By the numbers: When does it make sense to get the Sapphire Preferred vs. the Sapphire Reserve

Apr 24, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current information and calculations that are easier to understand.

Two of the best travel rewards cards are indisputably the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. If you don’t have either card and are eligible to be approved under Chase’s 5/24 regulations, you should consider adding one of these cards to your wallet.

Once you’ve decided to apply for one of these cards, you’ll need to determine which one is best for your situation. We’ve compared the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve before, but now let’s consider how these two cards compare from a numerical standpoint.

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In This Post

Comparing the cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual fee $95 $550*
Earning rates 5x on Lyft (through March 2022)

2x points on travel and dining

1x points on everything else

10x on Lyft (through March 2022)

3x points on travel and dining

1x points on everything else

Sign-up bonus 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening
Point value when redeeming for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through the Ultimate Rewards portal 1.25 cents 1.5 cents
Estimated point value when transferring to travel partners 2 cents 2 cents
Credits At least one free year of DashPass (register by Dec. 31, 2021, service guaranteed through 2021) $300 annual travel credit

$60 annual DoorDash credit (only in 2020 and 2021)

At least one free year of DashPass (register by Dec. 31, 2021, service guaranteed through 2021)

One complimentary year of Lyft Pink (activate by March 2022)

Statement credit (up to $100) every four years to reimburse a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee

Lounge access n/a Priority Pass Select membership
Cost to add an authorized user $0 $75

*Note: Chase is offering some customers a $100 annual-fee credit because of travel liimite from the coronavirus outbreak.

Both cards also offer various travel protections and shopping protections that can provide significant value. The protections offered by the Sapphire Reserve have higher limits and kick in sooner for some benefits — but for simplicity, I won’t consider those differences when comparing the cards. If you want to see the travel and shopping benefits for these cards side by side, check out our Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Chase Sapphire Reserve comparison.

Related reading: See our Sapphire Reserve card review and our Sapphire Preferred card review for more details about each card.

Comparing first-year return

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

When comparing return, we have to consider how you’ll redeem your points. In short, if you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners, TPG’s valuations estimate that you can get a redemption value of about two cents per point with either card. But if you redeem your points toward travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, you’ll get a redemption value of 1.5 cents per point with the Sapphire Reserve but only 1.25 cents per point with the Sapphire Preferred.

Related reading: Why do Chase and TPG list different values for Ultimate Rewards points?

The Sapphire Reserve earns 3x points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases, while the Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points per dollar spent in these categories. However, Chase recently added increased earning on Lyft through March 2022 to both cards (10x on the Sapphire Reserve and 5x on the Sapphire Preferred). And Chase added a complimentary year of Lyft Pink and two $60 DoorDash credits — one for 2020 and one for 2021 — for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders. Plus, select Chase cardholders, including Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cardholders, can get at least one year of complimentary DashPass.

I expect that everyone with the Chase Sapphire Reserve should have no issue using the $300 annual travel credit, but the value cardholders will obtain from these other card benefits will vary. So, let’s start by considering how much you’d need to spend on non-Lyft travel and dining in your first year.

Related reading: What credit score do you need to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card?

If you use the DoorDash credits

Let’s start by assuming you’d normally spend at least $60 on DoorDash each year, and see how the cards compare.

Chase Sapphire Preferred (redeeming at 1.25 cents) Chase Sapphire Preferred (redeeming at 2 cents) Chase Sapphire Reserve (redeeming at 1.5 cents) Chase Sapphire Reserve (redeeming at 2 cents)
Sign-up bonus value $750 $1,200 $750 $1,000
Travel credit n/a n/a $300 $300
DoorDash credit n/a n/a $60 $60
Annual fee $95 $95 $550 $550
Value in first year excluding points earned from spending $655 $1,105 $560 $810

Related reading: 5 reasons why the Chase Sapphire Preferred should be your first card

If you redeem through the Chase travel portal

The break-even point between the cards for non-Lyft travel and dining spending in your first year is $5,425 — if you plan to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises and value the DoorDash credit at face value.

At this level of spending, you’d earn 10,850 points with the Sapphire Preferred that are worth $136, or 15,375 points with the Sapphire Reserve that are worth $231. Note that you won’t earn points on the $300 reimbursed by the Sapphire Reserve’s annual travel credit. The difference between the value of earnings is $95, which covers the difference between the value in the first year, excluding earning on spend.

