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Is the Sapphire Preferred now the premier Chase card to get?

Aug. 17, 2021
11 min read
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I’ve held both in my wallet at some point or another. I’m referring to the two most desired Chase-issued cards: the mid-tier Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and its premium sibling, the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The former has been a mainstay in my wallet for the past several years due to its reasonable annual fee, bonus earning rates on travel and dining, and valuable travel protections.

And now, with the news that Chase is enhancing the Sapphire products even further, plus an all-time-high sign-up bonus to go along with a reasonable $95 annual fee, does the Sapphire Preferred reign supreme over the perks-rich Sapphire Reserve?

Let’s take a closer look at why the Sapphire Preferred may just be the next Chase card you want in your wallet (if you don’t already have it).

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Better sign-up bonus

Currently, the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve are offering different sign-up bonuses, but both require you to spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. While the spending requirements are the same, the value of the sign-up bonus is not.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred full review

When you meet the spending requirements for the Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 100,000 bonus points, while you’ll only earn 60,000 bonus points with the Sapphire Reserve.

Use Ultimate Rewards points for fabulous hotel stays, such as the Andaz Mayakoba in Mexico. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred’s 100,000-point bonus can be worth up to $1,250 when you redeem the points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or as a statement credit with the Pay Yourself Back feature, since point redemptions are worth 25% more this way. If you redeem points from the Sapphire Preferred for cash back outside of Pay Yourself Back, 100,000 points are worth $1,000.

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 60,000-point bonus can be worth up to $900 when you redeem the points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards or as a statement credit with the Pay Yourself Back feature, since point redemptions are worth 50% more this way. If you redeem points for cash back outside of Pay Yourself Back, 60,000 points are worth $600.

However, TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each. That's due to the fact that you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to 10 airline and three hotel partner programs and reap even more value from your points that way. Points from both the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve transfer to each partner on a 1:1 basis. So in that context, the Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up offer worth a total of $2,000 versus just $1,200 with the Sapphire Reserve.

Related: 10 best ways to use 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Lower annual fee

The two Chase Sapphire cards have very different annual fees, so it’s important to do the math and see which card makes the most financial sense for your lifestyle. Those who aren’t frequent travelers might not feel the need to pay more for benefits that they will rarely use.

If you’ve never held a premium card before or are averse to high annual fees, you may be a little apprehensive of the $550 annual fee for the Sapphire Reserve. However, you should know that a high fee is common among cards of this tier. You can effectively recoup most of the fee if you utilize all the added card benefits.

For example, the card now offers DoorDash credits ($60 in 2021), a year of complimentary Lyft Pink membership, up to $120 back on a Peloton Digital or All-Access membership through Dec. 31, 2021, and comes with the ability to enroll for a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership with access to participating airport lounges around the world.

Just by accounting for the Sapphire Reserve's $300 annual travel credit alone, the annual fee is already reduced to a more manageable $250 — yet it’s still a $155 premium over the Sapphire Preferred.

While the Sapphire Reserve delivers more credits and perks than the Sapphire Preferred, you would have to make a concerted effort to maximize these additional perks, which could be a pain. Instead, the Sapphire Preferred also includes valuable benefits such as a complimentary DashPass membership, up to $60 back on a Peloton Digital or All-Access membership through Dec. 31 and primary rental car coverage, to go along with a very manageable $95 annual fee. Plus, it just added an annual $50 credit toward hotel bookings made through Chase Ultimate Rewards, which makes up for more than half the card's annual fee.

Related: The 8 best credit cards with annual fees under $100

Bonus categories

The Chase Sapphire Preferred expectedly earns less on bonus categories than the Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, the difference is minimal and even less so now, with Chase announcing that beginning on Aug. 16, 2021, the Sapphire Preferred will permanently earn points at the following rates:

  • 5x points on travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards Travel portal
  • 3x points on dining—matching the $550-per-year Chase Sapphire Reserve (as well as the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited)
  • 3x points on select streaming services
  • 3x points on online groceries (excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% of your points back each cardmember year based on your card spending

It continues to earn 2x on travel and 1x on other eligible purchases.

For its part, the Chase Sapphire Reserve now earns:

It still earns 3x points on other travel and dining, and 1x on other eligible purchases.

Sapphire Preferred cardholders will soon earn 3x on takeout orders and delivery. (Photo by Oscar Wong/Getty Images)

The more you plan to spend in those bonus categories, the bigger the difference in rewards. But you have to work a lot harder to maximize the Chase Sapphire Reserve now since it's just certain travel and dining purchases made through Chase that really bump up your earning, versus the Sapphire Preferred's easier-to-maximize categories.

Let’s say you spend $500 on non-Chase dining and $500 on non-Chase travel (total of $1,000) per month on those two bonus categories. That would bring your Sapphire Preferred earnings to 2,500 points monthly (up to $50 in value) versus 3,000 points with the Reserve (up to $60).

If you spread that out over the course of a year, you may or may not earn enough points to justify the Sapphire Reserve’s higher annual fee. But if you diversify your credit card portfolio like me or juggle 22 credit cards like TPG’s executive editor Scott Mayerowitz, another pricey card may not be what you want in your wallet.

Overall, the additional 1 point earned on general travel purchases with the Sapphire Reserve doesn’t warrant the much higher annual fee for me. When you consider the $155 difference in annual fees (after using the $300 annual travel credit from the Sapphire Reserve), the Sapphire Preferred may come out as the better choice for most users.

Related: How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Travel protections

It’s rare to find a mid-tier card with strong travel protections. Most cards in this range offer a few protections, such as secondary auto insurance or baggage insurance. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, cardholders get the benefit of up to $10,000 per person or $20,000 per trip in trip cancellation insurance, up to $500 a ticket in trip delay insurance, up to $3,000 in lost luggage insurance, up to $100 a day (up to five days) in baggage delay insurance and, most interestingly, primary rental car insurance.

You can skip buying insurance from the rental car company when you pay for your rental with your Sapphire Preferred. (Photo by Russ Rhode/Getty Images)

Secondary car rental insurance is more popular in mid-tier cards — adding even more value to an already impressive protection-rich card. As a mid-tier card, the Sapphire Preferred packs a punch with premium-level travel insurance. The benefits here make the Sapphire Preferred extremely attractive, especially when its annual fee is so much lower than the Sapphire Reserve’s.

Related: Credit cards that offer car rental coverage

Easier approval

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is considerably easier to get approved for than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, too. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy process, especially if you’re looking to get the Sapphire Preferred as one of your first credit cards.

Many factors play into whether or not you’ll get approved for any credit card, such as income, credit history, credit score, age of your credit accounts and if you have a preexisting relationship with the credit issuer.

According to Credit Karma, the average credit score that you’ll need to be approved for the Sapphire Preferred is 736. If you’re not in the 700 range, it’s been reported that the low end of the approval spectrum is a credit score of 646.

(Image by Victor Metelskiy/Getty Images)

Related: Waiting on a credit card application approval? Here’s how I speed up the process

When applying to the more premium Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll most likely need a credit score of at least 700. However, it’s been reported the average person approved has a score of around 750.

It’s important to note that you can still be denied for either card even if you have an excellent credit score. However, these estimates can give you a place to start. And remember, Chase’s 5/24 rule still applies, so if you’ve opened five or more personal credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months, you’ll likely receive a denial on your application.

Related: Chase’s 5/24 rule: Everything you need to know

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is an excellent premium card for travelers who plan to maximize its perks and coveted airport lounge access. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a gem in the pile of mid-tier cards — more so now with the recent additions to the card. When you crunch the numbers, the similar benefits and lower annual fee (compared to the Sapphire Reserve) make it the most attractive Chase card for most people.

Plus, thanks to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card’s current best-ever welcome bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, it’s extremely easy to earn a sizable stash of Ultimate Rewards points right now.

Ready to get the card? Apply here for the Chase Sapphire Preferred with a 100,000-point increased bonus

Additional reporting by Jordyn Fields.

Featured image by (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.