7 Reasons To Get The Sapphire Preferred Over The Sapphire Reserve

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For years the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card was regarded as one of best travel rewards credit cards out there. The card is incredibly well rounded, as it offers double points on dining and travel, great travel protection, and the ability to transfer points to a bunch of valuable airline and hotel partners.

However, over the past couple of years the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has stolen some of the spotlight, as this $450 annual fee card has become very popular with consumers. The card offers triple points on dining and travel, a $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass membership, and more.

Nowadays it sure seems to me like the Sapphire Reserve is generally more popular than the Sapphire Preferred, though in this post I wanted to look at seven reasons you might want to consider the Sapphire Preferred, especially if you’re new to Chase Ultimate Rewards (I’m not suggesting one is better than the other, just encouraging some thought on the topic, given the recent popularity of the Sapphire Reserve).

In no particular order, here are seven reasons to consider the Sapphire Preferred over the Sapphire Reserve:

You’re new to Ultimate Rewards

If you’re just getting started in the Ultimate Rewards ecosystem, starting out with the Sapphire Preferred is a great option. The card has a waived annual fee for the first year (while the Sapphire Reserve doesn’t), so this is a way to get started with Ultimate Rewards without having to pay an annual fee upfront.

After a year you should be able to upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve if you decide that’s a better option for you, and your points would fully transfer to the card. So you might as well start with the lower cost option and go from there.

There are several great cards with which you can earn Ultimate Rewards points

You want to add authorized users

You can add authorized users to the Sapphire Preferred at no additional cost, and they’ll also earn double points on dining and travel, and get most of the other privileges you do as well.

However, the cost to add an authorized user on the Sapphire Reserve is $75 each. Now, there are benefits to doing so (including a Priority Pass membership for authorized users), but if the goal is to just add an authorized user for spend purposes, it’ll take quite some annual spend per authorized user in the dining and travel category to make up the $75 per person authorized user fee difference.

You’re worried about getting approved

This is a nuanced point, but for many the Sapphire Preferred may be easier to get approved for than the Sapphire Reserve.

Why? 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.

You don’t spend that much on dining and travel

Let’s assume the primary reason you want either card is for the return on spend that it offers. Since I consider the Sapphire Reserve to have an “out of pocket” of $150 per year (after factoring in the $300 travel credit), that means you’re paying an additional $55 over the $95 annual fee on the Sapphire Preferred (this math is beyond the first year — the first year the difference is $150, since the Sapphire Preferred has the annual fee waived).

Personally I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each. This means (based solely on spend):

  • The first year you’d need to spend ~$8,823 on dining and travel to come out ahead with the Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred
  • In subsequent years you’d need to spend ~$3,335 on dining and travel to come out ahead with the Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred

This includes spend specifically on dining and travel that you’d otherwise put on one of these cards.

Which card makes most sense depends on how much you spend on travel and dining

You don’t value the Priority Pass membership

Priority Pass is the world’s largest network of independent lounges, and having a membership is extremely valuable, in my opinion. However, if you’re anything like me, you may very well have several of these memberships. For example, I now have four Priority Pass memberships.

There’s no value to having more than one membership, so for many this feature will be valuable, while for others it will be worthless.

Quito Airport Lounge, which Priority Pass members have access to

You don’t want to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards travel

Both the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve belong to the Ultimate Rewards program, so you can transfer the points earned on both cards to the following airline and hotel partners:

Aer Lingus Aer ClubIHG Rewards Club
Air France/KLM Flying BlueMarriott Rewards
British Airways Executive ClubRitz-Carlton Rewards
Iberia PlusWorld Of Hyatt
JetBlue TrueBlue
Singapore KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
United MileagePlus
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

The area where the points differ is if you prefer to redeem them as cash towards the cost of a travel purchase. If that’s your preference:

  • If you have the Sapphire Preferred, points can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards a travel purchase
  • If you have the Sapphire Reserve, points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase

If you value the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase, there’s an advantage to the Reserve. Otherwise the points are equally valuable, in my opinion. Personally I like to redeem Ultimate Rewards points by transferring them to partners, so this isn’t a feature I value all that much.

Points earned on both cards can be transferred to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

You don’t want to pay a $450 annual fee

While the Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee, in reality the card should only cost you about $150 per year, after factoring in the $300 travel credit, which I consider to be almost as good as cash.

Nonetheless, psychologically a lot of people have a hard time justifying a $450 annual fee. I can’t count the number of people I’ve told about the card, and I’ve explained “you’ll pay a $450 annual fee, but you’ll get a $300 travel credit that’s basically as good as cash,” and their response was “I don’t want to pay $450 upfront.”

