If you’re interested in travel rewards, you’ve likely heard that Chase offers some of the most lucrative and flexible rewards on the market.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve are two travel rewards credit cards that draw a lot of attention. That‘s partly because of their huge signup bonuses and partly because they earn the uber-flexible Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Let’s face it: Comparing the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Preferred is a tough choice. Both are fantastic cards, but if you don’t currently have either in your wallet, you’ll have to choose carefully.
Unfortunately, you can’t hold both cards at the same time. If you already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred but want the Reserve instead, you’ll need to drop the CSP and upgrade. Doubling up on the bonus is out too. If you’ve earned a signup bonus for any Sapphire card in the past 48 months, you’re not eligible to earn a second.
So, let’s compare the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cards so you can decide which is the better fit for you!
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is an excellent all-around travel rewards card with tons of benefits. It’s a great card for anyone getting started with travel rewards because it offers robust value for a reasonable annual fee. Here are the key takeaways you need to know:
- Huge Signup Bonus: Earn a whopping 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. That’s worth $750 in travel when you book through the Chase portal.
- Premium Earn Rate on Travel and Dining: Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and restaurant purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Oh, and the points are unlimited.
- Get 25% More Value for Travel: When you use your points to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, they’re worth 25% more.
- Easy Transfer to Travel Partners: Talk about flexibility! You can transfer points to any of Chase’s 13 travel partners at a 1:1 ratio. This includes airline partners like United, Southwest, and British Airways plus hotels like IHG, Hyatt, and Marriott. In many cases, you can get even more value from your points by transferring them.
- Insurance Benefits: The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with trip interruption/cancellation, trip delay, baggage delay coverage, and auto rental collision coverage. You also get purchase protection and extended warranty, so you can shop with confidence.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees: There are no extra fees for charging purchases in foreign currencies. That is a significant savings for the frequent traveler.
- Annual Fee: $95 with free authorized user cards.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a premium travel rewards card that appeals to frequent travelers. It carries a significantly higher annual fee than the CSP card, but for the right person, the value of the Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits justifies it. These are the highlights:
- Lucrative Signup Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. This signup bonus is smaller than the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but it’s worth the same $750 when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Why? Although the Preferred’s points are worth 25% more when you redeem that way, the Reserve’s are worth 50% more.
- $300 Travel Credit: This is an exceptional perk. Every year, you get a $300 statement credit for travel-related expenses. This includes airfare, hotels, travel agencies, and cruise lines. With that said, you can benefit even if you’re not taking a major trip. Things like campgrounds, buses, trains, taxis, bridge tolls, and parking garages also count. This credit effectively reduces the annual fee on the CSR to $150.
- Accelerated Earn Rate on Travel and Dining: Earn 3 points per dollar on restaurant and travel purchases (after the first $300 on travel) and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The points are unlimited and don’t expire as long as your account is open and in good standing.
- Get 50% More Value for Travel: As I mentioned above, your points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal.
- Transfer to Travel Partners: Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer points earned with the Reserve to all the same great travel partners at a 1:1 ratio, making the points super-flexible.
- Global Entry or TSA Pre√ Fee Credit: Waiting in lines at the airport sucks, but a frugal traveler may be hesitant to spring for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. Good news—the Chase Sapphire Reserve has you covered. Every 4 years, you’ll get a statement credit for your Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre√ ($85) application fee.
- Free Airport Lounge Access: This card comes with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, giving you access to over 1,000 VIP lounges. This makes long layovers exponentially more comfortable.
- Insurance Benefits: The Chase Sapphire Reserve includes trip cancellation/interruption, lost luggage, trip delay, and auto rental collision insurance. Unlike the Preferred, it also includes emergency evacuation and transportation coverage. The purchase protection has a high $10,000 claim limit, plus you get extended warranty and return protection.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees: Like any good travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t charge any fees for foreign currency transactions.
- Annual fee: $450, plus $75 for each authorized user.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Preferred: How They Compare
There’s no question that the Chase Sapphire Preferred is an awesome card. Comparing it to the Chase Sapphire Reserve feels a little unfair, though, because they’re not really in the same league.
Even so, you might be surprised to learn that you don’t have to spend that much on travel to benefit from the Reserve.
Here’s how they compare on three key features: signup bonus, annual fee, and earn rate.
Both cards offer fantastic signup bonuses that are worth $750 in travel when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred pays a higher signup bonus: 60,000 points compared to the Reserve’s 50,000.
As explained above, they have the same value when redeeming through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal. This is because the Reserve’s points are worth 1.5 cents compared to the Preferred’s 1.25 cents. However, that’s only when booking travel through the portal. If you’d rather redeem for cash, each point is worth 1 cent. In that scenario, the Preferred’s signup bonus is worth more: $600 vs. $500.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a much higher annual fee than the Preferred—almost five times as high. Of course, it also offers superior rewards. To determine if it’s worth it, you need to consider the value of the other rewards and your average annual spend.
First, the $300 annual travel credit effectively reduces the Reserve’s annual fee to $150, assuming you charge at least $300 in travel-related expenses each year. If you don’t, a premium travel rewards card is not a good fit anyway.
The Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit is worth up to $100 every 4 years, so on average, $25 a year. Now the annual fee is reduced to $125 a year. So, you’re basically comparing a card with a $95 annual fee to one with a $125 annual fee. Is paying that extra $30 a year worth it?
That depends on two things – how much you spend on travel and restaurants and whether you care about airport lounge access. If you’d use and enjoy the Priority Pass Select membership, that’s worth more than $30 and easily justifies getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
If that’s not the case, you really need to look at how much you spend on travel and restaurants.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns more points per dollar on travel and restaurants than the Chase Sapphire Preferred—3 points per dollar compared to 2 points per dollar on the CSP. It’s important to consider how much you spend in these categories—do the extra points offset the higher fee?
Let’s say you spend just $2,000 a year on travel and restaurants. With the Preferred, you’d earn 4,000 points; with the Reserve, you’d earn 5,700 (6,000 points minus the $300 travel credit that doesn’t count). Your 4,000 points would be worth 1.25 cents each if you redeemed them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal, so $50. With the Reserve, your 5,700 points are worth 1.5 cents each redeemed the same way, so $85.50.
That’s a $35.50 difference. That takes care of the extra $30 for the annual fee and still gives you $5.50 more in value. So basically, if you will use the Global Entry or TSA Pre√ fee credit, spend at least $2,000 a year on travel and restaurants, and will redeem your points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a better bet. Everything else is a bonus.
Who Should Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred?
Travel Reward Newbies – Don’t get me wrong, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is an excellent card for anyone who wants a great signup bonus, earn rate, and benefits. Because the annual fee is considerably less that the fee on the CSR, it’s also a more palatable option for someone who is new to travel rewards. While you can’t carrey both cards at once, you can upgrade from the Preferred to the Reserved later on if you decide that makes sense for you.
Anyone with Low Annual Spending on Travel and Restaurants – This one is pretty intuitive. If you don’t spend a lot on travel and dining, especially travel, chances are you’re not eager to pay $450 a year for a premium travel rewards card. That just wouldn’t make sense. You have to spend at least $2,000 a year on travel and restaurants (and use Global Entry or TSA Pre√) to benefit from the Reserve’s earn rate. If you don’t, stick with the Preferred.
Travelers Who Don’t Care About Airport Lounge Access – Depending on your home airport and the travel you typically do, you may not benefit much from the Priority Pass Select membership and lounge access. For example, if you take a lot of direct domestic flights, you don’t deal with many layovers and may not miss lounge access.
The Fee-Sensitive – Some people balk at large annual fees, no matter how lucrative the rewards. People with those inclinations are unlikely to be comfortable paying $450 in one shot for the Chase Sapphire Reserve but may accept the Preferred’s more reasonable $95 fee.
People Who Redeem Their Points for Cash – Although points on the CSR are worth more when redeemed through the Chase portal, when redeemed for cash back, points on either card are worth 1 cent each. Considering the Preferred comes with a bigger signup bonus and a much lower annual fee, cardholders who redeem for cash instead of travel might consider it the better deal.
Who Should Get the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
Anyone Who Spends Big on Travel and Restaurants – If you’re a frequent traveler who spends a lot on trips and restaurants, getting three points per dollar from the Chase Sapphire Reserve on these categories is probably worth the larger annual fee.
People Who Redeem Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal – When redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, points on the CSR are worth 50% more. Compared to points from the CSP, which are worth 25% more, people who book through the portal will get more from the Reserve.
Frequent International Travelers – International travel is more likely to have layovers, and Priority Pass lounges can be found in many domestic international terminals and abroad. Therefore, international travelers are the most likely to benefit from airport lounge access and should consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve. International travel also tends to be expensive, meaning you’ll benefit more from the 3X points on travel.
Travelers Who Haven’t Paid for Global Entry or TSA Precheck Lately – If you’re due to renew your Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, or if you’re not a member, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will cover the $100 fee. While this isn’t a reason to get the Reserve on its own (it’s only a $100 value every 4 years), it boosts the value of the card and might be the deciding factor if you’re on the fence.
Travelers Who Value Timely Trip Delay Coverage – The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve offer similar insurance packages, although the Reserve’s is a little better. In particular, the trip delay coverage on the Reserve is superior for delays that don’t require an overnight stay. With the Preferred, you’re not covered for any expenses until your delay is 12 hours or requires an overnight stay. With the Reserve, you’re covered after just 6 hours. In 6 hours, you’d definitely have to spring for a meal, and if you’re traveling as a family, that can get pricey.
CSP vs. CSR: The Bottom Line
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve are both excellent travel rewards cards with attractive signup bonuses and solid benefits.
If you’re just getting started with travel rewards, I recommend beginning with the Preferred. The signup bonus is larger, and the much lower annual fee feels like less of a risk. If you decide later that the Reserve’s $450 annual fee is worth it, you can always upgrade.
That said, when you consider the $300 travel credit, the airport lounge access, and the Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit, you don’t need to spend a fortune on travel and restaurants to get value from the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Depending how you choose to redeem your points, anywhere from $2,000 to $3,500 a year is enough to make it worth the higher fee.
Which card do you have and what’s your favorite benefit? Share with us in the comments below!