Which Should You Get: Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve?

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

I’ve been a Chase Sapphire Preferred Cardholder for a long time. Last year Chase introduced the premium Visa Infinite card Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Sapphire Reserve had a much larger bonus for a few months but no longer does.

Which card is better — but more importantly which card is better for your needs? Sapphire Reserve has a much higher annual fee, but also earns more for travel and dining spend and comes bundled with benefits like a Priority Pass Select card for airport lounge access.

Points from both cards can be transferred to frequent flyer programs.

  • Airlines: United, Singapore, Southwest, Korean, Air France KLM, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic
  • Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, IHG Rewards Club

I’ve Stayed 5 Times Using Points at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa, Maldives

Here’s a comparison between the two products:

Sapphire Preferred has the bigger signup bonus now, with the extra 5000 points offer for an authorized user.

Here’s my advice:

  • Sapphire Preferred is the best card to start with, getting over the $450 annual fee hump is a hurdle, get Sapphire Preferred and see the value of the points before committing.

  • I do think the annual fee for the Sapphire Reserve Card is worth it especially with the travel credit (if you spend money on travel, whether air or hotel or Uber) and if you spend a few thousand dollars a year in travel and dining (so that the extra points-earning justifies the cost).

  • If you have only gotten 1 or 2 cards in the past couple of years, I’d get the Sapphire Preferred — and then a few months down the line get the Sapphire Reserve (it might even have a higher signup bonus in the future, since it used to have one in the recent past).

Both cards are subject to ‘5/24’ for many applicants, meaning Chase is tough on approvals for folks who have had 5 or more new cards in the past 24 months.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. With both having the same sign up bonus now, I think the CSP makes the most sense. But I do think if the bonus bumps up again on the CSR you should get that and downgrade the CSP.

  2. Great analysis, thanks! But I prefer to apply right on chase.com to ensure my personal information is secure. I’d recommend it for everyone else too.

  3. @James: his referral links redirect you to the Chase application, no site can intercept your information.

  4. I’m with James. These links are not secure. I would make sure to start the application directly at chase.com so hackers can’t access your social security numbers.

  5. I’m sure DCS will provide his/her input shortly :-), but from my perspective, the CSP/Preferred is the better Sapphire card for consumers meeting the following criteria:
    1. Someone who has ZERO travel expenses (e.g. no flights, no hotels, no Uber/Lyft, no subway, no toll pass, etc.) each year, and/or
    2. Someone who cannot afford to pay the CSR/Reserve $450 annual fee up front with their first card statement.

    In the cases above, the Preferred makes the most sense. For everyone else, the CSR/Reserve will be better as one can get $600 travel credit in their first year (or $900 the first two years) that fully offset the $450 annual fee.

    Both cards are nice, however, and it’s a testament to Chase to have the 1st and 2nd best overall travel rewards cards in the USA.

  6. Next to taxes, my two biggest line items are travel and dining so when I did the math the CSR made the most sense. But I admit that the annual fee is a big leap for newbies.

    Mitch and James: Just curious…why do you think the links are not secure? Evidence?

  7. @James/@Mitch,
    The links provided by Gary (and other boardingarea.com blogs) are basic redirect links to Chase (or other credit card issuers), which helps Gary get a referral bonus (in the case of the Sapphire Preferred). As long as you land on Chase’s secure website (make SURE the page you are redirected to starts with “https://creditcards.chase.com”), you should be fine. The “https” stands for secure HTTP and the chase.com URL belongs to Chase, so verify that. If you ever get to a landing page like cbase.com (misspelled) or chase.xyz.com (the root domain is xyz.com and not chase.com), then get the heck out of dodge pronto. But https://creditcards.chase.com (plus other characters) should be fine.

    In terms of protecting your personal data, more important considerations are things like:
    1. Don’t use public wifi (unless you also use a VPN) or be very careful if you do,
    2. Keep your computer operating system (hopefully Microsoft Windows 7 or later) and browser (e.g. Chrome or Firefox) always updated with the latest patches,
    3. Install and use a good personal firewall and anti-virus software
    4. Use complex passwords and change them regularly
    5. Etc.

  8. The Reserve also includes pretty comprehensive travel insurance plus roadside assistance. I like not worrying about AAA membership or buying travel insurance for every trip anymore.

  9. If AMEX Platinum didn’t have the Centurion lounges I’d drop the card in a second, especially with them raising it another $100 bucks a year for basically squat. Everything else they offer is covered by the Sapphire Reserve.
    But damn I love those lounges, so I’ll stick with my Sapphire Preferred and keep my AMEX Platinum for now.

  10. “But I admit that the annual fee is a big leap for newbies.”

    More implausible reasons for pushing an inferior product.

    The CSR’s $450 AF would be “a big leap for newbies” only if they are not given the real facts, and bogus statements like the one just quoted get repeated ad nauseam.

    Here is the simple of it. Anyone who can afford to spend $4K in THREE months to get the 50K signup bonus points, but will be unable to afford to pay in 12 MONTHS a $450 AF that’s offset in REAL TIME (one gets it as one spends) by a $300 statement credit for travel-related purchases for an effective AF of only $150 vs. the CSP’s $95, has no business playing this game. In fact, because one gets a $600 statement credit within 12 months of being approved, the CSR AF is $0.00 the first year — make that -$150 because you actually make money!

    The CSR is not just the real deal, it’s the only deal. You do not get the CSP now and then the CSR later. You get it now and then get the Chase Freedom Unlimited (CFU) as a companion to the CSR and just cruise to bigger and better rewards. Any other “advice” is for the brain dead.

    Speaking of the CFU, the following offer from Chase just landed in my inbox this evening. You get $150 or 15,000 UR points if you get approved and then spend just $500 in 3 months. A great companion to the CSR just got sweetened up, and I do not even think the offer is targeted…
    As a valued Chase customer, we want to make sure you know about this offer for the Chase Freedom Unlimited(SM) card. Apply by April 18, 2017.

    – Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase [same as earning 1.5X on EVERYTHING!]. It’s automatic!
    – No minimum to redeem for cash back. And your Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
    – $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
    – Plus get a $25 Bonus [2500 UR points] when you add your first authorized user and make a purchase in this same 3-month period.

    Only restriction:
    — This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

    This ain’t rocket science. I bet that if a sign-up link for the CSR were available to bloggers, the CSP would have been dead and buried by now, as it should’ve been. Instead, this post is easily the 4th or 5th within the past week to 10 days peddling the self-serving “advice” that the CSP is for newbies. It ain’t.

    Newbie or veteran, if you don’t got the CSR, get it and forget about the CSP!


  11. I think one of the biggest thing people forget for true newbies to the hobby is their credit score. Regardless of Chase’s 5/24 rule and the points that DCS gives for paying the annual fee (truly if you can spend $4K in 3 months, surely you can foot $450), I believe it is much easier to be approved for the Preferred compared to the Reserve.

  12. I agree with Donald; if you have the Amex Plat (which has Priority Pass, and 5x airfare), it’s silly to justify spending $450/yr for 3x on hotels/restaurants when $99/yr gets you 2x.

    Of course, with the platinum card going up to $550/yr, the question becomes “why spend $550 on Amex Plat and $99 on CSP when you can just spend $450 on CSR Instead?” The answer mostly depends on how much you value the Amex lounges, and other platinum card benefits.

  13. DCS, I generally agree with you, but even with the facts some people will have trouble pulling the trigger on the CSR. My wife and I make a good case study.

    As a newbie, I went straight to the CSR. But I felt confident doing so because: I plan our travel and so I kenw the card was really only $150/yr; the Priority Pass is worth pretty much that alone to me; and dining and travel are huge buckets of our expenses every year. If you’re truly traveling a lot (and if not why get a travel card?) it’s fantastic.

    My wife doesn’t plan the travel, and is scared of debt (even though we never carry balances). She also gets sticker shock easily: $450 out of pocket would be an instant deal breaker, no matter how hard I tried to explain it. She’s coming around (she understands the great deal that is the AMEX SPG card and will get one), but even telling her she was buying a r/t business class ticket to Europe (100K miles) for $150 wouldn’t have gotten her to apply. The marketing is there for a reason – to clearly separate the potential customers into the CSP and CSR buckets before they even apply.

  14. For United flyers, JPM Reserve beats both cards as it includes UC membership + PP. Same annual fee as CSR and same perks and spend bonuses. Unfortunately, most people posting here don’t qualify…

    The CSP is clearly inferior now unless you fail to spend enough to justify the extra $55 for the CSR (after easy $300 rebate). And if you aren’t spending on travel/dining you don’t belong here – get a 2% cash back card and a 3% JCB Marukai card.

