Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Preferred: Which Travel Card Is Best For You?

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If you are looking for a rewards credit card that will complement an on-the-go lifestyle, you may be considering one of the Chase Sapphire credit cards.

Chase often promotes these popular travel credit cards and offers some great perks for those willing to pay the annual fees.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the “Cadillacs” on the credit card market; It offers premium benefits but carries a hefty $550 annual fee.

Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers travelers an option to take advantage of some of those perks for an annual fee of just $95.

In this article, I’ll compare these cards to help you decide which is best for your wallet.



Quick Comparison

Credit Card PerkChase Sapphire ReserveChase Sapphire Preferred
Annual Fee$550$95
Welcome Bonus Opportunity60,000 bonus points
after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Rewards Points Structure3x points per dollar spent on dining and travel. 1x points for other categories.2x points per dollar spent on dining and travel. 1x points for other categories.
Rewards Redemption Valuation1.5x points value for redemption on travel booked through Chase. 1x points on standard redemptions.1.25x points value for redemption on travel booked through Chase. 1x points on standard redemptions.
Rewards Redemption MethodsCash, travel, statement credits, gift cards or transfer points to participating airline and hotel rewards programsCash, travel, statement credits, gift cards or transfer points to participating airline and hotel rewards programs
Travel Perks$300 annual credit on travel spending, Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit, complimentary airport lounge access and hotel upgradesNone
Travel ProtectionsAuto rental, trip cancellation and lost baggage insuranceAuto rental, trip cancellation and lost baggage insurance
Intro Period for 0% APR on New PurchasesNoneNone
Intro Period for 0% APR on Balance TransfersNoneNone
Foreign Transaction FeesNoneNone

Card Overview: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card

If you’re a serious traveler, the Chase Sapphire Reserve could be a candidate for your wallet thanks to some really great perks.

Not only will you get 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points for each purchase you make in the travel and dining categories, but you’ll also get some premium access and freebies that make the $550 annual fee potentially worth it.

First, you should know that you get $300 per year in statement credits for travel purchases made on this card. (It’s applied to the first $300 spend each year of membership based on your card anniversary, not the calendar year.)

Assuming that a person willing to sign up for a $550 per year travel credit card is going to cross that spending threshold each year, the fee is effectively $250 per year.

Beyond that revolving benefit, you’ll also have a 60,000 point welcome bonus that can be worth up to $900 if you use the points to purchase travel through Chase. All you have to do is spend $4,000 within the first three months of card membership.

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Here’s a quick look at some of the other perks to consider with this card:

  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck Credit: Cardholders are eligible to receive a statement credit of up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for the application fee for either of these passes. You must make the purchase with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card to get the credit.
  • Complimentary Airport Lounge Access: As a cardholder, you’ll receive complimentary access to enrollment in the Priority Pass Select program. This gives you free access to more than 1,000 VIP lounges in 500+ airports worldwide.
  • Luxury Hotel and Resort Perks: You get access to benefits, such as complimentary room upgrades, early check-in and late check-out, at participating top hotels and resorts. You’ll have to book your room with this credit card, and you’ll obviously want to check to make sure your desired hotel or resort is a participant before you book.
  • Complimentary DoorDash and Lyft Memberships: Cardholders can get a free year of DoorDash’s DashPass and a free year of Lyft Pink.

This card also carries auto rental collision damage waiver, lost luggage, trip cancellation and extended warranty coverages. Those can come in handy.

For more details on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can read Team Clark’s full review of the card here.


Card Overview: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers several of the same key perks that the Sapphire Reserve carries but at a fraction of the annual fee.

So if you’re into traveling but maybe don’t do it at the volume that would justify a $550 annual fee, you may find that this card offers the right balance of rewards and costs with its $95 annual fee.

This card carries a great welcome bonus. The current offer is 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of card membership. This could be redeemed for as much as $1,250 worth of travel if you make your purchase through Chase’s rewards program.

This card does not carry the annual travel credit reward or exclusive airport lounge and hotel upgrade access that the Sapphire Reserve touts, but there are some popular Reserve perks available via the Preferred card.

