Chase Sapphire Preferred versus Chase Sapphire Reserve

Which card is better for you?

Chase Sapphire cards

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Now that the anniversary of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has rolled around, you may be wondering: Is the Reserve worth keeping in the long run?

Perhaps you are a current cardholder deliberating whether it is worth making another round on the card’s $450 annual fee. Or perhaps you are a prospective cardholder who has heard the lore of the Sapphire Reserve premiering with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus, and you’re wondering if the card is worth it now that the bonus has descended to 50,000 points.

Our analysis indicates that the Sapphire Reserve is still a great value – both for new cardholders and for those who’ve had the card for a year. Read on to see why the Sapphire Reserve may be a better option than the Chase Sapphire Preferred card:

CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED VERSUS CHASE SAPPHIRE RESERVE
  Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Rewards rate
  • 2:1 travel and restaurants
  • 1:1 other purchases
  • 3:1 travel and restaurants
  • 1:1 other purchases
Sign-up bonus
  • 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months
  • 5,000 points if you add authorized user and use the card in first 3 months
50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months
Annual fee
$95, $0 in first year $450
Estimated yearly rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend, including sign-up bonus) $412 $501
Pros
  • Good rewards rate on travel and dining
  • Versatile rewards points that can be used for statement credits, on the Chase Ultimate rewards site or transferred to airline partners on 1:1 basis
  • No authorized user fee
  • Better rewards rate on travel and dining
  • $300 yearly travel credit can help defray the cost of the annual fee since it covers most travel costs, including airfare
  • Priority Pass lounge access for cardholder + 2 guests
  • Versatile rewards points that can be used for statement credits, on the Chase Ultimate rewards site or transferred to airline partners on 1:1 basis
  • 50% bonus for redeeming points for travel through Ultimate Rewards portal (versus 25% with Preferred card)
Cons
  • Rewards rate on regular purchases is low
  • No lounge access
  • Rewards rate on regular purchases is low
  • $450 annual fee
  • $75 authorized user fee
Who should get this card?
  • Cardholders who want a great travel card and can’t stomach the $450 annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card
  • New cardholders who want to score a great sign-up bonus and travel credits
  • Cardholders who spend more than $3,334 per year on travel and dining
  • Cardholders who want luxury perks, including lounge access

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 50,000 bonus points for signing up and spending $4,000 in the first three months, as well as a 5,000-point bonus for adding an authorized user making a purchase on the card. Cardholders also get 2 points per dollar on restaurant and travel purchases.

Upsides: With 55,000 bonus points total, the card offers one of the most valuable sign-up offers. The card's bonus rate on travel and restuarant purchases also make it great for frequent travelers and diners. Additionally, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are both flexible and valuable. Not only can you redeem them as statement credits for any travel purchase, but you get a 25 percent bonus when you redeem them for travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal, and you can transfer them to an array of airline partners at a rate of 1:1.

Downsides: The rewards rate on general purchases is low – only 1 point per dollar. There are other travel cards (e.g., the Barclaycard World Elite Mastercard) that offer a flat 2 percent rate on all purchases. However, before you spring for a card with a higher general rewards rate, you need to consider that Chase Ultimate rewards points are probably more valuable than the other card’s points.

Chase Sapphire Reserve overview

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is Chase’s luxury-level card with a $450 annual fee. The card created a frenzy last 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 3 months. With the Reserve, you receive a 3 percent bonus on dining and travel purchases, which tops the 2 percent bonus on dining and travel purchases with the Preferred card.

Upsides: Though the Reserve’s sign-up bonus appears similar to the Preferred card’s, it actually holds more value because Reserve cardholders get a 50 percent bonus when they redeem their points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. (Preferred cardholders get a 25 percent bonus.) Also, the card offers an even better 3 percent rewards rate on travel and dining purchases, and, again, you get versatile Ultimate Rewards points that you can transfer to airline partners at a 1:1 rate.

The Reserve card comes with great luxury perks – including Priority Pass lounge access – that are more accessible than usual to the average traveler. The Reserve’s generous travel credits, including a $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck every four years and a $300 annual travel credit that applies to most travel expenses, help defray the cost of the annual fee.

Downsides: As with the Chase Preferred card, the 1 percent rewards rate on general purchases is low. Also, the $450 fee – which is not waived in the first year – may be too rich for many cardholders.

Best for new cardholders: Chase Sapphire Reserve

The $450 annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card may give you some sticker shock, but think things through thoroughly before you turn this card down because of its annual fee. There is a large amount of value hidden beneath the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s glossy surface.

Though the 50,000-point sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve looks comparable to the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s, consider this: Chase Sapphire Reserve members get a 50 percent bonus when redeeming points for travel through the Chase Ultimate rewards portal (compared to a 25 percent bonus for Chase Sapphire Preferred members). So, essentially, the sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card holds 25 percent more value than the bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

On top of a more valuable bonus, 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 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.

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 preferredChase Sapphire Preferred Chase Freedom UnlimitedChase Sapphire Reserve
Sign-up bonus/authorized user bonus value ($693) - $0 annual fee in first year = $693 Sign-up bonus value ($750) + $300 travel credit + $100 TSA credit - $450 annual fee = $700

Best for cardholders who spend more than $3,334 per year on travel and dining: Chase Sapphire Reserve

It doesn’t require much spending to see the value in the Chase Sapphire Reserve, thanks to the card’s 3 percent earning rate on dining and travel combined with the $300 travel credit you receive each year.

