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 Mar 24, 2021 | By Ben Luthi
happy woman traveling abroad

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

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 considered by frequent travelers to be 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 of these Chase credit cards before you make a decision.

Jump To

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 credit cards — but there are plenty of opportunities to maximize the value of your rewards with travel.

When using your points to book travel through the Chase travel portal, for instance, you’ll get 25% more value with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and 50% more value with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. 

And if you want to squeeze even more value out of your rewards, you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to any of the following Chase travel partners:

  • 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 Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Sign-up Bonus Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months (plus earn up to $50 in statement credits on grocery store purchases in the first year) Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Annual Fee $95 $550
Earning Rate and Bonus Categories 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
Foreign Transaction Fees None None
Learn how to apply Learn how to apply

At first glance, it looks like the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a much better option. On top of having a lower annual fee, its core benefits are relatively close to those of the Sapphire Reserve.

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 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 Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
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 Application Fee Credit No Yes
Airport Lounge Access No Yes
Learn how to apply Learn how to apply

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, Reserve cardholders 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 higher annual fee worth it.

In addition, both cards offer Lyft and DoorDash benefits, including earning points on Lyft rides and a complimentary DashPass (minimum of one year) membership from DoorDash. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns more points on Lyft rides, offers a complimentary year of Lyft Pink membership, and provides up to $60 in DoorDash credits through Dec. 31, 2021.

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 best travel credit card 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.

FAQs

Can I get the Chase Sapphire Preferred if I have the Reserve?

Chase doesn’t allow you to have more than one Chase Sapphire credit card at the same time, which means you can’t get the Chase Sapphire Preferred if you already have the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Chase also has other guidelines when it comes to its cards, including the Chase 5/24 rule and the Chase Sapphire 48-month rule. It’s important to know about these rules if you’re considering applying for one of the Chase Sapphire cards so you don’t take a hard inquiry to your credit score for a card that you cannot be approved for.

Does the Chase Sapphire Preferred get you into airport lounges?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t come with the benefit of Priority Pass, which would allow you free access into select airport lounges. But if you want this benefit, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card from American Express both offer complimentary airport lounge access as part of their perks.

Do either the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred have purchase protection?

Both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred offer purchase protection, which covers new purchases against damage and theft within 120 days of the purchase. The Sapphire Preferred offers up to $500 in purchase protection per claim and up to $50,000 total per account. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers up to $10,000 in purchase protection per claim and up to $50,000 total per account.

Should I upgrade my Chase Sapphire Preferred to a Reserve?

It could make sense to upgrade your Chase Sapphire Preferred to a Chase Sapphire Reserve if you want to take advantage of the Sapphire Reserve’s additional perks and benefits. This could include the $300 annual travel credit, complimentary Priority Pass membership, and getting up to $60 in DoorDash credits. In addition, if you want to get more bang for your buck with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, your travel redemptions on the Sapphire Reserve are worth 50% more, whereas they’re worth only 25% more on the Sapphire Preferred.

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve are the cream of the crop when it comes to travel rewards credit cards. But neither credit card offer 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 the other best credit cards for travel 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
  • Up to $50 statement credit for grocery store purchases
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits