Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

Card Comparison: Sapphire Preferred vs. Amex Premier Rewards Gold

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The sign-up offer for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has been increased from 40,000 to 50,000 points after $4,000 spent within the first three months. You can earn an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first 3 months as well.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express are two of my all around top travel credit cards. Lately, though, have been several recent and upcoming changes to these cards’ sign-up bonuses, annual fees, transfer partners and benefits, so I thought it would be a good to cover the differences between them.

With those in mind, and since it has been a while since I directly compared the two cards, I thought I would write a detailed comparison of them and the factors you should consider to determine which is right for you.

Before we get into the details, take a look at these two posts for more information on applying for credit cards and how to decide which ones might best suit your needs:

Comparison Table

Sign-up Bonus Bonus Categories Annual Fee Transfer Partners Other
Premier Rewards Gold 25,000 points/$2,000 spend 3x airlines, 2x gas and groceries on dining June 1 $0 Intro Annual Fee for the 1st year, then $195. 17 airlines, 4 hotels After June 1: No forex fees, $100 airline credit
Sapphire Preferred 50,000 points/$4,000 spend 2x restaurants and travel $95, waived the first year 6 airlines, 4 hotels No forex fees, primary rental car insurance

SIGN-UP BONUS AND SPENDING REQUIREMENTS

Sapphire Preferred: 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 in 3 months

Premier Rewards Gold: 25,000 points when you spend $2,000 in 3 months

In terms of pure numbers, the Premier Rewards Gold slightly edges out the Sapphire Preferred since the minimum spending requirement is half, but you get 62.5% of the points. However, you have to take into consideration how you will use those points and the value you can get from them.

For instance, each Ultimate Rewards point is worth 1.25 cents each when you have the Sapphire Preferred and you redeem for travel with UR’s pay with points feature, while Amex points are worth just 1 cent apiece when redeemed directly for airfare. So 50,000 UR points is worth $625 while 25,000 Amex points is worth just $250, or half. The Premier Rewards Gold sometimes does offer targeted higher bonus offers through portals like the Card Match Tool, so it’s worth looking out for those when they come around.

Winner: Sapphire Preferred

BONUS CATEGORIES

Each of these cards offers bonus points for spending money at certain merchants. Here is how they are each structured.

United
If your major purchases are for travel, the Sapphire Preferred’s category bonus might make it worthwhile for you.

Sapphire Preferred: 2x per $1 on all travel and dining. With the Sapphire Preferred, travel includes:

  • Airlines
  • Auto/truck/RV rental
  • Limos and taxis
  • Lodging
  • Travel agencies
  • Railways
  • Tolls and bridges
  • Parking (lots, meters, garages)
  • Bus
  • Time shares 

Premier Rewards Gold: 3x per $1 on airfare purchased directly from airlines, 2x on gas and groceries. Starting June 1, you will also earn 2x points at restaurants.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Come June 1, the Premier Rewards Gold will offer 2x points at restaurant, like the Sapphire Preferred does. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Winner: This is a bit of a toss-up since it depends on where you tend to spend the most money. If you tend to stay close to home and spend more on gas and groceries, the Premier Rewards Gold’s bonus categories would be better for you, especially after the 2x on restaurants kicks in June.

However, if you are the type to dine out a lot and who spends more on travel (including things like taxis and parking, not just airfare and hotels) then the Sapphire Preferred might be a better earner for you.

ANNUAL FEE

Sapphire Preferred: $95 waived the first year.

Premier Rewards Gold: $0 Intro Annual Fee for the 1st year, then $195.

Winner: No contest here – the Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee is less than half the Premier Reward Gold’s is going to be come June 1, without the extra strategizing of how to spend that $100 airline rebate.

TRANSFER PARTNERS

One of the biggest attractions of both these cards is that they earn transferable points. The Premier Rewards Gold earns American Express Membership Rewards points while the Sapphire Preferred earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Each program has its strengths and weaknesses, and it is important to know the transfer partners of each. For more info on transferable points programs, check out this post.

Ultimate Rewards partners with a small but powerful number of airlines.
Ultimate Rewards partners with a small but powerful number of airlines.

Sapphire Preferred: This card accrues Ultimate Rewards points, which you can transfer to six airlines, and four hotels. Here are the transfer partners:

  • British Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest
  • United
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Hyatt
  • IHG Rewards
  • Marriott
  • Ritz-Carlton

Chase offers a good mix of airlines and hotels. For more information on maximizing Ultimate Rewards points, check out these posts.

Amex has some great airline transfer partners.
Amex also has some great airline transfer partners.

Premier Rewards Gold: For its part, Amex also partners with hotels, airlines and others so that you can transfer your Membership Rewards points to 17 airlines and 4 hotel programs. Here they are:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Aeromexico
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Alitalia
  • ANA
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • DeltaEl Al
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue (2:1)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America (2:1)
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Best Western Rewards (1:1)
  • Choice Privileges (1:1)
  • Hilton (1:1.5)
  • Starwood (3:1)

Check out these two posts for more information.

While some credit cards only offer secondary insurance coverage for rental cars, some provide primary coverage - for more peace of mind. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)
Both cards offer the potential for primary rental car insurance. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

OTHER BENEFITS AND REDEMPTIONS

Sapphire Preferred: No foreign transaction fees, primary rental car insurance, enhanced trip cancellation/interruption coverage of up to $10,000, and other Visa Signature benefits. On the negative side, Chase has ended the 7% annual points dividend on this card, will eliminate travel purchase bonuses through the Ultimate Rewards portal, and has terminated the option to buy points. Chase will also let you redeem points for gift cards and experiences at a rate of around 1 cent apiece generally.

Be sure to have some foreign currency on hand ahead of time.
The Premier Rewards Gold will finally begin waiving forex fees in June.

Premier Rewards Gold: This card is adding a host of new features and benefits June 1, 2015, to make it more competitive on the premium cards marketplace. Among those it will offer include waiving foreign transaction fees (currently 2.7%), adding a new annual $100 airline benefit and that new dining bonus category. On th negative side, the annual fee is going up and the 15,000-point bonus you used to get for spending $30,000 on the card in a year has ended. You can also redeem Amex points at rates that generally run around 1 cent apiece for various gift cards as well as with partners like Uber (you can also earn bonus points on Uber purchases when you sync up an eligible Amex card) and Airbnb. As for car rental insurance, you can enroll your card in Amex’s vaunted premium primary car rental insurance program for $24.95 per rental ($17.95 for CA residents).

CONCLUSION

Although the sign-up bonus spending requirement is higher and the Premier Rewards Gold is adding new benefits in June, the Sapphire Preferred still edges it out in my opinion.

Not only is its annual fee lower, but the travel and dining category bonuses are very broad and aimed squarely at the travelers out there, especially those who go abroad and can take advantage of these bonuses outside the US. Though Chase has fewer transfer partners, they are pretty evenly distributed across alliances and include major programs like BA and United, as well as both Hyatt and Marriott, for a huge range of redemption options.

For its part, that Premier Rewards Gold will offer some fantastic new benefits including that $100 airline rebate and waived forex fees. And Amex continues to field a strong network of transfer partners that includes major programs like Delta, Flying Blue and Hilton.

However, in terms of overall value, bonus points-earning opportunities, and travel-specific benefits including that trip cancellation/interruption coverage and automatic primary rental car insurance, the Sapphire Preferred still comes out on top.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit