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

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Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred

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

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

They may earn the same points and share a name, but there are major differences between the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred cards that leave travelers asking: “Which Sapphire card is right for me?”

That’s a critical question: Chase only allows you to hold either the Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred card – not both. After an update last summer, with new benefits on both cards, it’s a great time to dive into both of them.

We’ll break down all of the benefits you get on each card and pick a winner in each category to help you decide which is right for your travel goals and your personal finances.

 

chase sapphire preferred card

 

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

 

chase sapphire reserve

 

Click Here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve. 

 

Welcome Bonus Offer

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card currently offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of card membership.

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

This one is easy: While the cards offer the same sign-up bonus, your points are worth more if you hold the Sapphire Reserve. At a minimum, that 60,000-point bonus is worth at least $900 toward travel. The 60,000 points on the Preferred card are worth a minimum of $750 toward travel.

While there are many other factors to consider when comparing these two cards, the Sapphire Reserve is the clear winner in this category.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

 

chase sapphire reserve

 

 

Annual Fee

The Preferred Card has an annual fee of $95, and that’s not waived in the first year. But the Reserve card is much steeper. The Chase Sapphire Reserve costs $550 a year for all new applicants.

That alone could make the decision easy for you. But with top travel credit cards, you get what you pay for. There are plenty of extra perks and benefits on the Sapphire Reserve card that offset that cost. And it starts with a $300 annual travel credit.

Just for holding the card and paying the annual fee, you will receive a $300 credit each year that will automatically cover any travel expense: flights, hotels, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, cruises, parking, and so on. Considering how easy it is to use that credit, you can think of the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee as more like $250.

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 $250 on the Sapphire Reserve. Even then, there’s a clear winner.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

 

chase sapphire preferred

 

Authorized User Fees

The Preferred Card offers the primary account holder to add an unlimited amount of authorized users for no additional cost. The 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 total with the Sapphire Preferred and $625 ($550 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 Select lounge membership, meaning they can get into lounges and bring additional guests on their own. If an 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.

 

chase sapphire preferred

 

Redeeming Points

Though the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn from both cards are the same, they’re worth different amounts when you use them to book flights, hotels, and other expenses through the Chase travel portal.

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. But with 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, depending on which version of the card you have.

Here’s an example. Last year, We sent our Thrifty Traveler Premium members flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Amsterdam (AMS) for $483 roundtrip. The screenshot below was taken from Google Flights, our favorite flight search engine.

 

chase sapphire reserve vs preferred

 

Once you find the flight that will work, you can simply head to the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal within your Chase online account. Generally speaking, you should be able to pull up the same cash rate in the portal as you did in Google Flights – though there will sometimes be exceptions to this.

As you can see from the screenshot below, you can book it 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 when booking flights this way. To do the math, take the cost of the ticket divided by .0125. In our example, $482.33 / 0.0125 = 38,586 points.

 

chase sapphire reserve vs preferred

 

But if you’ve got the Sapphire Reserve card, you can book that same flight for for 32,155 Ultimate Rewards points. That’s because your points will always be worth 1.5 cents each.

 

chase sapphire reserve vs preferred

 

There are ways you can get far more out of these points by transferring them to Chase’s stable of airline and hotel partners. And in that respect, these two cards are equal. No matter which version you have, points will transfer to Chase’s airline and hotel partners at 1:1 – one Chase point equals one airline mile or one hotel point.

But there’s a clear winner when you’re redeeming points directly through Chase.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

 

chase sapphire reserve

 

Annual Credits

Just for holding the Chase Sapphire Reserve and paying the $550 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 at least $300 on travel in a year, this credit effectively makes the annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve card $250 ($550 annual fee minus the $300 annual travel credit). If, however, you don’t spend at least $300 on travel each year … well, then there’s really no reason to get the Reserve card in the first place.

 

CSR Travel Credit

 

The Preferred Card certainly doesn’t offer as much in terms of annual credits. But starting last August, the card now provides a $50 credit for hotel bookings made through the Chase Travel Portal. The best part? This was added without increasing the card’s $95 annual fee.

 

chase sapphire reserve vs preferred hotel credit

 

As great as this new credit is, it doesn’t compete with the Reserve card’s $300 annual travel credit.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

 

chase sapphire reserve

 

Earning Ultimate Rewards Points

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

If you hold the Sapphire Preferred card, you will earn 3x points per dollar spent on dining, including eligible delivery services, 3x points per dollar spent on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club), and 3x points per dollar spent on select streaming services.

