Running the Numbers on Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve

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About a week ago I suggested that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card wasn’t just the best card to get started in miles and points, but it was better for many people even than Sapphire Reserve.

That’s because the signup bonus is better (both offer 50,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months, but Sapphire Preferred also offers 5000 bonus points for adding a no annual fee authorized to the account) and because the annual fee is much lower ($0 the first year then $95 for Sapphire Preferred vs $450 a year for Sapphire Reserve).

The question of whether to get Sapphire Reserve versus Sapphire Preferred comes down to how much you value Priority Pass membership and earning 3 (versus 2) points per dollar on travel and dining, and whether you value Sapphire Reserve’s $300 travel credit at face value or whether you discount it somewhat relative to cash.

Miles to Memories runs the numbers on year one and finds that he comes out way ahead with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. That’s because he “would need to spend $6,666 dollars in the dining and travel category to make up the difference” and he doesn’t spend that much.

I’d put it a little bit differently. It’s not whether you spend that much in a year in those categories, it’s whether you would put that much on the card.

Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3 points per dollar on travel. But I prefer to put my airfare on my Platinum Card by American Express which earns 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar. So Reserve’s spending in the travel category, for me, needs to be enough for the extra point to be worth the higher fee without airfare.

Both Sapphire Preferred and Reserve earn valuable points that transfer to a variety of airlines and hotels, most instantly.

  • Airlines: United, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air France KLM, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Aer Lingus
    Hotels: Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton

Park Hyatt Hadahaa, Maldives

But given the value price point of Sapphire Preferred, it’s still a huge winner. And despite both cards being subject to 5/24, Sapphire Preferred as a Visa Signature and not a Visa Infinite is generally easier to get too.

Chase Sapphire Preferred 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, 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. When you say discount, are we talking $95 annual fee vs the net effective $150 annual fee of the Reserve… which would mean $55 in cost you’d have to make up in bonus spend to break even?

    Also is there some sort of value one should attached to a faster accrual rate plus that different in net fee? Because say you went with the Preferred, 2nd year on you’d pay $95 for just 2x vs 3x plus a redistribution of money you’d already spend on travel for just $55 more. Does that make sense?

    Just trying to think a little out of the box here.

  2. $(150-95)/.015=$3.,667 is the required spend, and that break even is only applicable if you plan to transfer the points. If you want to buy travel on the Chase Portal, the Reserve also adds .25 cents to every point you earn, not just on the Sapphire card, but on points earned from Freedom and Ink. Plus as mentioned the Priority Club. So for people with significant spend in the Chase card family, the Reserve is the ticket.

  3. Another item missing from your equation is that CSR UR currency is more valuable than the CSP one. This would make the CSR better, no? Can you please that factor in and see how the comparison looks?

    Thank you,

  4. @Gary — Believe me, I would *love* to know that the CSPreferred is a better card to have than the CSReserve.¹ That said, not all of us (your readers) have 1,532 credit cards in our personal portfolio. (And some of us don’t have any sort of business cards whatsoever.) For instance, I cannot be the only one of your readers that does not have an Amex Platinum.

    So the real questions — at least for me — are: a) just how many $450 AF cards does one need; and b) in the absence of the Amex Platinum, is it worth “killing off” my CSP and then applying for the CSR . . . and how do I “save” my UR points from disappearing during the time I am “in between” the CSP and CSR? (It’s very easy to say “downgrade to the Freedom card and then apply for the CSR, but what happens if — for one reason or another — Chase decides to deny the CSR?)

    Certainly I may be worrying about nothing, but I’m trying to “cover all possibilities.”

    ¹ Due to the timing surrounding the introduction of the CSR, I was already over the 5/24 rule when it was first made available, with its 100k bonus. Then the bonus was cut to 50k. And now that I’m out from under the rule, Chase has decreed that one cannot have both the CSP and CSR. It’s both frustrating and irritating.

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