The Chase Sapphire card is largely responsible for the mainstream popularity enjoyed by travel rewards today. Despite being launched more than 10 years ago, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card remains one of the most known and used travel reward credit cards. When Chase debuted the Chase Sapphire Reserve in 2016, it ran out of metal cards due to the high demand. But if both cards are so popular, which is the better option? Let’s dive into the Chase Sapphire Preferred Vs. Reserve debate.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Is More Affordable
According to Business Insider, Chase improved the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards in 2021. Both cards received more benefits and improved or new bonus categories. However, their annual fees remain the same - $95 a year for Preferred and $550 for Reserve. This means that Preferred is significantly more affordable than its counterpart. The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s higher annual fee is justifiable, given that cardholders get statement credits of up to $300 for travel purchases every year.
Subtract this amount from the annual fee, and you are actually paying $250 a year. Moreover, you can use Reserve’s statement credit on hotels, cruises, flights, subway fares, parking tolls, taxis, and more. On the other hand, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® offers cardholders $50 in hotel credit, bringing its net annual fees to $45 and the difference between the two to $205. This is a large margin, and, obviously, Preferred is the card for you if you do not wish to break the bank. However, you should base your decision on more than the annual fees. Let’s review the perks next.
You Get More Perks with Chase Sapphire Reserve
Like the divide in annual fees, the difference in earning rates between the Chase Sapphire cards is glaring. Cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve get $300 in travel credit every cardholder year, as well as trip delay insurance that kicks in after a short delay, access to over 1,300 airport lounges, elite perks with several car rental companies, and Reserved by Sapphire restaurant reservations.
Cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve also get 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides. Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders, meanwhile, get $50 in annual statement credits for restaurants booked through the travel portal and a 10 percent bonus every anniversary on all purchases from the previous year. This card also offers 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides. Both cards offer a complimentary DashPass membership that provides a waiver on delivery fees for items over $12. When compared, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get more perks – enough to offset the high annual fee of $550.
You Get a Higher Bonus for Redeeming Reward Points with Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase has very generous point redemption programs, even offering several options that don’t involve travel. You can usually use your points to buy airline tickets or get a cashback (one cent per point) through the Chase Travel Portal. Alternatively, you can transfer your chase points to hotels and airlines in partnership with Chase through its reward program. That said, it is more lucrative to redeem Chase Sapphire Reserve points than with Chase Sapphire Preferred. Using the Reserve card to buy airline tickets earns you a 50 percent bonus, while Preferred cardholders only get a 25 percent bonus.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Does Not Charge You to Add Authorized Users to Your Account
If you plan to add authorized users to your reward credit card, both options allow you to do so, but one will cost you. Adding authorized users like a child or spouse is free with a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card account but adds a $75 annual fee to a Reserve account. The only upside to this is that every authorized user on a Chase Sapphire Reserve account gets their own Priority Pass Select membership.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Offers More Benefits, But Will You Use Them?
We have already established that the Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers more benefits, but whether you pick this card over Preferred will depend on whether you will actually use these perks. In exchange for the $550 annual fee, Reserve cardholders get:
- Airport lounge membership and access through Priority Pass Select
- Application fee credit for NEXUS, PreCheck, or Global Entry
- Access to Reserved by Sapphire restaurant reservations
- When they open, access to Chase Sapphire Lounges by The Club
- Waived food deliveries through DoorDash
These perks are not available to Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders. However, they only make sense if you actually plan to use them. If you don’t travel a lot and travel mostly locally, you may not need to pay $550 for benefits you will not enjoy. If you go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you get a $50 hotel credit and a 10 percent bonus every anniversary – perks not available to Reserve cardholders. In the end, you must evaluate your spending and travel habits and see which benefits are worthwhile to you.
You Need to Consider Your Spending Habits on the Offered Bonus Categories
According to Bank Rate, the number of points you accrue ultimately boils down to how much you spend on a card’s bonus categories. This means that your spending habits are the biggest determiner of which card you choose. Both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred offer bonus rewards in several categories. You need to find the card with categories in which you spend more. If you spend a lot of money on car rentals and hotels, you can earn enough points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve to justify the high annual fee. However, Preferred might be the way to go if you would much rather redeem your points on streaming services and online grocery purchases.
Are You Interested in Airport Lounge Access?
Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get complimentary membership to Priority Pass Select. This is a global network of over 1,300 airport lounges that gives you access to all member lounges. Although the amenities provided will depend on the lounge, you can expect perks like comfortable seating, snacks, complimentary soft and hard drinks, and private Wi-Fi. Some airports house restaurants that are a part of this network. These restaurants credit an amount on your bill for you and your guests. Great examples are the Cadillac Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar and Landry’s Seafood restaurants found at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card also allows you access to Chase Sapphire Lounges by The Club, which are set to open in several airports by the end of this year, according to Afar Magazine. If you are interested in relaxing at airport lounges every time you travel, Reserve is the ideal card for you. However, if you don’t think you will use your Priority Pass membership frequently enough, you can skip the high annual fee and go for Preferred. It is also important to point out that the Priority Pass Select network is more widespread abroad and primarily available in international terminals within the US. If your trips are mostly domestic, you may not get to enjoy lounge access after all.
