on out, CSP). However, a lot of what those folks talk about is great for singles or couples. However, if you have kids and are figuring out travel, it can be harder to figure out how to get the most out of your CSP.
Thank goodness you’re here.
Why you should trust us
We are long-time travelers, parents, and credit card users. We’ve wrestled with credit card debt, and won. As an aside, we recommend family credit cards if you are regular at paying off your balance each month, and don’t accrue long-term debt. We’ve taken our kids on massive road trips; when our firstborn was a toddler, we took him to Japan for three weeks.
We also know how to run a business. We’ve run our own wee companies for over a decade now. We can manage cash flow—and that includes managing debt and expenses.
As parents, we believe strongly in making amazing experiences possible for us and our kids. However, we look for a combination of affordable and incredible that fits not only our interests, priorities, and passions, but also our budget. We are not financially wealthy (yet). But we are frugal and savvy. Most importantly, we understand when to save and when to invest, when to spend well—and when to spend like hell.
What all this means, is that we are coming at this from a perspective of experienced, road-tested parents. We want to make amazing things happen for our family. But hey, we’re on a budget here.
In our experience using our CSP, we’ve found that it has become one of the best tools in our family travel kit. Now let’s get on with why it could be one of yours too.
This isn’t travel hacking. It’s one rewards credit card to rule them all.
For starters, this isn’t about travel hacking. At least, not the crazy kind, where you feel like you need a dozen complicated spreadsheets and somehow always seem to have to spend your time in shopping portals.
No. We don’t do this sort of travel hacking. I mean, seriously, we don’t have time for all these spreadsheets and program tracking. Respect to those who do, but we’ve got a business to run and his to homeschool (oh, and pardon us… the kids need a snack again).
We like to keep things simple. That’s why we are big fans of the Chase Sapphire Preferred. We use it for everything from groceries to household utilities, and in return, we can put its flexible points to work in some awesome ways for our family travels.
As busy parents, travelers, and entrepreneurs, we totally get that travel hacking is an awesome rabbit hole. If you want to dive down it, we wish you merry adventures in credit card wonderland. We prioritize our time and resources elsewhere, so we need to focus on one card to rule them all.
Instead of submarining down deep into murky waters, focusing on the CSP is like taking a jet boat across a beautiful turquoise sea to the paradise land of family travel. It’s a sort of travel hacking… lite. Spends great. Less time-filling.
Why use this card over all the other travel rewards family credit cards out there
There are SO MANY rewards credit cards out there. On the one hand, that’s great. It means people have lots of options, and we are fans of options. Yay options!
On the other hand… If you’re anything like the busy parents who are us, you have lots and lots of other things to do. You don’t want to wade through a mire of recommendations, terms and conditions, itty-bitty fine print, and lots and lots of credit card offers.
Here’s why we think the CSP is the perfect family travel rewards credit card:
Easy to use, track, and redeem
If you were going to have just one travel rewards card, the CSP is easy. It’s easy to use, easy to track rewards, and easy to redeem your rewards for credits, family travel, and a lot more.
The Chase app and website make it easy for you to visit the Chase Rewards Center, where you can review and redeem your rewards. Chase’s shopping and travel portals help you redeem your points for products, services, and travel. Plus, Chase also regularly runs special categories where Ultimate Rewards Points are worth more.
For example, in May 2022, Chase made their points worth 25% more when used to purchase Apple products. Jodie was due for a new phone. We decided to cash in points to upgrade Jodie’s phone—at no out-of-pocket cost to us).
Easy to use globally
The CSP is a Visa credit card, so it’s accepted throughout the world. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use it anywhere and everywhere, but odds are if you’re somewhere credit cards are accepted, you’ll be able to use your card just fine.
You’re okay with an annual fee
There are family credit cards that do not have an annual fee. It’s February 2022 as we’re writing this, and the annual fee for the CSP is $95 per year. However, it’s not hard to have your benefits more than compensate for the fee though. For many families, you can easily get your money’s worth out of the CSP, and that makes the fee worthwhile.