You will also earn 5x total points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Anniversary Hotel Credit, and 2x points per dollar spent on all other travel purchases.

And it gets better if you’re riding in a Lyft. Through 2025, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders will earn 5x points per dollar on Lyft rides – including scooters and bike rentals.

Finally, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders now earn a 10% anniversary points bonus every year. At the end of every year, Chase will tally up all your spending throughout the year and give you an extra 10% bonus. It’s based on the amount you spent regardless of any bonus categories: Spending $10,000 means you’ll get an extra 1,000 points.

If you hold the Sapphire Reserve Card, you will earn 3x points per dollar spent on dining, including eligible delivery services. You will also earn 5x total points on air travel and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and 3x points per dollar spent on all other travel purchases.

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

This will obviously come down to where you spend the most, but for a card with only a $95 annual fee, the Sapphire Preferred is very competitive.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

 

chase sapphire preferred

 

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, you will even have access to a growing list of airport restaurants where you can dine for free during your travels.

That lounge access may grow. Chase has a number of Chase Sapphire airport lounges in the works, with six locations planned and counting. The first of those Chase-branded lounges is expected to open sometime in 2022. And Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders are expected to get free entry.

The Preferred card does not currently offer any sort of airport lounge access.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

 

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 cover the cost of either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Membership in both programs lasts for five years, so you’re set with this credit. 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 Preferred card doesn’t offer a credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve.

 

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.

Let’s go back to basics for a bit. There are two categories of insurance coverage when it comes to rental cars: primary and secondary. The vast majority of travel rewards credit cards offer only 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 – and that’s what you get with both Sapphire cards.

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.

Read More: All About the Chase Sapphire Rental Car Insurance Benefit

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®.  

 

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 either of these cards.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred card only charging an annual fee of $95, it’s the clear winner in this category as both cards provide identical 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 Preferred card’s baggage delay benefit, visit the following link on Chase’s website.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

 

chase sapphire preferred

 

Trip Delay & Cancelation Coverage

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred cards 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 six-hour delay while Preferred cardholders are only eligible after a delay of 12 hours or more.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®.  

 

chase sapphire reserve

 

Medical Evacuation & Travel Accident Coverage

You always hope you never need Medical Evacuation & Travel Accident coverage. But if you ever 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 Preferred card 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 for up to $100,000.

Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

 

chase sapphire reserve

 

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred: Which Wins?

By the numbers, the Sapphire Reserve wins seven categories to the Sapphire Preferred Card’s five.

But everybody can – and should – weigh these categories differently. Some of these categories could make the Chase Sapphire Reserve a no-brainer to one person seeking lounge access or a Global Entry. Those same benefits might be meaningless to another person.

There are some key points to keep in mind.

While the upfront cost of the Reserve card is much higher with a $550 annual fee, the effective annual fee is only $250 after factoring in the annual travel credit. While still steep for many travelers, that’s much more palatable than the initial sticker shock. And some of the card’s other perks could help you outweigh that cost altogether.

Not to mention, with the launch of the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card last fall, we think the card has put a lot of pressure on the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

And considering the Venture X annual fee is only $395, it’s also a much cheaper option with stronger lounge access than the Sapphire Reserve. In fact, you could hold both the Venture X and the Chase Sapphire Preferred and your out-of-pocket annual fee expense would only be $490 – $60 less than just holding the Sapphire Reserve.

Related Reading: Does the Capital One Venture X Make the Chase Sapphire Reserve Irrelevant? 

 

Bottom Line

The $550 upfront annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is not for everybody.  But even if you ultimately want the Sapphire Reserve, you are better off starting with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You’ll earn more points up front, that will ultimately be worth more once you upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve.

 

chase sapphire preferred card

 

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

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: 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.

4 Responses

  • Which airlines are the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred cards good for? I apologize in advance as it’s probably spelled out somewhere, but I cannot find

  • I currently have the chase Sapphire Reserve card but am thinking of dropping it and getting the Preferred card. Any recommendations on how to do it and can I get the 80k miles bonus on the preferred?

    • Hey Kevin, as long as you haven’t earned the bonus on the card within the past 48 months you should be eligible to earn the 80k on the Reserve. I would suggest calling Chase and converting your Reserve to one of the Freedom cards. This will keep your points in tact. You can then apply for the Preferred Card.

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