Is The Chase Sapphire Preferred Or Reserve Better For You?

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For the past several months, one of the hottest new cards on the market has been the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card. The card has offered a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points upon completing minimum spend, and in many ways has overshadowed the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which I consider to be the all around best mid-range credit card in the market.

The online increased sign-up bonus on the Sapphire Reserve has finally been changed, so I figured I’d take a look at which card is better in light of that.

Comparing sign-up bonuses

The Sapphire Preferred is offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months, plus an additional 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you add an authorized user to the card that makes a purchase within three months.

Meanwhile the Sapphire Reserve is offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months, though there’s no additional bonus for adding an authorized user.

At least that’s the online sign-up bonus — at a Chase branch you can still receive a 100,000 point sign-up bonus through March 11, 2017, which you should seriously consider if you’re eligible. However, many people don’t live near a Chase branch, don’t want to go to one, etc.

So if applying online, the Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus is better, while in-branch the Sapphire Reserve bonus is better.

korean-air-747-first-class-4
Use the points you earn with your sign-up bonus towards a Korean Air first class award

Comparing annual fees

The Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee, though it’s waived for the first year. There’s no fee to add additional cardmembers, however.

Meanwhile the Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee, which isn’t waived the first year. Furthermore, there’s a $75 fee to add an authorized user. However, there’s a reason the annual fee is higher, so I wouldn’t judge the card too much based on the annual fee alone.

Comparing return on spend

The Sapphire Preferred offers double points on dining and travel, with no caps.

Meanwhile the Sapphire Reserve offers triple points on dining and travel, with no caps.

Personally I value Ultimate Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each. This means:

  • The return on the Preferred and Reserve is identical for non-bonused spend
  • The return on the Reserve is ~1.7% better than on the Preferred for dining and travel

Put another way, for every $1,000 you spend on dining and travel with the Reserve, you’re getting a return of an additional $17. Everyone can crunch the numbers for themselves based on that, in terms of the value they’re getting from the card.

CSP-Parking-Meter
Both cards offer bonus points on travel, which includes parking

Comparing perks

This is where the Sapphire Reserve shines. The card comes with:

  • A Priority Pass membership with guesting privileges
  • A $300 annual travel credit, where any travel purchases will automatically be reimbursed, up to the $300 limit
  • A Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit that covers the $100 enrollment fee
  • When you have this card, Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase, rather than the 1.25 cents each they can be redeemed for if you only have the Sapphire Preferred

air-france-lounge-new-york-jfk-14
Access airport lounges with the Sapphire Reserve’s Priority Pass membership

Everyone will value the above perks differently:

  • Some may not incrementally value the Priority Pass or Global Entry credits, since they already may have them through the Citi Prestige® CardThe Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, etc.
  • The $300 travel credit is more or less worth the face value, in my opinion, since the credit is automatic and applies towards airline tickets, hotel stays, Uber, parking fees, etc.; to me that lowers the real out of pocket on the Sapphire Reserve to ~$150 per year
  • Some will value the ability to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for ~1.5 cents each, though personally I’d rather convert those points to Korean Air SkyPass, Hyatt Gold Passport, etc.

chase-travel-credit

Comparing travel protection

I’ve written a post in the past comparing travel protection across various credit cards. Both the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve offer excellent travel protection, though the protection offered on the Reserve is a bit better. For example, on the Reserve, many benefits kick in after just six hours of travel interruptions, while on the Preferred many kick in after 12 hours.

Chicago-Delays
Credit card travel protection can prove very valuable when your flight is delayed

Bottom line

Both of these are compelling cards — in my opinion the Sapphire Preferred is the most compelling mid-range card, while the Sapphire Reserve is the most compelling premium card. The 100,000 point sign-up bonus made the Reserve an absolute no brainer (and it’s still available in-branch, if you’re willing to go there). There’s a ton of value to be had with the card and I think it makes sense even for a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise consider a $450 per year card. However, I wouldn’t unequivocally recommend it above the Sapphire Preferred, as I did before.

You have to decide for yourself:

  • How much you value the Global Entry credit and Priority Pass membership
  • The ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase
  • How much you’d otherwise spend on dining and travel, and what that incremental return is worth for you; for example, while the Reserve offers more points on airfare than the Preferred, in practice I’m putting all my airfare purchases on The Platinum Card® from American Express in order to earn 5x points, so it’s a moot point

Hopefully the above at least provides a decent framework for deciding what works best for you.

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Comments

  1. I’ve had CSP for a while and just got CSR. I don’t think it makes sense to have both, right? Should I cancel CSP or can I turn it into a card that doesn’t have a yearly fee?

