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Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Sapphire Reserve: Which is Right for You?

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred credit cards have become the gold standard in the points and miles world, and for good reason. They’re some of the best cards out there and the first cards we recommend for people getting started with award travel.

While they earn the same points, they are some major differences between them that leave travelers asking: “Which Sapphire card is right for me?”

And because Chase only allows you to have either the Sapphire Reserve or the Sapphire Preferred card, selecting the best option for you is critical.

We’ll break down all of the benefits provided by each card and assign a winner in each category to help you decide which is right for your travel goals and personal financial situation.

 

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Click Here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. 

 

 

Click Here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve. 

 

Welcome Bonus Offer

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a sign-up bonus offer of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card membership.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a sign-up bonus offer of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card membership.

So the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers 10,000 more Chase Ultimate Rewards points for the same spending requirement. And while there are other factors to consider when comparing these two cards, the Sapphire Preferred is the clear winner in this category.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. 

 

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Annual Fee

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has an annual fee of $95 and it is not waived in the first year of card membership. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, has an annual fee of $450 which is also not waived in the first year of card membership.

And while these annual fees are vastly different, you get what you pay for. There are plenty of extra perks on the Sapphire Reserve card – the biggest and most noteworthy difference is the $300 annual travel credit.

Just for holding the card and paying the annual fee, you will receive a $300 credit each year that can be used towards any travel expense. That includes flights, hotels, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, cruises, and so on. You don’t have to do anything to get the reimbursement. Chase will automatically apply the credit to your statement until you reach your $300 cap.

If you travel even semi-regularly, you should be able to take advantage of this credit which effectively knocks the annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve down to $150 ($450 annual fee minus the $300 travel credit).

So while there are other benefits offered that are worth considering, the annual fee comparison between these cards should be looked at as $95 on the Sapphire Preferred and $150 on the Sapphire Reserve.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. 

 

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Authorized User Fees

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers the primary account holder to add an unlimited amount of authorized users for no additional cost. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, charges an additional $75 for each additional authorized user you add to the account.

That means if you plan to add a spouse or a significant other to your account, you can expect to pay $95 out of pocket each year with the Sapphire Preferred and $525 ($450 annual fee + the authorized user fee of $75) for the Sapphire Reserve.

The $75 fee for adding a user to the Sapphire Reserve will provide the user with their own Priority Pass lounge membership in which they can grant guest access for up to two people each time they visit. If the authorized user often travels without the primary cardholder, this fee can pay for itself quickly.

If not, the Sapphire Preferred might be a better option.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. 

 

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Points Redemption Value

Though the points you earn from both cards are the same, the rate at which they can be redeemed through the Chase travel portal is different.

If you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can redeem your points for 1.25 cents each towards travel booked through the Chase portal. And if you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem your points for 1.5 cents each towards travel booked through the Chase portal.

That means if you use the Chase travel portal to book a flight, hotel or other travel, your points will be worth either 25% or 50% more.

Let me give you an example of how exactly this works. It was recently possible to fly from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Amsterdam (AMS) for $483 roundtrip. The screenshot below was taken from Google Flights, our favorite flight search engine.

 

 

Once you find the flight that will work, you can simply head to the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, available within your Chase online account. The portal is powered by Expedia, and generally speaking, you should be able to pull up the same cash rate in the portal as you did in Google Flights.

As you can see from the screenshot below, this flight can be booked for 38,586 Ultimate Rewards points if you hold the Sapphire Preferred card. That’s because your points will always be worth 1.25 cents each.

And to figure out how many points you will need to book a ticket, you can simply take the cost of the ticket divided by 0.0125. That means in our example $482.33 / 0.0125 = 38,586 points.

 

 

If you hold the Sapphire Reserve card, this same flight can be booked for 32,155 Ultimate Rewards points. That’s because your points will always be worth 1.5 cents each. And to figure out how many points you will need to book a ticket, you can simply take the cost of the ticket divided by 0.015. That means in our example $482.33 / 0.015 = 32,155 points.

 

 

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve.  

 

 

Annual Travel Credit

Just for holding the Chase Sapphire Reserve and paying the $450 annual fee, you will receive an annual $300 travel credit. This can be used for any charge that codes as travel (think flights, hotels, cruises, Uber, Lyft, taxis, parking, etc).

You don’t have to do anything other than spend on travel to take advantage of the credit. Chase will automatically reimburse the charges in the form of statement credits up to the maximum of $300.

If you spend $300 on travel in a year, the credit effectively makes the annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve card $150 ($450 annual fee less the $300 annual travel credit).

The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t offer an annual travel credit which makes the Sapphire Reserve a clear winner in this category.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve.  

 

 

Ultimate Rewards Points Earning

Both the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cards earn bonus points for all spending on dining at restaurants and travel.

If you hold the Sapphire Preferred card, you will earn 2x points per dollar spent on dining and travel. And if you hold the Sapphire Reserve you will earn 3x points per dollar spent on dining and travel.

Both cards will earn 1x point per dollar spent on all other categories.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve.  

 

 

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Credit

If you hold the Sapphire Reserve, you will receive up to $100 in credit once every four years to pay for the cost of either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. And since Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck, it’s the obvious choice if you plan to do any international travel. See our guide on how to enroll in Global Entry from start to finish.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card doesn’t offer a credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve.  

 

 

Airport Lounge Access

The Sapphire Reserve comes with a complimentary Priority Pass Lounge membership. This is the gateway for you and up to two guests to hang out in hundreds of airport lounges all over the world. Additionally, as a part of the membership, you will even have access to a growing list of airport restaurants where you can dine for free during your travels.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred does not offer any sort of airport lounge access.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve.  

