Chase is one of the largest financial institutions in America with branches all over the country. They've also got the best portfolio of credit cards to suite your lifestyle.
Frequent Travelers Delight
If you’re interested in travel rewards, then deciding which card is best can be tricky. Deciding between the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve cards is a common dilemma.
Both have great signup bonuses. In addition, both cards are part of the great Chase Ultimate Rewards program where you can buy practically anything you want.
While both are fantastic cards, you can only own one at a time. If you already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred like me, but want the Reserve instead, you’ll need to drop the CSP and upgrade. Be aware that doubling up on the bonus is not allowed. If you’ve earned a signup bonus for any Sapphire card in the past 48 months, you’re not eligible to earn a second. Bummer, I know.
Most of you coming to this page, however, have neither card. You're probably primarily interested in the pros and cons of each card. Here's a deep dive into each of these two cards. By the end, you can make the right choice that fits your needs and lifestyle.
As a frequent traveler who gets on four roundtrip flight a year, I've found the Chase Sapphire Preferred card to be an excellent all-around travel rewards card with lots of great benefits.
Here are some of its awesome highlights:
- Great Signup Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. That’s worth $750 in travel rewards when you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
- Great Rewards For Travel and Dining: Earn 2X points per dollar on travel and restaurant purchases. And 1X point per dollar on everything else. There is no limit to the amount of points you earn, so long as you are a cardholder.
- Redeeming Travel Points Gives You A Boost: When you use your points to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, they’re worth 25% more. In other words, not only do you get 2X points per dollar spent on travel, you get 1.25% more when you use your points to book another trip. Sweet!
- Lots Of Travel Partners: Chase has 10+ travel partners where you can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio. Travel partners includes airline partners like United, Southwest, British Airways, Aer Lingus, Emirates, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, plus hotels like IHG, Hyatt, and Marriott.
Even More Sapphire Preferred Benefits
- Trip Cancellation / Interruption Insurance up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. If you get sick, encounter severe weather, or run into another covered scenario your travel expenses, even if they are non-refundable. This includes all your passenger fares, tours and excursions, and hotels. Talk about amazing peace of mind when traveling!
- Auto Rental Collision Damage Insurance with coverage up to the entire cash value of the vehicle. This goes for theft and collision damage for most rentals in the U.S. and abroad. This type of insurance is very valuable because you don’t want to get your own auto insurance involved. If they do get involved, your auto insurance premium will likely go up.
- Baggage Delay Insurance that reimburses you for must-haves that go missing when airlines lose track of your luggage. This includes toiletries and clothing for any baggage delays that’s over six hours. You’ll be covered for up to $100 a day for five days. During our many trips abroad, we’ve had our bags go missing for one or two days each time. We’ve been able to utilize the $100 credit a day to buy underwear, shirts, and pants.
- Trip Delay Reimbursement for long delays. The worst thing about travel are the occassional delays. And the worst type of delay is the delay that lasts LONGER than the flight itself! Argh. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, any delays more than 12 hours or requiring an overnight stay will be reimbursed. Your meals and lodging, up to $500 per person, will be taken care of free of charge. $500 is like booking a room at a luxury resort. Not bad!
- $95 annual fee. A bargain when compared to all the benefits you receive.
Huge Chase Sapphire Preferred Sign Up Bonus
Earn 60,000 Bonus Points – With the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you’ll earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of opening an account. That's a whopping $750 value in travel rewards.
Think about all the cool things you could use that for on your next vacation. Just picture yourself with your feet propped up on the beaches of Bali as you sip a cocktail in the warm afternoon sun. Ah, the good life that travel rewards can bring!
Plus, you’ll earn 2X points on travel and dining whenever you use your Sapphire Preferred card. Read more and learn how to apply to Chase Sapphire Preferred here.
Think about the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card as the rich uncle to the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card because it has a $550 annual fee.
This is on the steeper side as far as annual fees. But, the perks can more than make up for it with the right usage.
If you are a frequent international traveler plus domestic traveler, here are some of the great reasons why the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card might be perfect for you.
Sapphire Reserve Highlights
- Great Signup Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Although the bonus is smaller than the Chase Sapphire Preferred's bonus, the Reserve's points are worth 50% more towards travel upon redemption, and not 25% more.
- Annual $300 Travel Credit: Although there is a $550 annual fee, you get a $300 statement credit for travel-related expenses every year as well. You can use the statement credit for airfare, hotels, travel agencies, and cruise lines. If you're not taking a big trip, you can use your statement credit for things such as buses, trains, taxis, bridge tolls, and parking garages also count. This credit effectively reduces the annual fee to $250.
- Big Travel and Dining Rewards: Earn 3X points per dollar on restaurant and travel purchases (after the first $300 on travel) and 1X point per dollar on everything else. The points are also unlimited so long as you are a cardholder. If you love to go out to eat and travel, earning 3X points per dollar will help you rack up serious bonus points in a hurry.
- Great Travel Partners: Just like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer points earned with the Reserve to all the same great travel partners at a 1:1 ratio.
