[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners once they become available here — Chase Sapphire Preferred. For current terms and conditions, please see card agreements. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
For many years, the Chase Sapphire Preferred was the card to carry if you wanted a premium travel credit card in your wallet. You could earn a generous signup bonus and extra points on travel and restaurant purchases — all for a very reasonable annual fee (currently $95, waived the first year). Then Chase decided it was time to make a big move and released the Chase Sapphire Reserve, undoubtedly the most talked about credit card of 2016. (The Sapphire Reserve was so popular, Chase temporarily ran out the metal versions of the card shortly after its August debut.).
While the elder Chase Sapphire Preferred (see full review here) and new Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards offer a lot of the same benefits, including certain trip cancellation/interruption and baggage delay insurance, there are some major differences between the two. In this article, we’ll walk you through each card to help you decide which might be the better choice for your wallet.
A few quick asides before we begin: First, we’re going over the cards’ major terms and conditions. It’s still important to read the fine print of their agreements before applying. Also, before you fill out any credit card application, it’s a good idea to know where your credit stands. Remember, you’ll need a good credit score to qualify for the premium cards out there. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)
Now let’s break down the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Comparing the Rewards
One of the biggest differences between the two cards is the rewards they provide their cardholders. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you will earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months. That bonus is equivalent to $625 when you redeem your points through Chase’s travel portal. Cardholders earn two points per dollar spent on travel and at restaurants. Any other purchase will earn one point per dollar spent.
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can receive 100,000 Ultimate Reward points after you spend $4,000 within three months. That signup bonus is worth a whopping $1,500 when redeemed through Chase’s travel portal — and it’s a huge reason why the card got so much attention last year. The base amount of points you can earn on purchases with the Sapphire Reserve is also higher. You will earn three points per dollar on both travel and at restaurants; all other purchases will earn one point for every dollar you spend.
Before you start thinking the choice between the two cards sounds like a no-brainer, we must discuss …
The Annual Fee
What really sets these two cards apart in terms of picking one for your wallet is their annual fees. If you carry the Sapphire Preferred, the annual fee is $95 — and that charge gets waived the first year. Conversely, because it’s thought of as an elite credit card, the Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $450 — and that charge is not waived the first year. (You can get an idea of how the Chase Sapphire Reserve stacks up to other premium credit cards on the market here and, if you’re looking for a more affordable rewards credit card, remember, there are plenty of no-annual-fee credit cards out there.)
Redeeming Your Points
Whether you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you will be able to transfer the points you earn to one of the bank’s many airline and hotel transfer partners. These partners include Hyatt, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and more. As previously mentioned, you can also use your points directly for travel through the Ultimate Rewards platform.
Why Might You Pick the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
Anyone that chooses the Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred does so mostly because there is more value per point, both when you are earning points and spending them. They are able to overlook the high annual fee because the math works out to their advantage, especially if they can use the following ancillary benefits the card provides:
- A $300 annual travel credit: One of the big added benefits of the Sapphire Reserve card is that it comes with a $300 annual travel credit. Each time you make a valid purchase on travel, you will receive a statement credit, up to $300 per calendar year. Chase has a pretty wide definition of travel, so a lot of expenses, including airfare and hotels, would be eligible.
- A $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check: With the Sapphire Reserve, you will also receive a statement credit of $100 to cover the cost of Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check, which can help you bypass long lines at the airport.
- Access to airport lounges: If you are a frequent traveler, you will enjoy the complimentary Priority Pass that comes with the Sapphire Reserve card. With this membership, you will gain entry to over 900 airport lounges worldwide.
- Special benefits when you patronize the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Another benefit for frequent travelers, when you choose to stay at properties within the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, you’ll be eligible for a few special benefits as a Sapphire Reserve cardholder. You can receive early check-in and late check-out, complimentary room upgrades, daily breakfast for two, and a unique gift at each property, when available.
Why Might You Pick the Chase Sapphire Preferred?
It’s all about that annual fee — especially since both cards carry the same variable 16.24% to 23.24% annual percentage rate (APR). (Your APR will be determined largely by your credit standing.)
The biggest reason someone might choose the Sapphire Preferred over the Sapphire Reserve is because they can’t get over spending $450 just to carry a credit card. Plus, if they don’t plan on using a lot of the benefits on the Sapphire Reserve and/or don’t do much traveling, it makes more sense to pay the Preferred’s more practical $95 annual fee, which, again, gets waived the first year.
If you would like to add a significant other or your children as authorized users to your account, the Sapphire Preferred might be the better choice as well. For starters, you can earn a 5,000-point bonus when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months. Plus, with the Sapphire Reserve, there is a $75 annual fee tacked on for each authorized user. That means they would need to spend $5,000 on the card each year just to break even on the cost.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.