Chase Sapphire Preferred® vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Which Should You Pick?

Jordan Wathen is a personal finance expert with a deep professional and personal expertise on credit cards. His articles have appeared on sites such as MSN, CNBC, and Yahoo.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® was a runaway winner in the travel card category until JPMorgan Chase launched Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which was designed to be a more-rewarding version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card.

In the past, cardholders could get both cards, and thus double-dip on the best-in-class new cardholder bonuses attached to each card. After a change in policy in 2017, Chase only allows an applicant to have one card in the Sapphire lineup, making it more important for cardholders to pick the best card prior to sending in an application.

Here’s how to figure out which card is better for you based on their features, perks, and annual fees.

Side by side comparison

As of Oct. 22, 2019
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
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Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
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Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

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Bonus: 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase's portal. Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase's portal.
Rewards Program: 2x points on travel and dining, 1x points on all other purchases. 25% more points for travel booked through Chase's portal. Rewards Program: 3 points per $1 on travel and dining, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. 50% more points on travel booked through Chase's portal.
Intro APR: Purchases: N/A, N/A Balance Transfers: N/A, N/A Intro APR: Purchases: N/A, N/A Balance Transfers: N/A, N/A
Regular APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable Regular APR: 18.74% - 25.74% Variable
Annual Fee: $95 Annual Fee: $450

Highlights:

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

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Putting these cards on level ground

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are so similar that you don’t need to go deep into fine print to figure out which is the better card for you. The differences that really matter are fairly obvious, starting first with the sizable differences in the annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® carries a $95 annual fee. Chase Sapphire Reserve® carries a $450 annual fee. Many people might be ready to cease reading here given the massive differences in fees, but that’s a mistake, because there is more to it than the nominal fee on each card.

One big difference is that Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a $300 annual travel credit, which significantly offsets the cost of having the card. As a Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholder myself, I consider most of the annual fee to be “prepaid travel expenses” rather than an annual fee. That’s because I know that in any given year I will spend much more than $300 on travel through Uber, Lyft, car rentals, airline tickets, hotels, etc. Therefore, I quickly recoup most of the $450 annual fee thanks to the $300 travel credit that’s also awarded annually.

If you don’t know with certainty that you will spend $300 on travel (or more) every single year, then you can stop right here. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is almost certainly the better card for you. If you will, without a doubt, spend more than $300 on travel expenses each year, then there’s more to consider before picking one or the other.

Rewards rates

Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Chase Sapphire Reserve® have similar rewards programs that incentivize spending on travel and restaurants more than other types of spending. But the rewards rates per $1 spent differ, as does the value of each point earned on each card.

The table below compares the two cards’ rewards programs side-by-side.

Credit card Rewards on spending Travel value per point redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Chase Sapphire Preferred® 2 points per $1 on travel and restaurants, 1 point per $1 on everything else $0.0125
Chase Sapphire Reserve® 3 points per $1 on travel and restaurants, 1 point per $1 on everything else $0.0150

A simple way to think about this is as follows: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has an effective annual fee of $150 (after adjusting for the $300 travel credit), which is $55 higher than the $95 annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Preferred®. Each point earned by the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is also 20% more valuable when redeemed for travel than each point earned by the Chase Sapphire Preferred®.

Knowing this, we can determine that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Chase Sapphire Reserve® break even with one another when a cardholder spends $2,750 each year on travel and restaurants. At that level of spending on travel and restaurants, the cardholder receives $55 more in travel value from Chase Sapphire Reserve® than Chase Sapphire Preferred®, offsetting the $55 difference in the adjusted annual fees.

Due to the slight difference in point redemption values, cardholders must spend significantly more in categories outside travel and dining to reach breakeven. For this reason, how much you spend on travel and restaurants are more important in deciding which card is better for you than other types of spend.

Type of spending Annual spending to break even
Travel and restaurants $2,750
Everything else $22,000

Both Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® are high-end travel cards, so I’ve assumed that cardholders plan to redeem their rewards for travel. If you plan to redeem for cash back, then neither card is a particularly good fit. As a rule, cash back cards are almost always better for cash back than travel cards. If cash back is what you’re looking for, then you want a cash back card, not a travel card.

