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5 reasons to upgrade from Chase Sapphire Preferred to Chase Sapphire Reserve

Oct. 29, 2021
12 min read
Chase Sapphire Reserve Chase Sapphire Preferred_New 2021_CCSL
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The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve are two of our all-time favorite travel credit cards. They've got similar names and they earn the same kind of points, but that's largely where their similarities end.

Unfortunately, you can't hold both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve at the same time. It's an either/or situation. This causes some Sapphire Preferred cardholders to wonder if they're hanging onto the right card. Are they missing out on something by failing to upgrade their card to what TPG readers have voted the best premium travel credit card three years in a row?

Let's take a look at five reasons you might want to upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve — and the most strategic way to do it.

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Comparing the Chase Sapphire cards


Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee$95$550
Earning rates5x on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal

5x on Peloton purchases (over $1,800, max 25k bonus points until March 2022)

5x on Lyft (through March 31, 2022)

3x on dining

3x on select streaming services

3x on online groceries (excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)

2x on all other travel

1x on everything else

10x on Chase Dining booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards

10x on hotel and car rental purchases through the Ultimate Rewards Travel portal (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)

10x on Peloton purchases (over $1,800, max 50k bonus points until March 2022)

10x on Lyft (through March 31, 2022)

5x on airline travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)

3x on travel and dining

1x on other purchases

Sign-up bonus60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening
Value for Ultimate Rewards travel portal redemptions1.25 cents1.5 cents
Built-in credits$50 hotel credit each cardmember anniversary to be used for reservations booked through Chase Travel Portal

10% of your points back each year based on spending

$300 annual travel credit

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100)

Lounge accessN/APriority Pass Select
Rental car insurancePrimary; “expensive and exotic cars” are excludedPrimary; provides reimbursement up to $75,000 for theft and collision
Trip delay insuranceUp 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 insuranceUp to $100 per day for up to five daysUp to $100 per day for up to five days
Authorized user fee$0$75

Why you should upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Airport lounge access

You can use Priority Pass for some airport restaurants. I saved $50+ on a whiskey tasting at the Portland airport. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)

If you've never entered an airport lounge (or shamelessly pressed your forehead against the glass doors), you don't know what you're missing. Lounge access is the single best way to upgrade your airport experience. Between the free drinks and snacks, the prevalent electrical outlets, comfy chairs, and occasionally even showers, lounges turn the airport from a hassle into a destination in itself.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers complimentary Priority Pass Select membership to cardholders, which allows you to visit the association's more than 1,300 lounges worldwide and bring up to two guests for free. For context, a similar Priority Prestige membership that you can buy costs $429 per year – it will get the member into lounges but guests cost $32 apiece.

Plus, Chase is opening its own lounges in 2022 — and they're expected to be fantastic (think Amex Centurion Lounge quality). Only those holding a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Priority Pass membership are likely to be allowed inside.

Authorized users on Chase Sapphire Reserve accounts (each costs $75 per year) receive full Priority Pass memberships of their own.

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Improved trip delay insurance

This may seem like a small thing, but it's not.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred provides up to $500 per ticket for delays of at least 12 hours or those requiring an overnight stay. The Chase Sapphire Reserve provides the same coverage dollar amount, but its insurance kicks in after just six hours, applying to a larger group of delayed travelers.

Sapphire Reserve cardholders set their stopwatch for six hours because as soon as that minimum threshold is reached, they can purchase food, order transportation, book a hotel and field any other expenses that might come up, to the tune of up to $500 per ticket. Chase has bought me a collection of high-quality meals and lodged me in moderately fancy hotels over the years thanks to this perk. Don't go overboard, though, since you'll likely have issues convincing Chase to reimburse a pricey meal at the Ritz-Carlton when you could have just gotten Subway instead.

Better perks through the Chase Travel Portal

If you're in the habit of booking travel through online travel agencies like Expedia or Priceline, you'll likely get more value for your points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve than with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Both cards offer a flat per-point redemption rate for booking travel through the Chase Travel Portal (powered by Expedia, by the way), and though the value discrepancy might seem small, it adds up if you're redeeming thousands of points. Here's how much points from each card are worth when redeemed this way:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: 1.25 cents each
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 1.5 cents each

In other words, if you book $1,000 in flights, you'll pay:

  • 80,000 points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • 66,667 points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve

That's a potentially huge savings. Also, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders will earn more points on select purchases through the Chase Travel Portal:

The Chase Sapphire Preferred only earns 5 points per dollar on travel through the Chase Travel Portal. If you're purchasing a lot of flights through the portal, that can make the Sapphire Preferred worthwhile. If you don't tend to do that, you will likely be better off with the Sapphire Reserve's earning rates.