If that applies to you, then maybe the Sapphire Preferred with a $95 annual fee that’s even waived the first year is a better option. You can always later work your way up to the Sapphire Reserve, if you want.

Bottom line

There are pros and cons to both the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, and you can’t go wrong with either card. For many I do think the Sapphire Reserve is the most approachable $450 annual fee card, since it shouldn’t cost you nearly that much in the end, after factoring in the $300 credit.

However, I think there’s also a lot of merit to first getting the Sapphire Preferred, especially given that the annual fee is waived for the first year, and then you can always eventually upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve.

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  1. “Nowadays it sure seems to me like the Sapphire Reserve is generally more popular than the Sapphire Reserve” LOL

  2. Lucky….I think this is a typo. “Nowadays it sure seems to me like the Sapphire Reserve is generally more popular than the Sapphire Reserve”

    One question: I have the Reserve and put 90% of my spend on it today, using SPG Amex basically as backup. Is there a good reason (outside of the initial bonus) that I should add the Preferred Card?

  3. This is helpful. I might go for CSP. You talked about adding authorized users — can I add bunch of my friends (with their consent of course) to the card? Someone I really trust. But not sure if this raises a red flag. Maybe just do 2?

  4. @Gary, you can only have one Sapphire product at a time, as of last year (I think). You’d have to downgrade your Reserve or cancel it and wait 24 months before reapplying.

  5. The Reserve benefits overlap greatly with a number of other premium cards, but a huge reason for me sticking with the Sapphire Preferred is that it’s the card on which I generate the most referral bonuses. Most people getting started in the hobby can stomach a $95/year fee, but can’t look past the annual fee of the Reserve.

  6. @Lucky: there is a MAJOR hole in your calculation.

    Yes, it takes ~3.3K of spending to make CSP to earn the same reward to justify the $55 difference. HOWEVER, it takes ~2.8K of spending to make CSR worth its $95 in the first place! In other words, the real difference in spend requirement of CSP and CSR is only ~$500/year.

    And, for that $500, you get Priority Pass, slightly better travel coverage, and other small perks. Again, you are not outright paying anything. You only spend that much more on the card. (regarding Authorized User, a better way to do this is to spread out premium cards among your “authorized users” and earn referral bonus).

  7. You didn’t mention the global entry/TSA Pre-check credits. If you use those the first year it essentially knocks the AF down to $50 for the first year. IMO its a no-brainer to get the Reserve. And don’t forget all of the status with Avis and National.

  8. @Gary I would avoid using the SPG amex post-devaluation. I used to have the same combo but don’t anymore. I use the CSR for dining and travel (3x), Citi TY Premier for gas and entertainment (3x and 2x respectively), and the Amex Everyday Preferred for groceries and everyday expenses (3x and 1x respectively, with a 1.5x multiplier when reaching 30 transactions per month for essentially 4.5x and 1.5x).

    Nice to have diversity among the major currencies.

  9. I started with Preferred and just upgraded to Reserve. The vast majority of my spend is on dining and travel and my global entry is up for renewal in a few months.

  10. @Lucky: Anecdotally, any chance a college student with low 700 credit score being approved? Credit Karma doesn’t think so.

  11. Other than lounge access, why would i use this over my 2% cash back Citi card? No annual fee, 2% on everything. Downside is they charge fees for foreign exchange. For that, i go to my no fee, 1.8% cash back Citizens Bank card since they don’t charge anything for FX.

  12. @Mike most folks value their transferable points at at least 1.5cents each. I prefer redemptions that create significantly more value than that. If you prefer cash-back that’s up to you, but many of us do not.

  13. There is another reason… you have a card that provides you with some of the perks you would get with the CSR.
    I have a CSP and match that with an Amex Platinum. I get the Priority Pass Elite from there so there would be no benefit in the Reserve’s version.
    Also, there are differences in extended warranties, buyer protection, etc. but they are somewhat similar. Certainly not enough to warrant another big annual fee.

  14. @Brendan —> As long as you get the equivalent value from a high-end card, it’s worth it. If not, then it isn’t. Simple calculation.

    @Gary —> I agree with Sam…no real reason whatsoever to use the SPG Amex (or the Chase Marriott Rewards card, for that matter). I have both, but they now stay at home in the drawer, versus pre-merger when I used the SPG card for non-bonus spend — 2.1% return prior, now 0.7% (why bother?). I keep these two cards for a) the Free Night Certificates (value exceeds the $95 AF), and b) the credit history; but they’re otherwise pretty useless.

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