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Below is our expert post comparing the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Chase Sapphire Preferred for 2020.

With much fanfare, a few years ago Chase released the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, a premium travel rewards credit card, to serve as the “flagship” credit card of the Chase brand.  Prior to this, Chase’s premier card was the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which many frequent fliers consider the best travel rewards card because of its low annual fee, robust purchase rewards, and the opportunity to earn Chase Ultimate Reward points (some of the most highly coveted reward points in the travel arena).

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Chase Sapphire Preferred

Since the inception of the Chase Sapphire Reserve in August 2016, there has been much debate regarding which Sapphire product is the best option. You can’t get either Sapphire card product if you’ve applied for more than 5 credit cards in the last 24 months, so picking the right one now is imperative if you’re eligible.

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Chase Sapphire Reserve – Sign Up Bonus

One of the largest lures for either card is the sign-up bonus. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a current sign-up bonus of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points after spending $4,000 within the first three months. When redeemed for travel rewards through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, those 50k points are worth $750 (thanks to a 50% travel redemption bonus)!

And they can be worth even more by transferring them out to an Ultimate Rewards travel partner. Without using any of the additional Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits, the sign-up bonus pays the $550 annual fee for the first few years you own the card. Using the annual $300 travel credit drops the annual fee to $250. Couple that with the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit of up to $100, and you can offset the fee even more.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card bonus is 60,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points after meeting the same $4,000 spending minimum as the Sapphire Reserve. It is also worth $750 when you use the points for travel rewards using the Chase Rewards portal. 

As you can see, both cards have the same spending requirements and both bonuses are worth $750 on award travel. Either card is awesome. Not many credit card sign-up bonuses are worth $750, and, most do not come with the flexibility of Chase Ultimate Rewards that can be redeemed on a host of airlines & other travel services.

Travel Benefits: Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred?

One of the other reasons that travelers choose either the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, because of the travel benefits.  Both cards earn Chase Ultimate Rewards that can be transferred on a 1:1 basis to many airline loyalty programs including Virgin Atlantic, United MileagePlus, Southwest Airlines, and British Airways, and hotel programs from Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and IHG.  This points 1 Chase Point is worth 1 United point, etc.

It should go without saying, but, neither credit card charges a foreign transaction fee.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

One of the best travel benefits of the Sapphire Preferred is primary CDW waiver coverage for most rental vehicles.  When you book a car rental with the Sapphire Preferred, you can decline the insurance policies offered by the car rental agency.  In the event of an accident, Chase will reimburse any associated costs.

In addition to rental car insurance, cardholders can also enjoy 24/7 roadside assistance, a $5 or $10 monthly fee that might be part of your auto insurance policy.  Hopefully, you will never need to use this service, but, it’s an easy way to save a few bucks each month by dropping duplicate coverage from your car insurance company.

Another travel perk is baggage delay insurance.  If you have a checked bag that gets delayed by at least 6 hours at your final destination, you can be reimbursed for essential purchases such as clothing and toiletries (up to $100 per day).

Other benefits also include trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance that can be used to reimburse up to $10,000 in non-refundable travel purchases.  And, one final perk is trip delay insurance that will reimburse each ticket holder up to $500 in expenses when a flight is delayed at least 6 hours or an overnight stay is required.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® justifies its $550 annual fee with its travel perks. It carries many of the same benefits offered by the Sapphire Preferred, including the rental car CDW coverage and trip insurance. But, the best perk is an annual $300 annual travel credit. This can be used to be reimbursed for airfare or hotel expenses. Most “premium” travel credit cards normally allow the credit to be redeemed for incidental airline fees such as checked baggage and in-flight food or movie purchases. Therefore, this gives cardholders more flexibility.

Other travel perks include being reimbursed the $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Precheck fee (both passes are good for 5 years) that will help you breeze through security lines at American airports. And, fliers also have complimentary access to over 900 Priority Pass Select airport lounges across the globe.

Additional travel benefits also include complimentary rental car upgrades from Avis, National, and Silvercar along with complimentary room upgrades for hotel reservations made within the Luxury Hotel & Resort collection.

Between the $300 travel credit and the Global Entry/TSA Precheck application help offset the annual fee and make the Reserve more affordable than it initially appears on the surface.

Earning Points Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve

So far, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has outshined its predecessor when it comes to sign-up bonus value and travel benefits. The competition is stiffer, but the Reserve still edges out the Preferred (as it should).