No foreign transaction fee
If international family travel is one of priorities, this is a big deal. A lot of credit cards charge you extra for using your card outside the US. An additional 3% charge is typical. But with the CSP, there’s none of that. What you pay, is what you pay.
When you travel abroad, an additional 3% stacks up fast. If you don’t have to spend that 3%, better to keep it in your pocket or put it toward more family adventures!
You pay off your balance monthly.
We’ve said it before, but it’s an important point. A rewards credit card doesn’t help you if it becomes part of credit card debt. If you occasionally don’t pay off a balance in full each month, that’s no worries. But in order to get the most out of your CSP, you’ll want to be paying off your balance monthly, along with any other family credit cards you hold.
A quick note about the dreaded (and sometimes confusing) 5/24 rule
If you’ve looked into rewards cards from Chase, you might have heard about what’s become known as their 5/24 rule.
Essentially, if you have opened 5 or more personal credit cards in the past 24 months, odds are Chase won’t approve your card application. And that’s 5 or more personal credit cards from any institution, not just Chase. It also includes accounts you opened within the past 24 months, whether they remain open or are now closed.
If Chase declines your application, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Try calling Chase’s reconsideration line at (888) 609-7805. Once you’re on the line with a Chase lending specialist, you can talk with them about why you’d be a great cardholder and ask for your application to be reconsidered. You can also address the reasons why Chase denied your application, and point out the features or benefits that you are so excited about using as a CSP holder.
How did we get our Chase Sapphire Preferred family credit card?
We currently have one CSP, but for a while we decided to hold two, one in each of our names. Here’s how we pulled that off:
Anthony signed up for a CSP, which also got us 60,000 Ultimate Rewards Points as a signup bonus.
We switched all our monthly spending to this card to meet its rewards threshold.
Chase will also send you a referral link that you can use to share with others. For example, if you sign up for a CSP through our link, Chase will reward you with a signup bonus, and they’ll reward us with some bonus points as a referral bonus. (So, hey, thanks in advance for using our link to get your CSP!)
When we originally got our CSP, we put it under Anthony’s name and added Jodie as an authorized user.
Promotions can be useful too
We signed up each of us during some big promotions Chase was doing. One option to get a CSP? One spouse could get one now, and you can bide your time on opening a second one to coincide with Chase doing a points offer (sometimes they’ll do signup offers of 100,000 points!).
A few months after we got our original CSP, Chase rolled out their biggest CSP signup bonus offer yet: 100,000 signup points! We decided to see if we could sign up Jodie up for a card under her own name. Using the referral link Chase gave Anthony, Jodie applied for her own CSP. Doing that sent Anthony bonus points, and it send Jodie that sweet, sweet 100K set of signup bonus points.
Once Jodie’s card was active, we changed all our spending over to that card so that we could hit the bonus point threshold.
Just doing this has landed us about 200,000 bonus points—and that’s not counting the points we’ve earned with our regular spending.
Since then, we decided to roll back to just one CSP for our family. Still, it’s our workhorse card, and we use it for all our personal expenses.
As of May 2022, Chase has an offer for 80,000 Bonus Points with your new Chase Sapphire Preferred.
What do we use our Chase Sapphire rewards card for?
Our CSP has become our family’s primary credit card for all our non-business family spending, such as:
- Groceries (including Costco!)
- Travel, including campground reservations, fueling up the Outback, and those never-ending snack runs
- Utility bills, such as electric, water, cell phone, and internet
- Streaming accounts and other subscriptions
- And any other day-to-day spending
It’s really nice to focus on just one card. We know what to take out of the wallet. We know what to use online. And we know exactly what our card’s autopay covers when it pays off our statement each month.
As we get underway on more trips, our CSP is our default card for all personal expenses. As of writing this, for example, we recently had a short holiday overnight trip. Our dumplings in Portland? Charged to the CSP. Road snacks? CSP. One night accommodation? CSP. You get the drill.