- Global Entry or TSA Pre√ Fee Credit: Waiting in lines at the airport is becoming an epidemic, but thanks to Global Entry or TSA Precheck, you can skip the lines! Every 4 years, you’ll get a statement credit for your Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre√ ($85) application fee.
- Free Airport Lounge Access: This card comes with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, giving you access to over 1,000 VIP lounges. This makes long layovers exponentially more comfortable.
Even More Sapphire Reserve Perks
- Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance allows you to get reimbursed up to $10,000 per person or $20,000 per trip for pre-paid, non-refundable expenses like hotels, fares, and hotels. Those are some huge numbers that should allow you to travel to the most exotic places with pace of mind.
- Lost Luggage Reimbursement. The lost luggage reimbursement means that if your carrier loses or damages your luggage, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger. I remember checking in a bag as a middle-schooler and having my new Air Jordan 6s stolen and replace with old smelly shoes. I was so sad because I saved an entire summer for these shoes. Luckily I was reimbursed.
- Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver. You can get a reimbursement of up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for rental cars in the US and abroad.
- Trip Delay Reimbursement. If your trip is delayed for more than 6 hours – or if you need to find somewhere to stay overnight – you are covered for expenses like meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.
- Emergency Evacuation & Transportation. Finally, the card also covers you in a case of an emergency evacuation if you become sick or injured, up to $100,000. With healthcare insurance so expensive nowadays, this benefit provides terrific peace of mind.
Perks For Your Purchases
- Purchase Coverage: This is my favorite protection benefit. With purchase coverage, you’re covered for new purchases for 120 days against theft or damage up to $10,000 per claim and a maximum of $50,000 a year. You could get a reimbursement for products that store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase (up to $500 per item, $1,000 per year). You could get an extension of US manufacturers’ warranty by a year.
Earn 50,000 Bonus Points – With the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, you’ll still earn 50,000 bonus points by spending $4,000 in the first three months and earn 3X on travel and dining plus free lounge access.
The Key Differences Between The Chase Sapphire Preferred And The Chase Sapphire Reserve
As you can read from both overviews, both cards are excellent rewards credit cards for people who like to travel and dine out.
After retiring in 2012, my wife and I traveled to over 25 different countries until our son was born in 2017. That's five new countries each year. We also vacationed in Hawaii twice a year. During this time period, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card would have been perfect for us. We spent over $25,000 a year on traveling each year.
Now that we are parents, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is more suitable for us since we no longer travel as much. We still go to Hawaii twice a year and I still fly to New York City for the US Open. I also love to go to Indian Wells for the the BNP Paribas tennis tournament each year, but not much else.
Here’s how the two cards compare on three key features: signup bonus, annual fee, and earn rate.
Both cards' signup bonuses are worth $750 in travel rewards when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred pays a higher signup bonus: 60,000 points compared to the Reserve’s 50,000.
This is because the Reserve’s points are worth 1.5 cents compared to the Preferred’s 1.25 cents. However, that’s only when booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
If you’d rather redeem for cash, each point is worth 1 cent. In that scenario, the Preferred’s signup bonus is worth more: $600 vs. $500.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $550 annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with only a $95 annual fee. Clearly, less is more. However, you've got to also look at the benefits.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve's $300 annual travel credit effectively reduces the Reserve’s annual fee to $250, assuming you charge at least $300 in travel-related expenses each year.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve's Global Entry/TSA Precheck application fee credit is worth up to $100 every 4 years, so on average, $25 a year.
If you enjoy airport lounge access, then the Priority Pass Select membership is easily worth another $30 – $50 a year.
Net, net, the Chase Sapphire Reserve's annual fee is about the same as the Chase Sapphire Preferred's annual fee if you use it sparingly.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns you 3X points per dollar spent on travel and dining versus 2X point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Let’s say you spend just $20,000 a year on travel and restaurants. With the Preferred, you’d earn 40,000 points. With the Reserve, you’d earn 60,000 points.
Your 40,000 points would be worth 1.25 cents each if you redeemed them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal, so $500. With the Reserve, your 60,000 points are worth 1.5 cents each redeemed the same way, so $900.
The $400 difference is pretty huge. In other words, the more you spend on travel and dining, the more you will fine the Chase Reserve Card to be worth it.
Winner: The Chase Sapphire Reserve if you spend more than $20,000 a year on travel and dining. The Chase Sapphire Preferred if you spend less than $20,000 a year on travel and dining.
Most Of You Should Get The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
If you don't have either card, it's easier to start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. The annual fee is lower and you still get 2X points on travel and dining. If your annual household income is under $200,000, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is likely the better card for you.
You've got to be a pretty frequent traveler who always loves eating out at the best restaurants to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and pay the $550 annual fee. If your annual household income is over $200,000 and you love to travel, then the Chase Sapphire Reserve card may be more appropriate.
Whichever great card you choose, just make sure to always pay your balance off in full each month. Always take advantage of credit cards and not the other way around.
About the Author: Sam worked in investment banking for 13 years at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from The College of William & Mary and got his MBA from UC Berkeley. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $250,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis and taking care of his family.
Financial Samurai was started in 2009 and is one of the most trusted personal finance sites on the web with over 1.5 million pageviews a month.