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There’s a huge debate amongst my readers, every time I talk about the Chase Sapphire Reserve someone will argue that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is clearly the better card (usually pointing out the slightly better signup bonus and the lower fee).
But if I cover the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — highlighting the lower fee and suggesting it’s the best card for getting started in this hobby — readers will rightly point out just how valuable the Chase Sapphire Reserve is.
Both are right and at the same time both can be wrong, because each card is more appropriate for different people.
Here’s the basic comparison between the two cards:
Points from both cards transfer to:
- Airlines: United, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air France KLM, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Aer Lingus
- Hotels: Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton
Singapore Airlines Suites
Here’s Where Sapphire Preferred is Better
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has a lower annual fee and a better signup bonus. The signup bonuses between the two cards are both 50,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months, but the Sapphire Preferred also lets you earn an additional 5000 points for adding a no annual fee authorized user.
Chase Sapphire Preferred may also be easier to get approved for. It’s a Visa Signature, while Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite which may require the issuer’s willingness to give you a higher credit line.
Here’s Where Sapphire Reserve is Better
To compare the two products you have to start with the fee. Sapphire Reserve is better in most ways, the question is whether it’s worth the $450 fee.
Right off the bat you get a $300 travel credit. That’s almost as good as cash (lowering your net expense) because almost any travel counts. Buy an airline ticket. Pay for a hotel room. Take Uber. It all credits automatically.
For me I just need, then, to get $55 more value out of Sapphire Reserve ($150 the first year) to say it’s better.
Sapphire Reserve earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining. That’s huge for someone more than $250 each month on travel and dining. $250 per month is $3000 per year. Since I value Chase points at 1.9 cents apiece 3000 points are worth $57 to me.
I’m fortunate to put a lot of travel on my personal credit cards, but any amount over $250 a month covers the difference in annual fee after year one even if you value lounge access, Global Entry reimbursement, etc. at zero.
Even if you wouldn’t ever spend $399 for an unlimited Priority Pass (that doesn’t even come with free guest access) you can make the case that it’s worth an extra $55 if:
- You don’t already have a Priority Pass select card
- You’ll use it at least a couple of times a year
If you use your points to buy paid travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, the Sapphire Reserve gives you 1.5 cents per point in value versus 1.25 cents apiece for Sapphire Preferred. Redeeming 22,000 points a year through the Chase portal at an extra 1/4 cent value apiece covers the $55 value gap.
Which Card is Better… For You?
I think every frequent flyer should have one of these cards, but not both. If you have a no annual fee Freedom Unlimited cad which earns 1.5 points per dollar on all spend, you can move those points to either Sapphire Reserve or Preferred and then those points become eligible for transfer to airlines and hotels. Same is true for the no annual fee Ink Cash small business card which earns 5 points per dollar on office supplies, cable and satellite television, and mobile phone service.
- If your primary interest is the signup bonus, Sapphire Preferred is better.
- If your primary interest is using the card to move points from other cards to miles, Sapphire Preferred is better.
- If you’re just getting started in miles and points, Sapphire Preferred is a much lower risk way to do it. It’s easier to convince someone to take the plunge on the less expensive card than a $450 annual fee card no matter how compelling the higher fee card is. You often need to see, touch, and feel how much leverage you can get from your points before you’re really sold.
- If you value the airport lounge access from Chase Sapphire Reserve’s lounge access, then the Sapphire Reserve clearly makes sense.
- Even if you don’t value any of Sapphire Reserve’s benefits, if you spend much on travel and dining the extra point (3 points per dollar) can more than cover the difference in annual fee and Sapphire Reserve is better.
- If you redeem 22,000 or more points per year for paid travel instead of transferring points to airlines or hotels then Sapphire Reserve delivers greater value.
When arguing that one card is inherently better than the other, people usually argue that it’s better for someone like them. A card can provide 3 kinds of value — a signup bonus, value for ongoing spend, and benefits. Sapphire Preferred has the better bonus (and lower cost) while Sapphire Reserve delivers better value for ongoing spend and better benefits. So it depends on how much value you will get out of each.
Boil it all down and I think that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is best for beginners at miles and points, and Chase Sapphire Reserve is a card for those committed to the hobby or for road warriors and those who spend a lot on travel and dining.