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Chase’s Sapphire duo comprises two of the best cards on the market for travelers, but narrowing down your own travel and spending needs can help determine whether the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve is best for you.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the more approachable of the two travel credit cards with a $95 annual fee, while the Sapphire Reserve is the more premium option with a price tag to match: $550 annually. With both, you’ll earn rewards on travel and dining plus a competitive sign-up bonus.
Making the choice between the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Sapphire Reserve cards comes down to your own spending habits and determining which will offer the most long-term value for you. Here are some things to consider:
|Features||Chase Sapphire Preferred||Chase Sapphire Reserve|
|Welcome bonus||60,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months||50,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months|
|Rewards rate||5X points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services), 3X points on select streaming services, 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs), 2X points on all other travel and 1X points on everything else||10X total points on Lyft purchases through March 2022, 10X total points on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards, 10X total points on hotel stays and car rentals through Ultimate Rewards, 5X total points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards (after earning the $300 travel credit), 3X points on general travel and restaurant purchases and 1X points on everything else|
|Statement credits||$50 annual hotel stay credit through Chase Ultimate Rewards;||$300 annual travel credit on qualifying travel; Up to $100 in statement credits toward the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee;|
|Points value through Chase Travel Portal||25 percent points-value boost for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards||50 percent points-value boost for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards|
|Authorized user fee||$75 annual fee per added authorized user||No fee to add authorized users|
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve highlights
Welcome bonus winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred (Tie if redeeming for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards)
With the lower-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Preferred, new cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. New Sapphire Reserve cardholders, on the other hand, earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first three months.
Things get a little more interesting when redemptions come into play, though.
When you redeem points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you’ll get a 25 percent boost with the Preferred card and a 50 percent boost with the Reserve—boosting each point to about 1.25 or 1.5 cents in value, respectively. That makes both cards’ bonuses worth $750 when redeemed for travel through the Chase portal.
Rewards rate winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Sapphire Reserve is renowned for top-of-class travel rewards. Cardmembers get a whopping 10X total points on hotel stays and car rentals through Ultimate Rewards, whereas spending in these categories with the Preferred would earn 5X points (on travel through Ultimate Rewards). Additionally, Reserve cardmembers get 10X total points on Lyft purchases through March 2022 (compared to the Preferred’s 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022), 5X total points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards after earning the $300 travel credit and 3X points on general travel (compared to the Preferred’s 2X points on general travel).
While the Preferred’s rewards are nothing to sneeze at, they pale in comparison to the hefty rewards you’ll get with Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Annual fee winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
At $95, the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee is $455 less than the Sapphire Reserve’s $550 fee. Unless you’re able to offset that cost through added spending or by maximizing all of the credits offered annually, the Preferred card wins here.
Foreign transaction fee: Tie
Both cards offer zero foreign transaction fees for purchases that you make while traveling abroad.
Travel perks winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve wins here not only for its higher rate on dining and travel purchases but also for the added benefits cardholders receive in annual credits.
Here’s a rundown of each of the added benefits offered by the Sapphire Reserve:
- $300 travel credit, reimbursed as a statement credit for any travel purchases you make throughout the year
- Priority Pass Select membership for airport lounge access
- Up to $100 every four years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee reimbursement
- One free year of Lyft Pink membership if activated by March 31, 2022, plus 10X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
- Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection amenities
Note, you’ll also earn a lower rate of 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) with the Preferred card. Additionally, both cards’ rewards may be redeemed by booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards or transferring points 1:1 to Chase transfer partners.
Which card earns the most?
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve spending example
Ultimately, the Reserve is the Sapphire card with the potential to earn the highest rewards, but you’ve got to be willing to spend. If you can take full advantage of the benefits and much of your spending is focused on dining and travel, you’ll easily earn back the Reserve’s steep $550 annual fee. If those credits aren’t useful for you, though, the Preferred will likely be of much more value.
Disregarding the credits, say you spend $20,000 each year on your card ($8,000 at restaurants, $8,000 on travel and $4,000 on miscellaneous other spending).
With the Sapphire Preferred, that would equal 40,000 total points on general dining and travel purchases and 4,000 on everything else for a total 44,000 points. That’s equivalent to about $550 in value when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards with the 25 percent boost.
With the Reserve, though, your spending would bring in 48,000 points on general dining and travel purchases and 4,000 points for your other spending, bringing you to a total of 52,000 points. With the 50 percent boost you can get when redeeming points through Ultimate Rewards, that’s about $780 in total value. Keep in mind that in order to earn the Sapphire Reserve’s 3X points on general dining and travel purchases, you first need to earn the $300 travel credit.
Using this example, and subtracting each card’s annual fee, the Preferred card’s annual value is about $455, and the Reserve’s value is about $230. As your spending increases, though, and as you redeem the Reserve’s annual credits and utilize the full rewards spectrum, the value of the card improves. Use your own spending as a guide to help determine which Sapphire card can help you best maximize your spending.
