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The Chase Sapphire Reserve now earns five points per dollar on air travel purchases made through Ultimate Rewards.
How to decide between the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus and the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s valuable perks.
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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two of the most popular travel rewards credit cards on the market—and for good reason. They both rack up valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed directly toward travel bookings made through Chase, as well as transferred to more than a dozen airline and hotel partner loyalty programs.
For most folks, the choice between these two cards usually comes down to their annual fees. The Chase Sapphire Reserve charges $550 per year while the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee is $95. But there are other significant differences between them, too.
Most important at the moment is the fact that the Chase Sapphire Preferred is currently offering its highest-ever sign-up bonus with the chance to earn up to 100,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. We’ve never before seen numbers anywhere near that for this card.
When considering any travel rewards credit card, however, it pays to look past the initial bonus to how you might be able to maximize its perks over the course of several years. Here’s how the Chase Sapphire Preferred compares to the more premium Chase Sapphire Reserve and which one might be best for you.
Chase introduced this powerhouse way back in 2009—practically a lifetime ago in terms of travel rewards cards. It was the first card to earn Ultimate Rewards points that were transferable to a number of different airline and hotel loyalty programs, but it offered some other outsized benefits as well.
Earn 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This is 40,000 more points than the card usually offers.
While the Chase Sapphire Preferred only earns one point per dollar on most purchases, as of August 16, 2021, it racks up bonus points in a variety of categories including...
Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred are worth 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed directly for travel reservations—such as flights, hotels, and cruises—booked directly through the Chase travel portal. Chase recently introduced a new “Pay Yourself Back” feature through its portal where cardholders can redeem their points in a variety of other categories, including dining and groceries, at the same rate through September 30, 2021.
Focusing on travel, cardholders can transfer points at a ratio of 1:1 to 11 airline frequent flier and three hotel points programs, including United, Southwest, JetBlue, British Airways, Air France/KLM, Marriott, and Hyatt. That makes them especially versatile.
This card is an excellent option to use when traveling internationally since it waives foreign transaction fees. It also offers some of the best travel protections available with any credit card, including primary rental car insurance so you don’t have to pay for the agency’s expensive policy or go through your own insurance if you hit bumps in the road.
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There’s also trip cancellation and interruption insurance that can cover nonrefundable expenses up to $10,000 per person or $20,000 per trip.
Thanks to Chase’s partnership with DoorDash, Sapphire Preferred cardholders qualify for at least a year of complimentary DashPass membership when they register by December 31, 2021, which can save them an average of $4 to $5 per order on food deliveries.
Finally, also as of August 16, 2021, cardholders receive a $50 annual credit on hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards (new cardmembers can earn this credit immediately, while existing cardmembers will start earning this after their next card anniversary.) Each year on the anniversary of opening their account, cardholders will also now earn bonus points equivalent to 10 percent of the total purchases they made the previous year.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best premium travel credit cards ever created thanks to valuable perks like annual travel statement credits and access to airport lounges. It's also offering a higher-than-usual introductory bonus.
Earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months—that’s 10,000 points more than normal.
As of August 16 2021, the Sapphire Reserve racks up...
Points earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve transfer to the Ultimate Rewards program’s airline and hotel partners on a 1:1 basis, just like with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
However, if you have this card and redeem Ultimate Rewards points for travel reservations directly through the Chase portal, and other eligible purchases through the “Pay Yourself Back” feature, they are worth 1.5 cents apiece compared to 1.25 cents with the Preferred.
That’s a substantial premium and means this card’s sign-up bonus is worth $900 if this is the way you hope to use your points.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is chock-full of other perks. Cardholders can enjoy $300 in annual credit as reimbursement for travel purchases each account year. Through December 31, 2021, this can also be put toward groceries and gas. Cardholders can enroll for complimentary Priority Pass Select membership with access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide and bring two guests with them for free.
Folks with the Sapphire Reserve can register for DoorDash DashPass with the same benefits as Sapphire Preferred members. Finally, they are also eligible for either a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee statement credit, up to $100 once every four years.
Figuring out whether to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve usually comes down to which card’s annual fee is more within your budget, and whether you’ll get enough value from the Reserve’s extra benefits to justify paying for it year after year.
But the fact that the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s current sign-up bonus is 40,000 points higher than that of the Chase Sapphire Reserve throws off the usual calculus. Here are the main factors you need to consider.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve both require new cardholders to spend $4,000 within three months to earn their bonuses. However, the Sapphire Preferred has a 100,000-point bonus, while the Sapphire Reserve offers a mere 60,000 points. That’s a clear-cut advantage for the Sapphire Preferred if you intend to transfer your points to one of Chase’s partner airlines or hotel programs.
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To look at it another way, though, points earned with the Sapphire Preferred are only worth 1.25 cents each for travel booked through Chase, but they’re worth 1.5 cents with the Sapphire Reserve. So the Sapphire Preferred’s bonus is worth $1,250 this way, and the Sapphire Reserve’s bonus is worth $900. That’s still a big difference, and a win for the Sapphire Preferred.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t boast much in the way of value-added benefits apart from its new DoorDash DashPass privileges, which the Chase Sapphire Reserve also includes.
For its part, though, the Sapphire Reserve proffers $300 in annual travel statement credits, which can be put toward flights and hotel stays, plus things like taxi rides and even parking meters. The Sapphire Reserve also offers statement credits worth up to $100 toward either a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application once every four years. Sapphire Reserve cardholders can take advantage of Priority Pass lounges, too, while Sapphire Preferred cardholders cannot.
If you take advantage of those statement credits on a regular basis and use airport lounges frequently, the Sapphire Reserve might be a better choice because it can provide you with hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of value each year.
In terms of travel protections, the differences between these two cards probably won’t affect most travelers. Both offer nearly identical trip cancellation and interruption insurance, primary auto rental coverage, and lost luggage reimbursement if your bags go missing. If you’re delayed and need to spend money on meals, lodging, or other necessities, the Sapphire Reserve’s coverage kicks in at 6 hours instead of 12 for the Sapphire Preferred, and the same is true if your bag is delayed and you need to buy replacement clothes or toiletries.
The Sapphire Preferred offers purchase protection against damage or theft of up to $500 per claim and $50,00 per account, while the Sapphire Reserve will cover you up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year. So if you make large purchases, you’ll want to use the Sapphire Reserve to do so.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has the edge in terms of perks—annual travel statement credits and lounge access can all add up. Many credit cards now offer Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee statement credits, including the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, which is offering a historically high bonus of its own, at 100,000 miles (50,000 after spending $3,000 in 3 months, and another 50,000 after spending $20,000 within 12 months).
If you’re looking for a solid travel credit card with comprehensive protections and a decent rate of return on spending, though, the Chase Sapphire Preferred might just be the card for you. Its significantly higher sign-up bonus is a huge factor in its favor, and you can always upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve later if you decide you’d rather take advantage of its perks and its higher direct-redemption rate for travel expenses.
While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available. This article was originally published in October 2020, and updated in March 2021, June 2021, and August 2021.
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