  2. Two things. CSR marketed itself with a strong bonus. Chase didn’t need bloggers to push it. Are these the flavor of things to come in the future? Are the bloggers worried?

    Now that the bonus has gone down I assume chase pays a referral bonus to the bloggers. The appearence of the link is more than a coincidence. Looks likely chase wants bloggers to work harder to get their bonuses. It would be foolish to apply for any of these cards now especially since Dimon said there will be more cards coming.

  3. Something that tipped the scales for me: I’d had CSP for years and the $95 had come due again, so I’d have to pay that anyway. 450-300-95 = $55, which I think the other benefits are worth at least that much.

  4. If you have both, convert your CSP to a Freedom card. No annual fee and you earn 1.5 on everyday purchases and 3X on Grocery, 2X on gas. Then move those to your ultimate rewards acct. With both cards you get max value. This is what I do. All dining and travel go on CSR and everything else goes on Chase Freedom.

  5. Lucky wrote: “Both cards offer double points on travel, which includes parking.”

    Doesn’t the CSR in fact offer triple points for travel and dining, rather than double? Mine appears to!

  6. @juan yea I don’t see no reason to have both I would downgrade to an unlimited or freedom if you don’t have them.

  7. @juan meant to say I don’t see a reason to have both the csr has better point earning potential and value. I would downgrade to those to other products if you don’t have them. Sorry watching football hit post accidentally.

  8. Kudos for your honesty on this Ben. Gary has blogged many times that Preferred is better, even at 100K with Reserve, since he doesn’t get paid if you sign up with Reserve. Makes me want to read you instead of him.

  9. How can delta diamond person fly the best from the west coast of America to Bangkok ……
    Thx,
    Tom

  10. @tim, that and his constant self-promotion of linking to articles where he made a statement about something made me stop couple of months ago

  11. Hi. I have CSR. I have recently received an offer of United MP Card ($95 fee) with 50k miles and United MP Club card ($450) with 75 k miles. Is the latter worth it?

    Thanks

  12. Gary always does that – it is annoying but his readers seem to accept it. I can’t see any reason to not get the reserve and the $600 in credits, for a net gift of $150 vs. paying $95 for the preferred…not to mention the 3x and other perks.

  13. An elaboration on downgrading a Chase card to the no fee Chase Freedom card. Chase will not let you downgrade a Sapphire card until you have had for a year.
    I wanted to downgrade my Preferred card once I acquired the Reserve card but I will need to wait until the Preferred card comes up for renewal later this year.

  14. The CSR made the CSP (along with a whole bunch of other cards) obsolete. Travel bloggers’ promotion of the CSR was and continues to be greatly subdued because Chase completely took them out of the CSR commission loop. Had they been permitted to earn a commission by pushing the CSR, travel bloggers would have spared no superlatives in describing the CSR, and a post like this one suggesting that the CSP is somehow still relevant or competitive would likely not have been written…

  15. Ben, you are the most informative travel person I know and NOT self-serving in any way. I wish you only the best.

  16. Does anyone know what you need to present in branch to register? I am in Canada and pick up ~3 US cards a year and finally get below 5/24 on February 1st. If I need to show a US driver’s license, I am probably out of luck on the higher sign up bonus, but would still get the card. I still have my old house for vacations, just no US driver’s license.

  17. I did a product change from Preferred to Reserve last September and have ZERO regrets. Athough I didn’t capitalize on the 100K bonus, I saved $4K in spending, got two $300 travel credits in a year, gained a premium with redemtions from my existing UR points, got started earning 3X for travel and dining and saved a credit check to be used in the near future.

  18. @Ramez

    That must be a really special freedom card that gets 3x groceries and 2x gas. Almost like you’ve dreamed it up.

  19. When buying a ticket on UR points through the Chase portal with United, does that count towards status and PQD?
    Thanks for advice!

  20. Taking the kids to Disneyland in a few weeks, booked DL tickets through a travel agency and scored $300 travel credit for it. There are lots of ways to get the travel credit.

  21. Great Article …Thanks!

    Could you go over the $300 annual travel credit?

    If I apply this month for the card.. I would get reimbursed for $300 in travel…and then –
    on Jan 1 2018 I would be eligible for another $300 credit?

    .. or do I have to pay the 2nd annual fee first in order to receive travel credit?

    Possibly cancel card before the 2nd annual fee is due and have received $600 in reimbursements?

    Thank you for your time!

    Newbie.

    Misty

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