8 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 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 more popular than the Sapphire Preferred, though in this post I wanted to look at eight reasons you might want to consider the Sapphire Preferred. I’m not suggesting one is better than the other, but rather am just encouraging some thought on the topic, especially in light of recent changes we’ve seen on other cards.

I also think this is more worth considering than ever before, especially with some of the changes we’ve seen to other cards.

In no particular order, here are eight 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 also have the Citi Prestige Card

This point somewhat overlaps with the above point, but I think it’s worth calling out specifically.

Just over a week ago huge changes were made to the Citi Prestige Card. The card now offers 5x points on dining and airfare purchases. That card earns Citi ThankYou points, and personally I value Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Citi ThankYou points roughly equally (about 1.7 cents each).

The Citi Prestige changes we’ve just seen

So at this point I’m no longer using the Sapphire Reserve for my dining and airfare purchases. At this point my Sapphire Reserve spend is limited to non-airfare travel purchases.

This greatly impacts how much spend I put on the card, and that impacts the breakeven point between this card and the Reserve and Preferred.

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.

Furthermore, with the recent changes to the Citi Prestige, many people will find themselves putting less spend on the Sapphire Reserve, perhaps making it harder to justify.

Has your perspective on the Sapphire Reserve vs. Sapphire Preferred changed in light of recent changes to the Citi Prestige, etc.?

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  1. 3,335 on travel and dining would net you 10,005 UR points. At your valuation of 1.7 cents per point, 10,005 UR points is worth 170.08 dollars.

    If the goal is to spend enough to cover that extra 55/yr that would mean you’d need to spend 3,335 on 1x categories or 1,111.67 on travel in dining. Right?

    1,111.67 in travel and dining would net 3,335 UR points. At a valuation of 1.7 cents per point that is 56.70.

    Am I missing something?

  2. “Furthermore, with the recent changes to the Citi Prestige, many people will find themselves putting less spend on the Sapphire Reserve, perhaps making it harder to justify.”

    Abstracted from all the claims about how the Citi Prestige earns more on ‘travel’ than the CSR and imminent demise of the latter is the fact that whereas ‘travel’ means only “air travel” for Citi Prestige, it means the following for the CSR: air travel, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.

    Note that many of the items that the CSR defines as ‘travel’ are items that one spends on every day. So, what does one do, get rid of the CSR and get the CSP and start leaving a LOT points on the table? Thanks, but no thanks…

    Posts like these no longer serve any purpose and need to be retired. The CSP became a historic relic the day the CSR was introduced. Now it is even less competitive as other cards are being introduced or beefed to try to outdo the CSR.

  3. To me the insurance that comes with the CSR is invaluable. I will be renewing this month. I had a $500 non refundable hotel reserved, fell the day before the trip and broke my upper arm. I was unable to travel. Just today I received a check reimbursement from the insurance company. The $450 is worth every penny.

  4. @DCS @LAXJeff I disagree. I think CSP first year can beat CSR, given that you don’t have to pay the $95 fee (thus, $150 difference in fees, or ~$15,000 is required to justify, provided that you only transfer and don’t really care about lounge).

    Even year 2 on, CSP can still be a good deal. The thing is: the most major expenses of travel are airfare, hotels, and meals, all of which Citi Prestige rewards better. Thus, the most major expenses on Chase would be local transportation (e.g. uber/taxi, buses, trains, etc.). Given that these ain’t exactly aspirational, you would be working hard to minimize them anyway. So, working up $5,500 of misc expenses for CSR when you have Citi Prestige (and/or Amex Platinum) can be challenging.

    That said, if you need only 1 premium card, CSP wins hand-down.

  5. @magice — I play the “long game”, which means that I never get a card for one year or two years; and the $150 or $55 difference in AF is really not something that anyone who uses either the CSR or the CSP quite a bit needs to be concerned about. So, this statement, “if you need only 1 premium card, CSP wins hand-down”, is pure bunk.

    With respect to the CSR vs. the Citi Prestige, I just value the UR point a lot more than I do the TY point because I fly almost exclusively with UA, which effectively makes my UR points an extension of my UA miles. For hotel points, I have the incredible Aspire card, which also gets me the HH Diamond status.

    Thus, these things should not be formulated into dogma because different people have different circumstances. For me, the CSR + Ink Biz Cash + CFU is the winning formula because it allows me to avoid the “points currency dilution” pitfall by earning only UR points. I have no use for any other transferable points currencies, which saves me from the temptation of constantly applying for every new card that self-anointed travel gurus declare to be the new must-have card or the ‘flavor of the month’ card.

  6. @DCS and @LAXjeff sound like the same person who for some reason is desperately trying to trash the CSP. I have both cards and am keeping them both. They both have advantages.
    Anyone who claims CSP is irrelevant and totally ignores the strength of the CSP is a troll or CSR staff who feels threatened by the CSP.

    “Posts like these no longer serve any purpose and need to be retired.”
    Somebody sure feels threatened and is hysterical about this helpful post.

  7. @Jacob – Please make factual arguments to support your positions instead of proceeding from falsehoods like “@DCS and @LAXjeff sound like the same person”. I assure you that we are not the same person; we both just happen to say things that clearly irk you.

    I gave my rationale for preferring the CSR and it is not the first time I have given it. The CSP was made obsolete by the CSR, but if earning 2x instead of 3x turns you on then that’s your prerogative. As they say, it’s your funeral!

    BTW, I did not think it was possible to have both the CSP and the CSR, but I might be wrong…or you’re just what your calling others: a troll.


  8. @DCS yeah, it’s possible if you were grandfathered in. I had both CSP and CSR for a short time when they newly introduced the one sapphire card rule. Honestly, I quickly downgraded to the Freedom Unlimited since there’s really no point in having it with a CSR in tow. Value proposition for the $150 fee is easy to justify so I don’t really see why @Lucky is mad shilling the CSP other than an ad cut.

  9. @Jack

    You are missing that those categories earn 2 points on the CSP. With CSR one would earn 1 additional point for these categories, hence Lucky’s math is accurate. All other expenses earn 1 point on both cards so no benefit of CSR there.

  10. I have CSP, plan to upgrade to CSR when my Global Entry is up for renewal. That $100 credit shifts the math even further in CSR’s favor.

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