The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card are both incredibly compelling travel rewards credit cards. Often people have a hard time deciding which card makes the most sense, given that they’re both excellent.
In this post I wanted to compare the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve — which card is better, especially in light of recent changes made to both cards, as well as the Sapphire Preferred’s current bonus of 100K points?
Let’s start by talking about what the two cards have in common, then we’ll talk about the differences, and then we’ll talk about how to decide which card is a better fit for you.
What both Chase Sapphire cards have in common
- Both cards act as excellent “hub” cards for earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and allow you to transfer points at the same rates to the Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners
- Both cards have no foreign transaction fees, so are great for purchases abroad
- Both cards offer excellent travel coverage, including for delayed flights, lost bags, and car rentals
- Both cards offer 3x points on dining purchases globally
Advantages of the Chase Sapphire Preferred
There’s a lot to love about the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The card has a $95 annual fee, and offers:
- A massive welcome bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months
- 3x points on dining, streaming services, and online grocery store purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs) and 2x points on travel, plus 5x points on flights booked through the Chase Travel Portal
- 10% anniversary bonus points, calculated by your “base” earning per dollar spent
- A $50 hotel credit every cardmember year, usable through the Chase Travel portal
- The ability to transfer points 1:1 to Chase Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners, or redeem them for 1.25 cents each towards a travel purchase
What makes the Sapphire Preferred better than the Sapphire Reserve? The significantly lower annual fee, the much bigger welcome bonus, the 10% anniversary bonus points, the 3x points on streaming services and online grocery store purchases, and the $50 annual hotel credit.
Advantages of the Chase Sapphire Reserve
There’s a lot to love about the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The card has a $550 annual fee, and offers:
- A welcome bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months
- 3x points on dining and travel, plus 10x points on hotels and car rentals booked through the Chase Travel Portal, and 5x points on flights booked through the Chase Travel Portal
- A $300 annual travel credit, which can be applied towards virtually any purchase
- A Priority Pass membership, offering access to 1,300+ airport lounges around the world
- The ability to transfer points 1:1 to Chase Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners, or redeem them for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase
What makes the Sapphire Reserve better than the Sapphire Preferred? The card should really only be “costing” you $250 per year (after factoring in the $300 travel credit, which is nearly good as cash), and for that the major advantages are a Priority Pass membership, 3x points on travel (rather than 2x points on travel with the Sapphire Preferred), and the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase (rather than 1.25 cents each).
Tip: Apply for the Sapphire Preferred
Regardless of which of the two cards you eventually want to get, personally I’d highly recommend applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The simple reason is that the welcome bonus is 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points bigger, and that’s a huge difference.
You could give the card a try for a year, and after a year you should be able to upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve if you’d like. That gives you the best of both worlds — you can pick up the best bonus, and still have the flexibility to later get either card, all while paying the lower annual fee.
Which Chase Sapphire card should you get?
As you can see above, there are pros and cons to both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve. While I’d highly recommend applying for the Sapphire Preferred (given the much bigger bonus), how should you decide which card makes the most sense for you in the long run?
With the recent changes made to both Chase Sapphire cards, I think the Sapphire Preferred is more compelling than ever before, and should be the default card that people get. However, there are three general circumstances under which I think there could be value to the Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred.
Let me note that for mental accounting purposes, I consider the real “cost” difference between the two cards to be around $155 per year. The Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee, while the Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, but I subtract $300 from that, due to the value of the travel credit.
With that in mind, let me share the three areas where you can get significantly more value with the Sapphire Reserve than the Sapphire Preferred.
Do you value a Priority Pass membership?
One of the major benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is that it offers a Priority Pass membership. This offers unlimited lounge visits, and you can take two guests into lounges with you at no extra cost.
Nowadays several premium credit cards come with a Priority Pass membership — for those without a membership this could easily be worth $155+ per year, while for those with a membership, it might not be worth anything. One awesome thing about getting a Priority Pass membership through Chase is that it also gets you access to Priority Pass airport restaurants, where you can get a dining credit at many major airports (Priority Pass memberships issued through Amex don’t offer that).
Do you value 1.5 cent per point redemptions?
Ultimate Rewards points are flexible, and there are several good ways to use them. You can transfer the points to one of the Ultimate Rewards hotel or airline partners, or you can redeem them as cash towards the cost of a travel purchase.
The points earned on both cards have the same value if you’re transferring them to a partner (you can transfer them at a 1:1 ratio), but if you redeem them as cash towards the cost of a travel purchase, the values are different:
- Points earned on the Chase Sapphire Preferred can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase
- Points earned on the Chase Sapphire Reserve can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase
Different people will have different takes here. Personally I don’t value the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards travel purchases, because I get way more value transferring Ultimate Rewards points to partners like World of Hyatt. However, others will feel differently.
If you want to put some concrete numbers to this, you could justify the $155 cost difference between the two cards if you redeemed at least 62,000 points per year through the Chase Travel portal (given the quarter cent difference in redemption value).
Do you spend a lot on travel?
While both cards offer 3x points on dining, the cards otherwise have a different return on travel purchases:
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points on travel purchases
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x points on travel purchases
I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me that’s a return of either 3.4% and 5.1% in that category. If you would otherwise put a significant amount in travel purchases on the card, then the Sapphire Reserve could be worth it.
To put some concrete numbers to that, about ~$9,100 in annual spending on travel would cause you to breakeven on the $155 price difference between the two cards. However, only count spending you’d otherwise put on this card, and not your overall travel spending. For example, much of my airfare spending and hotel spending goes on other cards.
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve are incredibly compelling cards. For a long time the Sapphire Reserve was the obvious winner, while I’d argue with the recent refreshes to the cards, that’s no longer the case.
Nowadays I think the Sapphire Preferred very much holds its own, and long term the Sapphire Reserve only makes sense if you value a Priority Pass membership, if you spend a lot on travel, and/or if you want to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards travel purchases.
For the time being I’d highly recommend applying for the Sapphire Preferred, given the huge bonus of up to 100K points. If you decide after a year that the Sapphire Reserve is a better fit for you, you can always upgrade the card.
If you have a Chase Sapphire card, do you think the Preferred or Reserve is more valuable nowadays?