How do we pay off our family credit cards?
Typically once a month, Anthony goes through all our financial statements, just to make sure everything is ship-shape and nothing looks dodgy. As for paying our card, we set everything we possibly can to autopay. If a bill can be assigned to our CSP, that’s what we do. Then, we’ve set up the autopay on Chase to pay off our CSP’s full statement balance every month, automagically.
Inside of your CSP account, it’s easy to set up autopay to the account you want to pay from. We recommend that, as much as possible, you pay off your full statement balance monthly and aim not to accrue credit card debt. We’ve been there. That’s a place we don’t want to visit again.
The peace of mind is rather lovely, and we cannot prioritize enjoying the world with our children, instead of worrying about debt.
What can we use our Chase Ultimate Reward Points for?
Through Ultimate Rewards, Chase has developed a flexible, comprehensive points system that can be redeemed for a vast array of products and services. Airfare, Apple products, car rentals, and accommodation are just a few categories. Points can also be redeemed, or transferred, to Chase’s partners. For example, you can transfer points to airlines, such as United or Southwest.
The card also has a “Pay Yourself Back” option, where you can go into your rewards account, view charges you’ve made with your card, and essentially pay for those purchases with points instead of your hard-earned cash.
One caveat though: Some redemptions are more favorable than others. It’s a little like an exchange rate. For some categories, such as travel, you can more dependably get a solid deal for redeeming your points. However, while you can redeem points for, say, Amazon purchases, the rate isn’t as favorable. It can be similar for the Pay Yourself Back function too. It’s useful, and the main thing is that your points let you save money in various ways. While some redemptions are worth more or less than others, a solid repository of points is still a great way for you to use your points when you need them.
Pay Yourself Back also varies. Chase sets up certain spending categories to be eligible for limited times. We log into our Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal at least once a month to check.
Our main interest in the CSP is for airfare. Sometimes we might use it for things like car rentals. We don’t stay in hotels often (and when we do, we’re big fans of Best Western, which has its own points program), so accommodation isn’t a redemption category we typically use.
However, since we need to fly 4 humans here and there and back again occasionally, airline points are where this card brings us a lot of value. What especially drew us in is how flexible the points are. Since we can use them on many different airlines, we don’t have to worry about whether or not we are flying on any particular airline.
As of April 2022, current Chase airline partners include:
- AerClub, loyalty program of Aer Lingus
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards®
- Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
- United MileagePlus®
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
This becomes pretty useful depending on your flight situation. We live in Eugene, Oregon. Our airport doesn’t have a ton of direct carriers. If we’re flying out of Eugene, odds are we’re on United, and we’re in United’s frequent flier program. Since United is a major carrier for our area, redeeming points for flights will be a big way we stretch our travel budget.
Through our accounts, we have each other linked up through our cards. So, if we needed to transfer points from Anthony’s Chase account to, say, United Airlines, we do transfer them either to Anthony’s account or to Jodie’s. Depending on the purpose of our travel, and especially if it happened that only one of us was traveling somewhere, this gives us more flexibility on how we use our points for travel whether for leisure or business.
Why we started using a Chase rewards card for our family spending
We’ve tried a few family credit cards over the years, but part of what drew us to CSP is the card’s versatility when it comes to rewards.
Some features aren’t as big a deal. And sometimes needs or circumstances change. For example, Frontier Airlines used to fly out of our home base of Eugene, Oregon. We got a rewards card tied to Frontier Airlines. Frontier doesn’t fly out of Eugene anymore though, so we dropped that card.
With the CSP, we can leverage airline partners around the world. Chase is also known for having some pretty darn compelling signup bonuses. 60K reward points is pretty common; we managed to get on during a highest-ever 100K point promo.
Chase also has bonus referral points available. So, for example, if you use our signup link, Chase will reward us with bonus points, and once you have your account, you can receive bonus referral points if someone signs up from your own link. Pretty snazzy, eh?