  15. @Pat, as one who currently has both Amex Plat and CSR/Reserve, I consider the CSR superior in almost every respect…
    1. CSR includes primary car rental insurance (at no extra cost)
    2. CSR’s $300 annual travel reimbursement (very broad inclusions for travel) trumps Amex Plat’s $200/year narrow reimbursement (incidental travel expenses tied to a single airline that must be selected in January)
    3. 3X points on restaurant and travel charges (very restrictive 5X bonus for airlines with Amex)
    4. Chase Ultimate Reward program has somewhat better/broader range of airline/hotel partners than Amex Membership Rewards program
    5. Chase signup bonuses limited to once every 24 months, vs. once per lifetime for Amex cards
    6. Visa is accepted at many more places worldwide than Amex

    Amex Platinum does offer access to Centurion lounges, assuming you live near or travel to an airport that has one (many folks don’t). The Amex Plat’s free Gold status with Hilton and Starwood is also a unique benefit. And the new $15/month Uber credit is nice, but structured so that few cardholders will ever receive the full $200 reimbursement.

    Overall, however, the CSR is the more broadly usable premium card.

  16. Does anyone think Gary would recommend CSP if the CSR referral was an option, and if he didn’t get paid for CSP? If no, there’s your answer. If yes, I have some credit default swaps to sell you.

  17. As Jimmy notes, CSR includes road side assistance, which, for me, means I can ditch AAA and save $57 a year. CSP does not have this. That takes the CSR down to $93 per year, which is less than the CSP ($450 – $300 travel credit – $57 AAA cost).

    I totally get that when you’re new to this (I was last year), it’s a mental shift to pay for a credit card. But when you run the numbers, the CSR is the better deal, at least for me, if you’re going to keep the card.

    Again, being new, I have both the CSR and the CSP right now. But it’s the CSR I’ll keep (at least until two years out and I’m eligible for another sign up bonus).

  18. @Luke Vader You state “CSR/Reserve will be better as one can get $600 travel credit in their first year (or $900 the first two years) that fully offset the $450 annual fee.” HOW do you get the $300 3 times in two years when it is only given once per annual year, i.e. 2016 2017 2018 ???

  19. @ Mel – since the travel credit is once per calendar year and the annual fee is based on the month (2 annual fee year = 3 calendar years)

  20. @Mel, the CSR’s $300 travel reimbursement is based on calendar year, whereas your $450 annual card fee is assessed on the anniversary of your card opening. So if you opened the card today, then for your first card year, you can get a $300 reimbursement anytime between now and 12/31/2017. Then you can get another $300 travel reimbursement between 1/1/2018 and 3/16/2018 (your anniversary date). So it’s possible to get $600 travel reimbursement before your 2nd card fee is assessed (on your 1st anniversary).

    Likewise, if you hold the card two (2) years and open the CSR today, you can get $300 reimbursement between 3/16/2017 and 12/31/2017, another $300 in 2018, and another $300 between 1/1/2019 and 3/16/2019 (before you pay your 3rd $450 card fee on your 2nd anniversary).

  21. Update/correction:
    @Mel, your CSR card fee is assessed on your first closing date, which is roughly a month later than your card opening date, so that would actually give you a bit more time. But you get the idea…

  22. @Phi — That’s a different scenario. Being denied the CSR and purposely NOT applying for it because the CSP is supposed to be the card for ‘newbies’ are not equivalent. The advice should be, first go for the CSR and if you are not approved due to a poor/limited credit record/history, then go for the inferior product.

  23. @SightseeMC — The fact the your better half is risk-averse has nothing to do with the relative merits of the CSR vs. CSP. It simply means that the miles/points game is not her game, since some of the biggest plays involve getting in a hole for the short term in order to come out way ahead with a bigger pay off. Not freaking out about the CSR’s $450 AF is such a play because in the end one has a card that’s a keep and costs just a fraction more than the CSP, which the 3x vs 2x return of the $ easily makes up for and surpasses.

  24. Agree with DCS. If you don’t travel enough to redeem a $300 credit then this probably isn’t the blog for you. If your SO is an irrational consumer and you want to maintain the relationship, this probably isn’t the hobby for you.