Why you should get the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
If you travel a decent amount throughout the year but aren’t necessarily boarding a plane every few weeks (or if traveling in style isn’t your top priority), the Preferred is likely the right Sapphire card for you. You can earn great rewards with flexible redemptions for a reasonable $95 annual fee. This is an especially great card for beginners looking to dip their toes into the world of travel rewards credit cards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a wide breadth of travel insurance, from trip cancellation and interruption insurance to baggage delay insurance. You’re also protected with auto rental collision damage for vehicles you rent using your card. And if your travel is put on hold for more than 12 hours—or delays necessitate an overnight stay—the card offers trip delay reimbursement of up to $500 per ticket.
With the Sapphire Preferred card, you can redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards for cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and Chase Experience events. You can also redeem your points for travel purchases or transfer points 1:1 with partner airlines and hotels.
Additionally, the Pay Yourself Back feature allows you to get a 25 percent boost to your points when you redeem toward statement credits for Airbnb and Away purchases made within the last 90 days (via awaytravel.com) until March 31, 2022.
Recommended credit score
Qualifying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred typically requires a good or excellent FICO credit score between 670 and 850.
Why you should get the Chase Sapphire Reserve
If you spend much of your time each year on a plane and can fully maximize all the added credits and benefits offered by this card, the Reserve is right for you.
Anyone who already frequently spends on rideshare and delivery services, travels often and is looking for lounge access to make long airport waiting periods a little more comfortable will be happy choosing the Reserve.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a plethora of perks, including a $300 annual travel credit, complimentary Lyft Pink and free VIP lounge access in over 1,300 airports.
Further, the card offers trip cancellation and interruption insurance, emergency evacuation and transportation coverage. And when you use your card to book car rentals, you can receive primary rental car insurance that covers damages before your personal auto insurance does.
Ultimate Rewards points are redeemable in many forms: cash back, statement credit, gift cards, merchandise and travel experiences. Another valuable option (similar to the Preferred) is to redeem your points toward statement credits for Airbnb and Away purchases (through awaytravel.com) for an extra 50 percent value. This is a Pay Yourself Back feature available through March 31, 2022, and purchases must have been made within the past 90 days.
The most valuable redemption method is the 50 percent boost to points on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards or transferring points to Chase travel partners.
Recommended credit score
Because the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a premium travel rewards card, you’ll need an excellent FICO score of at least 740 to qualify. Higher credit scores generally have better odds of approval than lower scores, although approval is never guaranteed.
Which Chase Sapphire credit card should you choose?
Choosing between the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Preferred credit cards may come down to how you view the key features and benefits of these two cards. Let’s take a closer look.
How important is the annual fee to you?
Are the extra perks of the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve worth paying the $550 annual fee? If you use the additional benefits and take advantage of bonus categories and rewards, then the higher annual fee may be worth it.
On the other hand, if you won’t use your card enough to offset the annual fee, perhaps the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better match.
Will you take advantage of the welcome offer?
Right now, the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s welcome offer is a solid 60,000 points once you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. That works out to $750 when redeemed toward travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Despite the higher annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve actually offers a lesser-value welcome offer of 50,000 points (so long as you spend $4,000 within the first three months), though this bonus is also worth $750 toward travel when redeemed through Ultimate Rewards thanks to the 50 percent boost.
Do you want premium-level benefits and perks?
The Sapphire Preferred comes with plenty of rewards value, including 5X points on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, travel insurance, consumer protections and more. But, as we’ve discussed, the Chase Sapphire Reserve takes benefits to a whole new level.
When you should upgrade from the Chase Sapphire Preferred to the Reserve
If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, it may be tempting to upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve to take advantage of the card’s many perks. The annual fee ($550) is something to consider, but the value of the benefits may offset—or even negate—the yearly charge for many consumers.
You’ll have to wait a minimum of one year from the date you opened your Sapphire Preferred account before you can upgrade to Sapphire Reserve. That’s because the CARD Act explicitly mandates that credit card issuers can’t charge cardholders a higher annual fee on the same account within the first year of activation.
Upgrading from the Sapphire Preferred to the Sapphire Reserve is simple; just make a phone call to Chase customer support and request the change. Since you’re just changing products and not applying for a new card, you won’t have to fill out a new application or agree to a hard inquiry on your credit report. Still, you’ll need to meet the Sapphire Reserve’s conditions, including an excellent credit score of 740 or higher.
The bottom line
Your individual annual travel itinerary and ability to maximize credits is going to be the deciding factor between these cards.
If you like the flexibility of redemption options offered by Chase Ultimate Rewards and want to earn on your dining and travel spending, but you only travel a few times each year, you’re likely better off paying less for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. If you’re a frequent flyer, though, and travel enough to make up for the $550 annual fee on the Reserve, its rewards and benefits are tough to beat.
Both of these cards are great travel options that can help you earn hundreds of dollars in value each year, but you should take time to consider your specific needs before making a decision.