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Which Credit Card Is Better: Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve?

By Eric Rosen

Oct 1, 2020

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Photo by Jeramey Lende/Shutterstock

How to decide between the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus and the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s valuable perks.

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Aside from sharing similar names, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two of the most popular travel rewards credit cards on the market. 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, the choice between these two particular cards usually comes down to their annual fees—the Chase Sapphire Reserve charges $550 per year while the Chase Sapphire Preferred requires a relatively modest $95. But the cards bear other differences that are worth considering.

TheChase Sapphire Preferred recently offered its highest-ever sign-up bonus. When considering any travel rewards credit card, though, it pays to look past the initial bonus to how you might be able to maximize a card’s perks over the course of several years. Here's why the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be a better choice than the more premium Chase Sapphire Reserve. But if you can take advantage of the Reserve’s many value-added perks, you might still want to get it instead.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Higher bonus, fewer perks

Update: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offer mentioned below is no longer available. View the current offer.

Chase introduced this powerhouse way back in 2009—a lifetime ago in terms of travel rewards cards. It was the first to earn Ultimate Rewards points that were transferable to a number of different airline and hotel loyalty programs, but offered some other outsized benefits as well. 

Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This is 20,000 more points than the card usually offers.

Annual fee: $95

Points earned: While the Chase Sapphire Preferred only earns one point per dollar on most purchases, it racks up two per dollar on a wide variety of travel expenses: airline tickets, hotels, train tickets, car rentals, rideshares, and dining (both at restaurants and takeout/delivery). Now through March 2022, cardholders can also register to earn five points per dollar on Lyft rides.

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Redemption values: 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 cardmembers can redeem their points in a variety of other categories at the same rate. Now through April 30, 2021, those merchants include grocery stores, dining (including delivery and takeout), home improvement stores, and a dozen eligible charities. Focusing on travel, though, cardholders can also transfer points at a ratio of 1:1 to 10 airline frequent-flier and three hotel points programs, including United, Southwest, JetBlue, British Airways, Air France/KLM, Marriott, and Hyatt.

Other benefits: 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, and 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, which can save them an average of $4 to $5 per order on food deliveries.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Lower bonus, more value

For its part, 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.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Annual fee: $550

Points earned: In contrast with the Preferred, the Reserve racks up three points per dollar on travel and dining, and 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides. It earns one point per dollar everywhere else.

Redemption values: Points earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve transfer to the Ultimate Rewards program’s partners the same way they do with the Preferred. However, those redeemed for travel reservations directly through the Chase portal, and other eligible purchases through the “Pay Yourself Back” feature, are worth 1.5 cents apiece compared to 1.25 cents with the Preferred.

Other benefits: Cardholders can enjoy $300 in annual credit as reimbursement for travel purchases each account year. Through December 31, 2020, this can also be put toward groceries and gas. Cardmembers can enroll for complimentary Priority Pass Select membership with access to more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide, and bring two guests with them for free. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can register for DoorDash DashPass with the same benefits as 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.

Deciding between the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve

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. The fact that the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s current sign-up bonus is 30,000 points higher than that of the Chase Sapphire Reserve throws off the usual calculus, though. Here are the main factors you need to consider.

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Crunching the numbers: The Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve both require new cardholders to spend $4,000 within three months to earn their bonuses. The Preferred has an 80,000-point bonus, while the Reserve offers a mere 50,000 points. That’s a clear-cut advantage for the Preferred if you intend to transfer your points to one of Chase’s partner airlines or hotel programs. To look at it another way, though, points earned with the Preferred are only worth 1.25 cents each for travel booked through Chase, or 1.5 cents with the Reserve. So the Preferred’s bonus is worth $1,000 this way, and the Reserve’s bonus is worth $750. That’s still a big difference, but there’s more to think about.

Higher fee, better perks: The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t boast much in the way of value-added benefits apart from its new DoorDash DashPass perks, which the Reserve also offers. However, the Reserve comes with an additional $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 Reserve also offers statement credits worth up to $100 toward either a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application once every four years. Reserve cardholders can take advantage of Priority Pass lounges while Sapphire Preferred cardholders cannot. If you plan to apply those statement credits on a regular basis and use airport lounges frequently, the Reserve might be a better choice.

Protections: 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 on meals, lodging, or other necessities, the Reserve’s coverage kicks in at 6 hours instead of 12 for the Preferred, and the same for if your bag is delayed and you need to buy replacement clothes or toiletries. The Prerferred also offers purchase protection against damage or theft of up to $500 per claim and $50,00 per account, while the Reserve will cover you up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.

Final verdict?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve definitely 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 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 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 October 1, 2020, and updated November 9, 2020.

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