[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
In past years, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has been the go-to premium travel credit card. The card comes with a generous sign-up bonus and extra points on travel and restaurant purchases—all for a very reasonable annual fee of $95, which is waived the first year. Then Chase released the Chase Sapphire Reserve, one of the most talked-about credit cards of 2016 because of its pricey $450 annual fee and generous benefits. The Sapphire Reserve was so popular, Chase temporarily ran out of the metal versions of the card shortly after its August 2016 debut.
While the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards offer a lot of the same benefits, including certain trip cancellation and interruption insurance 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 needs.
The Annual Fee
What really sets these two cards apart is their annual fees. The Sapphire Preferred fee is $95, which is waived for the first year, and the Sapphire Reserve fee is $450, which is not waived at any time.
With the Sapphire Preferred card, you earn two points per dollar spent on travel and at restaurants. Any other purchases will earn one point per dollar spent. For cash and gift card redemptions, 100 points are worth $1, but for travel redemptions, 100 points are worth $1.25.
With the Reserve card, you get even more—you earn three points per dollar both on travel and at restaurants. All other purchases will earn one point for every dollar you spend. And like the Sapphire Preferred card, 100 reward points will get you $1 in cash and gift cards. However, you receive $1.50 for every 100 points of travel redemptions.
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you’ll earn 50,000 Chase rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months. To put that in perspective, 50,000 points are equivalent to $625 in travel rewards for Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Currently, the Sapphire Reserve card has the same sign-up bonus. But with the greater value in travel redemptions, those 50,000 points convert to $750 in travel rewards. When the Sapphire Reserve card was introduced last year, cardholders were given 100,000 points if they spent $4,000 or more in the first three months. All those points are equal to $1,500 in travel rewards—a huge reason why the card got so much attention last year.
Redeeming Your Points
Whether you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can 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.
You can also use your points directly for travel through the Ultimate Rewards platform.
Why Choose Chase Sapphire Preferred?
It’s all about that annual fee—especially since both cards carry the same variable 16.99% to 23.99% annual percentage rate (APR). Plus, if you don’t plan on using a lot of the benefits on the Sapphire Reserve or don’t do much traveling, it makes more sense to pay the Preferred’s more practical $95 annual fee.
Also, if you plan to add an authorized user to your Chase Sapphire Preferred account, you can earn a 5,000-point bonus. You just need to add the user and make a purchase within three months after you opened the account. To simply catch up to this bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you would need to spend $5,000. The Sapphire Reserve card also has a $75 annual fee tacked on for each authorized user while the Sapphire Preferred card does not have a fee at all.
Why Choose Chase Sapphire Reserve?
Many choose the Sapphire Reserve card over the Sapphire Preferred card because there is more value per point, for both earning points and spending them. Despite the high annual fee, the math can work out to your advantage, especially if you can use the card’s following ancillary benefits:
- $300 annual travel credit: For all valid purchases on travel, you can receive a statement credit of up to $300 per calendar year. Chase’s definition of travel covers quite a bit, so many expenses, including airfare and hotels, would be eligible.
- $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check: You can also receive a statement credit of $100 to cover the cost of Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check, which help you bypass long lines at the airport.
- Access to airport lounges: With the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you will gain entry to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide when you enroll in the complimentary Priority Pass™Select program—a big benefit if you spend a lot of time in airports.
- More value per point: When you reserve travel through the Ultimate Rewards Program, your points are worth 50% more compared to 25% more with the Preferred card.
- Special benefits: When you choose to stay at properties within the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, you’ll be eligible for benefits like early check-in and late checkout, complimentary room upgrades, and daily breakfast for two. You’ll also qualify for benefits from National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar.
Hopefully, you’ve found this information helpful in your search for the best travel rewards credit card. If you are interested in one of these cards, or any credit card for that matter, remember to check the credit requirements before you apply. Credit card applications could ding your credit, so make sure you have a good chance of qualifying with your current credit score before you apply.