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August 2, 2017

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Should You Get?

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Does it make sense to choose Chase Sapphire Reserve over Sapphire Preferred, despite the massive annual fee? Read on for the in-depth comparison.

The Chase Sapphire cards are a couple of the most popular travel cards on the market.

You can use points toward travel on the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a discount, or transfer them to airline and hotel partners. This makes the cards very versatile to use.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee ($0 intro for the first year) and is a good choice for most travelers. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is its luxury sibling with a $450 annual fee, but it offers more rewards and benefits. Which one is right for you?

We'll do a full run-down comparing the two cards below, so you can make your own choice. But first, let's highlight the current Chase credit card promotions.

What is the Best Chase Credit Card Promotion for 2018?

Overview: Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve

Before we start, here's how the two cards work in a nutshell:

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual Fee$0 Intro Annual Fee for the First Year, then $95$450 annual fee
Points DealIntroductory Bonus Reward Points: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®Introductory Bonus Reward Points: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
TravelTravel Rewards: 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.
1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Travel Rewards: 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
PointsPoint Rewards: 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwidePoint Rewards: 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Airline Status Airline Status: $300 Annual Travel Credit (as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card).
Complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership for access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide. Enrollment required for Priority Pass Select
RestaurantDining Rewards: 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwideDining Rewards: 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
 Apply NowApply Now

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year). You get 2x points on travel and dining, and 1x on everything else. You get a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 90 days. That's worth $625 when you redeem for travel on Ultimate Rewards.

  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee. You get 3x points on travel and dining, and 1x on everything else. You get a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 90 days. That's worth $750 when you redeem for travel on Ultimate Rewards.

    You also get a $300 annual credit for travel purchases, Priority Pass Select membership, and Global Entry fee reimbursement.

Now, with these major differences in mind, let's go over why you may prefer one over the other.

Benefits: What You Get with Either Card

Both cards are in the Ultimate Rewards (UR) family of cards. This is Chase's travel reward program. In our opinion, it's one of the best credit card travel programs out there.

With both cards, you get:

  • 50,000 points promotion. Both cards give you 50,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

    However, those points are worth different amounts if you use them for travel purchases on the Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

    • With Sapphire Preferred, the points are worth 25% more (50,000 points = $625 toward travel)
    • With Sapphire Reserve, the points are worth 50% more (50,000 points = $750 toward travel)

  • Ability to transfer to travel partners. UR points can be transferred to Chase's airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio. This can potentially make each point worth a lot more.

    Chase has some of the most useful travel partners. Airline partners include United and Southwest; hotel partners include Hyatt and Marriott.

  • No foreign transaction fee. Neither card has that common 3% fee for purchases made outside of the U.S.

  • Travel perks. Both cards provide a variety of travel benefits, including: trip cancellation insurance, lost baggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, and primary car rental insurance.

    The coverage with Chase Sapphire Reserve is slightly better. We'll compare them more in detail below.

Why You May Prefer Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Generally, if you don't travel very frequently, the Sapphire Preferred will do just fine for you.

Here are some reasons why Chase Sapphire Preferred may be better:

  • $95 annual fee. This is a lot easier to swallow than a $450 annual fee. And plus, there is an introductory annual fee of $0 the first year (which the Sapphire Reserve does not have). This means that you just need to spend at least $9,500 a year on your card to make up for it (or $4,750 in travel/dining purchases).

  • $0 for authorized users. If you want to add authorized users, then the Sapphire Preferred is cheaper. There is no additional annual fee to add authorized users, while each one costs $75 for the Sapphire Reserve.

Why the Chase Sapphire Reserve Is Worth Considering

Chase Sapphire Reserve
Apply for Chase Sapphire Reserve
The $450 annual fee sounds like a lot, but the Sapphire Reserve offers many benefits that can help justify the fee.

The additional benefits include:

  • $300 annual travel credit. This is one of the most exciting perks of the card. This travel credit can be used toward any travel purchase charged to the card. This is a good perk to help justify the $450 annual fee.

  • 3x points on travel and dining. This is a big improvement from the 2x points Preferred gives you. This helps you rack up UR points a lot faster.

  • 50% more value when you redeem points toward travel on Ultimate Rewards. This is another huge upgrade. Your points are worth 1.5 cents a piece on the Chase travel portal (while Sapphire Preferred's are worth 1.25 cents). This makes the travel portal more rewarding to use.

  • Priority Pass Select Membership. This complimentary membership allows you access into 1,000+ airport lounges around the world. Normally, this membership costs $399/year. Just note that most Priority Pass lounges are in international airports, so if your travels are mostly domestic, then you won't be getting much use out of it.

  • $100 TSA Pre or Global Entry application credit. Every 4 years, you get a $100 application fee credit for either TSA Pre (expedited security screening) or Global Entry (expedited customs).

Both Do Have Downsides

Beware of these potential downsides for both cards.