Do You Need Trip Delay Insurance?
If you live in a big city like New York, you are probably familiar with flight delays. Delays are usually caused by unavoidable problems like bad weather and mechanical issues with the plane. Chase covers you from the potential losses caused by delays through its trip delay insurance. However, the coverage is more extensive with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It kicks in after only 6 hours or if you get delayed overnight, while Preferred’s protection kicks in after 12 hours. If you care about your trip delay insurance kicking in faster, you are safer getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
What About TSA PreCheck and Global Entry?
This is a rhetorical question because every traveler needs TSA PreCheck and Global Entry or NEXUS (for expedited immigration and customs into Canada). TSA PreCheck allows you to access special security lanes at most airports in the US, where you can go through a metal detector rather than a full-body scanner. People in these lines can also leave their laptops in their bags and keep their light jackets, belts, and shoes on, making the process faster and more comfortable than regular security.
If you have Global Entry, you do not need to line up at immigration when re-entering the US. You can scan your own passport at an unmanned booth that prints out a receipt you present to customs. Typically, you can apply to one or the other, but Global Entry packages often include TSA PreCheck for an application fee of $100. This makes more sense than only getting PreCheck for $85. But how does Chase factor into this? The Chase Sapphire Reserve card provides credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, and NEXUS. You get a fee reimbursement to a given threshold for your applications to these programs, which significantly lowers the associated fee. If you are not enrolled in either, the Reserve card can make your application easier and cheaper.
Summary: Chase Sapphire Preferred Gives You:
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire cards offer enviable perks. But why would you choose one over the other? The Chase Sapphire Preferred reward card offers:
- Affordable Travel Perks: Although you don’t get airport lounge access with Preferred, you do get other important perks like primary auto damage collision coverage and trip interruption or cancellation insurance – all at a relatively low annual fee. If you do not care about sipping wine at an airport lounge before your flight, this card is enough.
- Substantial Welcome Bonus: New Sapphire Preferred cardholders earn $60,000 bonus points once they purchase qualifying items worth $4,00 within the first 3 months of opening their accounts. This is one of the most generous welcome packages available today.
- A 25% Point Bonus: All your Chase Sapphire Preferred earnings come with a 25 percent bonus when redeemed through the Chase Travel Center for travel or the Pay Yourself Back feature of qualifying purchases. This incredible feature offers huge savings.
- Low Annual Fee: Of course, one of the biggest reasons to choose Sapphire Preferred is its low annual fee of $95. You get excellent perks without breaking the bank!
Chase Sapphire Reserve Gives You:
On the other hand, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the card for you if you are looking for:
- More Extensive Protections: The Sapphire Reserve card offers trip cancellation or interruption insurance coverage of up to $20,000 per trip and $10,000 per person for every non-refundable prepaid travel expense. You also get extended warranty coverage, return protections, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase protection, and primary auto collision damage coverage. You don’t get this level of coverage with Sapphire Preferred.
- Premium Benefits: Reserve gets you $300 in credit for eligible purchases and travels every cardholder year, fee reimbursement for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application, lounge access through Priority Pass Select, and benefits at select hotels and car rentals.
- 50% Point Bonus: Chase ups the ante on this card from Preferred’s 25 percent to a whopping 50 percent, adding value to your reward earnings.
- Higher Travel Earnings: Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders earn 10 points per dollar on car rentals and hotels and 5 points per dollar on airline tickets.
Can You Get Both Cards?
Unfortunately, no. Chase maintains a ‘One Sapphire Card’ rule that bars you from qualifying for a Chase Sapphire Reserve card if you already own a Sapphire Preferred and vice versa. Nonetheless, you can downgrade a Sapphire card to a Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom Flex, then apply for the Sapphire card of your choice after a 48-month waiting period. You also do not qualify for a different Sapphire card if you meet the following criteria:
- You have opened five or more credit cards within the last 24 months, otherwise called the Chase 5/24 rule.
- You have earned a bonus on any Sapphire card within the last 48 months.
Ultimately, the debate on which is better, Chase Sapphire Preferred Vs. Reserve comes down to annual fees, spending habits, and travel needs. Are you willing to pay a high annual fee? Do you need the additional bonus categories and benefits that come with this higher fee? Do the parks offered align with your spending habits? Answering these questions will lead you to your ideal card.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee