Here’s what I wish I’d ​​known before canceling my Chase Sapphire Preferred Choice

During the pandemic, I logged into my Chase account and was surprised when I saw the $95 annual fee for my favorite travel credit card. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. At the time, my only “trip” was curbside pickup, so I decided to try and get my money back.

As a credit card reporter, I know that if you call your credit card company right away to cancel or downgrade to a no-annual-fee card, you can usually get the annual fee deducted from your bill. So I called to request a change to my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, not thinking much about the travel benefits I would lose.

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

Here's my cautionary tale about downgrading a card without taking a full inventory of the benefits you'll lose, and how to avoid making my stupid mistake.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Earn 5x points on travel purchases with Chase Travel℠, 3x points on dining, 2x points on all other travel purchases, and more.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a winner when traveling

Before downgrading, my Chase Sapphire Preferred was my go-to travel card for years, offering a host of benefits that far outweighed the annual fee. When I realized my mistake, I upgraded back to this card because it's one of the best travel credit cards on the market for moderately frequent travelers.

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

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card comes with tons of travel and dining benefits, including:

  • Earn a generous welcome bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Good reward structure, including reward categories for travel and dining purchases.
  • Excellent travel protection, including trip cancellation/delay and baggage delay coverage.
  • Major Car Rental Collision Damage Waivers in the U.S. and Abroad.
  • Purchase and extend warranty protection.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

This card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, one of the most flexible points 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 higher value.

This card has served me well on many international trips, including vacations with my husband in Argentina and Spain, and a solo trip to Guatemala to learn the language. With its best-in-class travel coverage, I've been using it to buy flights and rental cars in the U.S. and abroad, enjoying the peace of mind that comes with major car rental coverage on the card.

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

I made a stupid mistake downgrading my Chase Sapphire Preferred

When I downgraded my Chase Sapphire Preferred to a regular Chase Sapphire card, I had one thing in mind: recouping the $95 annual fee.

Because it was 2020 and we were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I barely left the house except to buy groceries or stock up on cleaning products and hand sanitizer. International travel seems like a distant memory.

For this reason, I didn’t ask the Chase rep too much about what benefits I would be giving up by swapping my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for a more basic version of the card. I didn't ask about the earn rate for rewards, which are lower, and I definitely didn't think to ask her about FX trading fees.

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

My trip to Uruguay and surprised by the cost

In late 2021, my husband and I were finally able to take a dream trip that had been postponed due to the pandemic: a year in Uruguay. On our last vacation to Argentina, we both fell in love with this small country known for its beaches and sunsets.

In preparation for such a long trip, we did a series of activities, including preparing our house for Airbnb guests, and credit cards were not a priority. In fact, I forgot I had downgraded my Chase Sapphire card.

We arrived in Uruguay and settled into our apartment, went to a local pet store to buy a bed and food for our dog, bought a bunch of household items, and of course explored the capital city of Montevideo as tourists. We visited the museum, tasted Uruguayan wine and tasted a lot Keep up with — Grill restaurant where Uruguay’s famous beef, cheese and vegetables are grilled to smoky perfection.

Unfortunately, every time we hand over the regular Chase Sapphire Card, we get hit with foreign transaction fees because the downgraded card doesn't have the same “no foreign transaction fee” benefit as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. My October statement included two pages of foreign exchange transaction fees, ranging from 10 cents to $3.75. When I noticed the charges the next month, the total was over $70.

I immediately called Chase and upgraded back to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. To me, the annual fee is worth it. As a result, I ended up paying almost as much in foreign transaction fees as the annual fee price of the Sapphire Preferred card. I have kept the upgraded card and don’t want to downgrade it again.

I’m now preparing for my next international trip – to Mexico – and I’ve learned from my mistakes. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card will be my credit card of choice for this trip. I also purchased a backup credit card with no foreign transaction fees because it's best to carry at least two cards with no foreign transaction fees in case one is lost or stolen while traveling.

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

final verdict

It's a good idea to regularly survey your credit card portfolio to understand annual fees, benefits and the main purposes for which you use your cards.

When you don't get enough value from the rewards and benefits to make up for the annual fee, it makes more sense to downgrade your card than cancel it.

By downgrading, you retain your credit limit with your card issuer, which helps maintain good credit. This is because the amount of available credit you have on any given card affects your credit utilization ratio, the amount of available credit you're using, and therefore your credit score.

But it's important to make sure you don't lose important benefits 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.

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