The Slam Dunk Answer to Sapphire Reserve vs. Preferred

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve

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.

There’s one slam dunk answer to the question though — all else aside, the better card for you is the one you can get approved for.

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:

  1. You don’t already have a Priority Pass select card
  2. 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.

The Rubber Hits the Road With Approvals

I think every frequent flyer should have one of these cards, but not both.

If you have a no annual fee Freedom Unlimited card 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.

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.

None of this may matter for your situation. Because here’s what we’ve learned in the last few weeks. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardmembers have a 785 average FICO and $180,000 average income.

To be sure that means there are plenty of cardmembers with lower credit scores and incomes. Anecdotally I’ve been hearing more stories from readers about rejections for the card lately, it seems like approval standards may have tightened. So if your credit score isn’t super high, or your income isn’t super high, that may just settle the question for you: you should get the 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. What’s Too bas I already have CSP. Other than SPG Amex, I’ve had it the longest time.

    Well over 5/24 in any case.

  2. Gary says, “$250 per month is $3000 per year. Since I value Chase points at 1.9 cents apiece 3000 points are worth $57 to me.”

    Correct me if I am wrong here, this should be 9K points which is worth $171 since you get 3X points on travel and dining spend with CSR.

  3. @Kalboz the extra point (3 vs 2) over Sapphire Preferred is worth $57, Kalboz you are correct that $3000 = 9000 points but I’m talking about the marginal benefit.

  4. Being approved for the CSR just depends. If you already bank with Chase, your approval chances are much higher. I mean like a checking acct. or mortgage. Another Chase CC isn’t going to help in this instance. Remember the pre-approved mailings and the in-branch applications being pre-approved. They were for existing customers. Part of CSR marketing program was they had a certain customer type in the plan. Now Chase has those customers. Taking a chance on a lower credit quality customer probably isn’t part of that plan.

  5. One other potential Reserve argument that might affect some folks: if u have the Reserve card you could dump
    a Citi card, since it equals the 3x Citi travel bonus and Chase is an overall better program.

  6. OK, understood…I have the preferred card, how would I get the Reserve card…just call and ask? Would I now get the Reserve points even though I received the pts. with the Reserve card? probably not…

  7. Reserve also offers PRIMARY rental car insurance. Huge benefit if you get cars.

    Also consider strategy that’ll get you both….i got preferred yesterday despite being of prequal for both. Will play it slow and stay under 5/24 to get that Reserve in 2 years. Hopefully get two bonuses that way. And hopefully Reserve will go back to 100k bonus.

    Good article.

  8. Gary: I have CSP, and Chase won’t give a signup bonus for CSR as long as I have CSP (and for some time thereafter). Given my travel and dining spend on CSP is about $12K/yr, is it worth a product change to CSR?

  9. “I think every frequent flyer should have one of these cards, but not both.”

    Doesn’t Chase limit you to only having one of these cards at any given time now, for new applicants?

  10. @Retired Lawyer: They won’t give you a Reserved if you currently have a Preferred card open. But, if the Preferred bonus was received more than two years ago, once you downgrade that card you can get, and earn the bonus for, the Reserved card right away.

  11. You forgot to add in the cost for secondary cards. This is one reason why we have the CSP.

    And Wes, both cards have primary rental insurance.

    “Wes says:
    March 8, 2018 at 10:49 am

    Reserve also offers PRIMARY rental car insurance. Huge benefit if you get cars.”

  12. Agree with your analysis, where it gets tricky is with a couple. Right now, my DH has the CSP and I have the CSR. Wasn’t sure I would keep the CSR so we didn’t cancel his CSP. Would love to see an analysis for a couple.

  13. I believe there is some confusion here. The Ink Cash small business card give back specific cashback percentages for these categories and not points as detaileled here The Ink PLus card, which is no longer offered, gives 5x points to the above listed categories.

  14. @Wendy Zucker — you can transfer the points from ink cash to either sapphire preferred or reserve (or ink business preferred) and from there to miles.

  15. How do the Chase Freedom Card and Chase UALMileage Plus card fit into this if I have all three?
    I get a free first bag checked with Mileage Pluo.
    FYI Chase let me transfer some of my credit line from Freedom to Sapphire.

  16. After reading all the above comments, I still have a question. I got the CSP for the first year due to the sign on bonus, but I did think of getting CSR someday. May I just call to ask to change my card? Our household income and credit score are high enough to apply for it, but I’m not sure whether we’re allowed to change it, not to have two cards, but upgrade it. I travel internationally (both Europe and Asia) and domestically every year, and I already have global Entry, but I do think of the benefit of $300 travel credit and airport lounges. My CSP card will be renewed in May. Thanks for your reply.

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