 

 

Rental Car Insurance Coverage

Both versions of the Sapphire card offer some of the best car rental coverage you will find from a credit card.

Notably, there are two categories of insurance coverage when it comes to rental cars: primary and secondary. A large majority of travel rewards credit cards in the market place offer secondary coverage on your rental if you pay with the card. Secondary coverage typically comes with a deductible and it only kicks in if you don’t have your own personal car insurance policy. It will likely not cover the entire loss of a vehicle either.

Primary insurance, on the other hand, will cover all damage from collision or theft of most rental cars. If you waive the car rental company’s coverage when renting, these benefits will apply if your vehicle is damaged, lost or stolen and you paid with a card offering primary insurance. Both cards will provide coverage for the cardholder and any additional drivers permitted on the rental agreement.

The only difference in the rental car coverage offered by the two cards is the amount in which each will cover. The Sapphire Preferred will cover up to the actual cash value of the rental car for rental periods that do not exceed 31 consecutive days. The Sapphire Reserve will cover up to $75,000 for rental periods that do not exceed 31 consecutive days.

That means if there is damage above and beyond the cost of the rental car, the Sapphire Reserve will provide a bit more coverage, assuming the rental car is not valued above $75,000.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve.  

 

 

Baggage Delay & Lost Luggage Coverage

When it comes to credit cards covering baggage delays and/or lost luggage, you will be hard-pressed to find more bang for your buck than the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

And with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card only charging an annual fee of $95, it’s the clear winner in this category as both cards will provide the same amount of coverage.

If you check your bags and they’re delayed more than six hours, both cards can reimburse you up to $100 per day for up to five days. This coverage is meant to provide reimbursement for essential items like toiletries, clothing, and cell phone charging cables, for example.

Additionally, the coverage will cover the primary cardholder, the cardholder’s spouse or domestic partner, and any immediate family members.

For more information on the Chase Sapphire Preferred baggage delay benefit, visit the following link on Chase’s website.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. 

 

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Trip Delay & Cancelation Coverage

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred Card will reimburse you for expenses you incur due to a delayed or canceled flight, train, bus, or other means of travel. And that reimbursement can be used for costs like meals, lodging, toiletries, etc. incurred because of the delay, and the delay must take place away from the cardholder’s primary city of residence.

The Sapphire Reserve card will reimburse you for any delay lasting six hours or more, while the Sapphire Preferred will reimburse you for delays lasting 12 hours or more. Cardholders will be covered along with their spouse or domestic partner and any dependent children under the age of 22 for up to $500 for each purchased ticket.

The kicker here is that the trip must have been at least partially paid for with your Chase Sapphire card (or with Chase Ultimate Rewards points from the card).

So while both cards offer the same coverage, Sapphire Reserve cardholders will be able to take advantage of it after a 6-hour delay while Preferred cardholders are eligible after a delay of 12 hours or more.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve.  

 

 

Medical Evacuation & Travel Accident Coverage

You always hope you never need Medical Evacuation & Travel Accident coverage. But when and if you need it, it’s invaluable.

Both cards will provide coverage for accidental death or dismemberment, or a combined loss of speech, sight or hearing, experienced on a covered trip.  Benefits are available when some portion of a covered trip has been purchased with either card or with Ultimate Rewards points earned on either card.

The difference comes in the amount of coverage each card provides. The Chase Sapphire Preferred will provide a benefit amount for the loss of life up to $500,000 while the Sapphire Reserve card will provide benefit for loss of life up to $1,000,000.

Additionally, only the Sapphire Reserve card will provide coverage for a medical evacuation. If you or a member of your immediate family are injured or become sick during a trip far from home that results in an emergency evacuation, you can be covered for medical services and transportation up to $100,000.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve.  

 

 

Foreign Transaction Fees

Both the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cards will waive foreign transaction fees; making them an excellent option for international travel.

Winner: Tie. 

 

Our Analysis

By the numbers, the Sapphire Reserve wins eight categories to the Sapphire Preferred Card’s four. Of course, everybody will weigh these categories differently, and at the end of the day, pick the card that makes sense for you and your individual financial situation.

 

 

At the end of the day, while the upfront cost of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is higher with a $450 annual fee, the effective annual fee is only $150 after factoring in the annual travel credit.

If you are able to take advantage of the annual travel credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the card is costing you $55 more annually than the Chase Sapphire Preferred card ($450 annual fee less $300 travel credit is $150 for the Sapphire Reserve annual fee less the $95 annual fee on the Sapphire Preferred).

In my opinion, the ability to earn 3x points on dining and travel with the Sapphire Reserve (instead of 2x with Sapphire Preferred) and redeeming at 1.5 cents per point through the Chase portal (instead of 1.25 cents per point with Sapphire Preferred) is worth far more than $55 annually. Not to mention all of the additional benefits the Sapphire Reserve includes like lounge access, Global Entry, and the phenomenal travel insurance coverage it provides.

If the $300 travel credit seems like a stretch, The Chase Sapphire Preferred should be your choice. With an annual fee of only $95, it is hard to beat and why we think it is the best travel rewards credit card for beginners.

 

Bottom Line

The $450 upfront annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is not for everybody. If you can’t stomach this fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is still an excellent option.

However, we encourage you to always do the math before ruling out credit cards with a high annual fee. If you play your cards right, you can come out way ahead on your annual fee.

 

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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