6 Reasons To Get The Sapphire Preferred Over The Sapphire Reserve

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For years the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has been one of the most popular rewards credit cards out there. The card is incredibly well rounded, as it offers double points on dining and travel, great travel protection, and the ability to transfer points to a bunch of valuable transfer partners.

However, there’s no denying that over the past several months the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card has been stealing the spotlight, given that it was just introduced last August. The card is fantastically rewarding, as it offers triple points on dining and travel, a $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass membership, etc. The card has apparently outperformed Chase’s expectations by a long shot.

While most people lately seem to be signing up for the Sapphire Reserve, in this post I wanted to look at six reasons you might want to consider the Sapphire Preferred instead (again, I’m not suggesting one is better than the other, just encouraging some thought on the topic, given the recent popularity of the Sapphire Reserve):

You want to add authorized users

You can add authorized users to the Sapphire Preferred at no additional cost, and they’ll also earn double points on dining and travel, and get most of the other privileges you do as well. However, the cost to add an authorized user on the Sapphire Reserve is $75 each. Now, there are benefits to doing so, but if the goal is to just add an authorized user for spend purposes, it’ll take quite some annual spend per authorized user in the dining and travel category to make up the $75 per person authorized user fee difference.

You want to wait for a bigger sign-up bonus

Until recently we saw a sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 points on the Sapphire Reserve. Meanwhile the sign-up bonus on the Sapphire Preferred is 50,000 points upon completing minimum spend, plus 5,000 bonus points after you add an authorized user and they make a purchase within three months.

So the Sapphire Preferred actually has a better sign-up bonus at the moment when you factor in the 5,000 point authorized user benefit, and this is as good of a bonus as we’ve seen on the card. I could see the Sapphire Reserve eventually having a higher sign-up bonus again, given that it’s more common for premium cards to have bigger bonuses. Meanwhile I can’t imagine the Sapphire Preferred bonus will get bigger anytime soon.

You don’t want to pay a $450 annual fee

The Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee, though a lot of benefits that offset it. The most basic benefit is a $300 annual travel credit, that is automatically applied to any purchase coded as travel. I imagine a vast majority of people easily max out that benefit every year.

So I view the “out of pocket” on the card as being $150, which isn’t too bad.

However, psychologically there’s no denying that a lot of people don’t want to pay a $450 annual fee. I can’t count the number of people I’ve told about the card, and I’ve explained “you’ll pay a $450 annual fee, but you’ll get a $300 travel credit that’s basically as good as cash,” and their response was simply “I don’t want to pay $450 upfront.”

If that applies to you, then maybe a card with a $95 annual fee that’s even waived the first year is a better option.

You don’t spend that much on dining and travel

Let’s assume the primary reason you want either card is for the return on spend that it offers. Given my above math on the “out of pocket” on the Sapphire Reserve being $150 per year, that means you’re paying an additional $55 over the $95 annual fee on the Sapphire Preferred.

Personally I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me that means if you spend at least ~$3,200 on dining and travel per year you’ll come out ahead with the Sapphire Reserve. That probably includes many of us, though certainly not all of us.

You want to eventually get the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited

For many, the biggest restriction when it comes to acquiring the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve is Chase’s 5/24 rule, where Chase typically won’t approve you for select cards if you’ve opened more than five new accounts in the past 24 months. If that applies to you, and your long term goal is to have the Sapphire Reserve, it could make a lot of sense to first hold onto the Sapphire Preferred for a while, and then eventually downgrade it to the Chase Freedom® Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited®, both of which I think are great no annual fee cards that are worth holding onto long term.

You don’t value an additional Priority Pass membership

One of the big perks of the Sapphire Reserve is that it offers a Priority Pass membership. It’s great to have a membership in the world’s largest lounge program. However, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has multiple memberships at this point, including through cards like the Citi Prestige® CardThe Platinum Card® from American Express, and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. As a result, when it comes to valuing benefits, I don’t include the value of the Priority Pass membership. Your mileage may vary…

Bottom line

Regardless of which card you apply for, I absolutely recommend applying for either the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve (or maybe even both) if you’re new to miles & points and eligible. There’s a lot of merit to both cards. I know the Reserve has become more popular lately, though for many the Sapphire is a more approachable option, especially for those new to miles & points.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bigger sign-up bonus on the Reserve again at some point, while I doubt we’ll see a bigger bonus on the Preferred.

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Comments

  1. Such contortions to peddle an inferior card!

    E.g., “However, psychologically there’s no denying that a lot of people don’t want to pay a $450 annual fee.”

    It is silly to believe that anyone who would be willing to shell out the minimum payment of $4,000 in three months would turn around and nickel and dime on a $450 annual fee, which, with the $300 statement credit on travel, will effectively be (negative) -$150 the first year, $0 the second year and $150 thereafter compared to the CSP’s $0 the first year and $95 thereafter. Meanwhile, the CSR awards 3x on broadly defined categories of travel and dining vs. the CSP’s 2x, making the $55 difference in AF immaterial. Anyone who is informed of those facts, as they should be by travel bloggers, and chooses the CSP over the CSR might as well be brain dead.

    The only reason that’s valid, but not compelling, is wanting to add authorized users…

    G’day.

