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The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa cards are two of the most popular rewards credit cards available, and for good reason. The Preferred card just increased their welcome bonus by 33.3% in April of 2023; how does update tip the scales? Find out in the conclusion below.
Cardholders are rewarded with valuable and flexible Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points, which can be redeemed for travel, cash, gift cards, and more. You can also use them to pay yourself back for certain expenses, and at an elevated valuation.
Which card makes the most sense for you?
That depends on your spending habits, travel habits, and how much you plan to use the card. Let’s dive in to compare and contrast the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cards.
Let’s start with what the two cards have in common.
Both the Preferred Card and the Reserve card allow you to accumulate UR points based on how much you spend and what you spend on. You can transfer those points to travel partners (often the best option for redemption value) or cash them in to lower your next bill, among other redemption options.
Both cards offer some of the best travel perks of any credit card. Certain Chase cards, including the Sapphire cards, offer primary car rental insurance when you charge the rental to the card. This is not true of other popular card issuers, like American Express, Capital One, etc…
Both cards have bonus point categories where you’ll earn more than 1 UR point per dollar spent, but they differ in ways we’ll outline below.
There are no foreign transaction fees when using either card outside of the United States.
If you’re into food delivery, both cards offer a complimentary DashPass subscription for DoorDash for at least 12 months.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Overview
The Preferred card is an excellent all-around card with a reasonable annual fee of $95 that will easily pay for itself several times over.
For starters, the card currently has a welcome offer of 80,000 UR points (after spending $4,000 in 3 months). That means you’ll have at least 84,000 points that can easily be redeemed for $1,040 in travel.
You may get even more value with certain redemptions from airline or hotel rewards programs after transferring those points, but if you simply use those points to pay yourself back for dining, grocery, or home improvement store purchases, or to book travel, you’ll save $80.
I say you’ll have at least 64,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases with the Preferred card, but you’ll likely have more, as the minimum reward is 1 point per dollar spent. You’ll get more points per dollar spent when spending in the following ways:
- 5x points on travel purchased via Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (powered by Expedia).
- 5x points on Lyft rides
- 3x points on dining, select streaming services, and online grocery
- 2x points on travel not purchased via the Chase UR portal
When you use your UR points to book travel via the UR portal or to pay yourself back for eligible purchases, the points are valued at 1.25x. This is essentially a multiplier that can be applied to the bonuses above.
In essence, when combining the benefits, the reward for travel booked via the UR portal and Lyft rides becomes 6.25x (which is 6.25% back on those purchases. Dining, streaming, and online grocery purchases can give you 3.75x. Other travel purchases can give you 3% back in total.
Note that when using the UR portal, you’ll choose to either use your points, charge the expense to your card, or some combination thereof.
You only earn additional points when charging to the card, not when using points to book travel. For example, if you book $5,000 in travel and charge it to the card, you’ll earn 10,000 points, which can be redeemed for $125 worth of future travel. You won’t earn additional points when redeeming those points.
Additional Preferred Card Perks
A perk exclusive to the Preferred card is a generous 10% annual point bonus equal to 10% of your total purchases the previous year. If you spent $50,000 on the card, you’d get an extra 5,000 points (on top of the 50,000+ you already earned) the following year.
Each year, the Preferred card will give you a $50 credit towards a hotel stay purchased via the UR portal. The Reserve card offers no such credit.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Overview
The Reserve card is a premium card with a premium annual fee of $550.
However, with a $300 credit each year for travel booked on the card, I think of it as an effective $250 fee because I’m always going to be spending way, way more than $300 a year on travel. I do have to remember to use this card to do it, though. Without that credit, I would not be comfortable paying such a hefty annual fee.
The welcome bonus is not as generous as that of the Preferred card, but new users are rewarded with 60,000 UR points after spending $4,000 in 3 months. Those 64,000+ points can be redeemed for $1,260 in travel or $1,260 in statement credits when using the pay-yourself-back feature for purchases in eligible categories.
The card also has bonus categories for additional UR points. Some are higher than those of the Preferred card, but some are lacking. For example, you won’t earn extra points for online grocery or streaming service purchases with the Reserve card like you would with the Preferred.
These are the bonus categories for the Reserve card:
- 10x points on hotel, car rental, and dining purchases made via the Chase UR portal.
- 10x points on Lyft rides through 3/2022
- 5x points on flights booked via Chase UR.
- 3x points on other travel and dining purchases
When you use your UR points to book travel via the UR portal or to pay yourself back for eligible purchases, the points are valued at 1.5x.
That means that when using the Reserve Card for purchases in the 10x bonus categories (hotel and car rental via the UR portal, Lyft rides), you actually can get 15% back by later using those UR points earned at a 1.5x value.
If a week-long hotel stay with a rental car costs $2,000, and you booked them via the Chase UR portal, you’ll earn 20,000 points. Those 20,000 points can be used to book $300 in travel (or pay yourself back for $300 spent in eligible categories).
Additional Reserve Card Perks
There are some additional perks you get for your $550 that you won’t get with the Preferred card.
Every 4 years, you can get up to $100 reimbursed for TSA Precheck or Global Entry. I highly recommend Global Entry — it gives you TSA Precheck and lets you breeze through customs more efficiently.
You’ll receive unlimited entry for up to 3 travelers at Priority Pass airport lounges. The quality of these vary, but you’ll generally find comfortable seating and complimentary food, sodas, and alcoholic beverages.
Chase is also beginning to open its own lounges that will be open to Reserve cardholders. The first three will be at New York’s La Guardia, Boston’s Logan International, and in Hong Kong International Airport.
