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Home News Sapphire showdown: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Sapphire showdown: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card are two of the most talked-about travel credit cards, thanks to the valuable Ultimate Rewards program, top-notch benefits and valuable travel protections.

You might assume that the Chase Sapphire Reserve — which comes with a higher annual fee and more luxury benefits — is always the better choice. It is the higher-tier card, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the better card for you. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred offering a higher sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months and travel understandably on the back burner for many cardholders, there are plenty of reasons why it could be the more attractive option for your wallet.

Before we get into the benefits of these two cards, note that you can’t hold the CSP and the CSR at the same time, and you need to wait at least 48 months between earning the sign-up bonus on one card before you can earn it on the other. Also, make sure you don’t bump up against Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule.

Travel coverage and purchase protection

It’s also worth comparing the coverage offered by these two cards for things like travel delays, trip cancellation and purchase protection.

An argument for the Reserve

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve is obviously the more premium of the two cards. If you’re a frequent traveler, the Reserve will likely give you more long-term value.

Premium travel benefits

If you’re looking for premium perks, the Reserve is the way to go. You’ll get a $300 travel credit each year with the Reserve, a $100 credit for the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee every four years and a Priority Pass Select membership that gives you entry into airport lounges around the world. Plus, the card just added new benefits.

As part of a new partnership with food delivery service DoorDash, cardholders receive a $60 annual DoorDash credit to use on food delivery each year in 2020 and 2021 and a one-year complimentary subscription to DashPass (which waives the delivery fee at eligible restaurants and discounts service fees on orders of more than $12). Cardholders will also get a free one-year Lyft Pink membership, which includes a 15% discount on all rides and free bike and scooter rentals each month.

While some of these perks can’t be used right now, if you take advantage of these perks later on in 2020 and into 2021, you’ll more than offset the cost of the Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee each year.

Higher earning rates

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a higher earning rate than the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Those who spend a lot on Lyft, travel and dining will find the added points per dollar on those purchases rewarding. For example, if you know you’ll spend $50 per month on Lyft and $1,000 a month on travel and dining

You can see that there is potentially a huge difference in earnings over the course of a year. Even though TPG values all Ultimate Rewards (no matter which card earns them) at 2 cents each, the Reserve provides $300 more in annual rewards value in the above example. The more you plan to spend in those bonus categories, the bigger the difference in rewards. Let’s say you spend $2,000 a month on travel and dining and the same $50 on Lyft. That would bring your Reserve earnings up to 78,000 points annually ($1,560 in value) versus 51,000 points with the Preferred ($1,020).

Keep in mind, though, that you won’t earn 3x on travel until you have used up your $300 travel credit.

Both cards have received temporary benefits from Chase to help cardholders maximize their cards while travel may not be in everyone’s 2020 plans, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve has understandably gotten higher temporary earning rates as well — 10x on select streaming services (on up to $1,500), 5x at gas stations (on up to $1,500) and 5x on Instacart (up to $3,000) through Sept. 30, 2020.

50% redemption bonus

In addition to a higher earning rate, the Reserve also comes with a higher redemption rate when you book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. The Chase Sapphire Reserve allows you to redeem each point at 1.5 cents each, compared to 1.25 cents each with the Preferred.

I don’t typically suggest booking hotels through a third-party portal unless you find a great deal, because you typically won’t earn hotel points, elite credits or have your elite status recognized (though that isn’t always the case). But if you are regularly booking airfare through the portal, it’s worth having the Reserve for the higher redemption rate. A $600 plane ticket will cost you 48,000 points with the Preferred but only 40,000 points with the Reserve.

Through Sept. 30, this 50% redemption bonus also extends to grocery stores, home improvement stores and dining establishment purchases that can be erased through Chase’s new Pay Yourself Back feature.

Better trip insurance coverage

With more cards cutting trip insurance, premium coverage is harder to come by. Both the Preferred and the Reserve offer a great selection of travel insurance benefits but you get better coverage with the Reserve — almost double the coverage amount on some benefits like travel accident insurance and purchase protection. On its own, this may not be a reason to choose the Reserve over the Preferred, but when combined with the other additional benefits the Reserve offers, it could be a deciding factor.