Here’s a look at some of the perks available to Preferred cardholders:

  • 1-for-1 Point Transfers to Popular Travel Programs: It’s worth pointing out just how convientent this points transfer option can be. Popular hotel partners include Marriott, Hyatt and IHG. Airline partners include Southwest, United, JetBlue and British Airways. You can simply transfer points from your credit card to the partners’ rewards programs to supplement your balance.
  • Travel Insurance Perks: One of the more impressive things about this card is the collection of travel protection benefits you’ll receive. This includes auto rental collision damage waiver insurance, trip cancellation insurance for things like sickness or severe weather as well as baggage delay and trip delay coverages. To unlock these perks, you’ll need to use this credit card for the related transactions.
  • Purchase Protection and Extended Warranties: Cardholders also get protections on everyday purchases made with the card including purchase protection against damage and theft on new items (up to $500 per item) for 120 days after purchase. Using the card for purchase also will extend the manufacturer’s warranty for an additional year on items that have a warranty period of three years or less.
  • DoorDash and Lyft Perks: Cardholders can get a $0 delivery fees for a year with DoorDash and earn 5x points on Lyft rides through March 2022.

For more details on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can read Team Clark’s full review of the card here.


Key Differences Between the Cards

Now that you have a good understanding of what each card brings to the table, let’s examine a few key differences that may help you make your decision.

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Rewards Programs

As you’d expect with the higher annual fee, you’re going to see a better multiplier on both dollars spent and points redeemed with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Spending CategorySapphire Reserve Points ValueSapphire Preferred Points Value
Travel3 points per dollar spent2 points per dollar spent
Dining3 points per dollar spent2 points per dollar spent
All other purchases1 point per dollar spent1 point per dollar spent

This advantage for the Reserve extends to redemption value if you use your earned points on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel. You’ll receive a 1.5x multiplier with the Reserve card, whereas the Preferred card only has a 1.25x multiplier.

So what’s the end result for rewards points on each card?

Well, let’s say you spend $5,000 on travel and dining per year with both cards and redeem your points for more travel through Chase.

Here’s what you can expect the value of the points to be for each card:

Points Earned on $5,000 Travel/Dining SpendingDollar Value if Redeemed on Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel
Sapphire Reserve15,000$225 (at 1.5x redemption rate)
Sapphire Preferred10,000$125 (at 1.25x redemption rate)

So, as you can see, every $5,000 spent on annual dining and travel can result in up to $100 more in rewards with the Sapphire Reserve card.

Welcome Offers

Believe it or not, the cheaper Chase Sapphire card actually has the better welcome bonus at the moment.

Here’s a look at how you could maximize the value of each welcome bonus.

Welcome Bonus for spending $4,000 within 3 monthsDollar Value if Redeemed at 1x RateDollar Value if Redeemed on Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel
Sapphire Reserve60,000 points$600$900 (redeemed at 1.5x rate)
Sapphire Preferred100,000 points$1,000$1,250 (redeemed at 1.25x rate)

The Sapphire Preferred welcome bonus could be worth up to $350 more than the Sapphire Reserve if redeemed for travel through Chase, and up to $400 more on things like statement credits.

This advantage for the cheaper card comes without a higher spending threshold to earn the bonus. This is a clear win for the Preferred card.

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Ways To Earn Back Your Annual Fee

If you look past the temporary welcome bonuses, another way to evaluate which card could be right for you is to see how easy or difficult it could be to “earn” your annual fee back through perks each year.

As mentioned previously, there is a $300 annual statement credit for travel available via the Sapphire Reserve card that is not available to Preferred cardholders. That effective makes this a comparison of $250 (instead of $550) vs. $95.

The Reserve offers some pretty tangible ways to reclaim that $250 each year. Those include a statement credit for your renewal of Global Entry or TSA Precheck, complimentary premium subscriptions to DoorDash and Lyft and free travel upgrades at hotels.

The Preferred card does not offer any of the perks mentioned above, but it does match the Reserve card line for line on things like auto rental insurance, extended warranties on new purchases and trip cancellation insurance. These are all products that cost you extra outside the realm of using these credit cards, but are hard to place an exact value on from year to year as usage may vary.


Final Thoughts

So which one of these cards is the best fit for you?

I’d suggest sitting down and doing a little math on how much money you’ve spent on travel in recent years. (If you’re resuming travel, largely ignore the spending during that period. If you’re altering your travel plans for the foreseeable future as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you could use your spending during 2020 as an indicator for near-term spending).

What you’re most likely to find is that the Sapphire Preferred is a better value for everyone who isn’t an “extreme” traveler. It offers a strong welcome bonus and enough of the desired travel protections to make it worth $95 to most recreational travelers.

However, if you are one of those extreme travelers who spend $10,000 or more per year on travel, you may want to pony up the extra cash to enjoy the luxury benefits that come with the Sapphire Reserve card.

It’s hard to place a dollar value on things like airport lounge access, but even a few trips to that lounge per year could definitely be worth a few hundred dollars.

Do you have experience with either of the Chase Sapphire cards? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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