Here’s how the math works out if you spend $5,425 on non-Lyft travel and dining:

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Reserve: (3 points per dollar spent X ($5,425 – $300)) = 15,375 points
Value of points: (15,375 points X $0.015 per point) = $231

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Preferred: (2 points per dollar spent X $5,425) = 10,850 points
Value of points: (10,850 points X $0.0125 per point) = $136

Difference in first-year points earned from spending: $231 – $136 = $95 in favor of Sapphire Reserve
Difference in first-year value excluding points earned from spending: $655 – $560 = $95 in favor of Sapphire Preferred

Related reading: Sapphire Reserve math: When to book travel through Chase and when to transfer points

If you redeem by transferring to partners

If you plan to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to hotel and airline travel partners and value the DoorDash credit at face value, the break-even point for non-Lyft travel and dining spending in your first year is $15,650.

At this level of spending, you’d earn 31,300 points with the Sapphire Preferred that are worth $626 or 46,050 points with the Sapphire Reserve that are worth $921. The difference between the value of earnings is $295, which covers the difference between the value in the first year excluding earnings.

Here’s how the math works out if you spend $15,650 on non-Lyft travel and dining:

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Reserve: (3 points per dollar spent X ($15,650 – $300)) = 46,050 points
Value of points: (46,050 points X $0.02 per point) = $921

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Preferred: (2 points per dollar spent X $15,650) = 31,300 points
Value of points: (31,300 points X $0.02 per point) = $626

Difference in first-year points earned from spending: $921 – $626 = $295 in favor of Sapphire Reserve
Difference in first-year value excluding points earned from spending: $1,105 – $810 = $295 in favor of Sapphire Preferred

Related reading: 8 easy strategies to save money on food delivery and takeout

If you don’t use the DoorDash credits

If you’re an expat, live in a remote area or simply don’t use DoorDash, you may not place any value on the Sapphire Reserve’s DoorDash credit. So, how do the cards compare if we ignore the DoorDash credit?

Chase Sapphire Preferred (redeeming at 1.25 cents) Chase Sapphire Preferred (redeeming at 2 cents) Chase Sapphire Reserve (redeeming at 1.5 cents) Chase Sapphire Reserve (redeeming at 2 cents)
Sign-up bonus value $750 $1,200 $750 $1,000
Travel credit n/a n/a $300 $300
Annual fee $95 $95 $550 $550
Value in the first year excluding earning $655 $1,105 $500 $750

Related reading: Which purchases count as dining with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve?

If you redeem through the Chase travel portal

The break-even point between the cards for travel and dining spending in your first year is $8,425 if you plan to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises.

At this level of spending, you’d earn 16,850 points with the Sapphire Preferred that are worth $211 or 24,375 points with the Sapphire Reserve that are worth $366. Note that you won’t earn points on the $300 reimbursed by the Sapphire Reserve’s annual travel credit. The difference between the value of earnings is $155, which covers the difference between the value in the first year excluding earning.

Here’s how the math works out if you spend $8,425 on non-Lyft travel and dining:

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Reserve: (3 points per dollar spent X ($8,425 – $300)) = 24,375 points
Value of points: (24,375 points X $0.015 per point) = $366

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Preferred: (2 points per dollar spent X $8,425) = 16,850 points
Value of points: (16,850 points X $0.0125 per point) = $211

Difference in first-year points earned from spending: $366 – $211 = $155 in favor of Sapphire Reserve
Difference in first-year value excluding points earned from spending: $655 – $500 = $155 in favor of Sapphire Preferred

Related reading: One year of earning and burning with Chase Sapphire Reserve

If you redeem by transferring to partners

If you plan to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to hotel and airline travel partners, the break-even point for travel and dining spending in your first year is $18,650.

At this level of spending, you’d earn 37,300 points with the Sapphire Preferred that are worth $746 or 55,050 points with the Sapphire Reserve that are worth $1,101. The difference between the value of earnings is $355, which covers the difference between the value in the first year excluding earnings.

Here’s how the math works out if you spend $18,650 on non-Lyft travel and dining:

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Reserve: (3 points per dollar spent X ($18,650 – $300)) = 55,050 points
Value of points: (55,050 points X $0.02 per point) = $1,101

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Preferred: (2 points per dollar spent X $18,650) = 37,300 points
Value of points: (37,300 points X $0.02 per point) = $746

Difference in first-year points earned from spending: $1,101 – $746 = $355 in favor of Sapphire Reserve
Difference in first-year value excluding points earned from spending: $1,105 – $750 = $355 in favor of Sapphire Preferred

Related reading: How to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points

What about Priority Pass Select membership, Lyft benefits, DashPass and other perks?

In the calculations so far, I haven’t considered the value of the Priority Pass Select membership that comes with the Sapphire Reserve, the improved earnings for both cards on Lyft through March 2022, the one-year Lyft Pink membership that Sapphire Reserve cardholders can utilize and other perks. All of these benefits can make the Sapphire Reserve more valuable than the Sapphire Preferred even if your travel and dining spending doesn’t hit the break-even point described above.

You can’t purchase a Priority Pass Select membership, but the most similar membership that you can purchase is a Priority Pass Prestige membership for $429 that doesn’t include any complimentary guests. And, Lyft Pink normally costs $19.99 per month, which is $239.88 per year.

Related reading: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

Comparing returns in subsequent years

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Now, let’s consider how the cards compare after your first year. Since most travelers will want to keep their Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred long term, you’ll likely want to lean toward the card that is better for you in the long run, not just your first year.

Because we are considering long-term value, I’m going to ignore limited-time benefits and credits, such as the $60 DoorDash credit you can get in 2021 and the elevated Lyft earnings through March 2022, for these calculations. And, I’ll ignore the Sapphire Reserve’s Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100) to be conservative. After all, many cardholders may not get much incremental benefit from this credit since a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit is offered by so many cards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual fee $95 $550
Travel credit n/a $300
Effective annual fee $95 $250

As you can see, after subtracting the Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit, the card has an effective annual fee of $250. And, since the difference in effective annual fee between the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve is just $155, the Sapphire Reserve may provide a better return without even considering earnings if you value Priority Pass Select membership and other perks offered by the Sapphire Reserve (but not the Sapphire Preferred) at $155 or more per year.

However, if you value these benefits at less than $155 per year, then we need to dive back into the math. For the following calculations, I’ll make the conservative assumption that you won’t get any value from Priority Pass Select membership and the Sapphire Reserve’s other benefits that aren’t offered to Sapphire Preferred cardholders.

If you redeem through the Chase travel portal

If you plan to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises, you’ll need to spend $8,425 on travel or dining annually to justify having the Sapphire Reserve instead of the Sapphire Preferred after the first year. With the Sapphire Reserve you’d earn 24,375 points on these purchases, which are valued at $366 whereas with the Sapphire Preferred you’d earn 16,850 points on these purchases which are valued at $211.

Here’s how the math works out if you spend $8,425 on travel and dining:

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Reserve: (3 points per dollar spent X ($8,425 – $300)) = 24,375 points
Value of points: (24,375 points X $0.015 per point) = $366

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Preferred: (2 points per dollar spent X $8,425) = 16,850 points
Value of points: (16,850 points X $0.0125 per point) = $211

Difference in annual points earned from spending: $366 – $211 = $155 in favor of Sapphire Reserve
Difference in annual value excluding points earned from spending: $250 – $95 = $155 in favor of Sapphire Preferred

Related reading: What credit score do you need to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

If you redeem by transferring to partners

If you plan to transfer your points to travel partners, you’d need to spend $8,650 on travel or dining annually to justify having the Sapphire Reserve instead of the Sapphire Preferred after the first year. With the Sapphire Reserve you’d earn 25,050 points on these purchases, which are valued at $501 whereas with the Sapphire Preferred you’d earn 17,300 points on these purchases which are valued at $346.

Here’s how the math works out if you spend $8,650 on travel and dining:

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Reserve: (3 points per dollar spent X ($8,650 – $300)) = 25,050 points
Value of points: (25,050 points X $0.02 per point) = $501

Points earned from spending with Sapphire Preferred: (2 points per dollar spent X $8,650) = 17,300 points
Value of points: (17,300 points X $0.02 per point) = $346

Difference in annual points earned from spending: $501 – $346 = $155 in favor of Sapphire Reserve
Difference in annual value excluding points earned from spending: $250 – $95 = $155 in favor of Sapphire Preferred

Related reading: Sweet spots: The best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Bottom line

So based on the calculations in this article, here are my conclusions:

  • If you plan to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises, the Sapphire Reserve is a better choice if you spend at least $8,425 per year in travel and dining. Note that the break-even point may be lower in the first couple of years if you’ll use the Sapphire Reserve’s DoorDash and Lyft Pink benefits.
  • If you plan to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to hotel and airline travel partners:
    • In your first year, the Sapphire Reserve is a better choice if you spend at least $18,650 per year in travel and dining. Note that the break-even point is lower if you’ll use the DoorDash and Lyft Pink benefits in your first year.
    • After your first year, the Sapphire Reserve is a better choice if you spend at least $8,650 per year in travel and dining.

However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve may be a better choice even for lower levels of spending if you value Priority Pass Select lounge membership, trip delay protection that kicks in after a six-hour or overnight delay (instead of after a 12-hour or overnight delay with the Chase Sapphire Preferred) and other perks offered by the Sapphire Reserve.

Related reading: Reader credit card question: What are some alternatives to the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

Additionally, if you plan to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises and have — or plan to get — additional Chase credit cards like the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) and Chase Freedom Unlimited to boost your Ultimate Rewards earning rate on other types of spending, you may want to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve to boost your redemption rate to 1.5 cents per point instead of 1.25 cents per point.

The information for the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Apply here for the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Featured photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.

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.

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