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Two of the most popular travel credit cards are the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred. Both of these credit cards offer the same sign-up bonus, earn the same points, have the same transfer partners, but there are a few major differences when comparing the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred.
So is the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve better for you?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve & Preferred 50,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus
Both offers are worth the same if you plan on transferring your rewards points to Chase travel partner.
However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus is worth more when you redeem your points through Chase’s travel portal because of the 50% travel redemption bonus.
When you redeem your Ultimate Rewards for award travel directly through Chase, the 50,000 points are worth $750 (1.5 cents each) compared to $625 (1.25 cents each) with the Sapphire Preferred.
Eligibility for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred
As a side note, current Chase policy only lets Sapphire cardmembers earn one sign-up bonus at a time. If you currently hold a Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, you must wait 24 months from the time you received the sign-up bonus before applying for the other Sapphire product.
Also, you can always upgrade your Preferred to the Reserve or downgrade the Reserve to the Preferred, but you wouldn’t receive a sign-up bonus in either situation.
And if you’re unfamiliar with Chase’s 5/24 rule read this post.
Also, don’t apply for any credit cards if your credit score isn’t in good condition and if you can’t manage your credit properly. Here are our posts on what credit scores you’ll need for the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred.
Sapphire Reserve and Preferred Annual Fees
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has an annual fee of $95 that’s waived for the first year. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $450 which isn’t waived for the first year. There’s quite a bit of difference in these annual fees, so it makes looking into the benefits of each travel card even more important.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s Premium Benefits
What really sets the Sapphire Reserve apart from the Sapphire Preferred is its premium benefits.
$300 Annual Travel Credit
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $300 annual travel credit. This credit is extremely flexible because it will be applied to any travel-related purchase from plane tickets to guided tours, not just checked bags and in-flight purchases like the Amex Platinum.
You should have no problem redeeming the $300 travel credit because it reimburses any travel purchase. The annual fee also effectively reduces to $150 when you factor in the air travel credit.
Airport Lounge Access
You will enjoy complimentary airport lounge access with Priority Pass Select that gives you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide with unlimited visits.
The same paid unlimited you might already be paying for costs $399. The complimentary membership alone pays the annual fee (almost) before you even account for the $300 annual travel credit and other travel benefits.
Global Entry Application Fee Reimbursement
As long as you own the Sapphire Reserve, Chase will reimburse you the application fee for Global Entry ($100) or TSA Precheck ($85).
You can now skip the long airport security lines for free.
Complimentary Rental Car Upgrades and Discounts
Both versions of the Sapphire offer primary rental car collision damage waiver insurance, but you can enjoy some additional perks with the rental car perks from Avis, National, and Silvercar.
By paying for your rental through these three rental car agencies with your Sapphire Reserve, you can save some money and maybe get a free upgrade as well.
Earn 3x Purchase Rewards w/the Chase Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve also comes with more earning potential. You will earn 3x points per $1 on dining instead of the 2x the Sapphire Preferred offers. You will also earn 3x points on travel once you earn your $300 travel credit.
Earning 3x points on travel and dining compared to 2x points is a plus, but it shouldn’t be the only reason you apply for the Sapphire Reserve.
For every $1,000 you spend in travel in dining, you will earn an additional 1,000 points because you own the Sapphire Reserve. Depending on how much you spend in these categories in a year, the bonus can create a sizable windfall of points by owning the Sapphire Reserve.
1:1 Chase Travel Partners
The Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred have the exact same 1:1 travel partners. The Reserve’s 50% redemption bonus through Chase’s portal is awesome, but you can still find better redemption options by transferring your points out to a travel partner and booking directly from the airline or hotel.
With some of the best Ultimate Rewards redemption options, each point can easily be worth 2.0 cent each or more.
When You Should Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve
Here’s when it makes sense to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®:
- You travel several times per year
- You redeem your Ultimate Rewards points through Chase’s travel portal
- Can use the $300 travel credit, lounge access, and Global Entry benefits each year
- Want to earn 3x points on all travel (once eligible) and dining vs. 2x points
- Looking for a premium travel rewards card
You will have access to the same Chase travel partners as with the Sapphire Preferred. Because of the 3x earning bonus, you will have more points to transfer.
When to Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred
You should apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead of the Sapphire Reserve when:
- You won’t use the travel benefits
- Only want a travel credit card with flexible travel redemption options
- You’re not a big spender on travel & dining purchases
- You want a lower annual fee
If you don’t use the Sapphire Reserve travel benefits, it’s extremely difficult to offset the annual fee after you redeem the $300 annual travel credit.
Frequent flyers will get the most value from Sapphire Reserve benefits because of the Priority Pass Select and Global Entry benefits. If you find yourself driving more than flying or not having time to visit a Priority Pass lounge, apply for the Sapphire Preferred instead.
When that’s the case, the Sapphire Preferred’s $95 annual fee ($0 the first year) is very reasonable. Whether you redeem your points directly through Chase or transfer them to your frequent flyer program or hotel loyalty account, you might be able to pay the annual fee redeeming your rewards points on your first award trip each year.
Summary on Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred
With either Sapphire card, you will have the same access to the 1:1 travel partners which let you achieve award travel quicker than any other travel rewards card. Frequent flyers who can use the Sapphire Reserves air travel benefits will greatly benefit from the Sapphire Reserve. Otherwise, the Sapphire Preferred is a great option for all travelers of any background.
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you know what you get:
- 2 Ultimate Rewards points for all travel and dining purchases
- 1:1 point transfers to your favorite airlines and hotels
- 25% point redemption bonus for award travel booked through Chase
- $95 annual fee waived for the first year
If you primarily want a travel rewards card that earns valuable points and has a lower annual fee the Sapphire Preferred is hands-down the better option.
The value of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is in the annual travel benefits that help justify the $450 annual fee. The 3x points on travel (once eligible) & dining, and 50% redemption bonus through Chase’s portal is nice too. If you won’t maximize the Reserve’s benefits, it doesn’t make sense to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve over the Preferred.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.