Easier Approval: Sapphire Preferred Or Reserve?

Filed Under: Chase, Credit Cards
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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card are two of the most compelling travel rewards credit cards, though the cards are substitutes for one another.

One question that often comes up about these cards is whether one card is easier to be approved for than the other. The answer is “yes,” at least sometimes.

Differences Between Sapphire Preferred & Reserve

While there’s a bit of overlap between the cards (both are part of the Ultimate Rewards ecosystem), there are differences in terms of the welcome bonuses, the benefits, and the annual fees.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred (review) has a $95 annual fee and offers:

  • A welcome bonus of up to 60,000 bonus points
  • 2x points on dining and travel
  • The ability to redeem points for 1.25 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Great travel and purchase protection

The Chase Sapphire Reserve (review) has a $550 annual fee and offers:

  • A welcome bonus of up to 50,000 bonus points
  • 3x points on dining and travel
  • A $300 annual travel credit
  • A Priority Pass Select membership with guesting privileges
  • The ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Great travel and purchase protection

I really view the Sapphire Reserve as having a $250 per year “out of pocket,” given that it offers a $300 annual travel credit that’s automatically applied to any eligible travel purchase. If you get this card then you absolutely should be maximizing that. Conversely, if you don’t spend at least $300 per year on any travel purchase, then the card isn’t for you.

Is The Sapphire Preferred Easier To Be Approved For?

One question I’m often asked is which card is easier to be approved for. The general assumption is that higher annual fee cards are more exclusive and have higher income requirements, and therefore are tougher to get approved for. That’s not necessarily true.

Different Cards Have Different Minimum Credit Limits

There is a distinction that makes one of these cards easier to be approved for than the other. Specifically, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is potentially easier to be approved for than the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Why? It comes down to how the cards are designated. The Sapphire Preferred is a Visa Signature Card, while the Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite Card. In general, each of those types of cards has a credit line minimum:

  • A Visa Signature has a $5,000 minimum credit limit
  • A Visa Infinite has a $10,000 minimum credit limit

Sometimes it’s possible to be approved with a lower credit limit (especially when product changing or allocating credit around), but that’s a general rule to be aware of.

What this means is that you can have an excellent credit score, but they could decide that they only feel comfortable giving you a $7,000 credit limit, for example. If that’s the case, you could be approved for the Sapphire Preferred but not the Sapphire Reserve.

What Determines Your Credit Limit?

There are lots of factors that can impact the credit line you’re allocated, including your credit score, your income, your total outstanding credit, the credit you have outstanding with that particular issuer, and more.

In other words, if you have excellent credit, make $500,000 per year, and don’t have any Chase cards, the chances of this distinction between the two cards making a difference is tiny.

On the other hand, if you have good credit, make $50,000 per year, and already have $50,000 of outstanding credit with Chase, there’s a bigger chance that the credit line minimum between a Visa Signature and Visa Infinite would impact your approval odds.

Bottom Line

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve are excellent credit cards that I highly recommend. If you don’t spend that much on dining and travel, then the Preferred might be the better option, while otherwise I’d say the Reserve is a better option, especially if you value lounge access.

As far as getting approved for the cards go, the Sapphire Preferred is potentially easier to be approved for since it has a lower credit limit minimum by virtue of being a Visa Signature. For some people this could make a significant difference, while for others it could have no impact.

If you’ve applied for the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, what was your experience like?

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  1. One note is that Chase have recently updated the rule against churning – no second sign-up bonus within 48Mo.

  2. A question I’d like to see Chase answer is how they define income for a retired person with a portfolio who can control income (and wants to minimize taxes).

    Is it just cash income? Might it include what they could reasonably withdraw (4% of portfolio value per year is a usually regarded as safe)? Required Minimum Distribution percentage applied to the portfolio? Annual increase in portfolio value? Social Security they could collect but aren’t? Something else?

    Getting an answer to this would help some people get more credit cards.

  3. @Bob Smith comments. That is a great question and fits my situation exactly. I want one of these cards but am retired without a lot of “real” income but do have a portfolio and excellent credit score. I also live outside the US but do have a bona fide US residential mailing address that is used for banking, etc.
    I’d appreciate any feedback from others that are in a similar situation.

  4. @Bob Smith – I am retired with a sizable portfolio. Not on SS (or able to draw either of my pensions) yet but have a portfolio that generates almost $200,000 in annual income (without selling any stocks). I have been approved for 2 Chase card in past year (CSR and IHG). In both cases I listed income as $200,000 (inc $50,000 non taxable from My muni bond portfolio) and for source of funds I selected “other” (options were employed, self- employed or other). In both cases I was approved immediately with $35K limit for CSR and $25 for IHG.

  5. @Bob Smith comments. +1 I have called AMEX and asked this question, and the answer was something like whatever number you feel comfortable with. I got the feeling that AGI worked, but not sure (AMEX would not give me a methodology but said just choose a number I could support, whatever that means). I also called Chase and explained my situation, and the CSR said thank you for the explanation but never did anything with it (i.e., Chase is still asking me for my annual income). There is also a corollary to your question–AGI can not only be lower due to tax management, but also could be higher due to Roth conversions. Would love more information about this topic, and haven’t been able to find it.

  6. Bob Smith

    I always use household income for my answer. I am retired and living off investments but my wife is still working and making 170K a year.

    So I put 200K a year (my income is maybe 30 K pa)

    I have seen no evidence that they check your answer, or whether they even could.

  7. You can put whatever you think but officially if the bank wants income verification, it’s 4506T or what you put on your tax returns.

    Again, they ask for income not assets or net worth.

    Think of it this way, as long as you are making money, they are ways for you to pay them back.
    You are a less credit risk if you make 60k a year than if you are unemployed but just won a $300M lotto.

  8. @Bob – not retired, but similarly situated. I’m a stay at home mom with NO income of my own, but I always use household income even when it is an application for myself alone. Since I have access to ALL my husband’s income 🙂 – it is truthful that I can access that income to pay my credit card(s).

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