Other Chase Sapphire Reserve® perks

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has two other benefits that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® doesn’t have, but the value of these depends on the individual cardholder. Here are two big perks you get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®:

  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓credit -- You can receive a credit for your Global Entry or TSA Pre✓application fees when you pay with Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Global Entry’s application fee is $100 for five years (TSA Pre✓is $85), so I consider this perk to add about $20 of value to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® each year. Of course, if you already have a card that offers this benefit (not many cards do), or don’t care to have Global Entry or TSA Pre✓, then this perk may have no value to you.
  • Priority Pass Select -- This gives you access to more than 1,000 lounges in airports around the world. Some people love it, some never use it. I live near a major hub and can get a direct flight to just about anywhere, at any time, so I rarely have time to kill in an airport. People who frequently wait through long layovers might put a higher value on this perk than I do. But I still carry my Priority Pass card just in case my flight is delayed or routed elsewhere.

These two perks actually work together pretty well. Use Global Entry or TSA Pre✓to get through security quickly. If you happen to be in Terminal 8 of New York City’s JFK airport, for example, you can use your Priority Pass Select membership to claim $28 of free food from Bobby Van’s Steakhouse. The $28 in free eats covers a steak and potatoes breakfast (normally $27), meaning you can score a meal for the cost of the tip.

This is an example, but it shows how you can get some additional value with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and its top-shelf travel features. The value of these features ultimately depends on how much time you spend in airports.

New cardholder bonuses

The sign-up bonuses on these two cards used to be dead-even at 50,000 points each after spending $4,000 in the first three months. That’s no longer the case, as the bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® has been bumped up to 60,000 points with the same spending minimum, giving it the clear edge as far as bonuses are concerned. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® still has a bonus of 50,000 points.

Keep in mind that if you plan to redeem those points through the Chase Travel Center at a fixed rate, then both bonuses would technically have the same value, because you get a higher redemption value per point through the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

At the Chase Sapphire Preferred® rate of $0.0125 per point, 60,000 points would be worth $750 in travel. Since the Chase Sapphire Reserve® gets you $0.015 per point on travel purchases, 50,000 points with that card would also be worth $750.

Since both cards have the same transfer ratio when transferring points to travel partners, 60,000 points would obviously offer more value than 50,000. With this redemption method, the exact value of 10,000 Ultimate Rewards® points will depend on which travel partner you choose and the travel you book. Approximately $0.01 to $0.03 per point is typically around what you can expect, meaning 10,000 extra points would be worth about $100 to $300.

The final word

You can’t go wrong with either card, as both are top travel credit cards for a reason. But which is better ultimately comes down to how you spend. You just need to ask yourself two very basic questions:

  1. Will I spend more than $300 on travel every single year?
  2. Will I spend more than $2,750 combined on travel and restaurants every single year?

If you answer “yes” to both questions, then Chase Sapphire Reserve® is likely the better pick. If you answered “no” to one or both questions, then look no further than Chase Sapphire Preferred®.

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Our Bottom Line

One of the most popular travel cards for many reasons. This offer is practically a must-have for travelers seeking a big sign-up bonus and one of the best points programs available on the market.

Read Full Review
What we Like:
  • 60,000 points sign-up bonus
  • 2 points per $1 for travel & dining
  • Flexible points transfer program
Key Scores:
4.5 5 Perks
5.0 5 Fees
1.5 5 APR
Perks 4.5/5
Fees 5.0/5
APR 1.5/5
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Regular APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: N/A, N/A Balance Transfers: N/A, N/A
Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Chase's Secure Website.

Our Bottom Line

The annual fee isn't cheap but the sign-up bonus, premium rewards for travel & dining, and wide array of valuable travel credits make this a compelling offer that will offset the cost of the annual fee for many

Read Full Review
What we Like:
  • 50,000 points sign-up bonus
  • $300 annual travel credits
  • 3 points per $1 on travel & dining
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Key Scores:
4.5 5 Perks
5.0 5 Fees
1.5 5 APR
Perks 4.5/5
Fees 5.0/5
APR 1.5/5
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Regular APR: 18.74% - 25.74% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: N/A, N/A Balance Transfers: N/A, N/A
Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content

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