Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Should You Get?

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

The hottest new credit card over the past year has been the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It’s launched as a Visa Infinite card, the third active one in the United States. It offers a trifecta in terms of bonus, strength of earning, and card benefits.

The Sapphire Reserve Card offers 50,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months as a signup bonus. It earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining. It comes with a $300 travel credit each year, and a Priority Pass Select card with unlimited visits and guests. The card’s annual fee is $450.

I’ve long been a proponent of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It offers 50,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months as a signup bonus. And you get 5000 more points for adding a no fee authorized user and making a purchase in that same period. The card earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining. The card’s annual fee is $0 the first year then $95.


Singapore Airlines Business Class

Points from both cards transfer to miles and points.

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

I’ve written guides to some of the very best tricks for:


Park Hyatt Hadahaa Maldives

You can also redeem points for paid travel through the Chase portal. Chase Sapphire Preferred’s points are worth 1.25 cents apiece. Chase Sapphire Reserve’s points are worth 1.5 cents apiece.

Both cards offer primary collision coverage and significant protections.

Chase Sapphire Reserve is the strongest all-around card right now for points earning. Chase Sapphire Preferred remains a great offer. There are two reasons to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, at least to get that card first:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite, while Sapphire Preferred is a Visa Signature. So you’re likely to need to be able to be approved for a higher credit limit (e.g. $10,000 vs $5000) to get the Reserve.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve has the much higher annual fee ($450 vs $0 the first year then $95). So while I think Sapphire Reserve’s fee is very much worth it, start with Sapphire Preferred if you have any doubt at all.

If you earn points with your Chase Sapphire Preferred and get a Reserve later, you can transfer your points from one to the other — and those points gain the higher value that Reserve offers redeeming points towards paid travel through Chase’s portal.

Bear in mind that Chase won’t let you just sign up for one and then the other. You can get a Sapphire Preferred, and something I’ve had family members do is product change to the no annual fee Freedom Unlimited card that earns 1.5 points per dollar on all spending. You’re no longer a Sapphire cardmember, so eligible for the bonus on Sapphire Reserve, and you can transfer your current points balance to Sapphire Reserve.


United’s New Polaris Business Class

Both cards appear to be subject to the ‘5/24 guideline’, many people (though not all) find Chase unwilling to give these cards to folks who have had 5 or more new cards in the past 24 months. So take that into consideration.

Sapphire Preferred has a bigger signup bonus when you factor in the 5000 points for a no fee authorized user.

Sapphire Reserve though earns triple points on travel and dining. But someone just getting involved in the hobby is a hard sell on a $450 annual fee card (even with the $300 travel credit). They should get Sapphire Preferred first, get sold on it, and get Sapphire Reserve later (someone new to the hobby won’t have had too many new cards in the last 24 months).

Based on e-mails and correspondence with readers it’s pretty clear most readers don’t have that many new cards, but a minority certainly do.

If you’re over the ‘5/24’ level consider the British Airways Visa Signature Card because reports I’ve seen have been that it isn’t currently subject to these limits.


British Airways First Class

Ultimately my advice is to start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It’s a great card that earns valuable points quickly. Once you redeem those points successfully you’ll have proven the value and be ready to invest in a $450 fee card that earns points even more quickly.

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.

Comments

  1. I have CSP. If I downgrade to freedom, Can I upgrade after I cycle through CSR?

    I’m a little worried that I’ll get caught in limbo, I.e., downgrade, get denied for CSR, and healthy UR point balance gets devalued. (I’ve already cycled through Ink and have the no-fee version now)

    Thoughts on getting caught in between?

  2. I am a little confused Gary. My understanding was that as of 8/27/17 Chase is limiting customers to a single Sapphire product. Existing customers who already had 2 (like me- I just got in under the deadline) are grandfathered in, But customers without a Sapphire card have to choose one or the other. My husband was going to get both this year, but chose Reserve for the higher earning.

  3. I can’t see any reason to choose the CSP over the CSR. The $450 AF is essentially $150 after the credit vs. $95 for the CSP but… you get Priority Pass, uncapped 3X UR Points on all dining and travel, and a point valuation of 1.5c when travel is booked through the UR portal, and the TSA Precheck credit.

  4. CSP actually made way more sense for me. I am already precheck. Missed the 100k intro bonus due to 5/24. I was sitting on a bunch of UR points from a longtime freedom card. I was able to get 55,000 intro points with AU and transfer my stockpiled points for $0 vs $450 for 50,000(plus extra $75 for AU). The only thing I’m missing out on really is that extra point per $ spent which I can live with for now considering I’m not spending $450(or $525) on an annual fee.

  5. I second what Mike L wrote. Plus, even if you already belong to a trusted traveler program (i.e., Global Entry or TSA-PreCheck), then you can gift a membership to someone else.

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