  2. Lucky — Is it true that Chase pays bloggers for Preferred referrals and not for Reserve referrals? You may not want to talk about this, but is that the reason for this article? I would guess few people on your site spend less than ~$3,000 per year on travel and dining. And really the only person who should get the Preferred is someone who spends less than ~$3,000 in these categories.

  3. @DCS

    Although I agree that 95% of use cases favor getting the reserve card, there is certainly an argument to be made in regards to spend actually put on the card. I personally have the ink cash, freedom and freedom unlimited (in addition to the Amex plat – 5x Amex points and Citi prestige – 4th night free). This means that on airline and hotel I’m not using my sapphire and wouldn’t even if I had the reserve rather than the preferred. When you add in that plus the one quarter of the freedom with 5x dining it starts to become more difficult to make up this 55$ annual fee difference (I value chase points at 2 cents per pop meaning I would need to spend an extra $2750 on the reserve card to make it worth it).

    Like I initially said, reserve is still better for most but there are certainly individuals who mainly want the preferred to open up transfer options, not necessarily as the best card to put spend on.

  4. @WilliamNYC Hm I guess that must be the reason why? When card first came out they were all posting ’round the clock CSR but it seems like now there’s silence and in a lot of posts, it’s not even linked! Business is business but at the same time, the main reason I got myself the CSR was due to the rave reviews here. Now a few months later it’s crickets, with ’round the clock Amex platinum plugs!

    The CSR is great and by my logic I only paid $50 for the first year, after the $300 travel credit and $100 Global Entry…

  5. Ben,

    Love your blog, but to be fair you need to mention to your readers that you are paid a referral fee for Preferred signups, but not for Reserve ones

  6. @Lucky — Why doesn’t/won’t Chase provide you (and other bloggers) with signup links for the CSR?

    Does that represent a long-term change in marketing strategy for new Chase products? Was it a semi-punitive measure against bloggers who Chase feels encourage churning, etc.? It’s an interesting question (to me, at least).

  7. I’m with DCS on this. And as far as people who “don’t spend that much on dining and travel”… that’s not the demographic of your readership.

  8. @Luke Vader

    I’m also interested in the question.

    I make the guess that given the CSR blew Chases’ expectations out of the water and resulted in them running out of cards much sooner than anticipated, and the fact they did hardly any marketing for the card, they see no reason to pay affiliate commission to bloggers.

    Just my $0.02

  9. It’s funny how all the push for getting the SP over SR today are the exact opposite of the reason for getting the SR few months ago.
    If you remove your link to the SP application, then I’ll believe you.

  10. I am a little new at this….
    So…I want to ask if you can use points accumulated if you cancel a card…which is what I assume you do eventually so that you can reenroll and gather more points. Is that correct? And if so, how long should you keep a card?
    CH

  11. In the FWIW Dept.:

    1) Logic dies not always trump Gut. I’ve had friends who think I’m crazy for having a credit card with a $450 annual fee, and no matter how many times I explained about the travel credit, or other benefits, or — in the case Citi Prestige – the fourth night free benefit and how much I get return, they are totally unwilling to even consider a card with that high of an AF.

    2) At the moment, I’m quite content to hold onto my CSP. I have to be, as I hit the 5/24 limit BEFORE the CSR was available. Whether or not I apply for the CSR is up in the air. I think the AF *is* worth it, but I’m getting so much benefit from the CSP and the aforementioned Citi Prestige card, I’m no longer sure I need/want it.

  12. The Reserve may make sense if you spend the $300 per year that is recoverable . I have not spent that much recently , I have been able to pay with points . This probably will not change for a few years .
    Meanwhile I have 26,000 points with my Chase Freedom . I think I’ll just keep adding more points for a few years before I get a CSP .
    Gee , DCS thinks I’m brain dead . I would feel badly if I valued his opinion .

  13. @Roger — The CSR’s $300 annual travel credit is extremely broad/flexible. You not only get reimbursed for airline, hotel and Uber/Lyft spend, but subway fare cards, parking garages and toll passes as well.

  14. For me the CSR travel credit is the big difference with Amex Plat which I have for many years, but it has been difficult to get any travel credit even on the airline I have registered with them (United). It does not (at least for me) post automatically and it takes phone calls and arguments to even get the credit. With the recent annual fee hike, and hardly ever able to use the Amex clubs (mostly flying out of O’Hare – with now the Polaris lounge) I think I will cancel Amex.

  15. With both the CSR and the Citi Prestige card, the travel credit ($300 and $250, respectively) is directly and automatically applied to the cost of the airfare itself. This is in contrast to the Amex Platinum (both personal and business), which comes with a smaller $200 annual credit which is only applicable to “incidentals” such as baggage fees and lounge passes.

  16. Part of the reason I went for the personal AMEX Plat earlier this year (before the changes) was that I’d gotten 5/24ed by Chase. I was AT (not above) 5 and 2 of those were Chase cards. Now the utility that would be common to AMEX Plat and CSR is already covered for me by the Plat. I’ve also felt more appreciated by AMEX than by Chase. So when I’ve cleared the 5/24 I’m probably going to go for the CSP instead of the CSR. I think both of those Chase cards offer good value, but CSR wouldn’t add that much more than CSP for me. And again I feel a bit burned my the 5/24ing.

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