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns the following purchase rewards:

  • 2 points per $1 spent on Dining & Travel Purchases
  • 1 point per $1 for all other purchases

Points redeemed for travel rewards using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal receive a 25% redemption bonus.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Reserve cardholders earn bonus points on the same categories, but with a little more “oomph.”

  • 3 points per $1 spent on Dining purchases
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit
  • 1 point per dollar for all remaining purchases

Points redeemed for travel rewards using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal receive a 50% redemption bonus.

Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve Annual Fees

Chase definitely raised the bar for premium travel credit cards by introducing the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.  While sign-up bonuses and travel rewards are great reasons to apply for a particular card, it also pays to look at the annual fees.  Depending on your circumstances, the fees might not justify the rewards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Additional Card Fee: $0
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Additional Cardholder Fee: $75 annually per card
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%

The Winner Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve

Overall, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the superior choice in almost every aspect. However, it carries a much higher annual fee. The additional travel benefits offered by the Reserve (such as the $300 travel credit, Global Entry application fee reimbursement ($20 per year), airport lounge access, and 50% redemption bonus) make it hard for the Sapphire Preferred to compete. Chase did a great job at making sure the Reserved was worth the annual fee. It is one of, if not the best travel rewards card available.

This doesn’t mean that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card should be thrown into the dumpster. It is still the best travel rewards card with an annual fee of $95. The casual flier who only flies two or three times per year might be better off with this card. But, it just got tougher to choose the Sapphire Preferred. For an additional $155 (annual fee price difference once you use the $300 travel credit), you can get the Reserve. The Reserve has more travel benefits and earns more purchase rewards. 

Sign-up bonuses aside, if lounge access, Global Entry/TSA Precheck, or the increased reward rates are not important, it can make more sense to go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Learn more: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Learn more: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Should You Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred?

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?

Sapphire Sign-Up Bonus Comparison

The sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the ability to earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is the ability to earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Both offers are worth the same if you plan on transferring your rewards points to Chase travel partner.

However, if the sign-up bonus was the same, the Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus would be worth more when redeeming 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, 50,000 points are worth $750 (1.5 cents each) compared to $625 (1.25 cents each) with the Sapphire Preferred. However, the current 60,000 sign-up bonus with the Sapphire Preferred is also worth $750.


Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

Eligibility for Sapphire Cards

As a side note, the 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, you may want to read up on it.

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.

How do I upgrade from Chase Sapphire Preferred to Reserve?

If you are looking to upgrade your Chase Sapphire Preferred to a Chase Sapphire Reserve, all you need to do is call the number on the back of your card. There are also a couple of things you should take into consideration before contacting Chase.

For instance, if you have only had your Sapphire Preferred for less than a year, you will not be able to upgrade your card. You will also need to have at least $10,000 in available credit on your card. Your account should also be in good standing.

Note that even if you meet the above criteria, this does not guarantee that you will be approved.

Sapphire Reserve and Preferred Annual Fees

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has an annual fee of $95. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $550. 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 the Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits. 

$300 Annual Travel Credit

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. This credit is extremely flexible because it will be applied to any travel-related purchase.

This applies to things like plane tickets to guided tours, not just checked bags and in-flight purchases (such as is the case with the Amex Platinum). Compare the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs American Express Platinum, two premium travel credit cards that may be beneficial if you travel often. 

The annual fee also effectively reduces to $250 when you factor in the Sapphire Reserve 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 access you might already be paying for costs $399.

The complimentary membership alone pays at least half of the annual fee 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 Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase will reimburse you the application fee for Global Entry ($100) or TSA Precheck ($85) through a fee credit. You can now skip the long airport security lines for free.  

Global Entry can save you time!

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.

Learn more in our Chase Sapphire rental car insurance benefits guide. 

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 on travel or 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 cents each or more.  

Transferring Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners can help keep points active.

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
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • You’ll use the free year of Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value)
  • Use the free DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.

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 enough (aren’t a constant traveler)
  • 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 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 the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve

With either Chase Sapphire card, you will have the same access to the 1:1 travel partners which lets 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

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 $550 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.

Learn more: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Learn more: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Johnny Jet Editorial

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1 Comment On "Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Chase Sapphire Preferred 2020"
  1. Erik|

    The 50,000 sign up bonus is worth $750 when used for travel, which comes out as the same as the preferred 60,000 sign up bonus. So they are technically equal in sign up rewards..

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