The out-of-pocket cost for the Chase Sapphire Reserve isn't much higher

The annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a whopping $550. However, the card also comes with up to $300 in annual statement credits toward travel purchases. Chase has a very broad definition of travel, so this credit will automatically trigger when you use your card for things like:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels
  • Timeshares
  • Car rental agencies
  • Cruises
  • Travel agencies
  • Discount travel sites
  • Campgrounds
  • Trains, buses, taxis, limousines
  • Toll bridges
  • Parking lots/garages

As long as you spend at least $300 per year on these expenses, the Chase Sapphire Reserve effectively costs you just $250 per year.

For its part, the Chase Sapphire Preferred incurs a $95 annual fee and offers a $50 annual hotel statement credit each cardmember anniversary year for hotel bookings made through the Chase portal (the first $50 in Ultimate Rewards hotel purchases will not earn rewards points). By contrast, the Chase Sapphire Reserve's travel credit is much easier to use. Assuming you would be able to leverage both these benefits to their full extent, your out-of-pocket cost for the Chase Sapphire Reserve would be $250 compared to $45 for the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The difference between those two figures is just $205 – and that's not even taking into account the Chase Sapphire Reserve's other money-saving benefits, like a statement credit of up to $100 every four years for a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.

You'll get another sign-up bonus

If you already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you might still be able to land the Chase Sapphire Reserve's 50,000-point sign-up bonus – with the right strategy. TPG valuations peg Chase points at 2 cents each, meaning you'll be sitting on another $1,000 in travel if you do so.

How to upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Don't literally upgrade your Chase Sapphire Preferred

It's usually possible to "product change" your current credit card to a card of the same family. For example, you can tell Chase you want to convert your current Chase Sapphire Preferred into a Chase Sapphire Reserve, and if approved, you'll keep your same account and card number.

However, you will not have the opportunity to earn a welcome bonus by simply product changing your current card. In fact, you'll forfeit the Sapphire Reserve's 50,000-point bonus due to Chase's application and bonus eligibility rules. Instead, consider downgrading your Chase Sapphire Preferred to another Chase card before submitting your Chase Sapphire Reserve application.

Before you do, though, be sure to check your timing. Chase states that the Sapphire Reserve is not available if you have any Sapphire card or if you've received a new cardmember bonus for any Sapphire card in the past 48 months. So if you opened your Chase Sapphire Preferred more recently than that, you've got to hold off on the strategy below until you pass that 48-month mark.

Once you do, here are the next steps to take.

Downgrade your current card

Rather than closing your Chase Sapphire Preferred so that you'll be eligible for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can downgrade the Sapphire Preferred to either the Chase Freedom Unlimited or the Chase Freedom Flex. This way, you can retain any Chase Ultimate Rewards points (though if you already have other Ultimate Rewards-earning cards, you have nothing to worry about).

If you don't already have both of these cards, downgrade your Sapphire Preferred to the one you don't have. Each card plays a valuable role in your Ultimate Rewards earning strategy.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns:

  • 6.5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 4.5% back on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services)
  • 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • 1.5% back on other purchases

The Chase Freedom Flex earns:

By doing this, you will no longer be ineligible for the Chase Sapphire Reserve because of having the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and you'll be set for the next step.

Secure message (or call) Chase

To cancel or downgrade your card, you can either secure message Chase or call them. I've only ever secure messaged them, and I've never had a problem product changing my cards. Simply say that you'd like to product change to whichever of the Freedom cards you prefer, and follow the representative's instructions.

Wait until your current statement closes

Finally, it's recommended to wait until your current Sapphire statement closes before applying for another Sapphire card. Anecdotal evidence on travel forums suggests you'll have a higher probability of success by exercising this tactic. It's sound financial advice, too, since you can make sure your account is paid off and in good standing before submitting a new application.

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth considering over the Chase Sapphire Preferred for frequent travelers thanks to its more generous trip delay insurance, $300 travel credit, airport lounge access and improved redemption rate through the Chase Travel Portal.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred still has a few tricks of its own, however (read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred review). But if you find yourself in the airport even a few times each year, the Sapphire Reserve is the way to go – provided you don't have other travel rewards cards offering similar benefits.

Apply here: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Apply here: Chase Sapphire Reserve

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.