Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Reserve: Which Gives You the Most Bang for Your Buck?

Whether you choose the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, you’ll get some of the best travel rewards available.
Last updated Jan 29, 2020 | By Ben Luthi
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If you’re looking for a top travel credit card for your wallet, the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) are among the best.

But which card is better? It all depends on how often you travel, what type of experience you want to have, and how much of an annual fee you can afford. Here’s what you need to know about each card before you make a decision.

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Why the Chase Sapphire cards are so popular

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is arguably the most versatile rewards program in the credit card industry. Not only can cardholders redeem rewards for cash back at a rate of 1 cent per point — that’s unheard of with most travel cards — but there are plenty of opportunities to maximize the value of your rewards with travel.

When using your points to book travel through Chase, for instance, you’ll get 25% more value with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and 50% more value with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. And if you want to squeeze even more value out of your rewards, you can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio to any of the following rewards programs:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue Air France KLM
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt

Depending on how you redeem your points or miles with these airline and hotel partners, you could easily get much more bang for your buck.

CSP vs. CSR: Core benefits and fees

Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Sapphire Reserve
Sign-up Bonus Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Annual Fee $95 $550
Earning Rate 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else
Redemption Rate 1.25 cents per point on travel booked through Chase; 1 cent per point on cash back and gift cards 1.5 cents per point on travel booked through Chase; 1 cent per point on cash back and gift cards
Credits None $300 annual travel credit
Authorized User Fee None $75 annually

At first glance, it looks like the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a much better option. Without a steep annual fee, the core benefits are relatively close.

However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit effectively reduces the card’s yearly cost to $250 — that is, if you’re going to spend that $300 on travel either way. While that’s still more than what the Chase Sapphire Preferred charges, the Chase Sapphire Reserve more than makes up for the remaining difference with its benefits.

Note that while the Chase Sapphire Preferred increased its sign-up bonus and offers more bonus points, both cards carry the same value when booking travel through Chase because of the difference in redemption rates.

Travel insurance and other perks

Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Sapphire Reserve
Trip Delay Reimbursement Yes Yes
Trip Cancellation Insurance Yes Yes
Baggage Delay Insurance Yes Yes
Lost Luggage Reimbursement Yes Yes
Car Rental Insurance Yes Yes
Emergency Evacuation and Transportation No Yes
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Reimbursement No Yes
Airport Lounge Access No Yes

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is tough to beat, but both cards also provide a lot of value through their benefits.

While many credit cards provide rental car insurance, for instance, the Sapphire cards offer primary coverage. This means if you have a personal auto insurance policy that covers rental cars, you don’t need to submit a claim with that insurer first.

The biggest difference between the two cards, though, comes down to the elite travel perks you get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. For example, the $100,000 emergency evacuation and transportation coverage can be a lifesaver if you’re sick or injured in a country that doesn’t have the medical services you need.

Also, you’ll get free access to expedited airport security screening with Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world in the Priority Pass network.

Even without the annual travel credit, these perks could be enough to make the card’s high annual fee worth it.

Which credit card is right for you?

Both credit cards are worthy of consideration, but Chase only allows you to have one card in the Sapphire family at a time. So it’s important to take some time to consider which one is the better choice for your lifestyle, credit history, and preferences. Here are some things to think about before you apply for one.

Your Chase 5/24 status

Chase has a unique rule that may limit your chances of getting either card. The unofficial 5/24 rule states that if you’ve opened five or more new credit card accounts in the past 24 months, approval is unlikely.

New accounts not only include credit cards where you’re the primary cardholder but also authorized user accounts, so check your credit report to make sure you’re not doomed to be denied from the start.

Your credit score

While the Chase Sapphire Preferred is designed for consumers with good or excellent credit, the Chase Sapphire Reserve typically requires excellent credit. Good credit generally starts at a score of 700, and an excellent credit score is often 750 or higher.

Check your credit score using a free service like Credit Sesame or Discover Credit Scorecard to see where you stand.

Your travel habits

The more often you travel, the more benefits you’ll get out of either card. For frequent flyers, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a juggernaut of value. Between the expedited security checks and customs screenings, complimentary airport lounge access, and annual travel credit, the annual fee likely won’t feel like a burden.

But if you only travel once or twice a year, you might be better off with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Your feelings about fees

Regardless of how much value you can get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, a $550 annual fee may just be too much for some to stomach. Also, getting a lot of value is nice, but the annual fee has to be paid in full once a year. If your budget is tight and you don’t have a lot of savings to spare, it might not be possible.

So if you want a great travel rewards card but with a modest fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred may be a better choice.

Upgrading or downgrading the Chase Sapphire cards

Due to Chase’s rule against having more than one Sapphire-branded card at a time, you may be experiencing some FOMO at the thought of picking between the Preferred and the Reserve card.

The good news is you’re not stuck with one or the other. After you’ve had the card for the required amount of time, you can either upgrade or downgrade it to the other. To make the request, call the number on the back of your card or submit a request in a secure message on Chase’s website.

Approval for an upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve isn’t guaranteed, but if your credit is in good shape, you’ll have a good chance of getting what you want.

Also, keep in mind that if you switch from one card to the other, you won’t be eligible for the new card’s sign-up bonus.

The bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve are the cream of the crop when it comes to travel rewards. But neither is inherently better than the other. If you’re considering both cards, take some time to consider their rewards, perks, and fees before you pick one.

Also, consider comparing them with other top travel credit cards to see if there’s another one that better suits you. Ultimately, pick the card that’s the best fit for you right now. If your lifestyle and preferences change in the future, which is likely to happen, you’ll still have the option to upgrade or downgrade your card or pick an entirely different one.

#1 Travel Rewards Card

Benefits

  • 80,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 3X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits