Comparing the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Chase Sapphire Preferred

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Heads UP! The Chase Sapphire Reserve now has a sign-up bonus of 50k points, which makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred a better option. Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Below is our expert post comparing the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Chase Sapphire Preferred.

With much fanfare, Chase recently 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 it’s 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).  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.

Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Chase Sapphire Reserve

Sign-Up Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Chase Sapphire Reserve

One of the largest lures for either card is the sign-up bonus.  The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a current sign-up bonus of 100,000 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 100k points are worth $1,500 (thanks to a 25% 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 $450 annual fee for the first three years you own the card.  Using the annual $300 travel credit drops the annual fee to $150 and then the bonus could pay the annual fee for 10 years (not that you should use your points that way).

The Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus is 50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points after meeting the same $4,000 spending minimum as the Sapphire Reserve. Plus an additional 5,000 points by adding an authorized user and they make a purchase in the same time period. This bonus is still very respectable and is worth $625 when the points are redeemed for travel rewards using the Chase Rewards portal.  As the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, the $625 value of the maximized sign-up bonus will pay the annual fee for 7 years (1st year is free).

By strictly looking at the value of the sign-up bonus compared to the annual fee, either card is awesome.  The current bonus offer of 100,000 points for the Reserve is still the best offer.  Not many credit card sign-up bonuses are worth $1,500, and, most do not come with the flexibility of Chase Ultimate Rewards that can be redeemed on a host of airlines & other travel services.  There is much speculation how long Chase will offer 100,000 points for new Reserve cardholders.  Even if the bonus drops to 75,000 points, the Reserve will still edge out the Sapphire Preferred bonus as Sapphire Reserve points are worth 1.5% compared to Sapphire Preferred’s 1.25% redemption rate for travel rewards.

Travel Benefits: Sapphire Reserve or 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 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 $450 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 that 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.

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

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 & Travel purchases
  • 1 point per dollar for all remaining purchases

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

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, but $0 for the first year
  • Additional Card Fee: $0
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Annual Fee: $450
  • 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.  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 and one of the best, 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 below $95, and the casual flier 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 knowing that for an additional $55 (annual fee price difference once you use the $300 travel credit) you can get the Reserve that 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.

Heads UP! The Chase Sapphire Reserve now has a sign-up bonus of 50k points, which makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred a better option.

Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Geoff Whitmore

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Comparing the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Chase Sapphire Preferred
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About the Author

Geoff Whitmore

Geoff writes about how to book travel with award miles & points, reviews top travel credit cards, and basic rewards news.

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