Chase Sapphire showdown: Sapphire Preferred vs. Sapphire Reserve
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The Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card are two of the most talked-about travel credit cards, thanks to the valuable Ultimate Rewards program, top-notch benefits and valuable travel protections. And right now, both are offering elevated sign-up bonuses that make them even more valuable to cardholders in the first year. But, which one is the best match for you?
You might assume that the Chase Sapphire Reserve — which comes with a higher annual fee and more luxury benefits — is always the better choice. It is the higher-tier card, but that may mean it’s necessarily the better card for you.
Right now, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a higher sign-up bonus of 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, plus up to $50 in statement credits toward grocery purchases in the first year of account opening. And depending on your spending habits, travel goals and existing credit card lineup, there are plenty of reasons why it could be the more attractive option for your wallet.
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Before we get into the benefits of these two cards, note that you can’t hold both the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire Reserve at the same time, and you need to wait at least 48 months between earning the sign-up bonus on one card before you can earn it on the other — that’s why it’s so important to make an informed decision now. Also, make sure you don’t bump up against Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule to get your highest chances of approval.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
|Earning rates||5x on Peloton purchases (over $1,800, max 25k bonus points until March 2022)
5x on Lyft (through March 31, 2022)
2x on travel and dining at restaurants
1x on everything else
|10x on Peloton purchases (over $1,800, max 50k bonus points until March 2022)
10x on Lyft (through March 31, 2022)
3x on travel and dining
1x on everything else
|Sign-up bonus||80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. Plus earn a $50 statement credit toward grocery purchases in the first year of account opening.||60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.|
|Value for Ultimate Rewards travel portal redemptions||1.25 cents||1.5 cents|
|Built-in credits||Up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access membership (through Dec. 31, 2021)||$300 annual travel credit
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100)
|Lounge access||N/A||Priority Pass Select|
|Authorized user fee||$0||$75|
Related: Read TPG’s reviews of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Travel coverage and purchase protection
It’s also worth comparing the coverage offered by these two cards for things such as travel delays, trip cancellation and purchase protection. Although they offer some identical benefits, there are a few differences:
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
|Rental car insurance||Primary; “expensive and exotic cars” are excluded||Primary; provides reimbursement up to $75,000 for theft and collision|
|Roadside assistance||$59.95 per service call||Up to $50 per incident, up to four times a year|
|Trip cancellation insurance||Up to $10,000 per covered trip||Up to $10,000 per covered trip|
|Trip delay insurance||Up to $500 per ticket for delays of 12 or more hours (or requiring an overnight stay)||Up to $500 per ticket for delays of six or more hours (or requiring an overnight stay)|
|Baggage delay insurance||Up to $100 per day for up to five days||Up to $100 per day for up to five days|
|Lost luggage reimbursement||Up to $3,000 per person (up to $500 per person for jewelry, watches, cameras, video recorders and other electronic equipment)||Up to $3,000 per person (up to $500 per person for jewelry, watches, cameras, video recorders and other electronic equipment)|
|Travel accident insurance||$500,000 for common carrier loss of life benefit; $100,000 for 24-hour loss of life benefit||$1,000,000 for common carrier loss of life benefit; $100,000 for 24-hour loss of life benefit|
|Purchase protection||Up to $500 per claim and up to $50,000 per year||Up to $10,000 per claim and up to $50,000 per year|
An argument for the Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is obviously the more premium of the two cards. If you’re a frequent traveler or big spender, over time, the Reserve will likely give you more value.
Premium travel benefits
If you’re looking for premium perks, the Reserve has them.
You’ll get a $300 travel credit each year with the Sapphire Reserve (which you can also use toward gas or groceries until the end of 2021), a $100 credit for the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee every four years and a Priority Pass Select membership that gives you entry into more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world. Plus, the card just added a few new benefits.