  • High APR. Neither card has an introductory APR offer for purchases or balance transfers. And the APR is 17.24% to 24.24% variable, depending on your creditworthiness. So make sure you are able to pay off the balance each month.

  • You only get bonus points for travel and dining. This is good if you eat out and travel. Otherwise, it may be hard to rack up the points. If you don't travel or eat out too much, but still want to earn rewards for a future vacation, consider the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. You get 2x points on ALL purchases.

Benefits Comparison

Both cards provide premium travel benefits. Here's how the Chase Sapphire benefits compare:

Trip Cancellation/Interruption
If you've paid for your trip with the card, you can get reimbursed if your trip is interrupted by weather, illness, or other covered circumstances. This applies for pre-paid, non-refundable expenses, including airfare, hotels, and tours.

  • Preferred: up to $10,000
  • Reserve: up to $10,000

Trip delay reimbursement
Be reimbursed for expenses such as lodging and meals if your flight is delayed.

  • Preferred: up to $500 each person (if delayed more than 12 hours or overnight)
  • Reserve: up to $500 each person (if delayed more than 6 hours or overnight)

Lost baggage reimbursement
You and your immediate family members can be reimbursed for check-in or carry-on luggage that is damaged or lost by the carrier.

  • Preferred: up to $3,000 per passenger (up to $500 per person for jewelry, watches, and electronics)
  • Reserve: same

Baggage delay reimbursement
If your baggage is delayed for over 6 hours after you arrive, you can be reimbursed for essentials, such as toiletries and clothes.

  • Preferred: up to $100/day for 5 days
  • Reserve: same

Travel Accident Insurance
When you pay for your air, bus, train or cruise transportation with your card, you are eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage.

  • Preferred: up to $500,000
  • Reserve: up to $1,000,000

Emergency Medical Care
Sick on a trip? If you are at least 100 miles from home, you can get reimbursed for emergency medical care for you or immediate family members.

  • Preferred: None
  • Reserve: up to $2,500; also includes coverage for emergency evacuation up to $100,000

Car Rental Insurance
Both cards offer primary, not secondary, collision and damage insurance for most rental cars when you pay the entire car rental fee in full and decline the rental company's collision and damage insurance.

  • Preferred: up to the actual cash value of the car for theft and collision in the U.S. and abroad; does not include expensive and exotic cars
  • Reserve: up to $75,000 reimbursement for theft and collision in the U.S. and abroad

Roadside Assistance
Available services include towing, jumpstarting, tire changes, locksmith services, or gas fill-ups. Limitations apply.

  • Preferred: $59.95 per service call
  • Reserve: covers up to $50 per incident, up to 4 times a year

Purchase Protection
On most purchases, you can be reimbursed if the eligible item is damaged or stolen within 120 days from purchase.

  • Preferred: up to $500
  • Reserve: up to $1,000

Price Protection
If you buy an eligible item and less than 90 days after the purchase, find it advertised for a lower price, you can be reimbursed the difference. This is only for items purchased in the U.S.

  • Preferred: up to $500 dollars per eligible purchase with a maximum of $2,500 per year
  • Reserve: same

Overall, Chase Sapphire Reserve has the edge when it comes to benefits coverage. However, Chase Sapphire Preferred still has superior benefits compared to other travel cards. The reimbursements are generous and the primary car rental insurance is an extremely handy one.

Breakeven: When Is the Chase Sapphire Reserved Worth It?

You may be thinking that the Reserve card sounds like it's worth far more. So let's do some math.

  • The $300 annual travel effectively takes down the $450 annual fee to just $150.
  • Your expenses need to accumulate rewards worth over $150.
  • With each point worth 1.5 cents toward travel on the Ultimate Rewards portal, you only need 10,000 points to equal $150.
  • With 3x points on travel and dining, $3,334 spent on travel and dining per year ($278/month) will equal 10,000 points. You will break even.

Tip: If you spend $3,334 points on travel and dining with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you will receive 6,668 points (worth $83 toward travel on the Ultimate Rewards portal).

To break even on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you would need to spend $3,800 on travel and dining per year. This equals 7,600 points, which is $95 toward travel when you redeem through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Let's do a sample scenario. Let's say in a year, you spend $4,000 on travel and dining and $10,000 on everything else:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: (4,000 x 2) + (10,000 x 1) = 18,000 points. This equals $225 toward travel on the UR travel portal.

    $225 - $95 annual fee = $130 net rewards.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: (4,000 x 3) + (10,000 x 1) = 22,000 points. This equals $330 toward travel on the UR travel portal.

    $330 - $150 effective annual fee = $180 net rewards.

As long as you spend enough on travel and dining, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will usually come out ahead. The 3x bonus points and 1.5-cent value toward travel on Ultimate Rewards make each dollar you spend go far.

Bottom Line

If the $450 annual fee does not scare you, Chase Sapphire Reserve can offer more value and rewards. The caveat is that you must spend at least $300 a year in travel expenses in order to receive the full value.

If you only travel once or twice a year, then start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It is a great choice for most travelers.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

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