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 the majority of cardholders.
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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 $450 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 the majority of cardholders. Not to mention – thanks to a $300 annual travel credit that make up for most of the annual fee – it’s a surprisingly affordable option.
By our math, if you spend just over $3,400 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|
|Estimated yearly rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend, including sign-up bonus)||$397||$501|
|Who should get this card?|
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.
Upsides: With 60,000 bonus points, the card offers one of the most valuable sign-up offers. The card’s bonus rate on travel and restaurant 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 points per dollar on dining and travel purchases, which tops the 2 point bonus on dining and travel purchases with the Preferred card.
Upsides: Though the Reserve’s sign-up bonus appears smaller to the Preferred card’s, it actually provides the same 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 point 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 up to 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 point 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.
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.
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 – $450 annual fee = $700|
Best for cardholders who spend more than $3,425 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 point 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 $3,425 per year ($285 per month) on dining and travel to break even with the Sapphire Preferred 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 $3,425 of dining and travel spending with the Sapphire Reserve card exactly match the earnings on the Sapphire Preferred card. (Note: The rewards that you earn on the rest of your spending should easily offset the $9 deficit).
Rewards earned on $3,425 travel and dining spend
|Chase Sapphire Reserve card||Chase Sapphire Preferred card|
|$3,125 travel and dining spend ($3,425 – $300 travel credit) x 3 points per dollar = 9,375 points||$3,425 travel and dining spend x 2 points per dollar = 6,850 points|
|9,375 points x 1.5 cents point value = $140.63 (when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards)||6,850 points x 1.25 cent point value = $85.63 (when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards)|
|$140.63 + $300 travel credit – $450 annual fee = ($9)||$85.63 – $95 annual fee = ($9)|
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). 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 (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 option for a lower annual fee: Chase Sapphire Preferred
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.
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
– Southwest Airlines transfer
– United Airlines transfer
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.
See related: Chase Freedom vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Which is best for you?, Which is the best card to use on Amazon.com purchases?, Chase Ultimate Rewards guide: The best ways to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points