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Chase Sapphire Preferred Card vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which Is Better?

These travel credit cards have a several hundred dollar difference between their price tags, but for good reason.

At first glance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® look similar. Their travel and dining rewards structures, welcome offers and their names all share the same DNA. But on second glance, it's clear there are some key distinctions between these two travel credit cards.

The annual fee is perhaps the biggest difference, with the Preferred's $95 annual fee provoking way less sticker shock than the Reserve's $550. The rewards structure has a key difference, too, in that the Ultimate Rewards points you earn while spending carry a very different value between the two cards, given their respective values when redeeming points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. The more expensive Reserve comes with significantly better travel perks and credits, including up to a $300 annual travel statement credit and access to a global chain of airport lounges.

In most situations, the Reserve offers better overall value. The large upfront cost is partially offset by the annual travel credit and greater rewards, leaving the majority of cardholders with a better return over the course of a year. But if you don't like the idea of paying that much for a credit card, you're not sure if you spend enough to make up for the difference in cost or you plan on transferring most of your Ultimate Rewards points to a travel partner, the Preferred could be the better option.

Which card does it better?

Feature Winner
Annual fee Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Welcome offer Chase Sapphire Reserve
Rewards program Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual credits Chase Sapphire Reserve
Travel perks Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

8/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferEarn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
APR19.24% - 26.24% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Excellent
Reward Rates
  • Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 5x total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Annual Fee$550
Additional Details
Balance Transfer APR19.24% - 26.24% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Foreign Transaction Fees $0
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 5x total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

9/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferEarn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
APR18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3x on dining.
  • 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Annual Fee$95
Additional Details
Balance Transfer APR18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign Transaction Fees $0
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3x on dining.
  • 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

Comparing annual fees

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Even though you can think of the Reserve's $300 annual travel credit as a reduction in the annual fee, what we're really evaluating here is the upfront cost of owning the credit card. Regardless of what may come your way down the road, the reality is that $550 is a significant investment. 

When looking solely at the annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is clearly the more affordable option at $95. It provides a much easier entry point into Chase's travel rewards.

Welcome bonuses

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Both cards offer 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening. However, with the Preferred, those 60,000 points are worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, while with the Reserve, those 60,000 points are worth $900 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. That makes it a $150 difference. 

That being said, it's important to remember that if you're redeeming your points in another way, like transferring them to one of Chase's travel partners, this distinction disappears. In the eyes of United Airlines or Marriott or JetBlue or any of the other 11 partners, an Ultimate Reward point is worth the same, making the welcome bonuses virtually identical. If you redeem the welcome bonuses for cash back in the form of a statement credit, they're also equivalent -- a point can be redeemed for 1 cent in that case.

Rewards

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

It's closer than you'd expect given the difference in annual fees, but the Reserve still holds the advantage when it comes to rewards. The most important differences in our view is the Reserve's 3x points on non-Chase travel spending (compared to the Preferred's 2x), and 10x points on hotels and car rentals booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards (compared to the Preferred's 5x). 

These differences make the Reserve a better card for those who book travel outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards but also for those who book car rentals and hotels through Chase, which may seem a little counterintuitive. On the other hand, if you can't take advantage of the hotel, car rental or non-Chase travel boosts, the Preferred could end up being a better option.

As always, be sure to look at your past six months or so of spending to see how the differences in rewards and reward categories could add up over time.

Annual credits

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

This is one category where it's not even close -- and there aren't even any important caveats. The Reserve's $300 annual travel credit and a Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or Nexus statement credit (up to $100 every four years) are clearly superior to the Preferred's $50 Annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit and modest annual bonus.

The Reserve's $300 annual travel credit comes in the form of statement credits. Basically, any time you make a travel purchase, Chase will apply a statement credit to your bill, up until the first $300 has been spent. Note that you won't earn rewards on those first $300.

Also note that the Preferred's $50 annual hotel credit is only for hotels booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and the 10% anniversary points boost is actually equivalent to just over .1% of your annual spending when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards -- much less than the marketing hopes to lead you to believe. So if you spend $25,000 in a year, you'll earn an extra 2,500 Ultimate Rewards points, worth $31.25 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Read more: Best Credit Cards for TSA Precheck and Global Entry

Travel perks

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

This is another category where the Reserve has a clear edge. The Reserve grants cardholders Priority Pass Select membership, a great benefit for those who use airport lounges. Reserve cardholders also get access to Chase's Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection. This collection features over 1,000 luxury properties worldwide. When you book one of them through Chase with your Reserve card, you'll get complimentary breakfast for two, Wi-Fi, early check-in and late check-out, a room upgrade if available and a special benefit worth up to $100, which is unique to each property.

One other thing to keep in mind is the Reserve's enhanced travel and purchase coverage, which is more generous and flexible than the coverage you get with the Preferred.

As you'd expect given the difference in annual fees, the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes out on top in most categories.

But what's important is understanding how much you value things like Priority Pass lounge access and hotel and rental car spending. It's also important to know whether you plan on transferring your Ultimate Rewards points when you redeem them, or if you're happy redeeming them through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Generally speaking, if you spend more with the Reserve, you'll get more in return. But don't sleep on the Preferred -- it's still a great card, and if you don't want to put down $550 every year, it's a great option to consider. 

FAQs

How does the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal work?

The Ultimate Rewards platform uses a third-party booking tool that looks across a variety of airlines and hotels for the best prices, similar to Expedia or Priceline. 

The tool itself is accessible and easy to use. However, you can't always choose between the main cabin and basic economy. You also won't earn miles or elite status points on the respective airline or hotel, since you're not booking directly with them. When it comes to customer service, there can sometimes be issues resolving problems with third-party bookings.

That said, the rewards rate bump you get for redeeming your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards is worth it for most people. But if you always prefer to book directly with an airline, you'll still get 3x rewards points with the Reserve and 2x rewards points with the Preferred, and can transfer them to your favorite travel partner for redemption.

Can I have both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

No, not at the same time. You can only hold one or the other. You also aren't eligible for a Chase welcome offer until 48 months have passed since your last card application.

How much does it cost to add an authorized user?

You can add authorized users for free with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it costs $75 annually for each authorized user. 

You'll earn points the same way for any purchase made by an authorized user. 

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