If you’re opting to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card because the fee is more affordable, we suggest you take a closer look at the Chase Sapphire Reserve – it’s actually the better value for many frequent travelers.
If you’re searching for a flexible travel rewards card to help fund your next vacation, the Chase Sapphire cards may be your best bet. Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® can take you a long way on points, but with drastically different price tags. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card charges $95 per year for card membership, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve card charges a hefty $550 annual fee.
Perhaps you’ve already decided that the Sapphire Reserve’s fee is beyond your means and are ready to apply for the Sapphire Preferred card – we suggest that you pause for a moment and more carefully compare the two cards. Our analysis suggests that the Sapphire Reserve is the better value for many cardholders. Not to mention – thanks to a $300 annual travel credit that makes up for most of the annual fee – it’s a surprisingly affordable option.
By our math, if you spend just over $5,400 per year on travel and restaurant purchases, you’re likely to come out ahead with the Sapphire Reserve card.
Read on to see if the Sapphire Reserve is the better option for you:
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve
|Sign-up bonus||60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months||50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months|
|More things to know|
|Choose the Sapphire Preferred if you …||Choose the Sapphire Reserve if you …|
Chase Sapphire Preferred overview
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is Chase’s original premium travel card – and a wildly popular one thanks to its generous sign-up bonus and versatile rewards points. New cardholders are treated to 60,000 bonus points for signing up and spending $4,000 in the first three months. Cardholders also get 2 points per dollar on restaurant and travel purchases.
Chase Sapphire Reserve overview
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is Chase’s luxury-level card with a $550 annual fee. The card created a frenzy in its first year when it premiered with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus. The bonus has since fallen to 50,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months. With the Reserve, you receive a 3 points per dollar on dining and travel purchases, which tops the 2-point bonus on dining and travel purchases with the Preferred card.
How to choose the right card for you
The choice between the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cards almost exclusively comes down to your travel and dining expenses. Here are three key questions to ask yourself when deciding between the two cards:
- Can you afford the fee? – Are you able to pay the Sapphire Reserve card’s $550 annual fee? Note – you shouldn’t skip the Sapphire Reserve just because the fee seems pricey. However, if you truly can’t afford to withdraw $550 from your bank account, you should consider the $95 Sapphire Preferred card instead.
- How much do you spend on travel and dining? – If you can afford the Sapphire Reserve card’s annual fee, you’ll need to get your calculator out and determine how much you’re likely to spend on travel and dining this year. If you spend at least $5,425 on travel and dining each year, the Sapphire Reserve is likely to be the better value (more on that below).
- Do you value lounge access? – If you’re looking for a credit card with lounge access, then the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the better option between these two. If you don’t picture yourself kicking back in airport lounges, however, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker – you can get plenty of value out of the remainder of Sapphire Reserve card’s features.
Why choose the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
Best for cardholders who spend more than $5,425 per year on travel and dining
It doesn’t require as much spending as you’d expect to see the value in the Chase Sapphire Reserve, thanks to the card’s 3 point earning rate on dining and travel combined with the $300 travel credit you receive each year. Plus, the card recently added another credit that offers value to those who spend a significant amount on dining – a $60 credit in both 2020 and 2021 for DoorDash orders.
If we add the travel and dining credits together with the bonus on dining and travel, we figure that you need to spend roughly $5,425 per year ($452 per month) on dining and travel to break even with the Sapphire Preferred card. While more than less frequent travelers likely spend, that’s a manageable figure for those who take regular trips and dine out frequently.
Check our math in the table below: When you add the bonuses, travel credits and rewards together, your earnings on $5,425 of dining and travel spending with the Sapphire Reserve card exactly match the earnings on the Sapphire Preferred card.
Rewards earned on $5,425 travel and dining spend
|Chase Sapphire Reserve card||Chase Sapphire Preferred card|
|$5,125 travel and dining spend ($5,425 – $300 travel credit) x 3 points per dollar = 15,375 points||$5,425 travel and dining spend x 2 points per dollar = 10,850 points|
|15,375 points x 1.5 cents point value = $231 (when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards)||10,850 points x 1.25 cent point value = $136 (when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards)|
|$231 + $300 travel credit + $60 DoorDash credit – $550 annual fee = $41||$136 – $95 annual fee = $41|
This is a rough estimate, and the equation might vary for you if you decide to figure in other benefits or travel credits and whether you choose to add an authorized user to the Chase Sapphire Reserve (which costs $75). But hopefully this gives you the general idea: For many travelers, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is the way to go.
Best value in the first year
The $550 annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card may give you some sticker shock, but think things through thoroughly before you opt for a card with a lower annual fee. There is a large amount of value hidden beneath the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s glossy surface.