An argument for choosing the Preferred

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred can’t compete with the Reserve when it comes to perks such as the annual travel credit and the return on bonus-category spending, but this card still could make more sense for you.

Lower annual fee

The first advantage of the Sapphire Preferred is the most obvious: a significantly lower annual fee. The Sapphire Reserve costs $550 per year while the Preferred costs only $95. Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 annual travel credit, which effectively lowers the cost to just $250 per year — a $155 premium over the Sapphire Preferred.

If you’ll be spending at least $300 on travel in a year anyway, it could be worth paying more for the Reserve. If that fee doesn’t seem manageable, the Sapphire Preferred Card is a very worthwhile alternative. In fact, I’ve held off on upgrading my own Chase Sapphire Preferred to the Chase Sapphire Reserve this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic and my limited travel spending in 2020.

The Preferred’s elevated sign-up bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred currently wins out over the Chase Sapphire Reserve by offering a higher sign-up bonus. Right now, you’ll earn 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, meaning this bonus is worth up to $1,600. By comparison, the Reserve is offering 50,000 points after you hit $4,000 in spend within the first three months, which is worth only $1,000.

Here’s the caveat: you can only receive one bonus from a Chase Sapphire card within 48 months, which means you need to choose carefully. The additional $600 in value you’ll get with the Preferred’s sign-up bonus is a compelling reason to apply for it over the Reserve. If you decide that you would get more value with the Reserve card’s features, you can always request an upgrade later down the line.

Same access to Ultimate Rewards transfer partners

Even though it doesn’t offer all the same premium benefits, the Sapphire Preferred Card offers identical transfer benefits to the Reserve card. No matter which card you choose, you’ll be able to move your Ultimate Rewards points (earned both through the sign-up bonus and through spending) to the program’s airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio. Chase’s airline partners give you access to all three of the top alliances (Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam), so you’ll have a strong variety of options for putting your points to use.

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The two cards do, however, differ when it comes to redeeming points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. With the Preferred, you’ll get 1.25 cents in value per point, while with the Reserve you’ll get a higher value of 1.5 cents per point.

Check out our guide on maximizing Chase’s transfer partners

You still get primary rental car insurance

Long before Chase introduced the Sapphire Reserve, award travelers sang the praises of the Sapphire Preferred card’s auto collision damage waiver (CDW) benefit. This perk provides reimbursement for damage as a result of collision or theft for rentals of 31 days or less when you decline the rental agency’s CDW. If you’re eligible, you’ll be reimbursed up to the actual cash value of most rental vehicles.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the terms and conditions actually cap reimbursement at $75,000. (It’s unlikely you’d need more reimbursement from either card, since most rental cars are worth far less.) It’s worth noting that the Preferred’s coverage excludes “expensive, exotic and antique automobiles.”

No authorized user fee

There are various reasons to consider an authorized user. You could be looking to help someone build up his or her credit history; you might want to provide employees with cards for a business account or maybe you’re looking to earn bonus rewards for adding additional users. With the Preferred, there’s no cost to add additional users. With the Reserve card, on the other hand, it costs $75 per year for each authorized user (most likely because each gets his or her own Priority Pass Select membership for airport lounge access).

Easier to get approved

A final reason to consider the Sapphire Preferred Card over the Sapphire Reserve Card is that it could be easier to be approved for the Preferred. As an ultra-premium card, the Reserve requires a top-notch credit score. You’ll still need a solid score for the Sapphire Preferred (typically somewhere in the high 600s to the 700s), but you might have an easier time getting approved for that card if your score is on the low end of the optimal range.

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has long been a TPG favorite. When the Reserve launched, however, it quickly became a go-to for luxury perks such as a Priority Pass Select membership and the annual $300 travel credit. You really can’t go wrong with either card; each has a lot to offer both beginners and veterans in the points-and-miles game.

If you’re looking at applying for one or the other right now, it’s important to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s elevated sign-up bonus. It’s worth hundreds of dollars more without the Reserve’s $550 annual fee. You can always request an upgrade later on if you decide the Reserve will better serve your travel needs.

Apply here for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with a 80,000-point sign-up bonus.

Featured photo John Gribben for The Points Guy.

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