As part of a new partnership with food delivery service DoorDash, cardholders receive a one-year complimentary subscription to DashPass (which waives the delivery fee at eligible restaurants and discounts service fees on orders of more than $12). Cardholders will also get a one-year complimentary Lyft Pink membership, which includes a 15% discount on all rides and free bike and scooter rentals each month.
If you can take full advantage of many of those perks and credits, you’ll more than offset the cost of the Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee.
Higher earning rates
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a higher earning rate than the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Those who spend a lot on Lyft, travel and dining will find the added points per dollar on those purchases rewarding.
For example, if you know you’ll spend $50 per month on Lyft and $1,000 a month on travel and dining, here’s what your yearly earnings would look like with each card:
Bonus category spending:
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$50 x 10 points x 12 months
$1,000 x 3 points (after spending the annual $300 travel credit) x 12 months
|6,000 Ultimate Rewards points
35,100 Ultimate Rewards points
Total: 41,100 Ultimate Rewards points
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||$50 x 5 points x 12 months
$1,000 x 2 points x 12 months
|3,000 Ultimate Rewards points
24,000 Ultimate Rewards points
Total: 27,000 Ultimate Rewards points
You can see that there is potentially a huge difference in earnings over the course of a year. Even though TPG values all Ultimate Rewards (no matter which card earns them) at 2 cents each, the Reserve provides just over $280 more in annual rewards value in the above example.
The more you plan to spend in those bonus categories, the bigger the difference in rewards. Let’s say you spend $2,000 a month on travel and dining and the same $50 on Lyft. That would bring your Sapphire Reserve earnings up to 77,100 points annually ($1,542 in value) versus 51,000 points with the Preferred ($1,020).
50% redemption bonus
In addition to a higher earning rate, the Sapphire Reserve also comes with a higher redemption rate when you book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. The Chase Sapphire Reserve allows you to redeem each point at 1.5 cents each toward travel, compared to 1.25 cents each with the Preferred. If you only ever transfer points to hotel and airline partners to extract maximum value this difference won’t matter, but it obviously plays into the equation if you use points via the Chase travel site.
I don’t typically suggest booking hotels through a third-party portal such as this one unless you find a great deal or want to stay at a boutique place that doesn’t have a loyalty program, because you typically won’t earn hotel points, elite credits or have your elite status recognized (though that isn’t always the case).
But if you are regularly booking airfare through the Chase portal, it’s worth having the Reserve for the higher redemption rate. A $600 plane ticket will cost you 48,000 points with the Sapphire Preferred but only 40,000 points with the Sapphire Reserve.
Through Sept. 30, 2021, this 50% redemption bonus also extends to grocery stores, home improvement stores and dining establishment purchases that can be erased through Chase’s new Pay Yourself Back feature.
Better trip insurance coverage
With more cards cutting trip insurance, premium coverage is harder to come by. Both the Sapphire Preferred and the Reserve offer a great selection of travel insurance benefits but you get better coverage with the Sapphire Reserve — almost double the coverage amount on some benefits like travel accident insurance and purchase protection. On its own, this may not be a reason to choose the Sapphire Reserve over the Preferred, but when combined with the other additional benefits the Reserve version offers, it could be a deciding factor.
An argument for the Sappphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred can’t compete with the Reserve when it comes to perks such as the annual travel credit and the return on bonus-category spending, but this card still could make more sense for you with its larger sign-up bonus and (much) smaller annual fee.
The Sapphire Preferred’s elevated sign-up bonus
The Chase Sapphire Preferred currently wins out over the Chase Sapphire Reserve by offering a higher sign-up bonus.
Right now, you’ll earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. Plus earn a $50 statement credit on grocery purchases in the first year of account opening. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, meaning this bonus is worth up to $1,650.
By comparison, the Reserve is offering 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening which is worth only $1,200. Now, the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s bonus is also currently elevated, but the current bonus offered on the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the all-time best public offer we’ve ever seen.
You can only receive one bonus from a Chase Sapphire card within 48 months, which means you need to choose which card you apply for carefully. The additional $450 in value you’ll get with the Preferred’s sign-up bonus over the Reserve is a compelling reason to apply for it over the Reserve. If you decide that you would get more value with the Reserve card’s features, you can always request an upgrade later down the line.
Lower annual fee
Another advantage to the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the significantly lower annual fee. The Sapphire Reserve costs $550 per year while the Preferred costs only $95. Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 annual travel credit, which effectively lowers the cost to just $250 per year — a $155 premium over the Sapphire Preferred.
If you’ll be spending at least $300 on travel in a year anyway and know you’ll use the perks offered on the card, it could be worth paying more for the Reserve. But if that fee doesn’t seem manageable based on your travel and spending habits, the Sapphire Preferred Card is a very worthwhile alternative.
In fact, I’ve held off on upgrading my own Chase Sapphire Preferred to the Chase Sapphire Reserve in light of the coronavirus pandemic and my limited travel spending.
Same access to Ultimate Rewards transfer partners
Even though it doesn’t offer all the same premium benefits, the Sapphire Preferred offers identical transfer benefits to the Sapphire Reserve card.
No matter which card you choose, you’ll be able to move your Ultimate Rewards points (earned both through the sign-up bonus and through spending) to the program’s airline and hotel partners such as United, Hyatt, Southwest, British Airways and more at a 1:1 ratio. Chase’s airline partners give you access to all three of the top alliances (Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam), so you’ll have a strong variety of options for putting your points to use.
The two cards do, however, differ when it comes to redeeming points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal as previously mentioned. With the Sapphire Preferred, you’ll get 1.25 cents in value per point, while with the Reserve you’ll get a higher value of 1.5 cents per point.
Related: Maximizing Chase’s transfer partners
You still get primary rental car insurance
Long before Chase introduced the Sapphire Reserve, award travelers sang the praises of the Sapphire Preferred card’s auto collision damage waiver (CDW) benefit. This perk provides reimbursement for damage as a result of collision or theft for rentals of 31 days or less when you decline the rental agency’s CDW. If you’re eligible, you’ll be reimbursed up to the actual cash value of most rental vehicles.
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the terms and conditions actually cap reimbursement at $75,000. (It’s unlikely you’d need more reimbursement from either card, since most rental cars are worth far less.) It’s worth noting that the Sapphire Preferred’s coverage excludes “expensive, exotic and antique automobiles.”
No authorized user fee
There are various reasons to consider an authorized user. You could be looking to help someone build up his or her credit history; you might want to provide employees with cards for a business account or maybe you’re looking to earn bonus rewards for adding additional users.
With the Sapphire Preferred, there’s no cost to add additional users. With the Sapphire Reserve card, on the other hand, it costs $75 per year for each authorized user (most likely because each gets his or her own Priority Pass Select membership for airport lounge access).
Easier to get approved
A final reason to consider the Sapphire Preferred Card over the Sapphire Reserve Card is that it could be easier to be approved for the Preferred. As an ultra-premium card, the Reserve requires a top-notch credit score. You’ll still need a solid score for the Sapphire Preferred (typically somewhere in the high 600s to the 700s), but you might have an easier time getting approved for that card if your score is on the low end of the optimal range.
Related: What is a good credit score?
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has long been a TPG favorite. When the Sapphire Reserve launched, however, it quickly became a go-to for luxury perks such as a Priority Pass Select membership and the annual $300 travel credit.
You really can’t go wrong with either card; each has a lot to offer both beginners and veterans in the points-and-miles game.
If you’re looking at applying for one or the other right now, it’s important to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s elevated sign-up bonus. It’s worth hundreds of dollars more and comes without the Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee. You can always request an upgrade later on if you decide the Sapphire Reserve will better serve your travel needs.
Apply here for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with an 80,000-point sign-up bonus or the Chase Sapphire Reserve with a 60,000-point sign-up bonus.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon.
Featured photo John Gribben for The Points Guy.
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