If we add the travel credit together with the bonus on dining and travel, we figure that you need to spend roughly $3,334 per year ($278 per month) on dining and travel to break even on the card. That’s a manageable figure for a frequent traveler.

Check our math in the table below:  When you add the bonuses, travel credits and rewards together, your earnings on $3,334 of dining and travel spending will cancel out the Reserve card’s annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, with a lower 2 percent rate on dining and travel and lower 25 percent redemption rate for travel rewards, can’t match the value of the Chase Sapphire Reserve:

REWARDS VALUE FOR $3,334 SPENT ON TRAVEL AND DINING
Chase Sapphire preferredChase Sapphire Preferred Chase Freedom UnlimitedChase Sapphire Reserve
2% of $3,334 + 25% redemption bonus - $95 annual fee = ($11.65) 3% of $3,334 + 50% redemption bonus + $300 travel credit - $450 annual fee = $0

Note, that this is a rough estimate, and the equation might vary for you if you decide to figure in other benefits or travel credits, whether you choose to add an authorized user to the Chase Sapphire Reserve (which costs $75) or whether you factor in the lack of an annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred in the first year. But hopefully this gives you the general idea: For many travelers, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is the way to go.

Best for lounge access: Chase Sapphire Reserve

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 $450 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 for a lower $50 fee (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.

CREDIT CARDS WITH LOUNGE ACCESS
Credit card Annual fee Lounges

Authorized user fee

Free guest access
Chase Sapphire Reserve $450 Priority Pass $75 2 guests
Citi Prestige $450 Priority Pass $50 None
Mastercard Black $495 Priority Pass $295 Immediate family or 2 guests
American Express Platinum $550
  • Priority Pass
  • Centurion
  • American Express
  • Airspace
  • Delta Sky Club
$175
  • 1 guest American Express lounges
  • 2 guests Airspace lounges
  • 2 guests Centurion lounges
  • 2 guests Priority Pass lounges
American Express Business Platinum $450
  • Priority Pass
  • Centurion
  • American Express
  • Airspace
  • Delta Sky Club
$350
  • 1 guest American Express lounges
  • 2 guests Airspace lounges
  • 2 guests Centurion lounges
  • 2 guests Priority Pass lounges
Ritz-Carlton Rewards $450 Priority Pass $0 2 guests

If you can’t stomach a high annual fee: Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great value

If you prefer not to risk the high annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card – because, for example, you’re not certain you can charge enough travel expenses to use the travel credit, or you simply can’t afford $450 – the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a great option with a lower annual fee, which is waived in the first year.

Like the Reserve card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is an Ultimate Rewards card, and Ultimate Rewards cards, as mentioned above, have the most flexible point currency. And, though the Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t match the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 50 percent bonus, it offers a respectable 25 percent bonus when you redeem your points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

As you can see from some of our sample redemptions in the chart below, the rewards value can easily outmatch the card’s annual fee each year:

CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED REDEMPTION OPTIONS ($15,900 YEARLY SPEND)
Average rewards rate Estimated points/year Sample redemptions: Estimated value
1.2% 19,080 - Statement credit
- Ultimate Rewards travel
- British Airways transfer
- Southwest Airlines transfer
- United Airlines transfer
$191
$239
$438
$305
$286

If you are new to the world of credit card rewards and are hoping to score a free trip with a large sign-up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great place to start.

How do other travel cards compare?

We believe that the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred are the best choices among general travel cards – with generous sign-up bonuses, travel credits and valuable, versatile points, you stand to get the best rewards value with these cards.

That said, there is a little bit of effort required with the Chase Sapphire cards, since you don’t earn the same rewards rate on all your purchases, and you need to keep track of all your redemption options – including the transfer value for airline partners – to get the best value on your points.

There are other cards that keep things simple by offering a high rewards rate on every purchase. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, for instance, offers 2 points per dollar on every purchase, which you can redeem as statement credits for any travel purchase, or through the Barclays travel portal for a 5 percent redemption bonus.

For a lower $59 annual fee, the Capital One Venture Rewards card also offers 2 points per dollar on every purchase. If you simply want to earn and redeem points at a high value without having to worry about doing calculations to get the best value, the Venture card is a good choice.

If you are searching for a great travel card with no annual fee, you should consider the Discover it Miles card. The card gives you 1.5 miles per dollar on every purchase and doubles those miles in the first year.

HOW DO OTHER CASH BACK CARDS COMPARE?
  Credit card Annual fee Average rewards rate Average annual value ($15,900 yearly spend)
Chase Sapphire Reserve $450 1.4% $501
Chase Sapphire Preferred $95 (waived first year)
1.2% $412
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard $89 (waived first year) 2% $491

Capital One Venture Rewards

(Update: As of 10/13/17, this offfer is no longer available through our site.)

$59 (waived first year) 2% $412
Citi Premier $95 (waived first year) 1.7% $413
Discover it Miles $0 1.5% $318
Citi Prestige $450 1.3% $181

VentureOne from Capital One

 

$0 1.3% $266
Premier Rewards Gold card from American Express $195 (waived first year) 1.6% $272

See related: Chase Freedom vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Which is best for you?, Which is the best card to use on Amazon.com purchases?

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy


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Updated: 12-11-2017