    Up-front point bonus offsets first-year AF. Steady-state differential in post-credit fee is $150-$95 = $55. At the 1.5 cent valuation you’re breaking even after $3700 in spent. Done.

  25. Last night I posted a comment with links to the T&C and to the application page for the just-released offer for the Chase Freedom Unlimited I mentioned above on March 15, 2017 at 7:20 pm, but it seems to have been held in moderation. The offer, which expires on April 18, is semi lucrative because it offers 15K bonus UR points after a $500 spend for a no-AF Chase CC that earns 1.5x on EVERYTHING and is thus the perfect companion to the CSR (or the CSP if that’s what you’ve got).

    Hopefully, the comment will clear moderation some time this century. 😉

  26. @Mel
    The $300 travel credit is based on Calendar Year ENDS on your Dec Statement Date, NOT end of December even though technically a Calendar Year ends on Dec 31. Chase has very clear English in the T&Cs explaining HOW the time period works. Anyone cares to read it would understand it without any assistance.

    All Chase fee cards access AF on the 1st of the month once the AF is billable.
    Since CSR does not waive 1st year AF, the AF would be billed on the 1st of the month following the month the card is opened. i.e. if you get approved on 04/03/17, the AF will show up in your account on 05/01/17,

    Keep that in mind Chase has a strict AF refund policy – that is, if the card is canceled OUTSIDE 30 days after the AF is BILLED (not the statement date, not the due date), NO REFUND of AF even you cancel the card.

    It is very easy to have a “no fee” first 2 years of the CSR because in most cases you would have 3 calendar years in the first 2 anniversary years of the card, hence you get 3x $300 travel credit for a total of $900 that completely offset the 2x $450 AF in the first 2 anniversary years owning the card.

    Some gamers actually timed carefully last Dec to get their cards so they could get 3x $300 without even need to pay the 2nd $450. You can do the timeline and see how it works based on the above info.

    I would venture to say, with the bonus dropped back to 50K, and the domestic lounge access has become exceedingly difficult – the CSP actually is a better card for many who do not travel very frequently because the differential of the 1% earning and the 0.25 difference in using the UR pts to book travel if you even use that… (lots of other nuances / perils when you actually try to use that) does not really justify the big AF because the PP lounge access should be a big part of the benefits but it is failing in domestic airports right now, due to way too many people have such privilege.

  27. @DCS: as I said, no argument from me. The CSR is the better card. But if it were that easy, they wouldn’t create language that spells out the value in certain ways, such as a $450 fee but a $300 rebate. The marketing is to draw people like us and repel people like my wife. Her hatred of debt makes her a less than ideal (though not a bad) customer for the card. The CSP is much cheaper for the company to provide, and thus the card they’d want to steer her towards with a lower annual fee. And, TBH, they really just want her in a cheap no fee card since she’ll never carry a balance and all the revenue for them is on interchange.

    So while the math works out, if everybody just made logical economic choices then there’d be no reason for anything besides a single price, no rewards/rebates economy.

  28. @SightseeMC — Your arguments would be perfectly logical…in the “real world”. They are out of context within the miles/point game and you summed it up nicely when you wrote: “The marketing is to draw people like us [nerds] and repel people like my wife [real people].” The game is for someone like you or “us” but not for someone like her. Therefore, within the miles/points game your better half’s position is not very relevant to debate of the relative merits of the CSR vs. the CSP. She would be the “outlier” or the exception that affirms the rule, rather than a representative of a particular “philosophy” that would tip the scale one way or another when it comes to the CSR vs. CSP debate.

  29. not clear exactly what lounges (with that airline’s Boarding Pass) one has access to with the CSR card ?

  30. I am pretty new to credit cards – I’ve only had the Chase Freedom for about 2-3 years and now looking into travel rewards cards. I have a relatively good credit score (728) but I’d be classified as one of the “newbies” who applied for the CSP first before the CSR (though I’m unsure I’d get approved with my short credit history). What is the likelihood I’d get approved for the CSR as a new application, not upgrade (I want the sign up bonus) in a year after I “try” the CSP? It’ll give me a better taste of using UR. But I’m unsure if Chase will approve me after I pretty much use the free year of the CSP and then want the CSR. I would appreciate some advice! FYI I was just approved for the CSP and the card is on its way.

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