Ultimately, we started using the CSP as our primary family credit card because:
- We like the simplicity of all our expenses being on one card
- Easy to track
- Customizable categories help us better understand and track our spending
- The Ultimate Rewards redemption panel does a good job of walking you through what rewards you have and the different ways you can redeem them
- We also keep an eye on special redemption categories. Chase regularly features categories where you can cover the charge with points, essentially zeroing out your purchase. We don’t always put this feature to use, but we do keep an eye on it and have found it useful sometimes.
- Well-designed app and website make it easy to manage our account and rewards
The final thing our family likes about our Chase Sapphire rewards card
One final thing we like? As long as our card is open, the points don’t expire. And like we said, we feel like this is the card we could settle down with, so we don’t see us parting ways with our CSP anytime soon.
How we use our Chase rewards card to budget our family travel
In addition to our CSP, we hold Chase’s Ink for Business card for, well, our business. Being able to combine rewards through personal and business spending has been a big factor for our like of the CSP as well.
When we travel, we primarily use our CSP for any purchase we can. During our domestic travels, we haven’t been focused much on redeeming our points.
As we head into full-time international travel though, we are going to be pivoting from accruing rewards, to redeeming points for our travel. Our biggest focus for our family credit cards?
As a family of four, air travel costs can stack up fast. From what we’ve seen so far in our research, while we can use miles for domestic US travel, we see us getting more rev for the reward with international flights. For example, we’re working on starting our international family travels with Costa Rica and Panama, so we’ll be planning to redeem CSP Ultimate Rewards points for tickets for four from Portland, Oregon, to San Jose, Costa Rica, or Panama City, Panama.
We see CSP Ultimate Rewards as being a key way to manage our international travel costs. After all, the more we can use our points and rewards for things like airfare, the more we can stretch our budget—and travel more!
Our everything family credit card can be yours too
Remember: Any sort of rewards credit card works best when you pay your balance in full every month. That immediately helps you by reducing the chance of carrying credit card debt (and paying credit card interest rates).
We have found that the CSP works great as our everything credit card, and we think it could work well for you too.
As a Visa, CSP is accepted pretty much everywhere, all over the world. We also like the spending categories—especially when one is up for additional rewards. Features like autopay, the Chase app, and the Ultimate Rewards online portal also help you track your account and redeem your Ultimate Rewards for travel, products, and more.
Like we said, we’ve dabbled with reward credit cards over years. We’ve played the financial field of travel hacking, but we like simplicity. We aren’t interested in scores of family credit cards and tracking offers.
That’s why the CSP has become our personal everyday, everything card. We both can settle down with it—and use it to take us anywhere.
Start earning rewards: Apply online for your CSP today
Other great family travel credit cards we use and recommend
United Airlines rewards card: Chase United Explorer Visa
If you regularly fly United Airlines, the Explorer Visa is a must-have:
- Free first checked bag
- 2 United Club one-time passes each year
- TSA Pre-Check benefit
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95
There are details, limitations, restrictions, and such, of course. But we’ve had this card for a few years now. Between the TSA Pre-Check signup credit and the free checked bags, the card has more than paid for itself. Since we often fly United when we fly out of Eugene, we keep this card around since it keeps being useful.
Current signup offer (as of July 2022):
Up to 70,000 bonus miles!
We like the Explorer Visa, but it’s not the only option if you often fly United. Chase offers 4 United cards, from the no-annual-fee Gateway, to the United ulta-fan Infinite.
Compare and apply for any of Chase’s United Airlines rewards credit cards here
Business rewards card: Chase Ink Business Visa
Whether for your full-time operation or a part-time side hustle, a dedicated business credit card better helps you separate business expenses from your personal expenses. And since every business has costs, you might as well earn rewards while covering your expenses!
The Chase Ink Business Unlimited is our go-to business credit card:
- No annual fee
- Same Ultimate Rewards ecosystem as other Chase cards
- Earn unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on every purchase
Again, every offer and card has its own conditions. Chase has 3 Ink business credit cards, each with its own bonus points at signup and special features.