The Sapphire Reserve offers a couple of generous travel credits – an annual $300 travel credit that covers anything that Chase categorizes as a travel purchase, including airfare, and up to a $100 statement credit every four years for Global Entry/TSA precheck. If you are a frequent traveler, you should be able to easily recoup $300 in travel costs, which will cancel out most of the card’s annual fee.
Purchases that qualify for the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit
As you can see from the table below, when you add together the travel credits and the sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the value of the card easily outmatches its annual fee in the first year (and that’s not including the extra points you earn on travel and dining). It also surpasses the value of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, despite that card’s lower annual fee.
Clearly, if you are planning to go on vacation or just some weekend getaways in the upcoming year, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best card to get you there:
Value of bonuses + credits in first year
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||Chase Sapphire Reserve|
|Sign-up bonus ($750) – $95 annual fee = $655||Sign-up bonus value ($750) + $300 travel credit + $100 Global Entry credit + $60 DoorDash credit – $550 annual fee = $660|
Best for lounge access
In combination with a valuable rewards program, the lounge access on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is a compelling reason to sign up for the card. While there are many competing luxury cards that come with lounge access – including the American Express Platinum cards, which offer the widest lounge network including ultra-swanky Centurion lounges – the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a good value on lounge access.
For a $550 annual fee, you and two guests get free access to the Priority Pass lounge network, and if you add on an authorized user for $75, that user is entitled to the same lounge access.
Though the Citi Prestige card also offers a Priority Pass membership to authorized users (plus you can bring along your entire immediate family for free), Citi Prestige can’t compare to the Sapphire Reserve card’s rewards program and flexible annual travel credit. For the all-around best value on luxury perks, the Sapphire Reserve card comes out ahead.
Best for travel insurance
Both Chase Sapphire cards come with great travel protections, including primary car rental insurance, insurance for lost and delayed luggage and up to $20,000 worth of trip cancellation and interruption insurance. However, the Sapphire Reserve has the edge over the Sapphire Preferred in terms of comprehensive travel coverage. It also offers a credit toward roadside assistance, $100,000 worth of emergency evacuation insurance and $2,500 worth of medical and dental insurance, in case you need to see a doctor while you’re traveling.
If you’re looking for the go-to card to cover your next vacation, you should check out the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
Travel insurance benefits
Chase Sapphire Preferred card
Chase Sapphire Reserve card
Best for families
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is considered a luxury travel card, but it’s also a great card for families trying to score discounted travel. Since the card has superior point-earning potential, you can earn your way to a free ticket faster. You can use the card’s car rental perks with National Car Rental and Avis to get a discount on your car rental, and – depending on the airport – you can use your Priority Pass membership to snag some snacks while you’re waiting for your flight. In some airports, you can even stop by a participating restaurant to grab a free meal for you and your family. (You get a $28 credit toward your meal plus a credit for each authorized user and one additional guest.)
Also, family-friendly Southwest Airlines is included in the Sapphire Reserve’s list of travel partners. If you already fly Southwest with your family because of their flexible seating and ticket change policies, you should take a close look at the Sapphire Reserve card – you can collect points for Southwest flights at a much faster pace.
Chase travel partners
|World of Hyatt|
See related: Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners
Why choose the Chase Sapphire Preferred?
Best option for a lower annual fee
If you prefer not to risk the high annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card – because you’re not certain you can charge enough travel expenses to use the travel credit, or you simply can’t afford $550 – the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a great option with a lower annual fee.
For $95 a year, you get many of the same features as the Sapphire Reserve card:
- A large sign-up bonus worth $750 when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
- Flexible points that can be redeemed for travel purchases from practically any source.
- The ability to transfer points 1:1 to 13 travel partners.
- Great travel protections, including primary car rental insurance.
That said, be sure to do the math before you opt for the Sapphire Preferred simply because the fee is lower – for many cardholders, the Sapphire Reserve is the better option.
It’s a great entry-level travel rewards card
If you’re just starting out in the world of travel rewards and want to get your feet wet before you dive into a more complex rewards program, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great starter card. Since the Sapphire Preferred’s points transfer to a variety of travel programs, you can learn the workings of a few airline loyalty programs and test out transferring points to miles, for a relatively small $95 annual fee. Or, if you decide this is all too complicated and time-consuming for you, you can cash in your points for statement credits and call it a day.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards are two wildly popular travel cards for good reason – they offer highly flexible rewards that can be a great value for many types of cardholders. In the battle between these cards, the Sapphire Reserve card has a clear advantage, and you’ll want to do some careful math before you go with the Sapphire Preferred card. Chase only allows you one Chase Sapphire card at a time, and you may have to wait a year or longer before you change to a different card. Make extra certain you’re selecting the card that matches your spending and travel patterns, because you’ll have to hold onto it for a while.