The Reserve card offers Medical Evacuation coverage when you can’t receive the care you need locally on trips of up to 60 days. Very few cards offer this exclusive travel perk.
If you’re a frequent traveler, these extra travel benefits may make the annual fee well worth it.
Bonus Intro Rewardsbonus_miles_full read more
About the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
When I found out that Chase was giving more points out for travel booked specifically via its own Expedia-based portal, I had a healthy skepticism. Would travel cost more here than via other travel sites?
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there did not appear to be any upcharge in the search results on the Chase UR portal as compared to other travel search engines or when booking directly with the hotel, airline, etc…
There could be isolated exceptions, but from what I’ve seen, the prices appear to be the same on the Chase portal. From now on, I plan to start my travel bookings at Chase, and I’ll price compare by finding the same flight, car, or room elsewhere to ensure I’m getting the best deal.
Comparing and Contrasting the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve Cards.
The Preferred Card’s $95 annual fee is $455 cheaper than the $550 annual fee of the reserve card.
When factoring in the $300 travel credit on the Reserve, the difference drops to $155.
Still, there’s a clear winner here when looking at the fee in isolation.
Verdict: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
The Preferred card has the $50 annual hotel credit; while the Reserve card does not. However, the Reserve card offers higher earning potential and redemption credit when using the Chase UR travel portal.
When booking on the Chase UR site, the Reserve card gives you 10x points for hotel stays and car rentals. The Preferred card gives you 5x points for these, and both cards earn 5x points for flights booked on the portal.
The Reserve card also gives you a 1.5x redemption value, whereas the Preferred card gives you 1.25x. For a booking that would cost $1,000 if charged straight to the card, you could redeem 66,667 points for the same booking with the Reserve card or book it with 80,000 points if using the Preferred card.
Let’s say you spend $10,000 a year on flights, hotels, and car rentals, and that half of that cost is the flights. With the Reserve card, you’ll earn 75,000 points on that $10,000. You can redeem 75,000 points with a 1.5x redemption value for $1,125 in future travel (or pay-yourself-back credits).
With the Preferred card, you’ll earn 50,000 points. Redeemed at 1.25x, those points are worth $625
That’s an extra $500 in rewards when booking $10,000 in travel per year with the Reserve card, putting the higher annual fee in perspective.
Travel Mishaps & Comfort
Both cards have world-class coverage for travel mishaps. This includes $10,000 in trip cancellation and interruption insurance, up to $3,000 of reimbursement for lost luggage and $500 in expenses due to delayed luggage, and primary car insurance on rental cars.
The Reserve card gives you $1,000,000 in travel accident insurance; the Preferred card’s coverage maxes out at $500,000. These payouts kick in for major incidents resulting in loss of life or limb while traveling. Swim with sharks at your own risk.
The Reserve card adds medical evacuation coverage of up to $100,000 for trips of at least 5 days or no more than 60 days. While this covers most vacations, it doesn’t cover you on quick trips or on extended slow travel.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve also has the Priority Pass Lounge access and future Chase Sapphire Lounge access. If you’re traveling with 2 others and have a few hours to kill time and kill Yuenglings before your flight, this perk is valued at about $100 per visit for three people. Open bar, dude!
If you’re a current or potential future Pelotonian, Chase added some perks for you in.
With the Preferred card, you’ll earn 5x Chase UR points on Peloton purchases and $5 off a monthly Peloton membership per month.
The Reserve card ups the ante to 10x points and $10 off the membership per month.
With Peloton offering $10 digital memberships for students, educators, healthcare workers, first responders, and Military personnel this year, you might not pay anything. For everyone else, the digital membership is only $12.99 a month, or $2.99 a month with the Reserve card.
Overall: Which Card is Best For You?
Both cards offer excellent perks as compared to no annual fee cards. It’s quite easy to redeem points for excellent value, and I’ve written a guide on how to best use your Chase Ultimate Reward points. If you don’t want to deal with points and redemption values, you can get a full 2% back on purchases on a card with no annual fee like the Citi Double Cash Card.
However, if you’ve read this far, I think you’d benefit from the better travel perks, sweet redemption options, and other extras offered by Chase Sapphire Cards, not to mention the generous welcome bonuses.
The Sapphire Preferred card is an excellent choice for an all-around credit card with a reasonable annual fee under $100. Currently, it has the best welcome bonus, as well.
There is no fee to add an authorized user, whereas the Reserve card charges $75. Personally, I recommend having a spouse get his or her own card (and welcome bonus!) rather than be added as an authorized user. You can qualify for the Preferred card, whereas the Reserve card requires excellent credit.
The Preferred Card is my pick for the average reader who does not travel regularly.
Bonus Intro Rewardsbonus_miles_full read more
You, however, may not be average. If you’re a frequent traveler, the lounge access, medical evacuation coverage, Global Entry credit, and increased earning and redemption potential on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal make the Reserve card a no-brainer. If you’re getting the $300 travel credit, you only need $155 in value from these extra perks.
If you take at least a few trips a year and are willing to book much of that travel using Chase Ultimate Rewards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is the way to go.
If you qualify for a military discount on credit cards and the annual fee is waived, this is also an excellent reason to choose the Reserve card over the Preferred.
Bonus Intro Rewardsbonus_miles_full read more
*Note that you can only collect a welcome bonus on a Chase Sapphire card once every 48 months. If your plan is to get both cards and the 140,000 combined UR points after spending $4,000 on each, it won’t work. You can only have one Sapphire card, so you would have to cancel one card after using it for 4 years and apply for the other card at that time.
Do you use either of these cards? What’s your favorite benefit?
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