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When Chase released its popular Chase Sapphire Reserve® credit card in 2016, it generated a lot of buzz. With a high sign-up bonus plus up to an annual $300 travel credit, 3x points on dining and travel (except for the $300 travel credit), access to Priority Pass airport lounges, and many of the same benefits — in some cases enhanced — as its older sibling, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the card offered more than enough value to make up for its hefty annual fee.
That fee, however, is still a lot of money to have to pay upfront — in fact, it’s since increased from $450 to $550. While the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is an excellent option for frequent travelers who can utilize all of its benefits, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers rich rewards and valuable benefits as well — with a much lower annual fee. For many travelers, there’s a strong case to be made for signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card over its newer, flashier successor.
The Sapphire Preferred has a higher sign-up bonus
Though the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a much lower annual fee, it actually offers a much higher sign-up bonus than the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — 100,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. When you have the Sapphire Preferred, that’s worth $1,000 as cash, $1,250 as travel booked through Chase or toward select everyday purchases through Pay Yourself Back, and potentially even more when you transfer those points to a hotel or airline partner.
For comparison, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers 60,000 points when you meet the same spending threshold.
The Sapphire Preferred has a (much) lower annual fee
You could argue that the Reserve’s $550 annual fee is actually just $250, or lower. That’s because each cardmember year with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’ll get up to $300 in statement credits toward travel purchases. In other words, the first $300 of travel purchases you make, whether one big purchase or a lot of smaller ones, will be canceled out by the credits. It’s basically a rebate of $300 of the annual fee.
Still, $250 is still a decent bit of money. And though you’ll get value back in the form of travel statement credits — and you’ll also get statement credits with DoorDash as well as benefits with Lyft — you’ll still need to pay $550 for the fee on your first statement, and not everyone has that amount of cash to float or is willing to put up that much.
Looking at the fees over the first 24 months makes the differences even clearer — you’ll pay $1,100 for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (with up to in statement credits for travel) compared with just $190 for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
The Sapphire Preferred has fewer perks than the Reserve, but offers many of the same crucial benefits
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card doesn’t come with the more premium Chase Sapphire Reserve® airport lounge access, concierge service, DoorDash and Lyft benefits, or a credit to cover the cost of enrolling in Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, but other than that the two cards have almost the same benefits — that’s impressive, considering the Preferred’s much lower fee.
Both cards offer trip delay insurance. If you’re traveling by common carrier — airplane, train, ferry, bus, and similar public forms of transportation — and your trip is delayed, you can be covered for up to $500 of expenses, including a change of clothes, hotel room, toiletries, and meals. Both cards’ trip delay insurance kicks in when the delay forces an overnight stay, or if you aren’t stuck overnight, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card‘s coverage kicks in after 12 hours, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® after six hours.
Similarly, both cards offer primary car rental insurance, trip cancellation/delay insurance, lost luggage insurance, and various purchase protections. There are minor differences in some of those benefits between the cards, but in most instances, they’re effectively identical.
You’ll still earn bonus points on dining and travel with the Preferred
There’s no question that the Chase Sapphire Reserve®‘s 3x points on dining and travel makes it easy to earn points quickly. But you’ll still earn bonus points on the same categories with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, even though they won’t add quite up as fast. For every dollar you spend on dining and travel, you’ll earn 2 points, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
These categories are particularly useful because of how broadly they’re defined. Dining includes restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries, ice-cream shops, fast-food stands, brewery taprooms, and delivery services like Seamless and Grubhub.
Travel, similarly, includes just about everything, big or small. You’ll earn 2x points on taxis, Uber rides, subways, commuter trains, parking, tolls, rental cars, airfare, hotels, cruises, and tours. Chase also recently added a bonus category for Lyft rides: You’ll earn 10x points on Lyft purchases with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and 5x with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card through March 2022.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has access to the same great redemption options as the Reserve
As with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be exchanged for cash back, with each point worth 1 cent, or points can be used to purchase travel through Chase. When you do that, you’ll get a 25% bonus, effectively making your points worth 1.25 cents each (the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a 50% bonus, making points used to purchase travel through Chase worth 1.5 cents apiece instead).
You can glean much more value from your points, however, by transferring them to one of Chase’s airline or hotel loyalty program partners. The two cards have access to the same transfer partners.
While this is more complicated, you can generally get more value by booking airline award tickets than you can by using your points as cash or through Chase. You can even book flights in business or first class for fewer points than it would cost if you used them as cash or through Chase’s website to buy the flights. For example, my wife and I used the points from our Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cards to fly to Japan in first class for our honeymoon.
The card doesn’t charge a fee for authorized users
If you’re planning to add a partner, a child, a friend, or anyone else as an authorized user on your account, you may be better off with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. That’s because you can add as many users as you want to your account free. The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, on the other hand, charges $75 for each user you add. Those users will get access to Priority Pass airport lounges, at least.
It’s easier to get approved for the Sapphire Preferred
While there’s no official publicly available formula for how banks approve credit cards, common knowledge is that the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — which is a Visa Infinite card, requiring a minimum credit limit of $10,000 — has higher standards for approval than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — a less-exclusive Visa Signature card.
Regardless of which card you choose, both offer class-leading value.
Though the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is an excellent card — and I personally went with the Reserve over the Preferred — the annual fee is a lot to stomach. Depending on your cash flow, how you budget, or how you view these benefits and rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be a better option for you.
Remember that you can always upgrade to the Reserve from the Sapphire Preferred after your first year if you want to start with the Preferred and see how many of its benefits you actually use. That way, you get the higher bonus of 100,000 points, and get to ease your way in before deciding to pay a higher annual fee.
Finally, don’t forget to also check out our in-depth comparison of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve’s benefits.
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