The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards offer two of the most valuable sign-up bonuses among travel rewards cards, thanks to the value and flexibility of Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
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With winter coming to an end, you may already be plotting your summer getaway – replete with palm trees and balmy beaches – and wondering how credit card points can help you get there. If you are hoping to fund your summer vacation with a large sign-up bonus, then applying for a Chase Sapphire card may be the first item on your to-do list.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offer two of the most valuable sign-up bonuses among travel rewards cards, thanks to the value and flexibility of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The Sapphire Reserve card offers 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months, while the Sapphire Preferred card offers 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first three months.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two cards is that the Sapphire Reserve is a premium travel rewards card that charges $450 annually, while the Preferred card charge $95 per year.
Which Chase Sapphire card is better in the first year
At first glance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card may seem like the better value. Along with offering a higher sign-up bonus, the Preferred card’s annual fee is only $95.
The Reserve card, by contrast, comes with a $450-annual fee. In fact, along with charging $450 per year, the card also charges a fee of $75 for each authorized user.
So why would anyone choose the Reserve card over the Preferred card? Read on to see why we think the Reserve card could be worth paying the extra $450 fee during the first year.
Comparing Chase Sapphire cards
Chase Sapphire Preferred
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 earnings in first year ($15,900 spend)||$698||$700|
Despite its high annual fee, the Reserve card’s value becomes apparent when you redeem your points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a 50 percent bonus on Ultimate Rewards travel, compared to a 25 percent bonus for the Sapphire Preferred – making the Reserve’s sign-up bonus 25 percent more valuable than that of the Preferred card.
Additionally, the Reserve card offers $300 in annual travel credit, which can be applied to airfare and other travel costs and a $100 statement credit every four years for Global Entry/TSA precheck applications. These travel bonuses, which can average $325 in statement credits per year, help cancel out the majority of the Reserve card’s annual fee.
Recent changes to the Chase Sapphire cards
The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cards’ sign-up bonuses do not change frequently. The Sapphire Reserve card – which premiered with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus in August of 2016 – has updated its sign-up bonus only once since then to 50,000 points. The Sapphire Preferred card recently increased its sign-up bonus by 10,000 points.
|CHASE SAPPHIRE RESERVE CARD RECENT CHANGES|
|Change date||Sign-up bonus|
|Jan. 12, 2017||50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 90 days|
|Aug. 24, 2016||100,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 90 days|
|CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED CARD RECENT CHANGES|
|Change date||Sign-up bonus|
|March 19, 2019||60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months|
(formerly 50,000 points after $4,000 spend in first 90 days)
Chase also ran a unique promotion that offered Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cardholders 100,000 points if they closed a mortgage with Chase by Aug. 6, 2017.
Who is eligible for the sign-up bonus?
The Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonuses are only available to new cardholders who have not received a new card member bonus for any Sapphire card in the past 48 months. Also, Chase only allows you to own one Sapphire card at a time, so you are not eligible for the bonus if you are already a Sapphire cardholder. Of course, you have to qualify for the cards first, which means you have to have a credit score in the excellent range (at least 750).
Chase doesn’t appear to have a hard limit on how many cards you own, though they may deny your application if you have too large of a credit limit across your other Chase cards. Also, while there is no strict rule on how many Chase cards you can apply for within a certain time frame, many applicants report a limit of one to two new cards per month.
Chase has come down hard recently on applicants who open many accounts at once. Though it’s not an official policy, Chase appears to be enforcing a “5/24” rule on new credit card applications. What this means is – if you have opened at least five credit card accounts in the past 24 months with any issuer (not just Chase) – your application will likely be denied. The rule seems to apply to any credit card account that shows up on your credit report, including co-branded store cards and authorized user accounts. (On the plus side, business credit cards that don’t report to your personal credit report do not affect your chances of being approved.)
Bonus tip: If the sign-up bonus increases within 90 days after you’ve been approved, you can ask to be matched to the higher offer.
Best way to use the Chase Sapphire cards’ sign-up bonus
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cards are flexible point cards that offer a wide array of options for redeeming or transferring your points. You can redeem points as statement credits, direct deposits into a bank account, for gift cards or travel or to purchase merchandise through Amazon.com or the Chase Pay app.
As you can see from the table below, travel redemptions are by far the best option with the Chase Sapphire cards. When you redeem your points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, you get a 25 to 50 percent bonus (depending on which card you own), drastically boosting the value of your points.
Redemption options for Chase Sapphire cards
|Redemption option||Point value||Value of 60,000-point sign-up bonus|
|Ultimate Rewards travel portal – Chase Sapphire Reserve card (50% redemption bonus)||1.5 cents||$900|
|Ultimate Rewards travel portal – Chase Sapphire Preferred card (25% redemption bonus)||1.25 cents||$750|
|Statement credit||1 cent||$600|
|Direct deposit||1 cent||$600|
|Gift cards||1 cent||$600|
|Amazon.com purchases||0.8 cent||$480|
|Chase Pay purchases||0.8 cent||$480|
Moreover, you can transfer your points at a 1:1 value to one of Chase’s many travel partners to get even higher values on your points. For instance, we value Southwest Airlines points at 1.6 cents on average (though, the value can vary widely depending on the ticket that you purchase), which means a 50,000-point bonus can net you $800 of value on average when used for Southwest airfare:
Transfer options for Chase Sapphire cards
|Transfer option||Point value||Value of 60,000-point sign-up bonus|
|Singapore Airlines transfer||2.36 cents||$1,416|
|British Airways transfer||2.26 cents||$1,560|
|Southwest Airlines transfer||1.6 cents||$960|
|Jetblue transfer||1.53 cents||$918|
|United Airlines transfer||1.52 cents||$912|
|Hyatt Gold Passport transfer||1.43 cents||$858|
|Ritz-Carlton transfer||1.22 cents||$732|
|Air France transfer||1 cent||$600|
|Virgin Atlantic transfer||0.8 cent||$480|
|Marriott Rewards transfer||0.8 cent||$480|
|IHG transfer||0.65 cent||$390|
An extra 50,000 bonus points per year
In addition to a sign-up bonus, the Chase Sapphire and Sapphire Preferred cards offer a referral bonus worth up to 50,000 points each year. Chase’s “Refer-a-Friend” promotion gives Sapphire and Sapphire Preferred cardholders 10,000 points for each person they refer who is approved for the card – up to five people per year. To take part in the promotion, enter your last name, zip code and last four digits of your credit card on Chase’s refer-a-friend page. On the following page, you will enter the first name and email address of each person you wish to invite. You also have the option to post an invitation link to Facebook or Twitter or refer friends through the Chase app.
Should you apply for a Chase Sapphire card now?
If you are planning a trip sometime in the coming months, then it’s almost certainly a good time to sign up for a Sapphire card, since the bonuses rarely change and the points can take you practically anywhere you want to travel. Also, because the 5/24 rule limits the number of Chase cards you can sign up for in a 24-month period, we recommend applying sooner rather than later to get the clock started.
See related:Earn a $150 bonus with the Chase Freedom cards, Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which card is better for you?, Chase Ultimate Rewards guide: The best ways to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points